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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.

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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.

Voltage tester for beating cardiac cells

February 18, 2015 9:36 am | by ETH Zurich | News | Comments

Electrical impulses play an important role in cells of the human body. For example, neurons use these impulses to transmit information along their branches and the body also uses them to control the contraction of muscles. The impulses are generated when special channel proteins open in the outer envelope of the cells, allowing charged molecules (ions) to enter or exit the cell. These proteins are referred to as ion channels.

New insights into 3-D genome organization, genetic variability

February 18, 2015 8:03 am | by Heather Buschman, Univ. of California, San Diego | News | Comments

While genomics is the study of all of the genes in a cell or organism, epigenomics is the study of all the genomic add-ons and changes that influence gene expression but aren’t encoded in the DNA sequence. A variety of new epigenomic information is now available in a collection of studies published in Nature by the National Institutes of Health Roadmap Epigenomics Program.

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Molecular inhibitor breaks cycle that leads to Alzheimer’s

February 17, 2015 11:02 am | by Tom Kirk, Univ. of Cambridge | News | Comments

A molecule that can block the progress of Alzheimer's disease at a crucial stage in its development has been identified by researchers in a new study, raising the prospect that more such molecules may now be found. The report shows that a molecular chaperone can play the role of an "inhibitor" part-way through the molecular process that's thought to cause Alzheimer's.

Scientists shed light on controversial theory of protein structure

February 13, 2015 8:54 am | by Univ. of Bristol | News | Comments

A team of chemists, biochemists and mathematicians at the Univ. of Bristol have published a paper which explores how protein structures are stabilized. There are many forces that hold together the 3-D, functional structures of proteins. Despite considerable effort, understanding of these forces is still quite rudimentary.

Bacterial armor holds clues for self-assembling nanostructures

February 13, 2015 8:35 am | by Lynn Yarris, Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory | News | Comments

Imagine thousands of copies of a single protein organizing into a coat of chainmail armor that protects the wearer from harsh and ever-changing environmental conditions. That is the case for many microorganisms. In a new study, researchers with Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory have uncovered key details in this natural process that can be used for the self-assembly of nanomaterials into complex 2- and 3-D structures.

Shedding light on structure of key cellular “gatekeeper”

February 13, 2015 8:22 am | by Jon Nalick, Caltech | News | Comments

Facing a challenge akin to solving a 1,000-piece jigsaw puzzle while blindfolded, and without touching the pieces, many structural biochemists thought it would be impossible to determine the atomic structure of a massive cellular machine called the nuclear pore complex, which is vital for cell survival. But after 10 years of attacking the problem, a team recently solved almost a third of the puzzle.

Squid Edit Their Gene Code As They Go

February 13, 2015 7:00 am | by American Friends of Tel Aviv Univ. | News | Comments

Research that explored RNA editing in the Doryteuthis pealieii squid found it to be the first example of an animal that can edit its own genetic makeup on-the-fly to modify most of its proteins, enabling adjustments to its immediate surroundings.

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Engineers put the “squeeze” on human stem cells

February 10, 2015 2:10 pm | by Ioana Patringenaru, Univ. of California, San Diego | News | Comments

After using optical tweezers to squeeze a tiny bead attached to the outside of a human stem cell, researchers now know how mechanical forces can trigger a key signaling pathway in the cells. The squeeze helps to release calcium ions stored inside the cells and opens up channels in the cell membrane that allow the ions to flow into the cells, according to the study led by Univ. of California, San Diego bioengineer Yingxiao Wang.

DNA “cage” could improve nanopore technology

February 10, 2015 10:51 am | by Kevin Stacey, Brown Univ. | News | Comments

Despite having a diameter tens of thousands of times smaller than a human hair, nanopores could be the next big thing in DNA sequencing. By zipping DNA molecules through these tiny holes, scientists hope to one day read off genetic sequences in the blink of an eye. Now, researchers from Brown Univ. have taken the potential of nanopore technology one step further.

Controlling genes with light

February 9, 2015 11:57 am | by Ken Kingery, Duke Univ. | News | Comments

Duke Univ. researchers have devised a method to activate genes in any specific location or pattern in a lab dish with the flip of a light switch by crossing a bacterium’s viral defense system with a flower’s response to sunlight. With the ability to use light to activate genes in specific locations, researchers can better study genes’ functions.

