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Researchers devise a faster, less expensive way to analyze gene activity

March 3, 2015 10:53 am | by Vicky Agnew, Yale Univ. | News | Comments

A team of Yale Univ. researchers has developed a simple method that could significantly reduce the time and cost of probing gene expression on a large scale. The team created a tool that takes advantage of new high-throughput DNA sequencing technologies to make it easier to simultaneously measure gene activity in large numbers of cells or tissues.

Sizing up cells

March 3, 2015 8:40 am | by John Sullivan, Princeton Univ. | News | Comments

Modern biology has attained deep knowledge of how cells work, but the mechanisms by which cellular structures assemble and grow to the right size largely remain a mystery. Now, Princeton Univ. researchers may have found the key in a dynamic agglomeration of molecules inside cells.

Fighting parasites with their own genomes

March 3, 2015 7:47 am | by Jessica Stoller-Conrad, Caltech | News | Comments

Tiny parasitic hookworms infect nearly half a billion people worldwide, almost exclusively in developing countries, causing health problems ranging from gastrointestinal issues to cognitive impairment and stunted growth in children. By sequencing and analyzing the genome of one particular hookworm species, Caltech researchers have uncovered new information that could aid the fight against these parasites.  

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New views of enzyme structures offer insights into metabolism of cholesterol

March 3, 2015 7:39 am | by Ian Demsky, Univ. of Michigan | News | Comments

With the aid of x-ray crystallography, researchers at the Univ. of Michigan have revealed the structures of two closely related enzymes that play essential roles in the body's ability to metabolize excess lipids, including cholesterol. The findings are an important step toward understanding and being able to therapeutically target disorders and drug side effects that cause lipids, including cholesterol, to build up in the body.

Nanodevice defeats drug resistance

March 3, 2015 7:30 am | by Anne Trafton, MIT News Office | News | Comments

Chemotherapy often shrinks tumors at first, but as cancer cells become resistant to drug treatment, tumors can grow back. A new nanodevice developed by Massachusetts Institute of Technology researchers can help overcome that by first blocking the gene that confers drug resistance, then launching a new chemotherapy attack against the disarmed tumors.

Unlocking the key to immunological memory in bacteria

March 2, 2015 11:41 am | by Lynn Yarris, Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory | News | Comments

A powerful genome editing tool may soon become even more powerful. Researchers with the Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory have unlocked the key to how bacteria are able to “steal” genetic information from viruses and other foreign invaders for use in their own immunological memory system.

Neurons controlling appetite made from skin cells

March 2, 2015 9:09 am | by Karin Eskenazi, Columbia Univ. Medical Center | News | Comments

Researchers have, for the first time, successfully converted adult human skin cells into neurons of the type that regulate appetite, providing a patient-specific model for studying the neurophysiology of weight control and testing new therapies for obesity. To make the neurons, human skin cells were first genetically reprogrammed to become induced pluripotent stem (iPS) cells.

Genetics reveals where emperor penguins survived the last ice age

March 2, 2015 9:00 am | by Univ. of Southampton | News | Comments

A study of how climate change has affected emperor penguins over the last 30,000 years found that only three populations may have survived during the last ice age, and that the Ross Sea in Antarctica was likely the refuge for one of these populations.

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Untangling DNA with a droplet of water, pipet and polymer

February 27, 2015 11:42 am | by KU Leuven | News | Comments

Researchers have long sought an efficient way to untangle DNA in order to study its structure under a microscope. Now, chemists and engineers at KU Leuven have devised a strikingly simple and effective solution: They inject genetic material into a droplet of water and use a pipet tip to drag it over a glass plate covered with a sticky polymer.

New peanut allergy test goes beyond scratching the surface

February 27, 2015 7:33 am | by Colin Poitras, UConn | News | Comments

Current peanut allergy tests are not very reliable when it comes to diagnosing the severity of an individual’s allergic reaction, which can range from hives to life-threatening anaphylactic shock. With an estimated three million people in the U.S. allergic to peanuts and tree nuts, having a more precise and reliable allergy test could prevent hospitalizations and allow for better monitoring of individuals suffering from peanut allergies.

The body’s transformers

February 26, 2015 8:59 am | by Julie Cohen, UC Santa Barbara | Videos | Comments

Like the shape-shifting robots of "Transformers" fame, a unique class of proteins in the human body also has the ability to alter their configuration. These so-named intrinsically disordered proteins lack a fixed or ordered 3-D structure, which can be influenced by exposure to various chemicals and cellular modifications. A new study looked at a particular IDP called tau, which plays a critical role in human physiology.

Innovations in Cell Culture Technology Drive Drug Discovery Studies

February 24, 2015 9:14 am | by Cindy Neeley, PhD, Field Applications Scientist, Thermo Fisher Scientific, Labware & Specialty Plastics, Rochester, N.Y. | Thermo Fisher Scientific | Articles | Comments

Scientists around the world make use of cell culture techniques on a daily basis. Whether they happen to be working with primary cell cultures, secondary cultures or cell lines, they all face many of the same problems: slow growth, spontaneous differentiation, evaporation, contamination and a host of other issues that require troubleshooting.

