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All-natural mixture yields promising fire retardant

June 6, 2014 9:29 am | News | Comments

A dash of clay, a dab of fiber from crab shells, and a dollop of DNA: This strange group of materials are actually the ingredients of promising green fire retardants invented by researchers at NIST. Applied to polyurethane foam, the bio-based coatings greatly reduced the flammability of the common furniture padding after it was exposed to an open flame.

Scientists unravel molecular secret of short, intense workouts

June 5, 2014 1:59 pm | News | Comments

In the last few years, the benefits of short, intense workouts have been extolled by both researchers and exercise fans as something of a metabolic panacea capable of providing greater overall fitness. Now, a new study from scientists at The Scripps Research Institute in Florida confirm that there is something molecularly unique about intense exercise: the activation of a single protein.

HIV can cut and paste in the human genome

May 28, 2014 8:31 am | by Kirsten Olesen, Aarhus University | News | Comments

A new technology developed in Denmark uses the HIV virus as a tool in the fight against hereditary diseases and, in the long term, against HIV infection as well. The technology repairs the genome in a new and safer manner by using the virus as nanoparticles to manage the “cut and paste” approach to modifying the genome.

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New “wireless” nanotechnology to help study neurons

May 23, 2014 9:28 am | by Jim Fessenden, Univ. of Massachusetts | News | Comments

Researchers at the Univ. of Massachusetts will lead an international team of scientists in the development and implementation of a new optogenetic platform that can remotely activate neurons inside a free-moving organism. Using a new class of nanoparticles they propose to selectively turn on non-image forming photoreceptors inside mice and Drosophila, unencumbered by the fiber optic wires currently used in optogenetic technologies.

New technology simplifies production of biotech medicines

May 14, 2014 9:24 am | News | Comments

The final step in the production of a biotech medicine is finishing with the correct sugar structure. This step is essential for the efficacy of the medicine, but it also makes the production process very complex and expensive. Researchers in Belgium have developed a technology that shortens the sugar structures whilst retaining the therapeutic efficiency. This technology could make production of biotech medicines simpler and cheaper.

Corn dwarfed by temperature dip suitable for growing in caves, mines

May 13, 2014 7:23 am | News | Comments

A new study shows that lowering temperatures for two hours each day reduces the height of corn without affecting its seed yield. The technique could be used to grow crops in controlled-environment facilities in caves and former mines.

Enzyme study raises possibility of more productive plants

May 12, 2014 2:42 pm | News | Comments

Plant scientists at Brookhaven National Laboratory have found that certain enzymes responsible for desaturating fatty acids, the building blocks of oils, can link up to efficiently pass intermediate products from one enzyme to another. The research lead to the development of plants that can accumulate high levels of more healthful polyunsaturated fatty acids, or fatty acids that could be used as raw materials in place of petroleum.

Genetically modified foods confuse U.S. consumers

May 9, 2014 12:22 pm | by Mary Clare Jalonick - Associated Press - Associated Press | News | Comments

Genetically modified foods have been around for years, but most Americans have no idea if they are eating them. The Food and Drug Administration says they don't need to be labeled. But in the first major victory for consumers who say they have the right to know whether their food contains GMOs, the state of Vermont has moved forward on its own.

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Scientists create first living organism that transmits unnatural DNA “letters”

May 8, 2014 12:41 pm | News | Comments

Scripps Research Institute scientists have engineered a bacterium whose genetic material includes an added pair of DNA “letters,” or bases, not found in nature. The cells of this unique bacterium can replicate the unnatural DNA bases more or less normally, for as long as the molecular building blocks are supplied.

Cloning approach makes diabetes stem cell advance

April 30, 2014 7:32 am | News | Comments

In a potential step toward new diabetes treatments, scientists used a cloning technique to make insulin-producing cells with the DNA of a diabetic woman. The approach could someday aid treatment of the Type 1 form of the illness, which is usually diagnosed in childhood and accounts for about 5% of diabetes cases in the U.S.

Cell resiliency surprises scientists

April 24, 2014 4:22 pm | by Anzar Abbas, Michigan State Univ. | News | Comments

New research shows that cells are more resilient in taking care of their DNA than scientists originally thought. Even when missing critical components, cells can adapt and make copies of their DNA in an alternative way. A team of researchers at Michigan State Univ. have shown in a study that cells can grow normally without a crucial component needed to duplicate their DNA.

Protecting olive oil from counterfeiters

April 24, 2014 1:50 pm | by Barbara Vonarburg, ETH Zurich | News | Comments

Counterfeit or adulterated olive oil has been a persistent presence on the market, in part because the oil is difficult to track. An invisible label, developed by researchers in Switzerland, could perform this task. The tag consists of tiny magnetic DNA particles encapsulated in a silica casing and mixed with the oil. Just a few grams of the new substance are enough to tag the entire olive oil production of Italy.

Gold nanoparticles help target, quantify breast cancer gene segments in a living cell

April 23, 2014 8:59 am | by Natalie van Hoose, Purdue Univ. | News | Comments

A team at Purdue Univ. has used gold nanoparticles to target and bind to fragments of genetic material known as BRCA1 messenger RNA splice variants, which can indicate the presence and stage of breast cancer. The number of these synthetic DNA “tails” in a cell can be determined in a living cell by examining the specific signal that light produces when it interacts with the gold nanoparticles.

