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The buzz on caffeine in coffee: A genetic quirk

September 4, 2014 2:57 pm | by Seth Borenstein, AP Science Writer | News | Comments

Scientists have woken up and smelled the coffee … and analyzed its DNA. More than 60 researchers from around the world mapped out the genetic instruction book of java. They found that what we love about coffee, the caffeine, is a genetic quirk and not related to the caffeine in chocolate or tea.

Scientists map protein in living bacterial cells

September 4, 2014 8:29 am | by SLAC National Accelerator Laboratory | News | Comments

Scientists have for the first time mapped the atomic structure of a protein within a living cell. The technique, which peered into cells with an x-ray laser, could allow scientists to explore some components of living cells as never before.

Cellular RNA can template DNA repair in yeast

September 4, 2014 7:54 am | by John Toon, Georgia Institute of Technology | News | Comments

The ability to accurately repair DNA damaged by spontaneous errors, oxidation or mutagens is crucial to the survival of cells. This repair is normally accomplished by using an identical or homologous intact sequence of DNA, but scientists have now shown that RNA produced within cells of a common budding yeast can serve as a template for repairing the most devastating DNA damage—a break in both strands of a DNA helix.

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A new synthetic amino acid for an emerging class of drugs

September 3, 2014 1:01 pm | News | Comments

Scientists in Switzerland have developed a new amino acid that can be used to modify the 3-D structure of therapeutic peptides. Insertion of the amino acid into bioactive peptides enhanced their binding affinity up to 40-fold. Peptides with the new amino acid could potentially become a new class of therapeutics.

A “clear” choice for clearing 3-D cell cultures

September 3, 2014 11:40 am | by David Orenstein, Brown Univ. | News | Comments

Because Brown Univ. biomedical engineering graduate student Molly Boutin needed to study how neural tissues grow from stem cells, she wanted to grow not just a cell culture, but a sphere-shaped one. Cells grow and interact more naturally in 3-D cultures than when they’re confined to thin slides or dishes.

Scientists make diseased cells synthesize their own drug

September 3, 2014 8:34 am | News | Comments

In a new study that could ultimately lead to many new medicines, scientists from the Florida campus of The Scripps Research Institute (TSRI) have adapted a chemical approach to turn diseased cells into unique manufacturing sites for molecules that can treat a form of muscular dystrophy.

Sabotage as therapy

September 3, 2014 8:00 am | by Vicky Agnew, Yale Univ. | News | Comments

Yale Cancer Center researchers may have discovered a new way of harnessing lupus antibodies to sabotage cancer cells made vulnerable by deficient DNA repair. The study found that cancer cells with deficient DNA repair mechanisms (or the inability to repair their own genetic damage) were significantly more vulnerable to attack by lupus antibodies.

Nano-sized synthetic scaffolding technique

September 3, 2014 7:33 am | by Jim Barlow, Director of Science and Research Communications, Univ. of Oregon | News | Comments

Scientists have tapped oil and water to create scaffolds of self-assembling, synthetic proteins called peptoid nanosheets that mimic complex biological mechanisms and processes. The accomplishmentis expected to fuel an alternative design of the 2-D peptoid nanosheets that can be used in a broad range of applications. Among them could be improved chemical sensors and separators, and safer, more effective drug delivery vehicles.

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Ebola genomes sequenced

September 2, 2014 10:28 am | by Lisa Girard, Broad Institute Communication | News | Comments

Responding rapidly to the deadly outbreak of Ebola virus disease (EVD) in West Africa, a team of researchers from the Broad Institute and Harvard Univ., working with the Sierra Leone Ministry of Health and Sanitation and researchers elsewhere, has sequenced and analyzed many Ebola virus genomes. Their findings could have important implications for rapid field diagnostic tests.

Research hints at why stress is more devastating for some

September 2, 2014 9:52 am | by Rockefeller Univ. | News | Comments

Some people take stress in stride; others are done in by it. New research at Rockefeller Univ. has identified the molecular mechanisms of this so-called stress gap in mice with very similar genetic backgrounds—a finding that could lead researchers to better understand the development of psychiatric disorders such as anxiety and depression.

Surprising new role for calcium in sensing pain

September 2, 2014 7:53 am | by Karl Bates, Duke Univ. | News | Comments

When you accidentally touch a hot oven, you rapidly pull your hand away. Although scientists know the basic neural circuits involved in sensing and responding to such painful stimuli, they are still sorting out the molecular players. Duke Univ. researchers have made a surprising discovery about the role of a key molecule involved in pain in worms, and have built a structural model of the molecule.

We travel with our own germs

August 29, 2014 5:24 am | by Lauran Neergaard - AP Medical Writer - Associated Press | News | Comments

Sorry, clean freaks. No matter how well you scrub your home, it's covered in bacteria from your own body. And if you pack up and move, new research shows, you'll rapidly transfer your unique microbial fingerprint to the doorknobs, countertops and floors in your new house, too.

Encyclopedia of how genomes function gets much bigger

August 28, 2014 9:07 am | News | Comments

A big step in understanding the human genome has been unveiled in the form of three analyses that provide the most detailed comparison yet of how the genomes of the fruit fly, roundworm, and human function. The research compares how the information encoded in the three species’ genomes is “read out,” and how their DNA and proteins are organized into chromosomes. The results add billions of entries to the archive of functional genomic data.

