Optogenetics allows scientists to control neurons’ electrical activity with light by engineering them to express light-sensitive proteins, called opsins. Most opsins respond to light in the blue-green range. Now, a team has discovered an opsin that is sensitive to red light, which allows researchers to independently control the activity of two populations of neurons at once, enabling much more complex studies of brain function.
In the U.S. about 12,500 women are diagnosed with cervical cancer a year. Out of these women, about 4,500 progress into invasive cervical cancer or the end stage of the disease. This leaves about 8,000 women a year in the U.S. that are cured through existing standard of care treatment: surgery or chemotherapy/radiation. However, chemotherapy/radiation have terrible side effects in some cases.
Our cells produce thousands of proteins, but more than one-third of these proteins can fulfill their function only after migrating to the outside of the cell. While it is known that protein migration occurs with the help of various “nanomotors” that push proteins out of the cell, little is known about their precise mechanical functioning. New research reveals the inner workings of one such nanomotor, called SecA, with new clarity.
Univ. of Oregon biologists say they have opened the window on the natural process of bone regeneration in zebra fish, and that the insights they gained could be used to advance therapies for bone fractures and disease. Their work shows that two molecular pathways work in concert to allow adult zebra fish to perfectly replace bones lost upon fin amputation.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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 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.
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.
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.