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Researchers boost insect aggression by altering brain metabolism

August 6, 2014 7:37 am | by Diana Yates, Life Sciences Editor Univ. of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign | Videos | Comments

Scientists report they can crank up insect aggression simply by interfering with a basic metabolic pathway in the insect brain. Their study, of fruit flies and honey bees, shows a direct, causal link between brain metabolism and aggression. The new research follows up on previous work from the laboratory of Univ. of Illinois entomology professor and Institute for Genomic Biology director Gene Robinson, who also led the new analysis.

Cytori halts stem cell study due to adverse events

August 5, 2014 5:23 pm | by Matthew Perrone - AP Health Writer - Associated Press | News | Comments

Cytori Therapeutics said Tuesday it has halted trials of its experimental stem cell therapy for heart failure after three patients developed blood flow problems. The San Diego-based company said it placed the hold on two studies after the patients developed problems with blood flow to the brain. Two of the patients' symptoms resolved in a short period of time and a third was still recovering, the company said in a statement.

Model of viral lifecycle could help find cure for hepatitis B

August 5, 2014 4:36 pm | by Helen Knight, MIT News correspondent | News | Comments

A new technique for studying the lifecycle of the hepatitis B virus could help researchers develop a cure for the disease. A recently published paper describes using microfabricated cell cultures to sustain hepatitis B virus in human liver cells, allowing them to study immune responses and drug treatments.

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Researchers uncover clues to flu’s mechanisms

August 4, 2014 3:13 pm | by Mike Williams, Rice Univ. | News | Comments

A flu virus acts like a Trojan horse as it attacks and infects host cells. Scientists at Rice Univ. and Baylor College of Medicine have acquired a clearer view of the well-hidden mechanism involved. Their computer simulations may lead to new strategies to stop influenza, perhaps even a one-size-fits-all vaccine.

Uncovering the 3-D structure of a key neuroreceptor

August 4, 2014 10:18 am | by Nick Papageorgiu, EPFL | News | Comments

Neurons communicate with each other through electrical signals that are generated by chemicals, which bind to structures on neurons called neuroreceptors. One neuroreceptor, called 5HT3-R, is involved in a variety of neurological disorders. Scientists in Switzerland have revealed for the first time the 3-D structure of this crucial neuroreceptor.

New tools advance bio-logic

August 4, 2014 8:21 am | by Mike Williams, Rice Univ. | News | Comments

Researchers at Rice Univ. and the Univ. of Kansas Medical Center are making genetic circuits that can perform more complex tasks by swapping protein building blocks. The modular genetic circuits engineered from parts of otherwise unrelated bacterial genomes can be set up to handle multiple chemical inputs simultaneously with a minimum of interference from their neighbors.

New paper describes how DNA avoids damage from UV light

July 31, 2014 11:42 am | by Evelyn Boswell, Montana State Univ. | News | Comments

In the same week that the U.S. surgeon general issued a lengthy report about the dangers of skin cancer, researchers at Montana State Univ. published a paper breaking new ground on how DNA responds when exposed to ultraviolet (UV) light. The study, made possible by femtosecond lasers used for ultrafast spectroscopy, showed how DNA transfers electrons when excited by UV light.

Breakthrough in understanding of important blood protein

July 31, 2014 10:07 am | News | Comments

The human body contains a unique protein that has the unusual property of destroying itself after a few hours of existence. Called PAI-1, it affects many physiological functions, including the dissolving of coagulated blood. Recent research in Denmark has shed light on how PAI-1 changes shape. This is considered important because the protein has one of the largest shape changes in the known world of proteins.

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Glucose “control switch” in the brain key to both diabetes types

July 31, 2014 9:36 am | by Karen N. Peart, Yale Univ. | News | Comments

Researchers at Yale School of Medicine have pinpointed a mechanism in part of the brain that is key to sensing glucose levels in the blood, linking it to both type 1 and type 2 diabetes. The findings are published in the Proceedings of the National Academies of Sciences.

Engineering a protein to prevent brain damage from toxic agents

July 31, 2014 8:28 am | News | Comments

Research at New York Univ. is paving the way for a breakthrough that may prevent brain damage in civilians and military troops exposed to poisonous chemicals—particularly those in pesticides and chemical weapons. An article in ChemBioChem outlines the advancement in detoxifying organophosphates, which are compounds commonly used in pesticides and warfare agents.

Researchers find protein that fuels repair of treatment-resistant cancer cells

July 31, 2014 8:06 am | by Laura Bailey, Univ. of Michigan | News | Comments

Imagine you're fighting for your life but no matter how hard you hit, your opponent won't go down. The same can be said of highly treatment-resistant cancers, such as head and neck cancer, where during radiation and chemotherapy some cancer cells repair themselves, survive and thrive. Head and neck cancer is the sixth most common cancer in the world, but the late detection and treatment resistance result in a high mortality rate.

Boosting neural pathway from gut to brain could play part in weight control

July 31, 2014 7:40 am | by Amy Patterson Neubert, Purdue Univ. | News | Comments

A Purdue Univ. study found an increase in sensory nerve fibers that send signals from the gut to the brain reduces the time spent eating a meal, which could help regulate body weight. The researchers studied a mouse model with a targeted knockout of the brain-derived neurotrophic factor gene that decreases levels of this nerve growth factor in the gastrointestinal tract.