Forcing wounds to close

February 9, 2015 10:20 am | by Amal Naquiah, National Univ. of Singapore | News | Comments

A collaborative study led by scientists from the Mechanobiology Institute and the National Univ. of Singapore has revealed the mechanical forces that drive epithelial wound healing in the absence of cell supporting environment. This research was published in Nature Communications.

What autism can teach us about brain cancer

February 9, 2015 9:34 am | by Catherine Kolf, Johns Hopkins Univ. | News | Comments

Applying lessons learned from autism to brain cancer, researchers at The Johns Hopkins Univ. have discovered why elevated levels of the protein NHE9 add to the lethality of the most common and aggressive form of brain cancer, glioblastoma. Their discovery suggests that drugs designed to target NHE9 could help to successfully fight the deadly disease.

DNA strands on end of chromosomes hint when we will die

February 6, 2015 1:17 pm | by Todd Hollingshead, Brigham Young Univ. | News | Comments

Brigham Young Univ. biologist Jonathan Alder has a startling secret he doesn’t freely share: he knows when most of us are going to die. Okay, he doesn’t know exactly the day or time, but he has a pretty good idea, thanks to his research on tiny biological clocks attached to our chromosomes. These DNA end caps, called telomeres, are the great predictors of life expectancy: the shorter your telomeres, the shorter your lifespan.

Non-damaging x-ray technique unveils protein complex that uses sunlight to split water

February 6, 2015 10:32 am | by RIKEN | News | Comments

A more accurate view of the structure of the oxygen-evolving complex that splits water during photosynthesis is now in hand thanks to a study involving researchers from the RIKEN SPring-8 Center, Okayama Univ. and the Japan Science and Technology Agency. The new model of natural photosynthesis provides a blueprint for synthesizing water-splitting catalysts that mimic this natural process.

New source of cells for modeling malaria

February 6, 2015 9:40 am | by Anne Trafton, MIT News Office | News | Comments

In 2008, the World Health Organization announced a global effort to eradicate malaria, which kills about 800,000 people every year. As part of that goal, scientists are trying to develop new drugs that target the malaria parasite during the stage when it infects the human liver, which is crucial because some strains of malaria can lie dormant in the liver for several years before flaring up.

Diamonds could help bring proteins into focus

February 6, 2015 7:40 am | by David L. Chandler, MIT News Office | News | Comments

Proteins are the building blocks of all living things, and they exist in virtually unlimited varieties, most of whose highly complex structures have not yet been determined. Those structures could be key to developing new drugs or to understanding basic biological processes. But figuring out the arrangement of atoms in these complicated, folded molecules usually requires getting them to form crystals large enough to be observed in detail.

15-million-year-old mollusk protein found

February 5, 2015 10:33 am | by Robert Hazen, Carnegie Institute | News | Comments

A team of Carnegie Institute scientists have found “beautifully preserved” 15-million-year-old thin protein sheets in fossil shells from southern Maryland. The team collected samples from Calvert Cliffs, along the shoreline of the Chesapeake Bay, a popular fossil collecting area. They found fossilized shells of a snail-like mollusk called Ecphora that lived in the mid-Miocene era.

Scientists call for antibody “bar code” system to follow Human Genome Project

February 4, 2015 4:05 pm | by Nancy Ambrosiano, Los Alamos National Laboratory | News | Comments

More than 100 researchers from around the world have collaborated to craft a request that could fundamentally alter how the antibodies used in research are identified, a project potentially on the scale of the now-completed Human Genome Project.

Record keeping helps bacteria’s immune system fight invaders

February 4, 2015 10:01 am | by SLAC Office of Communications | News | Comments

Bacteria have a sophisticated means of defending themselves, and they need it: more viruses infect bacteria than any other biological entity. Two experiments undertaken at the SLAC National Accelerator Laboratory provide new insight at the heart of bacterial adaptive defenses in a system called CRISPR, short for Clustered Regularly Interspaced Short Palindromic Repeat.

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