Researchers at Case Western Reserve School of Medicine have discovered a technique that directly converts skin cells to the type of brain cells destroyed in patients with multiple sclerosis and other so-called myelin disorders. This breakthrough now enables "on demand" production of myelinating cells, which provide a vital sheath of insulation that protects neurons and enables the delivery of brain impulses to the rest of the body.
An advance in micromotor technology akin to the invention of cars that fuel themselves from the pavement or air, rather than gasoline or batteries, is opening the door to broad new medical and industrial uses for these tiny devices, scientists said here today. Their update on development of the motors—so small that thousands would fit inside this "o"—was part of the American Chemical Society national meeting.
Scientists at the Uniersity of North Carolina at Chapel Hill School of Medicine have "rationally rewired" some of the cell's smallest components to create proteins that can be switched on or off by command. These "protein switches" can be used to interrogate the inner workings of each cell, helping scientists uncover the molecular mechanisms of human health and disease.
The Office of Naval Research (ONR) this week launched a collaborative initiative with university researchers focused on synthetic, or engineered, cells—part of a larger effort to use the smallest units of life to help Sailors and Marines execute their missions. ONR currently has multiple ongoing projects in the field of synthetic biology.
At some point, scientists may be able to bring back extinct animals, and perhaps early humans, raising questions of ethics and environmental disruption. Stanford University law professor Hank Greely has recently identified the ethical landmines of this new concept of de-extinction.
Researchers from the RIKEN Brain Science Institute report that they successfully used a virus vector to restore the expression of a brain protein and improve cognitive functions, in a mouse model of Alzheimer's disease. Because it is impossible to deliver genes directly to the brain without surgery, the researchers injected the virus in the left ventricle of the heart, as this provides a direct route to the brain.
One of the major obstacles to growing new organs—replacement hearts, lungs, and kidneys—is the difficulty researchers face in building blood vessels that keep the tissues alive, but new findings from the University of Michigan could help overcome this roadblock.
Scientists have shown that an enzyme in corn responsible for reading information from DNA can prompt unexpected changes in gene activity—an example of epigenetics that breaks accepted rules of genetic behavior. Though some evidence has suggested that epigenetic changes can bypass DNA’s influence to carry on from one generation to the next, this is the first study to show that this epigenetic heritability can be subject to selective breeding.
Scientists have cracked a 35-year-old mystery about the workings of a revolving molecular motor that is now serving as a model for development of a futuristic genre of synthetic nanomotors that pump therapeutic DNA, RNA, or drugs into individual diseased cells. Their report reveals the mechanisms of these nanomotors in a bacteria-killing virus—and a new way to move DNA through cells
Ideally, researchers would like to be able to design and build new catalysts from scratch that can do exactly what they want. However, designing—or even modifying—protein enzymes is a very difficult task. Illinois chemists have overcome the issues with size and complexity by using an artificially synthesized DNA sequence to do a protein’s job, creating opportunities for DNA to find work in more areas of biology, chemistry and medicine than ever before
Researchers at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign have devised a dynamic and reversible way to assemble nanoscale structures and have used it to encrypt a Morse code message. The team started with a template of DNA origami―multiple strands of DNA woven into a tile. They “wrote” their message in the DNA template by attaching biotin-bound DNA strands to specific locations on the tiles that would light up as dots or dashes.
Protein activity is strictly regulated. Incorrect or poor protein regulation can lead to uncontrolled growth and thus cancer or chronic inflammation. Researchers in Switzerland have identified enzymes that can regulate the activity of medically important proteins. Their discovery enables these proteins to be manipulated very selectively, opening up new treatment methods.
A research team in Europe has developed a new line of transgenic "Enviropigs." Enviropigs have genetically modified salivary glands, which help them digest phosphorus in feedstuffs and reduce phosphorus pollution in the environment. After developing the initial line of Enviropigs, researchers found that the line had certain genes that could be unstable. The new line of pigs is called the Cassie line, and it is known for passing genes on more reliably.
Scientists have long known that the young and old brains are very different. Adolescent brains are more malleable or plastic. The flip of a single molecular switch helps create the mature neuronal connections that allow the brain to bridge the gap between adolescent impressionability and adult stability. Now Yale School of Medicine researchers have reversed the process, recreating a youthful brain that facilitated both learning and healing in the adult mouse.
Scientists at the University of Massachusetts Amherst, including assistant professor Peter Chien, recently gained new insight into how protein synthesis and degradation help to regulate the delicate ballet of cell division. In particular, they reveal how two proteins shelter each other in “mutually assured cleanup” to insure that division goes smoothly and safely.
Just like electronics, living cells use electrons for energy and information transfer. But cell membranes have thus far prevented us from “plugging” in cells to our computers. To get around this barrier that tightly controls charge balance, a research group at Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory’s Molecular Foundry has engineered <em>E. coli</em> as a testbed for cellular-electrode communication. They have now demonstrated that these bacterial strains can generate measurable current at an anode.
Researchers at Michigan State University have used use an algae gene involved in oil production to engineer a plant that stores lipids or vegetable oil in its leaves—an uncommon occurrence for most plants. To confirm that the improved plants were more nutritious and contained more energy, the research team fed them to caterpillar larvae. The larvae that were fed oily leaves from the enhanced plants gained more weight than worms that ate regular leaves.
When it comes to healing the terrible wounds of war, success may hinge on the first blood clot—the one that begins forming on the battlefield right after an injury. Researchers exploring the complex stream of cellular signals produced by the body in response to a traumatic injury believe the initial response—formation of a blood clot—may control subsequent healing. Using that information, they're developing new biomaterials, including artificial blood platelets laced with regulatory chemicals that could be included in an injector device the size of an iPhone.
According to Michigan State University plant biologist Carolyn Malmstrom, when we start combining the qualities of different types of plants into one, there can be unanticipated results. In the domestication of wild plants for bioenergy, for example, long-lived plants are being selected for fast growth like annuals. In contrast, perennial plants in nature grow slower, but are usually better equipped to fight off invading viruses. When wild-growing perennials do get infected they can serve as reservoirs for viruses.
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.