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Improved understanding of protein complex offers insight into DNA replication

March 18, 2015 4:07 pm | by Angela Hardin, Argonne National Laboratory | News | Comments

A clearer understanding of the origin recognition complex (ORC), a protein complex that directs DNA replication, through its crystal structure offers new insight into fundamental mechanisms of DNA replication initiation. This will also provide insight into how ORC may be compromised in a subset of patients with Meier-Gorlin syndrome, a form of dwarfism in humans.

Malaria test for ancient human remains

March 18, 2015 10:21 am | by Jim Shelton, Yale Univ. | News | Comments

Ancient malaria patients, the anthropologist will see you now. A Yale Univ. scientist has developed a promising new method to identify malaria in the bone marrow of ancient human remains. It is the first time researchers have been able to establish a diagnostic, human skeletal profile for the disease, which is transmitted by mosquitoes and continues to infect millions of people a year.

Understanding proteins involved in fertility could help boost IVF success

March 18, 2015 10:06 am | by American Chemical Society | News | Comments

Women who have difficulty getting pregnant often turn to in-vitro fertilization (IVF), but it doesn’t always work. Now scientists are taking a new approach to improve the technique by studying the proteins that could help ready a uterus for an embryo to implant in its wall. Their report could help researchers develop a new treatment that could potentially increase the success rate of IVF.

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New trigger of cellular self-destruction identified

March 17, 2015 8:03 am | by Elizabeth Gardner, Purdue Univ. | News | Comments

Researchers have identified a bacterial protein that triggers a self-inflicted cell death pathway in immune system cells and could lead to a better understanding of an important cellular structure. The protein initiates a cascade of events that leads the lysosome to open holes in its membrane and release enzymes that destroy the cell.

Consistency: The key to success in bread baking, biology

March 16, 2015 4:08 pm | by Jim Erickson, Univ. of Michigan | News | Comments

Whether you're baking bread or building an organism, the key to success is consistently adding ingredients in the correct order and in the right amounts, according to a new genetic study by Univ. of Michigan researchers. Using the baker's yeast Saccharomyces cerevisiae, the team developed a novel way to disentangle the effects of random genetic mutations and natural selection on the evolution of gene expression.

New technique to chart protein networks in living cells

March 16, 2015 3:29 pm | by European Molecular Biology Laboratory | News | Comments

A new approach for studying the behavior of proteins in living cells has been developed by an interdisciplinary team of biologists and physicists at the European Molecular Biology Laboratory in Heidelberg. Described in a new study, the approach allows scientists for the first time to follow the protein networks that drive a biological process in real time.

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.

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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.

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.

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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.

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.

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.

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