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Key link between tumors and healthy tissue identified

March 21, 2014 8:43 am | by Bill Hathaway, Yale Univ. | News | Comments

The delicate balance between development of normal tissue and tumors depends in part upon a key molecular switch within cells, Yale School of Medicine researchers report in Science. Their findings reveal a potential mechanism used by cancer cells to recruit healthy cells to promote tumor growth and suggest new strategies to generate healthy tissue.

3-D model links facial features and DNA

March 21, 2014 8:10 am | News | Comments

DNA can already tell us the sex and ancestry of unknown individuals, but now an international team of researchers is beginning to connect genetics with facial features, degrees of femininity and racial admixture. In essence, by including sex and racial admixture, researchers can learn about how certain genes and their variations influence the shape of the face and its features.

Cells get ready for their close-up

March 21, 2014 7:45 am | by Anne Trafton, MIT News Office | News | Comments

In 2007, Massachusetts Institute of Technology scientists developed a type of microscopy that allowed them to detail the interior of a living cell in 3-D, without adding any fluorescent markers or other labels. This technique also revealed key properties, such as the cells’ density. Now the researchers have adapted that method so they can image cells as they flow through a tiny microfluidic channel.

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Gene silencing instructions acquired through “molecular memory” tags on chromatin

March 20, 2014 12:46 pm | News | Comments

Scientists at Indiana Univ. have unlocked one of the mysteries of modern genetics: how acquired traits can be passed between generations in a process called epigenetic inheritance. The new work finds that cells don’t know to silence some genes based on information hardwired into their DNA sequences, but recognize heritable chemical marks that are added to the genes.

Assembling a colossus

March 20, 2014 9:19 am | News | Comments

Geneticists at the Univ. of California, Davis have decoded the genome sequence for the loblolly pine. The accomplishment is a milestone for genetics because this pine’s genome is massive. Bloated with repetitive sequences, it is seven times larger than the human genome and easily big enough to overwhelm standard genome assembly methods.

Past HIV vaccine trials reveal new path to success

March 20, 2014 8:05 am | News | Comments

A multinational research team led by Duke Medicine scientists has identified a subclass of antibodies associated with an effective immune response to an HIV vaccine. The finding helps explain why a combination of two vaccines was able to show some effect, when one vaccine alone did not. The study also provides key insights that could aid development of new vaccines.

Researchers survey protein family that helps brain form synapses

March 19, 2014 8:35 am | by Tom Abate, Stanford Engineering | News | Comments

Neuroscientists and bioengineers at Stanford Univ. are working together to solve a mystery: How does nature construct the different types of synapses that connect neurons—the brain cells that monitor nerve impulses, control muscles and form thoughts.

Fast synthesis could boost drug development

March 19, 2014 7:42 am | by Anne Trafton, MIT News Office | News | Comments

Small protein fragments, also called peptides, are promising as drugs because they can be designed for very specific functions inside living cells. Insulin and the HIV drug Fuzeon are some of the earliest successful examples, and peptide drugs are expected to become a $25 billion market by 2018. However, a major bottleneck has prevented peptide drugs from reaching their full potential.

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Scientists slow development of Alzheimer’s trademark cell-killing plaques

March 18, 2014 10:12 am | by Laura Bailey, Univ. of Michigan | News | Comments

Univ. of Michigan researchers have learned how to fix a cellular structure called the Golgi that mysteriously becomes fragmented in all Alzheimer's patients and appears to be a major cause of the disease. They say that understanding this mechanism helps decode amyloid plaque formation in the brains of Alzheimer's patients, plaques that kills cells and contributes to memory loss and other Alzheimer's symptoms.

Discovery could yield more efficient plants for biofuels

March 18, 2014 8:16 am | by Natalie van Hoose, Purdue Univ. | News | Comments

Genetically modifying a key protein complex in plants could lead to improved crops for the production of cellulosic biofuels, a Purdue Univ. study says. The researchers generated a mutant Arabidopsis plant whose cell walls can be converted easily into fermentable sugars, but doesn't display the stunted growth patterns of similar mutants.

Bacterial reporters that get the scoop

March 18, 2014 7:55 am | by Kristen Kusek, Wyss Institute for Biologically Inspired Engineering, Harvard Univ. | News | Comments

It's a jungle in there. In the tightly woven ecosystem of the human gut, trillions of bacteria compete with each other on a daily basis while they sense and react to signals from the immune system, ingested food and other bacteria. Problems arise when bad gut bugs overtake friendly ones, or when the immune system is thrown off balance.

Team implants human innate immune cells in mice

March 17, 2014 11:51 am | by Helen Dodson, Yale Univ. | News | Comments

Overcoming a major limitation to the study of the origins and progress of human disease, Yale Univ. researchers report that they have transplanted human innate immune cells into mouse models, which resulted in human immune responses. This study has reproduced human immune function at a level not seen previously, and could significantly improve the translation of knowledge gained from mouse studies into humans.

Bright future for protein nanoprobes

March 17, 2014 11:39 am | by Lynn Yarris, Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory | News | Comments

The term a “brighter future” might be a cliché, but in the case of ultra-small probes for lighting up individual proteins, it is now most appropriate. Researchers at Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory have discovered surprising new rules for creating ultra-bright light-emitting crystals that are less than 10 nm in diameter.

