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Food for thought: Master protein enhances learning and memory

April 8, 2015 8:54 am | by The Salk Institute | News | Comments

Just as some people seem built to run marathons and have an easier time going for miles without tiring, others are born with a knack for memorizing things, from times tables to trivia facts. These two skills are not so different as it turns out. Salk scientists and collaborators have discovered that physical and mental activities rely on a single metabolic protein that controls the flow of blood and nutrients throughout the body.

Possible new RNA engineering tool

April 8, 2015 7:50 am | by Lynn Yarris, Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory | News | Comments

A great deal of public attention in the past couple of years has been showered on complexes of bacterial proteins known as “CRISPR-Cas” for their potential use as a tool for editing DNA. Now, researchers with the Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory are reporting that CRISPR-Cas complexes could also serve as an engineering tool for RNA, the molecule that translates DNA’s genetic instructions into the production of proteins.

Spotting a molecular warhead for disease in the human gut

April 7, 2015 12:20 pm | by Jim Shelton, Yale Univ. | News | Comments

Yale Univ. scientists are using new chemical tools to identify and understand molecules in the human gut that alter DNA and regulate inflammatory bowel diseases and colorectal cancers. In a recent article, researchers describe the chemical structures of 32 such molecules from the bacterial colibactin pathway, found in select strains of E. coli in the gut.

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Study hints at spontaneous appearance of primordial DNA

April 7, 2015 10:51 am | by Jim Scott, CU-Boulder Media Relations | News | Comments

The self-organization properties of DNA-like molecular fragments four billion years ago may have guided their own growth into repeating chemical chains long enough to act as a basis for primitive life, says a new study by the Univ. of Colorado Boulder and the Univ. of Milan.

Cancer genes turned off in deadly brain cancer

April 6, 2015 10:55 am | by Marla Paul, Northwestern Univ. | News | Comments

Northwestern Medicine scientists have identified a small RNA molecule called miR-182 that can suppress cancer-causing genes in mice with glioblastoma mulitforme (GBM), a deadly and incurable type of brain tumor. While standard chemotherapy drugs damage DNA to stop cancer cells from reproducing, the new method stops the source that creates those cancer cells: genes that are overexpressing certain proteins.

Cells exercise suboptimal strategy to survive

April 6, 2015 10:42 am | by Mike Williams, Rice Univ. | Videos | Comments

There are few times in life when one should aim for suboptimal performance, but new research at Rice Univ. suggests scientists who study metabolism and its role in evolution should look for signs of just that. A study published in BMC Systems Biology details a computational method called corsoFBA.

“Open” stem cell chromosomes reveal new possibilities for diabetes

April 2, 2015 12:08 pm | by Heather Buschman, Univ. of California, San Diego | News | Comments

Stem cells hold great promise for treating a number of diseases, in part because they have the unique ability to differentiate, specializing into any one of the hundreds of cell types that comprise the human body. Harnessing this potential, though, is difficult.

Protein determines life or death fate of stressed cells

April 2, 2015 10:30 am | by Elizabeth K. Gardner, Purdue Univ. | News | Comments

Researchers discovered a new protein involved in the process that determines the fate of cells under stress and whether they fight to survive or sacrifice themselves for the greater good. A protein named HYPE orchestrates a response to misfolded proteins within the cell, mistakes which increase when a cell is under stress from disease or injury.

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Scientists pinpoint protein that affects heart transplant survival

April 1, 2015 12:54 pm | by Ziba Kashef, Yale Univ. | News | Comments

The protein haptoglobin boosts inflammation in transplanted hearts, reducing their survival, according to a study led by Yale Univ. researchers. The finding may help identify new anti-inflammatory therapies to enhance organ transplant survival.

Mighty microexons take center stage in shaping of the brain

April 1, 2015 8:52 am | by Liam Mitchell, Univ. of Toronto | News | Comments

Complex brain disorders, such as autism or schizophrenia, still puzzle scientists because their causes lie hidden in early events of brain development, which are still poorly understood. This is about to change thanks to research by Univ. of Toronto Profs. Ben Blencowe and Sabine Cordes, who have developed a powerful model that will allow researchers to better understand the physiology behind many disorders.

Skin tough

April 1, 2015 7:31 am | by Lynn Yarris, Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory | News | Comments

When weighing the pluses and minuses of your skin add this to the plus column: Your skin, like that of all vertebrates, is remarkably resistant to tearing. Now, a collaboration of researchers at Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory and the Univ. of California, San Diego, has shown why.

New drug stalls estrogen receptor-positive cancer cells, shrinks tumors

March 31, 2015 7:43 am | by Diana Yates, Life Sciences Editor, Univ. of Illinois | News | Comments

An experimental drug rapidly shrinks most tumors in a mouse model of human breast cancer, researchers report in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. When mice were treated with the experimental drug, BHPI, the tumors immediately stopped growing and began shrinking rapidly.

