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Scientists discover that shape matters in DNA nanoparticle therapy

October 12, 2012 10:03 am | News | Comments

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.

Cells control energy metabolism via hedgehog signalling pathway

October 11, 2012 5:48 pm | News | Comments

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.

Super-microbes engineered to solve world environmental problems

October 8, 2012 1:29 pm | News | Comments

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.


Scientists prevent heart failure in mice

October 3, 2012 7:52 am | News | Comments

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.

Optimized substance forces cancer cells into death

October 2, 2012 3:47 am | News | Comments

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.

Loop the loop, DNA style

September 28, 2012 10:06 am | News | Comments

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.

How bees decide what to be

September 18, 2012 3:40 am | News | Comments

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.

The first mammalian “cell phone”

September 17, 2012 5:38 am | by Peter Rüegg | News | Comments

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.


Mammoth fragments from Siberia raise cloning hopes

September 12, 2012 5:16 am | News | Comments

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.

Surprising methods heal wounded troops

September 10, 2012 8:21 am | by Marilynn Marchione, AP Chief Medical Writer | News | Comments

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.

Tough gel stretches to 21 times its length

September 5, 2012 10:52 am | News | Comments

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.

Ancient enzymes function like nanopistons to unwind RNA

September 4, 2012 3:52 am | News | Comments

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.

Gene sleuths stop superbug that killed six

August 27, 2012 3:36 am | by Lauran Neergaard, AP Medical Writer | News | Comments

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.


Merging tissue and electronics

August 27, 2012 3:33 am | by Anne Trafton, MIT News Office | News | Comments

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.

Genetically engineered algae for biofuel pose potential risks

August 20, 2012 8:53 am | News | Comments

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.

Writing the book in DNA, literally

August 20, 2012 4:54 am | News | Comments

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.

Success of engineered tissue depends on where it's grown

August 15, 2012 4:57 am | by Anne Trafton, MIT News Office | News | Comments

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.

Newly developed composite nanofibers open next chapter in orthopaedic biomaterials

August 7, 2012 11:56 am | News | Comments

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.

Researchers identify a novel double-stranded DNA structure

August 6, 2012 5:47 am | News | Comments

Addressing a scientific debate that had lasted for 16 years over the existence of a certain type of double-stranded DNA structure called S-DNA, researchers in Singapore were able to create the structure by stretching conventional double-stranded DNA beyond a certain transition force. The debate centered over whether the new structure was merely a melting transition for a full-fledge form.

In fly DNA, the footprint of a fly virus

August 2, 2012 5:10 am | News | Comments

In a curious evolutionary twist, biologists from the University of Buffalo report, several species of a commonly studied fruit fly appear to have incorporated genetic material from a virus into their genomes. This discovery of virus-like genes in the DNA of a commonly studied fruit fly could enable research on whether animals hijack viral genes as an anti-viral defense.

“Diving board” sensors engineered to detect DNA

July 30, 2012 4:04 am | News | Comments

Researchers from Drexel University are in the process of refining a sensor technology that they developed to measure samples at the cellular level. Constructed from a tiny vibrating piezoelectric cantilever, the sensor may become an accurate method for quickly detecting traces of DNA in liquid samples.

DNA could be future component of electronics

July 26, 2012 11:25 am | News | Comments

Scientists in Germany have developed a new strategy for the controlled production and metallization of DNA nanostructures. The team used a DNA strand consisting of an immobilization sequence and a metallization sequence and strung several alternating sequences together. Such a construction could someday be used in electronics.

Genomic sequencing method offers “smarter” cell analysis

July 23, 2012 5:10 am | News | Comments

Recent research shows for the first time that a new genomic sequencing method called Smart-Seq can help scientists conduct in-depth analyses of clinically relevant single cells. The method builds on knowledge of splicing, in which it is common for one gene to give rise to several forms of the same protein through different cut-and-paste configurations of its raw copy.

Artificial jellyfish swims in a heartbeat

July 23, 2012 3:46 am | News | Comments

Using recent advances in marine biomechanics, materials science, and tissue engineering, a team of researchers at Harvard University and the California Institute of Technology have turned inanimate silicone and living cardiac muscle cells into a freely swimming "jellyfish."

Man-made pores mimic important features of natural pores

July 17, 2012 9:18 am | News | Comments

Inspired by nature, an international research team has created synthetic pores that mimic the activity of cellular ion channels, which play a vital role in human health by severely restricting the types of materials allowed to enter cells. The pores the scientists built are permeable to potassium ions and water, but not to other ions such as sodium and lithium ions.

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