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Data-mining for crystal “gold” at SLAC’s x-ray laser

March 17, 2014 9:21 am | by Glenn Roberts Jr., SLAC National Accelerator Laboratory | News | Comments

A new tool for analyzing mountains of data from SLAC National Accelerator Laboratory’s Linac Coherent Lightsource x-ray laser can produce high-quality images of important proteins using fewer samples. Scientists hope to use it to reveal the structures and functions of proteins that have proven elusive, as well as mine data from past experiments for new information.

Vast gene-expression map yields neurological, environmental stress insights

March 17, 2014 8:22 am | by Dan Krotz, Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory | News | Comments

A consortium led by scientists from Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory has conducted the largest survey yet of how information encoded in an animal genome is processed in different organs, stages of development and environmental conditions. Their findings paint a new picture of how genes function in the nervous system and in response to environmental stress.

An equation to describe the competition between genes

March 17, 2014 8:08 am | by Kimm Fesenmaier, Caltech | News | Comments

In biology, scientists typically conduct experiments first, and then develop mathematical or computer models afterward to show how the collected data fit with theory. In his work, Rob Phillips flips that practice on its head. The Caltech biophysicist tackles questions in cellular biology as a physicist would—by first formulating a model that can make predictions and then testing those predictions.

In the laboratory, scientists coax E. coli to resist radiation damage

March 17, 2014 7:45 am | News | Comments

Capitalizing on the ability of an organism to evolve in response to punishment from a hostile environment, scientists have coaxed the model bacterium Escherichia coli to dramatically resist ionizing radiation and, in the process, reveal the genetic mechanisms that make the feat possible. The study provides evidence that just a handful of genetic mutations give E. coli the capacity to withstand doses of radiation.

Big data tackles tiny molecular machines

March 14, 2014 12:11 pm | News | Comments

Biophysicists at Rice Univ. have used a miniscule machine, a protease called an FtsH-AAA hexameric peptidase, as a model to test calculations that combine genetic and structural data. Their goal is to solve one of the most compelling mysteries in biology: how proteins perform the regulatory mechanisms in cells upon which life depends.

Nasty nanoinjectors pose a new target for antibiotic research

March 14, 2014 12:03 pm | News | Comments

If you’ve ever suffered the misery of food poisoning from a bacterium like Salmonella, then your cells have been on the receiving end of “nanoinjectors”, microscopic spikes made from proteins through which pathogens secrete effector proteins into human host cells, causing infection. Researchers are using advanced nuclear magnetic resonance spectrometry to unlock the structure of these injector, which are built from 20 different proteins.

Roomy cages built from DNA

March 14, 2014 11:48 am | News | Comments

Move over, nanotechnologists, and make room for the biggest of the small. Scientists at the Harvard's Wyss Institute have built a set of self-assembling DNA cages one-tenth as wide as a bacterium. The structures are some of the largest and most complex structures ever constructed solely from DNA.

New high-throughput method proposed for screening, ranking anti-aging drugs

March 14, 2014 7:27 am | News | Comments

Scientists in the U.K. have proposed a new computer-based method of screening drugs that could be used to slow the aging process in humans. The proposed method uses gene expression data from “young” and “old” tissues to construct the cloud of molecular signalling pathways involved in ageing and longevity. It then evaluates the effects of a large number of drugs and drug combinations to emulate a youthful state for cells and tissues.

Research update: Battling infection with microbes

March 13, 2014 8:19 am | by Jessica Stoller-Conrad, Caltech | News | Comments

The human relationship with microbial life is complicated. At almost any supermarket, you can pick up both antibacterial soap and probiotic yogurt during the same shopping trip. Although there are types of bacteria that can make us sick, a California Institute of Technology team is most interested in the thousands of other bacteria, many already living inside our bodies, that actually keep us healthy.

Surface characteristics influence cellular growth on semiconductor material

March 12, 2014 10:03 am | by Matt Shipman, News Services, North Carolina State Univ. | News | Comments

Changing the texture and surface characteristics of a semiconductor material at the nanoscale can influence the way that neural cells grow on the material. The finding stems from a study performed by researchers at North Carolina State Univ., the Univ. of North Carolina at Chapel Hill and Purdue Univ., and may have utility for developing future neural implants.

Scientists “herd” cells in new approach to tissue engineering

March 12, 2014 8:08 am | by Sarah Yang, Media Relations, UC Berkeley | Videos | Comments

Sometimes it only takes a quick jolt of electricity to get a swarm of cells moving in the right direction. Researchers at the Univ. of California, Berkeley found that an electrical current can be used to orchestrate the flow of a group of cells, an achievement that could establish the basis for more controlled forms of tissue engineering.

Lignin breakthroughs serve as GPS for plant research

March 12, 2014 7:57 am | by D'Lyn Ford, News Services, North Carolina State Univ. | News | Comments

Researchers at North Carolina State Univ. have developed the equivalent of GPS directions for future plant scientists to understand how plants adapt to the environment and to improve plants’ productivity and biofuel potential. Two articles published in The Plant Cell offer a step-by-step approach for studying plant traits, drawing on comprehensive, quantitative research on lignin formation in black cottonwood.

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