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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
The drought that has the entire country in its grip is affecting more than the color of people’s lawns. It may also be responsible for the proliferation of a heat-loving amoeba commonly found in warm freshwater bodies, such as lakes, rivers and hot springs, which the drought has made warmer than usual this year.
Fragile X syndrome (FXS) is a genetic disorder that causes obsessive compulsive and repetitive behaviors, and other behaviors on the autistic spectrum, as well as cognitive deficits. It’s the most common inherited cause of mental impairment and the most common cause of autism. Now biomedical scientists at the Univ. of California, Riverside have published a study that sheds light on the cause of autistic behaviors in FXS.
Spinach gave Popeye super strength, but it also holds the promise of a different power for a group of scientists: the ability to convert sunlight into a clean, efficient alternative fuel. Purdue Univ. physicists are part of an international group using spinach to study the proteins involved in photosynthesis, the process by which plants convert the sun’s energy into carbohydrates used to power cellular processes.
More than 100 researchers from around the world have collaborated in the biggest-ever genomic mapping of schizophrenia, for which scientists had previously uncovered only about a couple of dozen risk-related genes. Since this research began, scientists have linked more than 100 spots in our DNA to the risk of developing schizophrenia, casting light on the mystery of what makes the disease tick.
If you’re allergic to dust mites, help may be on the way. Researchers at the Univ. of Iowa have developed a vaccine that can combat dust-mite allergies by naturally switching the body’s immune response. In animal tests, the nano-sized vaccine package lowered lung inflammation by 83% despite repeated exposure to the allergens.
A research team from NIST, working with the Cleveland Clinic, has demonstrated a dramatically improved technique for analyzing biological cells and tissues based on characteristic molecular vibration "signatures." The new NIST technique is an advanced form of the widely used spontaneous Raman spectroscopy, but one that delivers signals that are 10,000 times stronger than obtained from spontaneous Raman scattering.
A special class of tiny gold particles can easily slip through cell membranes, making them good candidates to deliver drugs directly to target cells. A new study from Massachusetts Institute of Technology materials scientists reveals that these nanoparticles enter cells by taking advantage of a route normally used in vesicle-vesicle fusion, a crucial process that allows signal transmission between neurons.
In the U.K., researchers have revealed the structure of one of the most important and complicated proteins in cell division, the anaphase-promoting complex. Electron microscopy and software has produced images of the gigantic protein in unprecedented detail and could transform scientists' understanding of exactly how cells copy their chromosomes and divide. It could also reveal binding sites for future cancer drugs.
Yale School of Medicine and Yale Cancer Center researchers have uncovered a genetic vulnerability of cancer cells that express telomerase and showed that telomerase-expressing cells depend upon a gene named p21 for their survival. Authors found that simultaneous inhibition of both telomerase and p21 inhibited tumor growth in mice.
Many organisms that hold potential for proteomic analysis do not yet have a completely sequenced genome because the costs are prohibitive. Xenopus laevis, the African clawed frog, is one such species. Researchers at the Marine Biological Laboratory have found a work-around. Instead of relying on DNA, they used mRNA sequences to more efficiently create a reference database that can be used for proteomic analysis of Xenopus.
Biological physicists at Rice Univ. have succeeded in analyzing transmembrane protein folding in the same way they study the proteins’ free-floating, globular cousins. They have applied energy landscape theory to proteins that are hard to view because they are inside cell membranes. The method should increase the technique’s value to researchers who study proteins implicated in diseases and possibly in the creation of drugs to treat them.
The common pencil squid may hold the key to a new generation of medical technologies that could communicate more directly with the human body. Materials science researchers in California have discovered that reflectin, a protein in the tentacled creature’s skin, can conduct positive electrical charges, or protons, making it a promising material for building biologically inspired devices.
No batteries required: Scientists are creating a biological pacemaker by injecting a gene into the hearts of sick pigs that changed ordinary cardiac cells into a special kind that induces a steady heartbeat. The study, published Wednesday, is one step toward developing an alternative to electronic pacemakers that are implanted into 300,000 Americans a year.
Prothrombin is an inactive precursor for thrombin, a key blood-clotting protein, and is essential for life because of its ability to coagulate blood. Using x-ray crystallography, researchers have published the first image of this important protein. By removing disordered sections of the protein’s structure, scientists have revealed its underlying molecular mechanism for the first time.
A microbe detection array technology developed by Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory (LLNL) scientists could provide a new rapid method for public health authorities to conduct surveillance for emerging viral diseases. This possible use of the Lawrence Livermore Microbial Detection Array (LLMDA) was studied by an international team of researchers from eight nations in a paper published in the PLOS ONE.
You may be more similar to your friends than you think. A new study suggests that the DNA code tends to be more alike between friends than between strangers, and the similarity goes beyond the effect of shared ethnicity. The difference is slight but detectable and consistent, and the finding could be important for theories about human evolution.
Despite impressive medical strides, cancer remains a leading killer and overwhelming burden to healthcare systems, causing well over a half million fatalities per year with a projected cost of $174 billion by 2020, according to the National Cancer Institute. Reducing the human and economic toll will require diagnosis and intervention at early stages of illness, when the best prognosis for a cure exists.
Developmental processes in all living organisms are controlled by genes. At the same time there is a continuous metabolism taking place. Recent research in Austria has analyzed this interaction in flowering plants. For the first time, changes in metabolism were linked to 3-D morphometric data using micro-computed tomography (micro-CT) for the first time.
Bacterial infections usually announce themselves with pain and fever but often can be defeated with antibiotics—and then there are those that are sneaky and hard to beat. Now, scientists have built a new weapon against such pathogens in the form of tiny DNA pyramids. Published in ACS Applied Materials & Interfaces, their study found the nanopyramids can flag bacteria and kill more of them than medicine alone.
Researchers from North Carolina State Univ. and the Univ. of Minnesota have found, for the first time, that genetically identical strains of bacteria can respond very differently to the presence of sugars and other organic molecules in the environment, with some individual bacteria devouring the sugars and others ignoring it.