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Charged graphene gives DNA a stage to perform molecular gymnastics

October 10, 2014 8:12 am | by Liz Ahlberg, Physical Sciences Editor, Univ. of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign | News | Comments

When Illinois researchers set out to investigate a method to control how DNA moves through a tiny sequencing device, they didn’t know they were about to witness a display of molecular gymnastics. Fast, accurate and affordable DNA sequencing is the first step toward personalized medicine.

DNA nanofoundries cast custom-shaped metal nanoparticles

October 10, 2014 7:50 am | by Kat J. McAlpine, Wyss Institute for Biologically Inspired Engineering | News | Comments

Researchers at the Wyss Institute for Biologically Inspired Engineering at Harvard Univ. have unveiled a new method to form tiny 3-D metal nanoparticles in prescribed shapes and dimensions using DNA, nature's building block, as a construction mold. The ability to mold inorganic nanoparticles out of materials such as gold and silver in precisely designed 3-D shapes is a significant breakthrough.

Researchers capture images of elusive protein HIV uses to infect cells

October 9, 2014 11:00 am | by Bill Hathaway, Yale Univ. | News | Comments

HIV is adept at eluding immune system responses because the protein it uses to infect cells is constantly changing. Now a team of researchers including scientists from Yale Univ. have stripped the cloak from this master of disguise, providing a high-resolution image of this surface spike protein and monitoring how it constantly changes its shape, information that suggests new ways to attack the virus through drugs and vaccines.

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“Cyberwar” against cancer gets boost from intelligent nanocarriers

October 9, 2014 10:48 am | News | Comments

New research involving scientists in the U.S. and Israel offers new insight into the lethal interaction between cancer cells and the immune system's communications network. The study authors devised a new computer program that models a specific channel of cell-to-cell communication involving exosomes that both cancer and immune cells harness to communicate with other cells. This “cyberwarfare” model reveals three distinct states of cancer.

New way to extract bone-making cells from fat tissue

October 9, 2014 8:23 am | by David Orenstein, Brown Univ. | News | Comments

Within our fat lives a variety of cells with the potential to become bone, cartilage or more fat if properly prompted. This makes adipose tissue, in theory, a readily available reservoir for regenerative therapies such as bone healing if doctors can get enough of those cells and compel them to produce bone. In a new study, scientists demonstrate a new method for extracting a wide variety of potential bone-producing cells from human fat.

“Bellhops” in cell walls can double as hormones

October 8, 2014 9:29 am | by SLAC Office of Communications | Videos | Comments

Researchers have discovered that some common messenger molecules in human cells double as hormones when bound to a protein that interacts with DNA. The finding could bring to light a class of previously unknown hormones and lead to new ways to target diseases—including cancers and a host of hormone-related disorders.

Lab-on-a-chip for early diagnosis of cancer

October 8, 2014 8:09 am | by Brendan M. Lynch, KU News Service | News | Comments

Scientists have been laboring to detect cancer and a host of other diseases in people using promising new biomarkers called “exosomes.” Indeed, Popular Science magazine named exosome-based cancer diagnostics one of the 20 breakthroughs that will shape the world this year. Exosomes could lead to less invasive, earlier detection of cancer, and sharply boost patients’ odds of survival.

Getting metabolism right

October 8, 2014 7:59 am | by Larry Hardesty, MIT News Office | News | Comments

Metabolic networks are mathematical models of every possible sequence of chemical reactions available to an organ or organism, and they’re used to design microbes for manufacturing processes or to study disease. Based on both genetic analysis and empirical study, they can take years to assemble. Unfortunately, a new analytic tool suggests that many of those models may be wrong.

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DNA linked to how much coffee you drink

October 7, 2014 2:15 pm | by Malcolm Ritter, AP Science Writer | News | Comments

Scientists have long known that your DNA influences how much java you consume. Now a huge study has identified some genes that may play a role. Their apparent effect is quite small. But variations in such genes may modify coffee's effect on a person's health, and so genetic research may help scientists explore that.

Validation: Recognizing A Problem With Real-Time PCR Kits

October 7, 2014 7:49 am | by Keith Cockrum, Bio-Rad Laboratories | Bio-Rad Laboratories | Articles | Comments

Life Science researchers have become ever-more dependent on the industry for “kits” that are intended to execute research processes in the laboratory flawlessly. In recognition of this expectation, kit manufacturers now market nearly every product as “guaranteed” or “validated.” This practice has led the research community to feel secure that the products will perform as advertised.

Liquid DNA behind virus attacks

October 6, 2014 11:48 am | News | Comments

According to two recent studies, viruses can convert their DNA from solid to fluid form, explaining how viruses manage to eject DNA into the cells of their victims. The researchers in one study, which focused on herpes infections, say the discovery was surprising: No one was previously aware of the “phase transition” from solid to fluid form in virus DNA.

A protein approach to halve and to whole

October 6, 2014 8:12 am | by Mike Williams, Rice Univ. | News | Comments

Rice Univ. scientists have developed a plug-and-play approach to detect interactions between proteins they say could greatly improve understanding of basic biological functions. The Rice team, in collaboration with Baylor College of Medicine, split and added sticky tags to fluorescent proteins that become biosensors when inserted into living cells.

First pictures of BRCA2 protein show how it works to repair DNA

October 6, 2014 8:07 am | by Sam Wong, Imperial College London | News | Comments

Mutations in the gene that encodes BRCA2 are well known for raising the risk of breast cancer and other cancers. Although the protein was known to be involved in DNA repair, its shape and mechanism have been unclear, making it impossible to target with therapies. Researchers in the U.K. purified the protein and used electron microscopy to reveal its structure and how it interacts with other proteins and DNA.

