After more than six years of intensive effort, and repeated failures that made the quest at times seem futile, Harvard Stem Cell Institute researchers at Boston Children’s Hospital and Harvard’s Dept. of Stem Cell and Regenerative Biology have successfully converted mouse and human skin cells into pain-sensing neurons that respond to a number of stimuli that cause acute and inflammatory pain.
Researchers have made great progress in recent years in the design and creation of biological circuits: systems that, like electronic circuits, can take a number of different inputs and deliver a particular kind of output. But while individual components of such biological circuits can have precise and predictable responses, those outcomes become less predictable as more such elements are combined.
Univ. of California, Los Angeles neurophysicists have found that space-mapping neurons in the brain react differently to virtual reality than they do to real-world environments. Their findings could be significant for people who use virtual reality for gaming, military, commercial, scientific or other purposes.
New computer models that show how microtubules age are the first to match experimental results and help explain the dynamic processes behind an essential component of every living cell, according to Rice Univ. scientists. The results could help scientists fine-tune medications that manipulate microtubules to treat cancer and other diseases.
Scientists have discovered that genes switch off as memories are being formed, allowing for new connections between nerve cells. The discovery could eventually lead to a key for treating conditions such as autism and dementia. Researchers studying honeybees during learning activities have shown that memory management in the bee brain is controlled by small genetic elements called microRNAs that help regulate gene expression.
One of the most mysterious forms of life may turn out to be a rich and untapped source of antibacterial drugs. The mysterious life form is Archaea, a family of single-celled organisms that thrive in environments like boiling hydrothermal pools and smoking deep sea vents which are too extreme for most other species to survive.
Scientists from Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory have learned new details about how an important tumor-suppressing protein, called p53, binds to the human genome. As with many things in life, they found that context makes a big difference. The researchers mapped the places where p53 binds to the genome in a human cancer cell line.
Scientists at The Scripps Research Institute (TSRI) have discovered how one gene is essential to hearing, uncovering a cause of deafness and suggesting new avenues for therapies. The new study, published in Neuron, shows how mutations in a gene called Tmie can cause deafness from birth. Underlining the critical nature of their findings, researchers were able to reintroduce the gene in mice and restore the process underpinning hearing.
Researchers from Oregon State Univ. and other institutions have developed a new biomarker called “SDMA” that can provide earlier identification of chronic kidney disease in cats, which is one of the leading causes of their death. A new test based on this biomarker, when commercialized, should help pet owners and their veterinarians watch for this problem through periodic checkups, and treat it with diet or other therapies.
Recent studies showing acid ceramidase (AC) to be upregulated in melanoma, lung and prostate cancers have made the enzyme a desired target for novel synthetic inhibitor compounds. In Angewandte Chemie, scientists with the Univ. of California, Irvine School of Medicine and the Italian Institute of Technology describe the very first class of AC inhibitors that may aid in the efficacy of chemotherapies.
New research has found that one of the world's most prolific bacteria manages to afflict humans, animals and even plants by way of a mechanism not before seen in any infectious microorganism—a sense of touch. This unique ability helps make the bacteria Pseudomonas aeruginosa ubiquitous, but it also might leave these antibiotic-resistant organisms vulnerable to a new form of treatment.
The discovery of the innate immunity system’s role in mobilizing the body’s defenses against invading microorganisms has been long studied at Yale Univ. Now in Nature Immunology, Yale researchers have discovered a surprising twist to the story that may open a new avenue in the fight against HIV.
Univ. of California, Los Angeles biochemists have created the largest-ever protein that self-assembles into a molecular “cage.” The research could lead to synthetic vaccines that protect people from the flu, HIV and other diseases. At a size hundreds of times smaller than a human cell, it also could lead to new methods of delivering pharmaceuticals inside of cells, or to the creation of new nanoscale materials.
Scientists have made high-resolution x-ray laser images of an intact cellular structure much faster and more efficiently than ever possible before. The results are an important step toward atomic-scale imaging of intact biological particles, including viruses and bacteria. The technique was demonstrated at the Linac Coherent Light Source at the SLAC National Accelerator Laboratory.
A major challenge faced by the pharmaceutical industry has been how to rationally design and select protein molecules to create effective biologic drug therapies while reducing unintended side effects—a challenge that has largely been addressed through costly guess–and–check experiments. Researchers at the Wyss Institute for Biologically Inspired Engineering at Harvard Univ. offer a new approach.
Researchers at the Univ. of Michigan have discovered how a previously unknown hormone serves as a messenger from fat cells to the liver and are investigating the potential of developing a new treatment for metabolic disorders. Jiandie Lin of the Life Sciences Institute described how in mice the hormone, NRG4, is secreted by so-called brown fat cells and communicates with the liver to regulate the conversion of sugar into fat.
Small pieces of synthetic RNA trigger a RNA interference (RNAi) response that holds great therapeutic potential to treat a number of diseases, especially cancer and pandemic viruses. The problem is delivery: It’s extremely difficult to get RNAi drugs inside the cells in which they are needed.
Engineers at Oregon State Univ. have identified a method to rapidly prepare frozen red blood cells for transfusions, which may offer an important new way to manage the world’s blood supply. It’s already possible to cryopreserve human red blood cells in the presence of 40% glycerol, but is rarely done because of the time-consuming process to thaw and remove the glycerol from the blood.
Researchers at the Univ. of Georgia have discovered that a chemical compound commonly found in coffee may help prevent some of the damaging effects of obesity. In a recently published paper published, scientists found that chlorogenic acid, or CGA, significantly reduced insulin resistance and accumulation of fat in the livers of mice who were fed a high-fat diet.
A large study of gay brothers adds to evidence that genes influence men's chances of being homosexual, but the results aren't strong enough to prove it. Some scientists believe several genes might affect sexual orientation. Researchers who led the new study of nearly 800 gay brothers say their results bolster previous evidence pointing to genes on the X chromosome.
A trawl through a library of more than 50,000 small molecules has identified a potential candidate to inhibit the spread of cancer cells throughout the body. Reported in Nature Communications, the molecule targets a mechanism of tumor development that had previously been considered “undruggable” and could open the door to further promising new candidates.
The tree has been an effective model of evolution for 150 years, but a Rice Univ. computer scientist believes it’s far too simple to illustrate the breadth of current knowledge. Rice researcher Luay Nakhleh and his group have developed PhyloNet, an open source software package that accounts for horizontal as well as vertical inheritance of genetic material among genomes.
When munched by grazing animals (or mauled by scientists in the laboratory), some herbaceous plants overcompensate, producing more plant matter and becoming more fertile than they otherwise would. Scientists say they now know how these plants accomplish this feat of regeneration. They report their findings in Molecular Ecology.
Tiny, thin microtubes could provide a scaffold for neuron cultures to grow so that researchers can study neural networks, their growth and repair, yielding insights into treatment for degenerative neurological conditions or restoring nerve connections after injury. Researchers created the microtube platform to study neuron growth.
A study conducted in part at the SLAC National Accelerator Laboratory has revealed how a key human protein switches from a form that protects cells to a form that kills them—a property that scientists hope to exploit as a “kill switch” for cancer. The protein, called cIAP1, shields cells from programmed cell death, or apoptosis.