Digesting lignin, a highly stable polymer that accounts for up to a third of biomass, is a limiting step to producing a variety of biofuels. Researchers at Brown have figured out the microscopic chemical switch that allows Streptomyces bacteria to get to work, breaking lignin down into its constituent parts.
A new study from engineers at Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute and the University of California, Berkeley, pairs light and genetics to give researchers a powerful new tool for manipulating cells. The optogenetics breakthrough shows how blue light can be used as a switch to prompt targeted proteins to accumulate into large clusters. This clustering, or oligomerization, is commonly employed by nature to turn on or turn off specific signaling pathways used in cells’ complex system of communications.
Calcium plays a major role in orchestrating normal heart pump function. The condition known as diastolic heart failure occurs when the calcium signaling process is slowed, preventing the heart from relaxing. Scientists in Minnesota have utilized molecular genetic engineering to optimize heart performance in models of diastolic heart failure by creating an optimized protein that can aid in high-speed relaxation similar to fast twitching muscles.
Plant and animal cells contain two genomes: one in the nucleus and one in the mitochondria. When mutations occur in each, they can become incompatible, leading to disease. To increase understanding of such illnesses, scientists at Brown University and Indiana University have traced one example in fruit flies down to the individual errant nucleotides and the mechanism by which the flies become sick.
Scientists in the U.K. have reported that they have developed a method that cuts down the time it takes to make new “parts” for microscopic biological factories from two days to only six hours. The technique does away with the need to re-engineer a cell’s DNA every time a new part is needed. The researchers say their research brings them another step closer to a new kind of industrial revolution, where parts for these biological factories could be mass-produced.
In a development that could lead to faster and more effective toxicity tests for airborne chemicals, scientists from Rice University and the Rice spinoff company Nano3D Biosciences have used magnetic levitation to grow some of the most realistic lung tissue ever produced in a laboratory.
Using genetic material as their medium, researchers reported Wednesday that they had stored all 154 Shakespeare sonnets, a photo, a scientific paper, and a 26-second sound clip from Martin Luther King Jr.'s "I Have a Dream" speech. That all fit in a barely visible bit of DNA in a test tube.
The purpose of cell division is to evenly distribute the genome between two daughter cells. But this process is highly prone to interaction errors between chromosomes and spindles. Studies led by cell biologist Thomas Maresca at the University of Massachusetts Amherst are revealing new details about a molecular surveillance system that helps detect and correct errors in cell division that can lead to cell death or human diseases
The principle of direct lineage reprogramming of differentiated cells within the body was first proven by Harvard Stem Cell Institute (HSCI) co-director Doug Melton and colleagues five years ago, when they reprogrammed exocrine pancreatic cells directly into insulin producing beta cells. Now, the same scientists have proven that neurons, too, can change their mind
Scientists in Germany and Switzerland have developed an implant that is able to genetically modify specific nerve cells, control them with light stimuli, and measure their electrical activity all at the same time. This new tool relies on an innovative genetic technique that forces nerve cells to change their activity by shining light of different colors onto them.
Tufts University School of Engineering researchers have developed a novel method for fabricating collagen structures that maintains the collagen's natural strength and fiber structure, making it useful for a number of biomedical applications.
It has been known since the 1970s that excessive salt causes DNA to reverse its twist, from a right-handed spiral to a left-handed one. The complexity of the DNA molecule has prevented a theoretical explanation which correctly predicts the amount of salt to do this. In a recent publication, however, researchers achieved new accuracy in the ability to measure energy differences between states of molecules, thus predicting which states will be observed.
Scientists from The Scripps Research Institute have developed a way to alter the function of RNA in living cells by designing molecules that recognize and disable RNA targets. As a proof of principle, the team designed a molecule that disabled the RNA causing myotonic dystrophy. This small molecule is cell-permeable, offering benefits over traditional methods of targeting RNAs for degradation.
A painstaking effort to create a biocompatible patch to heal infant hearts is paying off at Rice University and Texas Children’s Hospital. The proof is in a petri dish in Jeffrey Jacot's laboratory, where a small slab of gelatinous material beats with the rhythm of a living heart.
It has recently been possible to resolve biological structures down to the molecular scale with light microscopy, termed super-resolution microscopy. However, there have been limits to the technique. So far, it has been difficult to distinguish between sample-specific and microscope-specific error sources if the images were blurry. Researchers in Germany have recently resolved this issue.
Mosquito control officials in the Florida Keys are waiting for the federal government to sign off on an experiment that would release hundreds of thousands of genetically modified mosquitoes to reduce the risk of dengue fever in the tourist town of Key West. If approved by the Food and Drug Administration, it would be the first such experiment in the U.S. Some residents, however, are worried about the risks.
After weathering concerns about everything from the safety of humans eating the salmon to their impact on the environment, Aquabounty was in a position to become the world's first company to sell fish whose DNA has been altered to speed up growth. But after positive feedback from the U.S. Food and Drug Administration in 2010, the agency still has not approved the fish and the company could soon run out of money.
Borrowing from microfabrication techniques used in the semiconductor industry, Massachusetts Institute of Technology and Harvard University engineers have developed a simple and inexpensive way to create 3D brain tissues in a laboratory dish. The new technique yields tissue constructs that closely mimic the cellular composition of those in the living brain, allowing scientists to study how neurons form connections and to predict how cells from individual patients might respond to different drugs.
One reason that biofuels are expensive to make is that the organisms used to ferment the biomass cannot make effective use of hemicellulose, the next most abundant cell wall component after cellulose. However, a microbe found in the garbage dump of a canning plant in 1993 may hold the right enzymes for the job. Researchers are now working on isolating the gene cluster responsible for this ability.
In a shape inspired by a natural channel protein, the DNA-based membrane channel recently built by researchers in Michigan and Germany consists of a needle-like stem 42-nm long with an internal diameter of just 2 nm. The devices has been shown to function with lipid vesicles, and further experimentation shows the pores can act like voltage-controlled gates, just like the ion channels in living cells.
Researchers in Switzerland have just published research on how to combine two gels in such a way that they can monitor and change, almost at will, the transparency, electrical properties, and stiffness of the material. Called a “bigel”, the unique material was built by combining DNA fragments with nanoparticles.
Scientists in Oregon have created embryos with genes from one man and two women, using a provocative technique that could someday be used to prevent babies from inheriting certain rare incurable diseases. The embryos are not being used to produce children, but it has already stirred a debate over its risks and ethics in Britain, where scientists did similar work a few years ago.
A pair of University of California, Santa Barbara researchers have created a dynamic gel made of DNA that mechanically responds to stimuli in much the same way that cells do. This DNA gel, at only 10 μm in width, is roughly the size of a eukaryotic cell, the type of cell of which humans are made. When “fed”, it can generate forces independently, leading to changes in elasticity or shape.
Biologists have teamed up with mechanical engineers from The University of Texas at Dallas to conduct cell research that provides information that may one day be used to engineer organs. The research sheds light on the mechanics of cell, tissue, and organ formation. The research revealed basic mechanisms about how a group of bacterial cells can form large 3D structures.
Logic circuits can be built from just about anything, including billiard balls, pipes of water, or animals in a maze. Tae Seok Moon, a professor at Washington University in St. Louis, intends to build logic gates out of genes, and has already built the largest such device yet reported. But the purpose of these circuits is not to crunch numbers.