Researchers master gene editing technique in mosquito that transmits deadly diseases

March 27, 2015 11:09 am | by Zach Veilleux, Rockefeller Univ. | News | Comments

Traditionally, to understand how a gene functions, a scientist would breed an organism that lacks that gene, “knocking it out”, then ask how the organism has changed. Are its senses affected? Its behavior? Can it even survive? Thanks to the recent advance of gene editing technology, this gold standard genetic experiment has become much more accessible in a wide variety of organisms.

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Big data allows computer engineers to find genetic clues in humans

March 27, 2015 8:26 am | by Washington Univ. in St. Louis | News | Comments

Big data: It's a term we read and hear about often, but is hard to grasp. Computer scientists at Washington Univ. in St. Louis tackled some big data about an important protein and discovered its connection in human history as well as clues about its role in complex neurological diseases.

Protein shake-up

March 26, 2015 10:47 am | by Chris Samoray, Oak Ridge National Laboratory | News | Comments

For living organisms proteins are an essential part of their body system and are needed to thrive. In recent years, a certain class of proteins has challenged researchers’ conventional notion that proteins have a static and well-defined structure. It’s thought that mutations in these proteins, known as intrinsically disordered proteins, are associated with neurodegenerative changes, cardiovascular disorders and diseases like cancer.

Researchers find promising new biomarkers for concussion

March 25, 2015 10:50 am | by David Orenstein, Brown Univ. | News | Comments

By looking at the molecular aftermath of concussion in an unusual way, a team of researchers at Brown Univ. and the Lifespan health system has developed a candidate panel of blood biomarkers that can accurately signal mild traumatic brain injury within hours using standard, widely available lab arrays. The results appear in the Journal of Neurotrauma.

Turn the light on

March 25, 2015 8:06 am | by Lynn Yarris, Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory | Videos | Comments

In the on-going search for a better understanding of how the brain and central nervous system develop, a potentially powerful new tool could soon be available. Researchers at Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory have discovered a light-sensitive opsin protein that plays a surprising and possibly critical role in neuron maturation and circuit formation.

Genomewide screen of learning in zebrafish identifies enzyme important in neural circuit

March 23, 2015 11:37 am | by Karen Kreeger, Univ. of Pennsylvania | News | Comments

Researchers at the Univ. of Pennsylvania describe the first set of genes important in learning in a zebrafish model in Neuron. Using in-depth analysis of one of the genes, the team has revealed an important signaling pathway. According to the researchers, the proteins in this pathway could provide new insights into the development of novel pharmacological targets.

Even at a molecular level, taking it slow helps to cope with stress

March 23, 2015 10:08 am | by Sarah Yang, Media Relations, UC Berkeley | News | Comments

Univ. of California, Berkeley, scientists have identified a new molecular pathway critical to aging, and confirmed that the process can be manipulated to help make old blood like new again. The researchers found that blood stem cells’ ability to repair damage caused by inappropriate protein folding in the mitochondria, a cell’s energy station, is critical to their survival and regenerative capacity.

Squid-inspired invisibility stickers to protect soldiers

March 23, 2015 8:21 am | by American Chemical Society | News | Comments

Squid are the ultimate camouflage artists, blending almost flawlessly with their backgrounds so that unsuspecting prey can't detect them. Using a protein that's key to this process, scientists have designed "invisibility stickers" that could one day help soldiers disguise themselves, even when sought by enemies with tough-to-fool infrared cameras.

Bioinformatics tool for metagenome analysis

March 20, 2015 10:07 am | by Nancy Ambrosiano, Los Alamos National Laboratory | News | Comments

Scientists at Los Alamos National Laboratory have developed a new method for DNA analysis of microbial communities such as those found in the ocean, the soil and our own guts. Metagenomics is the study of entire microbial communities using genomics.

Molecule pinpointed that controls stem cell plasticity

March 19, 2015 9:15 am | by Zach Veilleux, Rockefeller Univ. | News | Comments

Stem cells can have a strong sense of identity. Taken out of their home in the hair follicle, and grown in culture, these cells remain true to themselves. After waiting in limbo, these cultured cells become capable of regenerating follicles and other skin structures once transplanted back into skin. It’s not clear just how these stem cells retain their ability to produce new tissue and heal wounds, even under extraordinary conditions.

Modeling how cells move together could inspire self-healing materials

March 19, 2015 8:02 am | by Louise Lerner, Argonne National Laboratory | News | Comments

A paper published in Scientific Reports by a team led by physicist Igor Aronson of the Argonne National Laboratory modeled the motion of cells moving together. This may help scientists design new technologies inspired by nature, such as self-healing materials in batteries and other devices. Scientists have been borrowing ideas from the natural world for hundreds of years.

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.

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