Computational Model Reveals the Importance of Transitional Dynamics of “Memory Molecule” in Memory Formation

February 24, 2015 9:01 am | by Glen C. Rains | Articles | Comments

The dynamics of a molecule abundant in the synapse, Ca2+/Calmodulin dependent kinase type II (CaMKII), known as the “memory molecule”, are important in memory formation. Synapses are junctions connecting neurons and there’s increasing evidence they store memory when neurons are stimulated by the environment.

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Sobering effect of the love hormone

February 24, 2015 8:47 am | by Verity Leatherdale, Univ. of Sydney | News | Comments

Oxytocin, sometimes referred to as the “love” or “cuddle” hormone, has a legendary status in popular culture due to its vital role in social and sexual behavior and long-term bonding. Now researchers from the Univ. of Sydney and the Univ. of Regensburg have discovered it also has a remarkable influence on the intoxicating effect of alcohol.

Key protein found that allows Plavis to conquer platelets

February 24, 2015 8:38 am | by Mark Derewicz, Univ. of North Carolina Health Care | News | Comments

Researchers at the Univ. of North Carolina School of Medicine have found that the blood platelet protein Rasa3 is critical to the success of the common anti-platelet drug Plavix, which breaks up blood clots during heart attacks and other arterial diseases. The discovery details how Rasa3 is part of a cellular pathway crucial for platelet activity during clot formation.

Building tailor-made DNA nanotubes step-by-step

February 24, 2015 8:10 am | by McGill Univ. | News | Comments

Researchers at McGill Univ. have developed a new, low-cost method to build DNA nanotubes block-by-block, a breakthrough that could help pave the way for scaffolds made from DNA strands to be used in applications such as optical and electronic devices or smart drug delivery systems. Many researchers, including the McGill team, have previously constructed nanotubes using a method that relies on spontaneous assembly of DNA in solution.

Motor proteins prefer slow, steady movement

February 23, 2015 10:43 am | by Mike Williams, Rice Univ. | News | Comments

It takes at least two motor proteins to tango, according to Rice Univ. scientists who discovered the workhorses that move cargo in cells are highly sensitive to the proximity of their peers. The study suggests that the collective behavior of motor proteins like kinesins keeps cellular transport systems robust by favoring slow and steady over maximum movement.

Scientists discover protein’s role in several types of cancers

February 23, 2015 8:20 am | by Amy Adams, Stanford Univ. | News | Comments

A protein found in pancreatic tumors may lead to a new chemotherapy that is effective against many different kinds of cancers, but turning the discovery into a new drug has required a bit of chemistry know-how.

How T cells cause inflammation during infections

February 23, 2015 8:08 am | by Susan Griffith, Case Western Reserve Univ. | News | Comments

Case Western Reserve Univ. dental researcher Pushpa Pandiyan has discovered a new way to model how infection-fighting T cells cause inflammation in mice. The hope is that the discovery can lead to new therapies or drugs that jump-start weakened or poorly functioning immune systems. Pandiyan believes the process could lead to identifying and testing new drugs to replace antifungal medicines.

Virus-cutting enzyme helps bacteria remember a threat

February 20, 2015 12:33 pm | by Wynne Parry, Rockefeller Univ. | News | Comments

Bacteria may not have brains, but they do have memories, at least when it comes to viruses that attack them. Many bacteria have a molecular immune system which allows these microbes to capture and retain pieces of viral DNA that they have encountered in the past, in order to recognize and destroy it when it shows up again.

Researchers find surprising trigger of new brain cell growth

February 20, 2015 11:52 am | by Bill Hathaway, Yale Univ. | News | Comments

Scientists have discovered that the human brain can produce new neurons, but exactly how those cells are produced and what purpose they serve are not well understood. Now a study by Yale Univ. researchers shows that key developmental factors that control the formation of blood vessels are also necessary for activating brain stem cells.

New insight into fragile protein linked to cancer, autism

February 20, 2015 11:05 am | by American Chemical Society | News | Comments

In recent years, scientists have found a surprising a connection between some people with autism and certain cancer patients: They have mutations in the same gene, one that codes for a protein critical for normal cellular health. Now scientists have reported in Biochemistry that the defects reduce the activity and stability of the protein. Their findings could someday help lead to new treatments for both sets of patients.

Evolving a bigger brain with human DNA

February 20, 2015 10:54 am | by Karl Bates, Duke Univ. | News | Comments

The size of the human brain expanded dramatically during the course of evolution, imparting us with unique capabilities to use abstract language and do complex math. But how did the human brain get larger than that of our closest living relative, the chimpanzee, if almost all of our genes are the same?

FDA eases access to DNA screening for inherited diseases

February 19, 2015 9:08 pm | by Matthew Perrone, AP Health Writer, Associated Press | News | Comments

Federal health officials are easing access to DNA tests used to screen parents for devastating genetic disorders that can be passed on to their children. The surprise announcement offers a path forward for Google-backed genetic testing firm 23andMe, which previously clashed with regulators over its direct-to-consumer technology.

Epigenomics of Alzheimer’s disease progression

February 18, 2015 9:50 am | by Anne Trafton, MIT News Office | News | Comments

Our susceptibility to disease depends both on the genes that we inherit from our parents and on our lifetime experiences. These two components—nature and nurture—seem to affect very different processes in the context of Alzheimer's disease, according to a new study published in Nature.

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