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Researchers find “affinity switch” for proteasome assembly process in cells

March 16, 2015 11:54 am | by Kansas State Univ. | News | Comments

A Kansas State Univ.-led study is helping uncover the intricate workings of how a specific "molecular machine" inside of cells is assembled. Fully understanding this process may present new target sites for drugs and may lead to better treatments for neurological diseases, cancers and other disorders. 

When cancer cells stop acting like cancer

March 16, 2015 10:28 am | by Karen Teber, Georgetown Univ. Medical Center | News | Comments

Cancer cells crowded tightly together suddenly surrender their desire to spread, and this change of heart is related to a cellular pathway that controls organ size. These two observations are reported by researchers at Georgetown Lombardi Comprehensive Cancer Center in Oncogene.

Unlocking the mysteries of wound healing

March 13, 2015 9:49 am | by Daniel Stolte, Univ. of Arizona Communications | News | Comments

Researchers at the Univ. of Arizona have discovered what causes and regulates collective cell migration, one of the most universal but least understood biological processes in all living organisms. The findings shed light on the mechanisms of cell migration, particularly in the wound healing process. The results also represent a major advancement for regenerative medicine.

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Unique proteins found in heat-loving organisms bind well to plant matter

March 13, 2015 8:36 am | by Mick Kulikowski, North Carolina State Univ. News Services | News | Comments

Unique proteins newly discovered in heat-loving bacteria are more than capable of attaching themselves to plant cellulose, possibly paving the way for more efficient methods of converting plant matter into biofuels. The unusual proteins, called tapirins, bind tightly to cellulose, a key structural component of plant cell walls, enabling these bacteria to break down cellulose.

Using proteomics to profile switchgrass

March 12, 2015 10:43 am | by Lynn Yarris, Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory | News | Comments

If advanced biofuels are to replace gasoline, diesel and jet fuel on a gallon-for-gallon basis at competitive pricing, we’re going to need a new generation of fuel crops. Researchers with the Joint BioEnergy Institute have demonstrated the power of a new ally in this effort: proteomics.

Using x-ray vision to probe early stages of DNA “photocopying”

March 12, 2015 8:25 am | by Catherine Kolf, Johns Hopkins Univ. | News | Comments

Scientists at Johns Hopkins Univ. have created a 3-D model of a complex protein machine, ORC, which helps prepare DNA to be duplicated. Like an image of a criminal suspect, the intricate model of ORC has helped build a "profile" of the activities of this crucial "protein of interest." But the new information has uncovered another mystery.

Clues about cancer risk from low-dose radiation

March 11, 2015 9:51 am | by Dan Krotz, Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory | News | Comments

Scientists from Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory have uncovered new clues about the risk of cancer from low-dose radiation, which in this research they define as equivalent to 100 millisieverts or roughly the dose received from ten full-body CT scans. They studied mice and found their risk of mammary cancer from low-dose radiation depends a great deal on their genetic makeup.

Neuropeptide Puts Brakes on Binge Drinking

March 10, 2015 8:32 am | by Univ. of North Carolina School of Medicine | News | Comments

A new study has identified both where and how a protein in the brain, called Neuropeptide Y (NPY), can act to suppress binge alcohol drinking. The find suggests that restoring NPY may be useful for treating alcohol use disorders and may also protect some individuals from becoming alcohol dependent.

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Synaptic Shortcuts

March 9, 2015 11:46 am | by Stephanie Dutchen, Harvard Medical School | News | Comments

It’s been “known” for decades: Sensory, motor and cognitive signals come in from the brain’s cortex and are processed in the basal ganglia.                    

Researchers Untangle DNA

March 9, 2015 8:51 am | by Florida International Univ. | News | Comments

While today’s human body contains a variety of these proteins, a marine sciences professor believes they evolved from a single ancestor millions of years ago. This find is pivotal in unraveling the mysteries of DNA organization and regulation, and could someday lead to innovative biomonitoring strategies and therapies targeting a variety of diseases including cancer.

Researchers map switches that shaped the evolution of the human brain

March 6, 2015 1:10 pm | by Lindsay Borthwick, Yale Univ. | News | Comments

Thousands of genetic “dimmer” switches, regions of DNA known as regulatory elements, were turned up high during human evolution in the developing cerebral cortex, according to new research from the Yale Univ. School of Medicine. Unlike in rhesus monkeys and mice, these switches show increased activity in humans, where they may drive the expression of genes in the cerebral cortex.

Twin copies of gene pair up in embryonic stem cells at critical moment in differentiation

March 6, 2015 8:45 am | by Peter Tarr, Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory | News | Comments

Imagine a pair of twins that everyone believed to be estranged, who turn out to be closer than anyone knew. A genetic version of this heartwarming tale might be taking place in our cells. We and other mammals have two copies of each gene, one from each parent. Each copy, or "allele," was thought to remain physically apart from the other in the cell nucleus, but a new study finds that alleles can and do pair up in mammalian cells.

Research suggests brain’s melatonin may trigger sleep

March 6, 2015 8:01 am | by Jessica Stoller-Conrad, Caltech | News | Comments

If you walk into your local drug store and ask for a supplement to help you sleep, you might be directed to a bottle labeled "melatonin." The hormone supplement's use as a sleep aid is supported by anecdotal evidence and even some reputable research studies. However, our bodies also make melatonin naturally, and until a recent Caltech study using zebrafish, no one knew how melatonin contributed to our natural sleep.

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Genome reveals how Hessian fly causes galls in wheat

March 4, 2015 8:14 am | by Natalie van Hoose, Purdue Univ. | News | Comments

A team of researchers from 26 institutions around the world has sequenced the Hessian fly genome, shedding light on how the insect creates growth-stunting galls in wheat. Hessian fly larvae can destroy entire wheat fields by injecting seedlings with potent saliva that "hijacks" the plants' biochemistry, irreversibly halting development and forcing the seedlings to produce a leaky tissue that contains nutrients for the larvae.

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.  

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.

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.

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