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Self-aligning DNA wires have been constructed for nanoelectronics

January 30, 2014 11:46 am | News | Comments

Continuous miniaturization in microelectronics is nearing physical limits, so researchers are seeking new methods for device fabrication. One promising candidate is a DNA origami technique in which individual strands of the biomolecule self-assemble into arbitrarily-shaped nanostructures. A new simpler strategy combines DNA origami with self-organized pattern formation to do away with elaborate procedures for positioning DNA structures.

Puzzling question in bacterial immune system answered

January 30, 2014 8:04 am | by Lynn Yarris, Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory | News | Comments

A central question has been answered regarding a protein that plays an essential role in the bacterial immune system and is fast becoming a valuable tool for genetic engineering. A team of researchers has determined how the bacterial enzyme known as Cas9, guided by RNA, is able to identify and degrade foreign DNA during viral infections, as well as induce site-specific genetic changes in animal and plant cells.

Gold DNA strands close electric circuits in biosensors

January 29, 2014 12:06 pm | News | Comments

By letting DNA strands grow together with gold, scientists in Finland have developed a new concept for super-sensitive disease diagnostics. The method relies on growth of a DNA strand over a narrow gap between two electrodes in an electric circuit. The strand will only grow if a certain DNA molecule has bound to the surface of one electrode, which makes it possible to build diagnostic tests for detection of that specific DNA molecule.

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Turkeys inspire smartphone-capable early warning system for toxins

January 21, 2014 11:46 am | by Sarah Yang, UC Berkeley | News | Comments

Some may think of turkeys as good for just lunch meat and holiday meals, but bioengineers at the Univ. of California (UC), Berkeley saw inspiration in the big birds for a new type of biosensor that changes color when exposed to chemical vapors. This feature makes the sensors valuable detectors of toxins or airborne pathogens.

Scientists control cells following transplantation, from the inside out

January 10, 2014 10:08 am | News | Comments

Harvard Univ. stem cells scientists at Brigham and Women’s Hospital and Massachusetts Institute of Technology can now engineer cells that are more easily controlled following transplantation, potentially making cell therapies, hundreds of which are currently in clinical trials across the U.S., more functional and efficient.

Some motor proteins cooperate better than others

January 10, 2014 8:08 am | News | Comments

Rice Univ. researchers have engineered cells to characterize how sensitively altering the cooperative functions of motor proteins can regulate the transport of organelles. The study compared the collective behaviors of kinesin-1 and myosinVa in living cells to determine how these motor proteins cooperate as they move vesicles and organelles along intracellular highways formed from cytoskeletal filaments.

U.S. opens door to new herbicide-resistant seeds

January 3, 2014 11:38 am | by M.L. Johnson, Associated Press | News | Comments

The U.S. Department of Agriculture opened the door Friday to commercial sales of corn and soybean seeds genetically engineered to resist the weed killer 2,4-D, which is best known as an ingredient in the Vietnam War-era herbicide Agent Orange. The U.S. military stopped using Agent Orange in 1971, and it has not been produced since the 1970s.

Computer models, observations inside a cell reveal RNA’s interesting “machines”

December 19, 2013 7:26 pm | by Elizabeth Dougherty, Massachusetts Institute of Technology | News | Comments

New collaborative work from computational biologists in Massachusetts and California combines computational and experimental approaches to identify biologically meaningful RNA folds. The work could open the door to a better understanding of RNA machinery, which includes the ribosome, microRNAs and riboswitches, and long noncoding RNAs whose diverse functions are only beginning to be understood.

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Cells from the eye inkjet printed for the first time

December 18, 2013 2:05 pm | News | Comments

A group of researchers from the U.K. have used inkjet printing technology to successfully print cells taken from the eye for the very first time. The breakthrough, detailed in Biofabrication, could lead to the production of artificial tissue grafts made from the variety of cells found in the human retina and may aid in the search to cure blindness.

DNA motor “walks” along nanotube, transports tiny particle

December 17, 2013 2:45 pm | by Emil Venere, Purdue Univ. | News | Comments

Researchers have created a new type of molecular motor made of DNA and demonstrated its potential by using it to transport a nanoparticle along the length of a carbon nanotube. The design was inspired by natural biological motors that have evolved to perform specific tasks critical to the function of cells.

Golden trap: Highly sensitive system detects individual nanoparticles

December 17, 2013 12:45 am | by Uta Bilow, Helmholtz-Zentrum Dresden-Rossendorf | News | Comments

Medical diagnostics seeks to learn early on whether a serious disease is developing or what its course will be. In many cases, treacherous molecules are present only in trace amounts, however. Researchers in Germany have come up with a new method of detection which has allowed them to notice the presence of only 17 dye molecules. The highly sensitive method might one day be used to scan a tiny drop of blood for potential diseases.

Hybrid carrier five times more effective in delivering genetic material into cells

December 16, 2013 2:48 pm | News | Comments

Researchers in New York City have developed a carrier in their lab that is five times more efficient in delivering DNA into cells than today’s commercial delivery methods: reagent vectors. This novel complex is a peptide-polymer hybrid, assembled from two separate, less effective vectors that are used to carry DNA into cells.

