Inflammation is a normal and often beneficial response to injury or infection. The swelling, heat and even pain are the body’s attempts to protect its soft tissue, remove offending objects, substances or microbes and initiate healing. However, persistent inflammation is often indicative of more serious conditions and can lead to problems of its own, including impaired healing, loss of function or even tissue death.
Dissecting neuron function, while crucially important for understanding normal and pathological neurological processes, requires measuring the responses of live cells to external stimuli. Because of the inherent difficulties in performing perturbation analyses inside living organisms, there has been a longstanding drive towards developing methodologies for in vitro analysis of neurons.
Shortly after birth, human brains expand rapidly with the experience of an entirely new world. During this period, neurons in the newborn brain compete with one another to form lasting connections, called synapses. A new study by Duke Univ. researchers provides a close-up of synapse refinement and identifies a protein that is crucial in this process.
Researchers from the Univ. of Cambridge have developed a new self-assembled material, which, by changing its shape, can amplify small variations in temperature and concentration of biomolecules, making them easier to detect. The material, which consists of synthetic spheres “glued” together with short strands of DNA, could be used to underpin a new class of biosensors, or form the basis for new drug delivery systems.
Univ. of California, Irvine scientists studying the role of circadian rhythms in skin stem cells found that this clock plays a key role in coordinating daily metabolic cycles and cell division. Their research, which appears in Cell Reports, shows, for the first time, how the body’s intrinsic day-night cycles protect and nurture stem cell differentiation.
For a skin cell to do its job, it must turn on a completely different set of genes than a liver cell—and keep genes it doesn’t need switched off. One way of turning off large groups of genes at once is to send them to “time-out” at the edge of the nucleus, where they are kept quiet. New research from Johns Hopkins sheds light on how DNA gets sent to the nucleus’ far edge, a process critical to controlling genes and determining cell fate.
As a part of the human immune system, white blood cells create a number of enzymes that help fight disease. Sometimes, these enzymes damage tissues in inflammatory diseases. Now, researchers at the Univ. of Missouri, have determined that one of these enzymes, known as MMP12, does not remain outside of cells while it fights infections, but rather it can travel all the way to the center of cells.
The tics seen in Tourette syndrome may be caused by the loss of specific neurons in the brain, a Yale Univ. study has demonstrated. Previous postmortem studies of people with severe forms of the disease showed that there was a decrease in a rare but important type of neuron in the dorsal striatum, deep within the brain.
If the new nanomachines built at The Ohio State Univ. look familiar, it’s because they were designed with full-size mechanical parts such as hinges and pistons in mind. The project is the first to prove that the same basic design principles that apply to typical full-size machine parts can also be applied to DNA; and can produce complex, controllable components for future nanorobots.
Proteins and other biomolecules are often analyzed exclusively in aqueous solutions in test tubes. But it is uncertain if these experimental studies can be transferred to the densely packed cellular environment. The Bochum-based researchers have developed a novel method which can be used to analyze the effects of the lack of space in living cells with the aid of a microscope for the first time.
Ebola virus, Alzheimer's amyloid fibrils, tissue collagen scaffolds and cellular cytoskeleton are all filamentous structures that spontaneously assemble from individual proteins. Many protein filaments are well studied and are already finding use in regenerative medicine, molecular electronics and diagnostics. However, the very process of their assembly, protein fibrillogenesis, remains largely unrevealed.
Vaccines designed to protect against HIV can backfire and lead to increased rates of infection. This unfortunate effect has been seen in more than one vaccine clinical trial. Scientists at Emory Univ. have newly published results that support a straightforward explanation for the backfire effect: vaccination may increase the number of immune cells that serve as viral targets.
Plant geneticists from the Univ. of Massachusetts Amherst and the Univ. of California, Davis have sorted out the gene regulatory networks that control cell wall thickening by the synthesis of the three polymers, cellulose, hemicellulose and lignin. The plant geneticists say that the most rigid of the polymers, lignin, represents “a major impediment” to extracting sugars from plant biomass that can be used to make biofuels.
Open any introductory biology textbook and one of the first things you’ll learn is that our DNA spells out the instructions for making proteins, tiny machines that do much of the work in our body’s cells. Results from a study published in Science defy textbook science, showing for the first time that the building blocks of a protein, called amino acids, can be assembled without blueprints.
Getting enough of the right kind of sleep is crucial for keeping both body and mind healthy. Now a team of researchers at MIT has moved a step closer to being able to produce natural sleep patterns.
Univ. of California, Los Angeles researchers have developed a lens-free microscope that can be used to detect the presence of cancer or other cell-level abnormalities with the same accuracy as larger and more expensive optical microscopes. The invention could lead to less expensive and more portable technology for performing common examinations of tissue, blood and other biomedical specimens.
More than 90% of cancer-related deaths are caused by the spread of cancer cells from their primary tumor site to other areas of the body. A new study has identified how one important gene helps cancer cells break free from the primary tumor.
Newly published research provides the first demonstration of how a genetic mutation associated with a common form of albinism leads to the lack of melanin pigments that characterizes the condition. About 1 in 40,000 people worldwide have type 2 oculocutaneous albinism, which has symptoms of unusually light hair and skin coloration, vision problems and reduced protection from sunlight-related skin or eye cancers.
A Yale Univ. laboratory has crafted the first synthetic molecules that have both the targeting and response functions of antibodies. The new molecules attach themselves simultaneously to disease cells and disease-fighting cells. The result is a highly targeted immune response, similar to the action of natural human antibodies.
Rice Univ. scientists have detected at least three instances of cross-species mating that likely influenced the evolutionary paths of “old world” mice, two in recent times and one in the distant past. The researchers think these instances of introgressive hybridization are only the first of many needles waiting to be found in a very large genetic haystack.
A new study from Massachusetts Institute of Technology implicates a family of RNA-binding proteins in the regulation of cancer, particularly in a subtype of breast cancer. These proteins, known as Musashi proteins, can force cells into a state associated with increased proliferation.
When someone you know is wearing an unfamiliar hat, you might not recognize them. Georgia Institute of Technology researchers are using just such a disguise to sneak biomaterials containing peptide signaling molecules into living animals. When the disguised peptides are needed to launch biological processes, the researchers shine ultraviolet light onto the molecules through the skin, causing the "hat" structures to come off.
Understanding how nitrite can improve conditions such as hypertension, heart attack and stroke has been the object of worldwide research studies. New research from Wake Forest Univ. has potentially moved the science one step closer to this goal. In a recently published paper, the team shows deoxygenated hemoglobin is indeed responsible for triggering the conversion of nitrite to nitric oxide, a process that affects blood flow and clotting.
Where did the songbird get its song? What branch of the bird family tree is closer to the flamingo: the heron or the sparrow? These questions seem simple, but are actually difficult for geneticists to answer. A new, sophisticated statistical technique developed by researchers can help researchers construct more accurate species trees detailing the lineage of genes and the relationships between species.
In a triumph for cell biology, researchers have assembled the first high-resolution, 3-D maps of entire folded genomes and found a structural basis for gene regulation—a kind of “genomic origami” that allows the same genome to produce different types of cells. The research appears online in Cell.