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Water “thermostat” could help engineer drought-resistant crops

August 28, 2014 8:58 am | News | Comments

Duke Univ. researchers have identified a gene that could help scientists engineer drought-resistant crops. The gene, called OSCA1, encodes a protein in the cell membrane of plants that senses changes in water availability and adjusts the plant’s water conservation machinery accordingly. The effect is similar to a thermostat.

Neuroscientists reverse memories’ emotional associations

August 28, 2014 8:27 am | by Anne Trafton, MIT News Office | News | Comments

Most memories have some kind of emotion associated with them. A new study from Massachusetts Institute of Technology neuroscientists reveals the brain circuit that controls how memories become linked with positive or negative emotions. Furthermore, the researchers found that they could reverse the emotional association of specific memories by manipulating brain cells with optogenetics.

Researchers discover why Listeria bacterium is so hard to fight

August 27, 2014 11:11 am | News | Comments

The harmful and potentially deadly bacterium Listeria is extremely good at adapting to changes. Research from Denmark uncovers exactly how cunning Listeria is and why it is so hard to fight. The discovery could help develop more efficient ways to combat the bacteria.

Sorting cells with sound waves

August 26, 2014 7:36 am | by Anne Trafton, MIT News Office | Videos | Comments

Researchers have devised a new way to separate cells by exposing them to sound waves as they flow through a tiny channel. Their device, about the size of a dime, could be used to detect the extremely rare tumor cells that circulate in cancer patients’ blood, helping doctors predict whether a tumor is going to spread.

A surprising new role for natural killer T cells

August 25, 2014 9:25 am | News | Comments

In the past, immune cells were clearly divided into innate cells, which respond to attacks in a non-specific way, and adaptive cells, which learn to recognize new antigens and gain the ability to rapidly react to later attacks. Researchers at RIKEN in Japan have discovered that is not always the case, having found that killer T cells previously thought to be innate, and thus short-lived, can remain in the lung for up to nine months.

Efficient Bioengineering

August 22, 2014 2:50 pm | Award Winners

Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory’s Tissue-Specific Cell-Wall Engineering is a powerful new method for rapidly transforming crops into biological factories. The technology, a suite of high-precision genetic tools and procedures, makes it possible to change plant traits in a highly selective, tissue-specific fashion.

A Closer Look at 3-D Cell Cultures

August 22, 2014 2:14 pm | Award Winners

It’s well known that compared with 2-D cell culture models, 3-D cell culture models have different patterns of development, respond differently to therapeutic targets and have different patterns of gene expression. Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory’s BioSig3D is the only computational platform that provides Web-based delivery of image-based bioinformatics technology from 3-D cell culture models that are imaged in full 3-D using either confocal or deconvolution microscopy.

Faster Peptide Synthesis

August 21, 2014 11:07 am | CEM Corporation | Award Winners

Peptide and protein therapeutics are important drug candidates due to their ubiquitous nature as biological molecules, as well as their ability to control all aspects of cellular function along with many facets of intercellular communication. CEM Corp.’s Liberty Blue automated microwave peptide synthesizer will streamline the peptide synthesis process for pharmaceutical, biotech and academic researchers, enabling them to produce peptides for drug discovery and studies in the field of life sciences in a manner that is more efficient, cost effective, faster and better for the environment.

Researchers develop models to study polyelectrolytes

August 21, 2014 9:04 am | by Matt Shipman, News Services, North Carolina State Univ. | Videos | Comments

Researchers from North Carolina State Univ. have developed a novel and versatile modeling strategy to simulate polyelectrolyte systems. The model has applications for creating new materials as well as for studying polyelectrolytes, including DNA and RNA. Polyelectrolytes are chains of molecules that are positively or negatively charged when placed in water.

Programmed to fold: RNA origami

August 21, 2014 8:27 am | by Katie Neith, California Institute of Technology | News | Comments

Researchers from Aarhus Univ. and Caltech have developed a new method for organizing molecules on the nanoscale. Inspired by techniques used for folding DNA origami, the team fabricated complicated shapes from DNA's close chemical cousin, RNA. Unlike DNA origami, whose components are chemically synthesized and then folded in an artificial heating and cooling process, RNA origami are enzymatically synthesized.

Treating pain by blocking the chili-pepper receptor

August 21, 2014 8:00 am | by American Chemical Society | News | Comments

As anyone who has bitten into a chili pepper knows, its burning spiciness—though irresistible to some—is intolerable to others. Scientists exploring the chili pepper’s effect are using their findings to develop a new drug candidate for many kinds of pain, which can be caused by inflammation or other problems. They reported their progress on the compound, which is being tested in clinical trials, in the Journal of Medicinal Chemistry.

Biomarker in aggressive breast cancer identified

August 20, 2014 7:53 am | by Megan Fellman, Northwestern Univ. | News | Comments

Two Northwestern Univ. scientists have identified a biomarker strongly associated with basal-like breast cancer, a highly aggressive carcinoma that is resistant to many types of chemotherapy. The biomarker, a protein called STAT3, provides a smart target for new therapeutics designed to treat this often deadly cancer.

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