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X-ray laser brings key cell structures into focus

November 19, 2014 9:07 am | by SLAC Office of Communications | News | Comments

Scientists have made high-resolution x-ray laser images of an intact cellular structure much faster and more efficiently than ever possible before. The results are an important step toward atomic-scale imaging of intact biological particles, including viruses and bacteria. The technique was demonstrated at the Linac Coherent Light Source at the SLAC National Accelerator Laboratory.

Computer model sets new precedent in drug discovery

November 19, 2014 8:52 am | by Kat J. McAlpine, Wyss Institute for Biologically Inspired Engineering | Videos | Comments

A major challenge faced by the pharmaceutical industry has been how to rationally design and select protein molecules to create effective biologic drug therapies while reducing unintended side effects—a challenge that has largely been addressed through costly guess–and–check experiments. Researchers at the Wyss Institute for Biologically Inspired Engineering at Harvard Univ. offer a new approach.

Hormone points to potential treatment for metabolic disorders

November 19, 2014 8:13 am | by Laura Williams, Univ. of Michigan | News | Comments

Researchers at the Univ. of Michigan have discovered how a previously unknown hormone serves as a messenger from fat cells to the liver and are investigating the potential of developing a new treatment for metabolic disorders. Jiandie Lin of the Life Sciences Institute described how in mice the hormone, NRG4, is secreted by so-called brown fat cells and communicates with the liver to regulate the conversion of sugar into fat.

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Chemical disguise transforms RNAi drug delivery

November 18, 2014 7:57 am | by Heather Buschman, Univ. of California, San Diego | News | Comments

Small pieces of synthetic RNA trigger a RNA interference (RNAi) response that holds great therapeutic potential to treat a number of diseases, especially cancer and pandemic viruses. The problem is delivery: It’s extremely difficult to get RNAi drugs inside the cells in which they are needed.

Advance in cryopreservation could change management of world blood supplies

November 17, 2014 3:58 pm | by David Stauth, Oregon State Univ. | News | Comments

Engineers at Oregon State Univ. have identified a method to rapidly prepare frozen red blood cells for transfusions, which may offer an important new way to manage the world’s blood supply. It’s already possible to cryopreserve human red blood cells in the presence of 40% glycerol, but is rarely done because of the time-consuming process to thaw and remove the glycerol from the blood.

Chemical in coffee may help prevent obesity-related disease

November 17, 2014 10:33 am | by James Hataway, Univ. of Georgia | News | Comments

Researchers at the Univ. of Georgia have discovered that a chemical compound commonly found in coffee may help prevent some of the damaging effects of obesity. In a recently published paper published, scientists found that chlorogenic acid, or CGA, significantly reduced insulin resistance and accumulation of fat in the livers of mice who were fed a high-fat diet.

Study suggests genetic link for male homosexuality

November 17, 2014 10:01 am | by Lindsey Tanner - AP Medical Writer - Associated Press | News | Comments

A large study of gay brothers adds to evidence that genes influence men's chances of being homosexual, but the results aren't strong enough to prove it. Some scientists believe several genes might affect sexual orientation. Researchers who led the new study of nearly 800 gay brothers say their results bolster previous evidence pointing to genes on the X chromosome.

Drugging the undruggable

November 13, 2014 11:07 am | by Univ. of Cambridge | News | Comments

A trawl through a library of more than 50,000 small molecules has identified a potential candidate to inhibit the spread of cancer cells throughout the body. Reported in Nature Communications, the molecule targets a mechanism of tumor development that had previously been considered “undruggable” and could open the door to further promising new candidates.

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Evolution software looks beyond the branches

November 12, 2014 10:47 am | by Mike Williams, Rice Univ. | News | Comments

The tree has been an effective model of evolution for 150 years, but a Rice Univ. computer scientist believes it’s far too simple to illustrate the breadth of current knowledge. Rice researcher Luay Nakhleh and his group have developed PhyloNet, an open source software package that accounts for horizontal as well as vertical inheritance of genetic material among genomes.

Some plants regenerate by duplicating their DNA

November 12, 2014 10:29 am | by Diana Yates, Life Sciences Editor Univ. of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign | News | Comments

When munched by grazing animals (or mauled by scientists in the laboratory), some herbaceous plants overcompensate, producing more plant matter and becoming more fertile than they otherwise would. Scientists say they now know how these plants accomplish this feat of regeneration. They report their findings in Molecular Ecology.

Microtubes create cozy space for neurons to grow

November 11, 2014 2:25 pm | by Liz Ahlberg, Physical Sciences Editor, Univ. of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign | Videos | Comments

Tiny, thin microtubes could provide a scaffold for neuron cultures to grow so that researchers can study neural networks, their growth and repair, yielding insights into treatment for degenerative neurological conditions or restoring nerve connections after injury. Researchers created the microtube platform to study neuron growth.

Researchers take snapshots of potential “kill switch” for cancer

November 11, 2014 8:35 am | by SLAC Office of Communications | News | Comments

A study conducted in part at the SLAC National Accelerator Laboratory has revealed how a key human protein switches from a form that protects cells to a form that kills them—a property that scientists hope to exploit as a “kill switch” for cancer. The protein, called cIAP1, shields cells from programmed cell death, or apoptosis.

