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.
Researchers from Johns Hopkins and Northwestern universities have discovered how to control the shape of nanoparticles that move DNA through the body and have shown that the shapes of these carriers may make a big difference in how well they work in treating cancer and other diseases. The technique is noteworthy because it does not use a virus to carry DNA into cells.
Cancer, diabetes, and excess body weight have one thing in common: they alter cellular metabolism. An international research team has resolved a new molecular circuit controlling cellular metabolism. The finding highlights a potential cause of side effects from inhibitors used as cancer treatment, and could lead to new diabetes and obesity therapies.
Microorganisms isolated from nature use their own metabolism to produce certain chemicals. But they are often inefficient, so metabolic engineering is used to improve microbial performance. Recent work at the Korea Advanced Institute of Science and Technology highlights the potential for engineered organism, such as Escherichia coli, to aid in common industrial processes such as polymer production.
Cardiac stress, such as a heart attack,frequently leads to pathological heart growth and subsequently to heart failure. Two tiny RNA molecules play a key role in this detrimental development in mice, and when researchers in Germany recently inhibited one of those two specific molecules, they were able to protect the rodent against pathological heart growth and failure. These new findings may guide therapeutic approaches for humans.
Many tumor cells have a defective cellular equipment. It is only by a special trick that they manage to distribute their chromosomes correctly to their daughter cells during cell division. Researchers have now developed a substance that thwarts this trick and forces cancer cells into death during cell division.
In certain toy racecar tracks, sneaky players can flip a switch, trapping their opponents’ vehicles in a loop of track. Cells employ a less subtle approach: they change the track’s layout. In a recent study, scientists in Europe have discovered that, by forming or undoing gene loops, cells manipulate the path of the transcription machinery—which reads out instructions from DNA—controlling whether it moves along the genetic material in one direction or two.
Johns Hopkins Medicine scientists have recently reported what is believed to be the first evidence that complex, reversible behavioral patterns in bees—and presumably other animals—are linked to reversible chemical tags on genes. They say the most significant aspect of the new study is that for the first time DNA methylation “tagging” has been linked to something at the behavioral level of a whole organism.
Researchers from in Zurich have literally created a “cell phone” from reprogrammed mammalian cells. Using suitable signal molecules and “devices” constructed from biological components, including genes and proteins, the researchers have achieved a synthetic two-way communication system inside a biological cell that also responds to concentration differences in the signal molecules.
Scientists have discovered well-preserved frozen woolly mammoth fragments deep in Siberia that may contain living cells, edging a tad closer to the "Jurassic Park" possibility of cloning a prehistoric animal. Russia's North-Eastern Federal University said an international team of researchers had discovered mammoth hair, soft tissues and bone marrow some 100 m underground during a summer expedition in the northeastern province of Yakutia.
Four years ago, the federal government created a new institute encompassing top universities and institutes and gave it $300 million to spur new treatments using cell science and advanced plastic surgery. The results, which are now helping to heal war veterans, include the implantation of rebuilt tissues—such as ears and bones—and even more unusual solutions like sprayed-on skin cells.
A team of experts in mechanics, materials science, and tissue engineering at Harvard University have created an extremely stretchy and tough gel that may pave the way to replacing damaged cartilage in human joints. Called a hydrogel, the new material is a hybrid of two weak gels that combine to create something much stronger. Not only can this new gel stretch to 21 times its original length, but it is also exceptionally tough, self-healing, and biocompatible.
Molecular biologists at the University of Texas at Austin have solved one of the mysteries of how double-stranded RNA is remodeled inside cells in both their normal and disease states. It has been known for some time that so-called DEAD-box enzymes, which are found in all forms of life, do not function like traditional helicases. But recent studies have confirmed their piston-like chemical action, potentially helping future genetic therapies.
Over six frightening months, a deadly germ untreatable by most antibiotics spread in the nation's leading research hospital. Scientists at the National Institutes of Health locked down patients, cleaned with bleach, even ripped out plumbing—and still the germ persisted. It took gene detectives teasing apart the bacteria's DNA to solve the germ's wily spread, a CSI-like saga with lessons for hospitals everywhere as they struggle to contain the growing threat of superbugs.
To control the 3D shape of engineered tissue, researchers grow cells on tiny, sponge-like scaffolds. These devices can be implanted into patients or used in the laboratory to study tissue responses to potential drugs. A team of researchers has now added a new element to tissue scaffolds: electronic sensors. These sensors could be used to monitor electrical activity in the tissue surrounding the scaffold, control drug release, or screen drug candidates for their effects on the beating of heart tissue.
Algae are high on the genetic engineering agenda as a potential source for biofuel, and they should be subjected to independent studies of any environmental risks that could be linked to cultivating algae for this purpose, two prominent researchers say. The researchers argue that ecology experts should be among scientists given independent authority and adequate funding to explore any potential unintended consequences of this technological pursuit.
Using next-generation sequencing technology and a new strategy to encode 1,000 times the largest data size previously achieved in DNA, Harvard University geneticist George Church has encoded his book in life's language. While the volume of data is comparatively modest, the density of 5.5 petabits, or 1 million gigabits per cubic meter, is off the charts.
Tissue implants made of cells grown on a sponge-like scaffold have been shown in clinical trials to help heal arteries scarred by atherosclerosis and other vascular diseases. However, it has been unclear why some implants work better than others. Massachusetts Institute of Technology researchers have now shown that implanted cells' therapeutic properties depend on their shape, which is determined by the type of scaffold on which they are grown.
Bioengineered replacements for tissues require recreation of the exquisite architecture of these tissues in three dimensions. These fibrous, collagen-based tissues located throughout the body have an ordered structure that gives them their ability to bear extreme mechanical loading. A team from the University of Pennsylvania has developed and validated a new technology in which composite nanofibrous scaffolds provide a loose enough structure for cells to colonize without impediment, but still can instruct cells how to lay down new tissue.