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NIH awards UC Berkeley $7.2 million to advance brain initiative

October 2, 2014 8:28 am | by Robert Sanders, UC Berkeley | News | Comments

The National Institutes of Health this week announced its first research grants through President Barack Obama’s BRAIN Initiative, including three awards to the Univ. of California, Berkeley, totaling nearly $7.2 million over three years. The projects are among 58 funded in this initial wave of NIH grants, involving 100 researchers and a total of $46 million in fiscal year 2014 dollars alone.

Agilent to collaborate with Univ. of Toronto on metabolomics solutions

October 2, 2014 7:57 am | News | Comments

A collaboration has been announced between Agilent Technologies and the Univ. of Toronto’s Donnelly Centre for Cellular and Biomolecular Research to produce a comprehensive metabolomics multiple-reaction monitoring library and methodology, using Agilent’s Infinity 1290 UHPLC, 6460 triple quadrupole mass spectrometry system, and MassHunter Software. The goal is to accelerate quantification of hundreds of metabolically important compounds.

Gene mutation may lead to development of new cancer drugs

October 1, 2014 8:52 am | by Laura Bailey, Univ. of Michigan | News | Comments

The discovery of a gene mutation that causes a rare premature aging disease could lead to the development of drugs that block the rapid, unstoppable cell division that makes cancer so deadly. Scientists at the Univ. of Michigan recently discovered a protein mutation that causes the devastating disease dyskeratosis congenita, in which precious hematopoietic stem cells can't regenerate and make new blood.

Drug delivery capsule may replace injections

October 1, 2014 8:22 am | by Anne Trafton, MIT News Office | Videos | Comments

Given a choice, most patients would prefer to take a drug orally instead of getting an injection. Unfortunately, many drugs, can’t be given as a pill because they get broken down in the stomach before they can be absorbed. To help overcome that obstacle, researchers have devised a novel drug capsule coated with tiny needles that can inject drugs directly into the lining of the stomach after swallowed.

New discovery approach accelerates identification of potential cancer treatments

September 30, 2014 9:50 am | by Laura Williams, Univ. of Michigan | News | Comments

Researchers at the Univ. of Michigan have described a new approach to discovering potential cancer treatments that requires a fraction of the time needed for more traditional methods. They used the platform to identify a novel antibody that is undergoing further investigation as a potential treatment for breast, ovarian and other cancers.

At the interface of math and science

September 30, 2014 8:09 am | by Julie Cohen, UC Santa Barbara | News | Comments

Univ. of California, Santa Barbara’s Paul Atzberger, a professor in the Department of Mathematics and in mechanical engineering, often works in areas where mathematics plays an ever more important role in the discovery and development of new ideas. Most recently he has developed new mathematical approaches to gain insights into how proteins move around within lipid bilayer membranes.

Automated sorting through metagenomes

September 30, 2014 8:05 am | by Lynn Yarris, Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory | News | Comments

Microbes have an amazing ability to feed on plant biomass and convert it into other chemical products. Tapping into this talent has the potential to revolutionize energy, medicine, environmental remediation and many other fields. The success of this effort hinges in part on metagenomics, the emerging technology that enables researchers to read all the individual genomes of a sample microbial community at once.

Fat molecules influence form, function of key photosynthesis protein

September 30, 2014 7:48 am | by Elizabeth K. Gardner, Purdue Univ. | News | Comments

A mysterious space within a protein critical to photosynthesis is filled with fat molecules that influence both the protein’s architecture and electrical properties, according to two recent studies. Researchers studied the atomic structure of, and electrical interactions within, the cytochrome bf complex, a protein complex central to the transport of electrons within membranes of a plant cell, a critical step in photosynthesis.

High-speed drug screen

September 30, 2014 7:37 am | by Anne Trafton, MIT News Office | News | Comments

Massachusetts Institute of Technology engineers have devised a way to rapidly test hundreds of different drug-delivery vehicles in living animals, making it easier to discover promising new ways to deliver a class of drugs called biologics, which includes antibodies, peptides, RNA and DNA, to human patients.

Biologists find early sign of cancer

September 29, 2014 11:10 am | by Anne Trafton, MIT News Office | News | Comments

Years before they show any other signs of disease, pancreatic cancer patients have very high levels of certain amino acids in their bloodstream, according to a new study. This finding, which suggests that muscle tissue is broken down in the disease’s earliest stages, could offer new insights into developing early diagnostics for pancreatic cancer, which kills about 40,000 Americans every year.

Unlocking enzyme synthesis of rare sugars to create drugs with fewer side effects

September 29, 2014 8:57 am | by Katie Bethea, Oak Ridge National Laboratory | News | Comments

An Oak Ridge National Laboratory team has unlocked the enzymatic synthesis process of rare sugars, which are useful in developing drugs with low side effects. In a recently published paper, the team reported the pioneering use of neutron and x-ray crystallography and HPC to study how the enzyme D-xylose isomerase, or XI, can cause a biochemical reaction in natural sugar to produce rare sugars.

Green light for clever algae

September 29, 2014 8:46 am | by Meike Drießen, Ruhr Univ. Bochum | News | Comments

Cryptophytes, complex single-cell algae that make up a lot of the ocean's phytoplankton, have, in the course of evolution, adapted their light-harvesting mechanisms to their environment and have thus become capable of utilizing green light. Researchers in Germany have recently been the first ones to reveal similarities and differences in the assembly of this light-harvesting machinery compared to cyanobacteria and red algae.

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