Gene sequencing that everyone can afford

December 6, 2013 8:15 am | News | Comments

Researchers in China, working on the optimization of a third-generation sequencing technique based on nanopores, have found that long-chain DNA with low salt concentration is more conducive to the nanopore sequencing process. This finding may improve the efficiency of sequencing, and further low the cost of gene sequencing.

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Scientists invent implantable slimming aid

November 27, 2013 6:22 am | by Peter Rüegg, ETH Zurich | News | Comments

A new innovation may help us deal with post-Thanksgiving guilt: Biotechnologists have constructed a genetic regulatory circuit from human components that monitors blood-fat levels. In response to excessive levels, it produces a messenger substance that signals satiety to the body. Tests on obese mice reveal that this helps them to lose weight.

Scientists find powerful tool for genetic engineering

November 22, 2013 10:54 am | News | Comments

Viruses can not only cause illnesses in humans, they also infect bacteria. Bacteria protect themselves with a kind of immune system that detects and “chops up” foreign DNA. Scientists have now shown that the dual-RNA guided enzyme Cas9 which is involved in the process has developed independently in various strains of bacteria. This enhances the potential of exploiting the bacterial immune system for genome engineering.

Researchers manipulate virus to create possible new cancer treatment

November 11, 2013 3:01 pm | by Elizabeth K. Gardner, Purdue Univ. | News | Comments

Purdue Univ. researchers have successfully eliminated the native infection preferences of a Sindbis virus engineered to target and kill cancer cells, a milestone in the manipulation of this promising viral vector. The achievement also demonstrates the ability to use methods of manipulation previously only applied to proteins.

Cause of genetic disorder found in “dark matter” of DNA

November 11, 2013 10:16 am | News | Comments

For the first time, scientists have used new technology which analyzes the whole genome to find the cause of a genetic disease in what was previously referred to as “junk DNA”. This genomic “dark matter” does not contain genes and accounts for 99% of the human genome. Instead, it is responsible for making sure that genes are “switched on” at the right time and in the right part of the body.

Genetic mutation link to eczema discovered

November 8, 2013 12:00 pm | News | Comments

Scientists collaborating on an international research project led by Trinity College Dublin and the University of Dundee have identified a new genetic mutation linked to the development of a type of eczema known as atopic dermatitis. They found that a mutation in the gene Matt/Tmem79 led to the development of spontaneous dermatitis in mice.

Scientists solve major piece in the origin of biological complexity

November 6, 2013 11:25 am | News | Comments

Scientists have puzzled for centuries over how and why multicellular organisms evolved the almost universal trait of using single cells, such as eggs and sperm, to reproduce. Now, researchers have set a big piece of that puzzle into place by applying experimental evolution to transform a single-celled algae into a multicellular one that reproduces by dispersing single cells.

Vitamin boost for 3-D printing

October 23, 2013 7:52 am | News | Comments

Researchers from North Carolina State Univ., the Univ. of North Carolina at Chapel Hill and Laser Zentrum Hannover have discovered that a naturally occurring compound can be incorporated into 3-D printing processes to create medical implants out of non-toxic polymers. The compound is riboflavin, which is better known as vitamin B2.

Radical recoding tests limits of genetic reprogramming

October 17, 2013 2:33 pm | News | Comments

In two parallel projects, researchers at the Wyss Institute for Biologically Inspired Engineering have created new genomes inside the bacterium E. coli in ways that could open new possibilities for increasing flexibility, productivity and safety in biotechnology. In the first project, researchers created a novel genome, the first-ever entirely genomically recoded organism. They then greatly expanded genetic changes in the second project.

Glowing neurons reveal networked link between brain, whiskers

October 16, 2013 11:04 am | News | Comments

Human fingertips have several types of sensory neurons that are responsible for relaying touch signals to the central nervous system. Scientists have long believed these neurons followed a linear path to the brain with a "labeled-lines" structure. But new research on mouse whiskers reveals a surprise: At the fine scale, the sensory system's wiring diagram doesn't have a set pattern.

Small bits of genetic material fight cancer's spread

October 15, 2013 2:08 pm | by Tara Thean, Princeton Univ. | News | Comments

Researchers at Princeton Univ. have found that microRNAs, which are small bits of genetic material capable of repressing the expression of certain genes, may serve as both therapeutic targets and predictors of metastasis, or a cancer’s spread from its initial site to other parts of the body.

Researchers identify the neural circuits that modulate REM sleep

October 3, 2013 11:58 am | News | Comments

Previous studies had established an association between the activity of certain types of neurons and the phase of sleep known as rapid eye movement (REM). Scientists have now found the source of this causal relationship and have used optogenetics techniques to induce and modulate REM sleep in mice.

DNA glue directs tiny gel “bricks” to self-assemble

September 9, 2013 11:39 am | by Dan Ferber, Wyss Institute Communications | News | Comments

A team of researchers at Harvard Univ. has found a way to self-assemble complex structures out of gel “bricks” smaller than a grain of salt. The new method could help solve one of the major challenges in tissue engineering: creating injectable components that self-assemble into intricately structured, biocompatible scaffolds at an injury site to help regrow human tissues.

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