Classic Lewis Carroll character inspires new ecological model

July 30, 2014 4:55 pm | by Claire Sturgeon, Univ. of Illinois | News | Comments

Inspired by the Red Queen in Lewis Carroll’s "Through the Looking Glass", collaborators from Illinois and Singapore improved a 35-year-old ecology model to better understand how species evolve. The new model, called a mean field model for competition, incorporates the “Red Queen Effect,” which suggests that organisms must constantly increase fitness in order to compete with other ever-evolving organisms in an ever-changing environment.

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Biologists describe mechanism promoting multiple DNA mutations

July 30, 2014 4:49 pm | by Gart Galluzzo, Univ. of Iowa | News | Comments

DNA mutations had been thought to be rare events that occur randomly throughout the genome. However, recent studies have shown that cancer development frequently involves the formation of multiple mutations that arise simultaneously and in close proximity to each other. These groups of clustered mutations are frequently found in regions where chromosomal rearrangements take place.

New brain-based marker of stress susceptibility

July 29, 2014 1:05 pm | by Karl Bates, Duke Univ. | News | Comments

Some people can handle stressful situations better than others, and it’s not all in their genes: Even identical twins show differences in how they respond. Researchers have identified a specific electrical pattern in the brains of genetically identical mice that predicts how well individual animals will fare in stressful situations. The findings may eventually help researchers prevent potential consequences of chronic stress.

Researchers develop more efficient tool for tagging proteins

July 29, 2014 9:18 am | by Janne Hansen, Aarhus Univ. | News | Comments

DNA–protein conjugates can be used in diagnostic techniques, nanotechnology and other disciplines, but controlling the conjugation of these macromolecules can be a challenge. Scientists in Denmark have pioneered an easier method that makes it possible to direct the tagging of proteins with DNA to a particular site on the protein without genetically modifying the protein beforehand.

Stem cell advance may increase efficiency of tissue regeneration

July 29, 2014 8:52 am | by Jeffrey Norris, UCSF | News | Comments

A new stem cell discovery might one day lead to a more streamlined process for obtaining stem cells, which in turn could be used in the development of replacement tissue for failing body parts, according to Univ. of California, San Francisco scientists who reported the findings in Cell.

Forced mutations doom HIV

July 29, 2014 8:16 am | by Anne Trafton, MIT News Office | News | Comments

Fifteen years ago, Massachusetts Institute of Technology professor John Essigmann and colleagues from the Univ. of Washington had a novel idea for an HIV drug. They thought if they could induce the virus to mutate uncontrollably, they could force it to weaken and eventually die out—a strategy that our immune system uses against many viruses.

Scientists create model “bead-spring” chains with tunable properties

July 28, 2014 2:25 pm | by Mike Williams, Rice Univ. | News | Comments

Rice Univ. researchers are using magnetic beads and DNA “springs” to create chains of varying flexibility that can be used as microscale models for polymer macromolecules. The experiment is visual proof that “bead-spring” polymers, introduced as theory in the 1950s, can be made as stiff or as flexible as required and should be of interest to materials scientists who study the basic physics of polymers.

New protein structure could help treat Alzheimer’s

July 28, 2014 2:16 pm | by Michelle Ma, Univ. of Washington | News | Comments

There is no cure for Alzheimer’s disease and other forms of dementia, but the research community is one step closer to finding treatment. Univ. of Washington bioengineers have a designed a peptide structure that can stop the harmful changes of the body’s normal proteins into a state that’s linked to widespread diseases such as Alzheimer’s, Parkinson’s, heart disease, Type 2 diabetes and Lou Gehrig’s disease.

Novel virus discovered in half the world’s population

July 25, 2014 7:14 am | by Michael Price, San Diego State Univ. | Videos | Comments

Virologists and biologists in California have identified a highly abundant, never-before-described virus that could play a major role in obesity, diabetes. The virus, named crAssphage, has about 10 times as many base pairs of DNA as HIV and infects one of the most common types of gut bacteria. This phylum of bacteria is thought to be connected with obesity, diabetes and other gut-related diseases.

Just 8.2% of our DNA is “functional”

July 25, 2014 6:59 am | News | Comments

According to recently published research, scientists in the U.K. say that just 8.2% of human DNA is likely to be doing something important, or “functional”. This figure is very different from one given in 2012, when some scientists involved in the ENCODE (Encyclopedia of DNA Elements) project stated that 80% of our genome has some biochemical function.

Chemist develops x-ray vision for quality assurance

July 25, 2014 6:57 am | by Iben Julie Schmidt, Technical Univ. of Denmark | News | Comments

A new method that uses x-rays for the rapid identification of substances present in an indeterminate powder has been developed by a scientist in Denmark. The new technique has the capacity to recognize advanced biological molecules such as proteins, which makes it potentially important in both food production and the pharmaceutical industry, where it opens up new opportunities for the quality assurance of protein-based medicines.

Study reveals atomic structure of key muscle component

July 25, 2014 6:47 am | News | Comments

Actin is the most abundant protein in the body, and is the basis of most movement in the body. Adding to the growing fundamental understanding of the machinery of muscle cells, a group of biophysicists in Pennsylvania have published work that describes in minute detail how actin filaments are stabilized at one of their ends to form a basic muscle structure called the sarcomere.

Junk DNA not as worthless as once thought

July 24, 2014 9:50 am | News | Comments

Around 75% of the supposed functionless DNA in the human genome is transcribed into so-called non-coding RNAs, and little is known about their function. Now, researchers have demonstrated that the production of non-coding RNAs is precisely regulated. They suspect that non-coding RNAs might play a role in regulating cellular processes or in the modified immune response following exposure to environmental toxicants.

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