Biochemistry detective work: Algae at night

November 10, 2014 11:05 am | by Carnegie Institute | News | Comments

Photosynthesis is probably the most well-known aspect of plant biochemistry. It enables plants, algae and select bacteria to transform the energy from sunlight during the daytime into chemical energy in the form of sugars and starches (as well as oils and proteins), and it involves taking in carbon dioxide from the air and releasing oxygen derived from water molecules.

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How human cells become immortal

November 10, 2014 8:35 am | by Dan Krotz, Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory | News | Comments

Every day, some of your cells stop dividing, and that’s a good thing. Cells that proliferate indefinitely are immortal, an essential early step in the development of most malignant tumors. Despite its importance in cancer, the process of cell immortalization is poorly understood. That’s because scientists have lacked a good way to study immortalization in human cells as it occurs during cancer progression.

First peek at how neurons multitask

November 10, 2014 8:01 am | by Laura Williams, Univ. of Michigan | News | Comments

Researchers at the Univ. of Michigan have shown how a single neuron can perform multiple functions in a model organism, illuminating for the first time this fundamental biological mechanism and shedding light on the human brain. Investigators found that a neuron in C. elegans regulates both the speed and direction in which the worm moves.

DNA study dates Eurasian split from East Asians

November 7, 2014 3:08 pm | by The Associated Press | News | Comments

The human populations now predominant in Eurasia and East Asia probably split between 36,200 and 45,000 years ago, according to a study released Thursday.                            

A promising strategy against HIV

November 7, 2014 10:09 am | by B. D. Colen, Harvard Univ. | News | Comments

Harvard Stem Cell Institute (HSCI) researchers at Massachusetts General (MGH) and Boston Children’s hospitals (BCH) for the first time have used a relatively new gene-editing technique to create what could prove to be an effective technique for blocking HIV from invading and destroying patients’ immune systems.

Golden approach to high-speed DNA reading

November 6, 2014 9:54 am | by Lynn Yarris, Berkeley Lab | News | Comments

Researchers with Berkeley Lab and the Univ. of California (UC) Berkeley have invented a simple, one-step process for producing nanopores in a graphene membrane using the photothermal properties of gold nanorods.            

Getting to the root of plants’ natural sunscreen

November 5, 2014 8:18 am | by Elizabeth K. Gardner, Purdue Univ. | News | Comments

Plants bask in the sun and need its light to live, but they also coat themselves in a natural sunscreen like a sunbather on the beach, protecting themselves from damaging rays. A new study examined the properties and mechanics of the molecule plants use to absorb harmful ultraviolet-B radiation, and its SPF rating would be off the charts.

Type 2 diabetes, cardiovascular disease may share deep roots

November 5, 2014 7:54 am | by David Orenstein, Brown Univ. | News | Comments

Type 2 diabetes and cardiovascular disease appear to have a lot in common. They share risk factors such as obesity and they often occur together. If they also share the same genetic underpinings, then doctors could devise a way to treat them together too. With that hope in mind, scientists applied multiple layers of analysis to the genomics of more than 15,000 women.

Technique turns antibodies into highly tuned nanobodies

November 3, 2014 7:53 am | by Zach Veilleux, The Rockefeller Univ. | News | Comments

Antibodies, in charge of recognizing and homing in on molecular targets, are among the most useful tools in biology and medicine. Nanobodies—antibodies’ tiny cousins—can do the same tasks, for example marking molecules for research or flagging diseased cells for destruction. But, thanks to their comparative simplicity nanobodies offer the tantalizing prospect of being much easier to produce.

Link seen between seizures and migraines in the brain

November 1, 2014 11:59 am | by A'ndrea Elyse Messer, Penn State Univ. | News | Comments

Seizures and migraines have always been considered separate physiological events in the brain, but now a team of engineers and neuroscientists looking at the brain from a physics viewpoint discovered a link between these and related phenomena.

Decoding the emergence of metastatic cancer stem cells

November 1, 2014 11:15 am | by Mike Williams, Rice Univ. | News | Comments

In the first study of its kind, Rice Univ. researchers have mapped how information flows through the genetic circuits that cause cancer cells to become metastatic. The research reveals a common pattern in the decision-making that allows cancer cells to both migrate and form new tumors.

Making lab-grown tissues stronger

October 31, 2014 8:54 am | by Andy Fell, UC Davis News Service | News | Comments

Lab-grown tissues could one day provide new treatments for injuries and damage to the joints, including articular cartilage, tendons and ligaments. Cartilage, for example, is a hard material that caps the ends of bones and allows joints to work smoothly. Univ. of California, Davis biomedical engineers, exploring ways to toughen up engineered cartilage and keep natural tissues strong outside the body, report new developments.

Identifying the source of stem cells

October 30, 2014 3:14 pm | News | Comments

When most animals begin life, cells immediately begin accepting assignments to become a head, tail or a vital organ. However, mammalian cells become the protective placenta or to commit to forming the baby. It’s during this critical first step that research from Michigan State Univ. has revealed key discoveries. The results provide insights into where stem cells come from, and could advance research in regenerative medicine.

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