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Hawaii is genetically engineered crop flash point

April 19, 2014 10:20 am | by Audrey Mcavoy - Associated Press - Associated Press | News | Comments

You can trace the genetic makeup of most corn grown in the U.S., and in many other places around the world, to Hawaii. The tiny island state 2,500 miles from the nearest continent is so critical to the nation's modern corn-growing business that the industry's leading companies all have farms here, growing new varieties genetically engineered for desirable traits like insect and drought resistance.

New technique will accelerate genetic characterization of photosynthesis

April 16, 2014 9:12 am | News | Comments

A type of single-cell green algae called Chlamydomonas reinhardtii is a leading subject for photosynthesis research, but few tools are available for characterizing the functions of its genes. A team including Carnegie Institution's Martin Jonikas has developed a highly sophisticated tool that will transform the work of plant geneticists by making large-scale genetic characterization of Chlamydomonas mutants possible for the first time.

Synthetic collagen promotes natural clotting

April 10, 2014 8:04 am | News | Comments

Synthetic collagen invented at Rice Univ. may help wounds heal by directing the natural clotting of blood. The material, KOD, mimics natural collagen, a fibrous protein that binds cells together into organs and tissues. It could improve upon commercial sponges or therapies based on naturally derived porcine or bovine-derived collagen now used to aid healing during or after surgery.

Synthetic gene circuits pump up cell signals

April 8, 2014 7:56 am | News | Comments

Synthetic genetic circuitry created by researchers at Rice Univ. is helping them see, for the first time, how to regulate cell mechanisms that degrade the misfolded proteins implicated in Parkinson’s, Huntington’s and other diseases. The Rice team has designed a sophisticated circuit that signals increases in the degradation of proteins by the cell’s ubiquitin proteasome system (UPS).

Team finds a better way to grow motor neurons from stem cells

April 1, 2014 3:39 pm | News | Comments

Researchers have reported they can generate human motor neurons from stem cells much more quickly and efficiently than previous methods allowed. The new method involves adding critical signaling molecules to precursor cells a few days earlier than previous methods specified. This increases the proportion of healthy motor neurons derived from stem cells (from 30 to 70%) and cuts in half the time required to do so.

Scientists identify genes that could lead to tough, disease-resistant rice

April 1, 2014 3:28 pm | by Marcia Goodrich, Michigan Technological Univ. | News | Comments

As the Earth’s human population marches toward 9 billion, the need for hardy new varieties of grain crops has never been greater. It won’t be enough to yield record harvests under perfect conditions; new grains must also be able to handle stress from climate changes. Researchers in Michigan have recently identified a set of genes that could be key to the development of the next generation of super rice.

Plasma tool used to destroy cancer cells

March 25, 2014 1:19 pm | News | Comments

Adopted a common technique used in biochemistry, called agarose gel electrophoresis, researchers have investigated the damage to DNA that might have been caused by use of an atmospheric pressure plasma jet. This qualitative and quantitative study could ultimately lead to plasma-based tools for cancer therapy or hospital hygiene and other purposes.

Engineers design “living materials”

March 24, 2014 9:45 am | by Anne Trafton, MIT News Office | News | Comments

Massachusetts Institute of Technology engineers have coaxed bacterial cells to produce biofilms that can incorporate non-living materials, such as gold nanoparticles and quantum dots. These “living materials” combine the advantages of live cells, which respond to their environment and produce complex biological molecules, with the benefits of nonliving materials, which add functions such as conducting electricity or emitting light.

Discovery could yield more efficient plants for biofuels

March 18, 2014 8:16 am | by Natalie van Hoose, Purdue Univ. | News | Comments

Genetically modifying a key protein complex in plants could lead to improved crops for the production of cellulosic biofuels, a Purdue Univ. study says. The researchers generated a mutant Arabidopsis plant whose cell walls can be converted easily into fermentable sugars, but doesn't display the stunted growth patterns of similar mutants.

Bacterial reporters that get the scoop

March 18, 2014 7:55 am | by Kristen Kusek, Wyss Institute for Biologically Inspired Engineering, Harvard Univ. | News | Comments

It's a jungle in there. In the tightly woven ecosystem of the human gut, trillions of bacteria compete with each other on a daily basis while they sense and react to signals from the immune system, ingested food and other bacteria. Problems arise when bad gut bugs overtake friendly ones, or when the immune system is thrown off balance.

Big data tackles tiny molecular machines

March 14, 2014 12:11 pm | News | Comments

Biophysicists at Rice Univ. have used a miniscule machine, a protease called an FtsH-AAA hexameric peptidase, as a model to test calculations that combine genetic and structural data. Their goal is to solve one of the most compelling mysteries in biology: how proteins perform the regulatory mechanisms in cells upon which life depends.

Roomy cages built from DNA

March 14, 2014 11:48 am | News | Comments

Move over, nanotechnologists, and make room for the biggest of the small. Scientists at the Harvard's Wyss Institute have built a set of self-assembling DNA cages one-tenth as wide as a bacterium. The structures are some of the largest and most complex structures ever constructed solely from DNA.

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