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Sorting cells with sound waves

August 26, 2014 7:36 am | by Anne Trafton, MIT News Office | Videos | Comments

Researchers have devised a new way to separate cells by exposing them to sound waves as they flow through a tiny channel. Their device, about the size of a dime, could be used to detect the extremely rare tumor cells that circulate in cancer patients’ blood, helping doctors predict whether a tumor is going to spread.

A surprising new role for natural killer T cells

August 25, 2014 9:25 am | News | Comments

In the past, immune cells were clearly divided into innate cells, which respond to attacks in a non-specific way, and adaptive cells, which learn to recognize new antigens and gain the ability to rapidly react to later attacks. Researchers at RIKEN in Japan have discovered that is not always the case, having found that killer T cells previously thought to be innate, and thus short-lived, can remain in the lung for up to nine months.

Efficient Bioengineering

August 22, 2014 2:50 pm | Award Winners

Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory’s Tissue-Specific Cell-Wall Engineering is a powerful new method for rapidly transforming crops into biological factories. The technology, a suite of high-precision genetic tools and procedures, makes it possible to change plant traits in a highly selective, tissue-specific fashion.

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A Closer Look at 3-D Cell Cultures

August 22, 2014 2:14 pm | Award Winners

It’s well known that compared with 2-D cell culture models, 3-D cell culture models have different patterns of development, respond differently to therapeutic targets and have different patterns of gene expression. Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory’s BioSig3D is the only computational platform that provides Web-based delivery of image-based bioinformatics technology from 3-D cell culture models that are imaged in full 3-D using either confocal or deconvolution microscopy.

Faster Peptide Synthesis

August 21, 2014 11:07 am | CEM Corporation | Award Winners

Peptide and protein therapeutics are important drug candidates due to their ubiquitous nature as biological molecules, as well as their ability to control all aspects of cellular function along with many facets of intercellular communication. CEM Corp.’s Liberty Blue automated microwave peptide synthesizer will streamline the peptide synthesis process for pharmaceutical, biotech and academic researchers, enabling them to produce peptides for drug discovery and studies in the field of life sciences in a manner that is more efficient, cost effective, faster and better for the environment.

Researchers develop models to study polyelectrolytes

August 21, 2014 9:04 am | by Matt Shipman, News Services, North Carolina State Univ. | Videos | Comments

Researchers from North Carolina State Univ. have developed a novel and versatile modeling strategy to simulate polyelectrolyte systems. The model has applications for creating new materials as well as for studying polyelectrolytes, including DNA and RNA. Polyelectrolytes are chains of molecules that are positively or negatively charged when placed in water.

Programmed to fold: RNA origami

August 21, 2014 8:27 am | by Katie Neith, California Institute of Technology | News | Comments

Researchers from Aarhus Univ. and Caltech have developed a new method for organizing molecules on the nanoscale. Inspired by techniques used for folding DNA origami, the team fabricated complicated shapes from DNA's close chemical cousin, RNA. Unlike DNA origami, whose components are chemically synthesized and then folded in an artificial heating and cooling process, RNA origami are enzymatically synthesized.

Treating pain by blocking the chili-pepper receptor

August 21, 2014 8:00 am | by American Chemical Society | News | Comments

As anyone who has bitten into a chili pepper knows, its burning spiciness—though irresistible to some—is intolerable to others. Scientists exploring the chili pepper’s effect are using their findings to develop a new drug candidate for many kinds of pain, which can be caused by inflammation or other problems. They reported their progress on the compound, which is being tested in clinical trials, in the Journal of Medicinal Chemistry.

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Biomarker in aggressive breast cancer identified

August 20, 2014 7:53 am | by Megan Fellman, Northwestern Univ. | News | Comments

Two Northwestern Univ. scientists have identified a biomarker strongly associated with basal-like breast cancer, a highly aggressive carcinoma that is resistant to many types of chemotherapy. The biomarker, a protein called STAT3, provides a smart target for new therapeutics designed to treat this often deadly cancer.

500-million-year reset for the immune system

August 19, 2014 10:22 am | News | Comments

Scientists at the Max Planck Institute of Immunobiology and Epigenetics re-activated expression of an ancient gene, which is not normally expressed in the mammalian immune system, and found that the animals developed a fish-like thymus. To the researchers' surprise, while the mammalian thymus is utilized exclusively for T cell maturation, the reset thymus produced not only T cells, but also served as a maturation site for B cells.

Bacterial nanowires not what scientists thought they were

August 19, 2014 8:28 am | by Robert Perkins, Univ. of Southern California | Videos | Comments

For the past 10 years, scientists have been fascinated by a type of “electric bacteria” that shoots out long tendrils like electric wires, using them to power themselves and transfer electricity to a variety of solid surfaces. A team led by scientists has now turned the study of these bacterial nanowires on its head, discovering that the key features in question are not pili as previously believed.

Worm virus details come to light

August 19, 2014 8:10 am | by Mike Williams, Rice Univ. | News | Comments

Rice Univ. scientists have won a race to find the crystal structure of the first virus known to infect the most abundant animal on Earth. The Rice laboratories of structural biologist Yizhi Jane Tao and geneticist Weiwei Zhong, with help from researchers at Baylor College of Medicine and Washington Univ., analyzed the Orsay virus that naturally infects a certain type of nematode, the worms that make up 80% of the living animal population.

Engineering new bone growth

August 19, 2014 7:56 am | by Anne Trafton, MIT News Office | News | Comments

Massachusetts Institute of Technology chemical engineers have devised a new implantable tissue scaffold coated with bone growth factors that are released slowly over a few weeks. When applied to bone injuries or defects, this coated scaffold induces the body to rapidly form new bone that looks and behaves just like the original tissue.

