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Building better blood vessels could advance tissue engineering

April 5, 2013 8:00 am | News | Comments

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.

Researchers find new way for plants to pass traits to next generation

March 26, 2013 12:50 pm | by Emily Caldwell, Ohio State University | News | Comments

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.

Researchers discover third type of motor found in nature

March 20, 2013 3:21 pm | News | Comments

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

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Synthesized DNA catalysts do the work of protein enzymes

March 19, 2013 3:37 pm | News | Comments

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

Scientists use DNA to create nano-encrypted Morse code

March 12, 2013 3:17 pm | News | Comments

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. 

Scientists manipulate protein activity with newly found enzymes

March 11, 2013 8:43 am | News | Comments

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.

Scientists improve transgenic “Enviropigs”

March 8, 2013 3:48 pm | News | Comments

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.

Flip of a single molecular switch makes an old brain young

March 6, 2013 3:38 pm | News | Comments

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.

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Biochemists gain insight into cell division

March 5, 2013 4:34 pm | News | Comments

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.

Scientists engineer bacterial live wires

February 28, 2013 1:09 pm | News | Comments

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.

“Fat worms” inch scientists toward better biofuel production

February 26, 2013 10:00 am | News | Comments

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.

Artificial platelets could treat injured soldiers on the battlefield

February 19, 2013 9:04 am | News | Comments

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.

Avoiding virus dangers in “domesticating” wild plants for biofuel use

February 15, 2013 11:36 am | News | Comments

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.

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Researchers discover how a microbial biorefinery regulates genes

February 15, 2013 11:17 am | News | Comments

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.

Engineers use light to control cell clustering

February 13, 2013 11:07 am | News | Comments

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.

Researchers develop molecular “calcium sponge” to tackle heart failure

February 11, 2013 9:47 am | News | Comments

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.

When the cell’s two genomes collide

February 6, 2013 12:17 pm | News | Comments

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.   

Synthetic biology method dramatically cuts down “manufacturing” time

January 31, 2013 12:13 pm | News | Comments

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.

Maglev tissues could speed toxicity tests

January 25, 2013 7:55 am | News | Comments

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.

Study: Digital information can be stored in DNA

January 24, 2013 11:42 am | by Malcolm Ritter, AP Science Writer | News | Comments

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.

Molecular forces are key to proper cell division

January 21, 2013 5:09 pm | News | Comments

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

One form of neuron turned into another in brain

January 21, 2013 9:53 am | News | Comments

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

A light switch inside the brain

January 18, 2013 11:06 am | News | Comments

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.

A new way to build collagen scaffolds

December 28, 2012 12:51 pm | News | Comments

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.

New calculations solve an old problem with DNA

December 21, 2012 12:37 pm | News | Comments

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.

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