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Microchip reveals how tumor cells transition to invasion

August 18, 2014 11:06 am | by Kevin Stacey, Brown Univ. | News | Comments

Using a microengineered device that acts as an obstacle course for cells, researchers have shed new light on a cellular metamorphosis thought to play a role in tumor cell invasion throughout the body. The epithelial-mesenchymal transition (EMT) is a process in which epithelial cells, which tend to stick together within a tissue, change into mesenchymal cells, which can disperse and migrate individually.

Artificial cells act like the real thing

August 18, 2014 10:55 am | News | Comments

Imitation, they say, is the sincerest form of flattery, but mimicking the intricate networks and dynamic interactions that are inherent to living cells is difficult to achieve outside the cell. Now, as published in Science, Weizmann Institute scientists have created an artificial, network-like cell system that is capable of reproducing the dynamic behavior of protein synthesis.

New way to treat solid tumors

August 15, 2014 11:12 am | News | Comments

An international team of scientists has shown that an antibody against the protein EphA3, found in the micro-environment of solid cancers, has anti-tumor effects. As EphA3 is present in normal organs only during embryonic development but is expressed in blood cancers and in solid tumors, this antibody-based approach may be a suitable candidate treatment for solid tumors.

New gene editing method may help correct muscular dystrophy

August 15, 2014 8:56 am | News | Comments

Researchers in Texas have successfully used a new gene editing method to correct a mutation that leads to Duchenne muscular dystrophy (DMD) in a mouse model of the condition. The technique is called CRISPR/Cas9-mediated genome editing, and can precisely remove a mutation in DNA, allowing the body’s DNA repair mechanisms to replace it with a normal copy of the gene.

Immune cells get cancer-fighting boost from nanomaterials

August 14, 2014 9:00 am | by Rase McCry, Yale Univ. | News | Comments

Scientists at Yale Univ. have developed a novel cancer immunotherapy that rapidly grows and enhances a patient’s immune cells outside the body using carbon nanotube-polymer composites; the immune cells can then be injected back into a patient’s blood to boost the immune response or fight cancer.

Single gene controls jet lag

August 14, 2014 7:52 am | News | Comments

Scientists at the Salk Institute for Biological Studies have identified a gene that regulates sleep and wake rhythms. The discovery of the role of this gene, called Lhx1, provides scientists with a potential therapeutic target to help night-shift workers or jet lagged travelers adjust to time differences more quickly. The results, published in eLife, can point to treatment strategies for sleep problems caused by a variety of disorders.

New material could enhance fast, accurate DNA sequencing

August 14, 2014 7:41 am | by Liz Ahlberg, Physical Sciences Editor, Univ. of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign | News | Comments

Gene-based personalized medicine has many possibilities for diagnosis and targeted therapy, but one big bottleneck: the expensive and time-consuming DNA sequencing process. Now, researchers at the Univ. of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign have found that nanopores in the material molybdenum disulfide (MoS2) could sequence DNA more accurately, quickly and inexpensively than anything yet available.

A Potential New Route to Stopping Surgical Bleeding

August 13, 2014 10:44 am | by Lindsay Hock, Managing Editor | Articles | Comments

Surgical and trauma patients are at significant risk for morbidity and mortality from bleeding and/or leaking bodily fluids. With the number and complexity of surgeries rising, so is the need for better hemostatic agents to stop bleeding as quickly as possible. The history of approaches to hemostasis goes back to when people simply used their hands or a tool to apply to a wound to stop bleeding.

New analysis reveals tumor weaknesses

August 13, 2014 7:40 am | by Anne Trafton, MIT News Office | News | Comments

Scientists have known for decades that cancer can be caused by genetic mutations, but more recently they have discovered that chemical modifications of a gene can also contribute to cancer. These alterations, known as epigenetic modifications, control whether a gene is turned on or off. Analyzing these modifications can provide important clues to the type of tumor a patient has, and how it will respond to different drugs.

R&D Magazine Announces Scientist and Innovator of the Year Award Winners

August 12, 2014 12:00 pm | by Lindsay Hock, Managing Editor | News | Comments

R&D Magazine introduced its annual Scientist of the Year Award winner, Dr. Karl Deisseroth, and its Innovator of the Year Award winner, Dr. Hugh Herr. As R&D Magazine's 49th Scientist of the Year Award winner, Dr. Deisseroth is one of the United States’ leading researchers in the rapidly growing field of optogenetics, having invented several new technologies in support of efforts to understand neural functions in the human brain.

Bioengineers make functional 3-D brain-like tissue model

August 12, 2014 10:40 am | by Kim Thurler, Tufts Univ. | News | Comments

The human brain remains one of the least understood organs in the human body, because of its complexity and the difficulty of studying its physiology in the living body. Tufts Univ. researchers announced development of the first reported complex 3-D model made of brain-like cortical tissue that exhibits biochemical and electrophysiological responses and can function in the laboratory for months.

From eons to seconds, proteins exploit the same forces

August 12, 2014 7:58 am | by Mike Williams, Rice Univ. | News | Comments

Nature’s artistic and engineering skills are evident in proteins. Scientists at Rice Univ. have now employed their unique theories to show how the interplay between evolution and physics developed these skills. The team used computer models to show that the energy landscapes that describe how nature selects viable protein sequences over evolutionary timescales employ the same forces as those that allow proteins to fold.

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