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The Lead

Permafrost’s turn on the microbes

March 4, 2015 5:16 pm | by Mary Beckman, PNNL | News | Comments

As the Arctic warms, tons of carbon locked away in Arctic tundra will be transformed into the powerful greenhouse gases carbon dioxide and methane, but scientists know little about how that transition takes place. Now, scientists looking at microbes in different types of Arctic soil have a new picture of life in permafrost that reveals entirely new species and hints that subzero microbes might be active.

Experiment and theory unite in debate over microbial nanowires

March 4, 2015 11:12 am | by Janet Lathrop, Univ. of Massachusetts, Amherst | News | Comments

Scientific debate has been hot lately about whether microbial nanowires, the specialized...

Neuroscientists identify new way brain areas communicate

March 4, 2015 11:04 am | by Shilo Rea, Carnegie Mellon Univ. | News | Comments

Carnegie Mellon Univ. neuroscientists have identified a new pathway by which several brain areas...

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...

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Health officials perplexed by vaccination skeptics

March 3, 2015 3:08 pm | by Mike Stobbe, AP Medical Writer, Associated Press | News | Comments

Certain that they are right, struggling to find ways to get their message across, public health officials are exasperated by their inability to convince more U.S. parents to vaccinate their children. They say they are contending with a small minority of parents who are misinformed about the risks of inoculations.

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.

Pens filled with high-tech inks for DIY sensors

March 3, 2015 9:06 am | by Ioana Patringenaru, Jacobs School of Engineering | Videos | Comments

A new simple tool developed by nanoengineers at the Univ. of California, San Diego, is opening the door to an era when anyone will be able to build sensors, anywhere. The team developed high-tech bio-inks that react with several chemicals, including glucose. They filled off-the-shelf ballpoint pens with the inks and were able to draw sensors to measure glucose directly on the skin and sensors to measure pollution on leaves.

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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.

Giant virus revealed in 3-D using x-ray laser

March 3, 2015 8:31 am | by SLAC National Accelerator Laboratory | News | Comments

For the first time, researchers have produced a 3-D image revealing part of the inner structure of an intact, infectious virus, using a unique x-ray laser at the SLAC National Accelerator Laboratory. The virus, called Mimivirus, is in a curious class of “giant viruses” discovered just over a decade ago.

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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Unlocking the key to immunological memory in bacteria

March 2, 2015 11:41 am | by Lynn Yarris, Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory | News | Comments

A powerful genome editing tool may soon become even more powerful. Researchers with the Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory have unlocked the key to how bacteria are able to “steal” genetic information from viruses and other foreign invaders for use in their own immunological memory system.

Forbidden quantum leaps possible with high-res spectroscopy

March 2, 2015 11:27 am | by Nicole Casal Moore, Univ. of Michigan | News | Comments

A new twist on an old tool lets scientists use light to study and control matter with 1,000 times better resolution and precision than previously possible. Physicists at the Univ. of Michigan have demonstrated "ponderomotive spectroscopy," an advanced form of a technique that was born in the 15th century when Isaac Newton first showed that white light sent through a prism breaks into a rainbow.

Neurons controlling appetite made from skin cells

March 2, 2015 9:09 am | by Karin Eskenazi, Columbia Univ. Medical Center | News | Comments

Researchers have, for the first time, successfully converted adult human skin cells into neurons of the type that regulate appetite, providing a patient-specific model for studying the neurophysiology of weight control and testing new therapies for obesity. To make the neurons, human skin cells were first genetically reprogrammed to become induced pluripotent stem (iPS) cells.

Genetics reveals where emperor penguins survived the last ice age

March 2, 2015 9:00 am | by Univ. of Southampton | News | Comments

A study of how climate change has affected emperor penguins over the last 30,000 years found that only three populations may have survived during the last ice age, and that the Ross Sea in Antarctica was likely the refuge for one of these populations.

First detailed microscopy evidence of bacteria at the lower size limit of life

March 2, 2015 8:08 am | by Dan Krotz, Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory | News | Comments

Scientists have captured the first detailed microscopy images of ultra-small bacteria that are believed to be about as small as life can get. The existence of ultra-small bacteria has been debated for two decades, but there hasn’t been a comprehensive electron microscopy and DNA-based description of the microbes until now.

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Untangling DNA with a droplet of water, pipet and polymer

February 27, 2015 11:42 am | by KU Leuven | News | Comments

Researchers have long sought an efficient way to untangle DNA in order to study its structure under a microscope. Now, chemists and engineers at KU Leuven have devised a strikingly simple and effective solution: They inject genetic material into a droplet of water and use a pipet tip to drag it over a glass plate covered with a sticky polymer.

Cancer drug first tested in dogs begins human trials

February 27, 2015 8:03 am | by Diana Yates, Life Sciences Editor, Univ. of Illinois | News | Comments

A new drug that prompts cancer cells to self-destruct while sparing healthy cells is now entering phase I clinical trials in humans. The drug, called PAC-1, first showed promise in the treatment of pet dogs with spontaneously occurring cancers, and is still in clinical trials in dogs with osteosarcoma.

New peanut allergy test goes beyond scratching the surface

February 27, 2015 7:33 am | by Colin Poitras, UConn | News | Comments

Current peanut allergy tests are not very reliable when it comes to diagnosing the severity of an individual’s allergic reaction, which can range from hives to life-threatening anaphylactic shock. With an estimated three million people in the U.S. allergic to peanuts and tree nuts, having a more precise and reliable allergy test could prevent hospitalizations and allow for better monitoring of individuals suffering from peanut allergies.

Heat blamed for spray vaccine's failure against swine flu

February 26, 2015 1:10 pm | by Mike Stobbe, AP Medical Writer, Associated Press | News | Comments

The makers of the nasal spray version of the flu vaccine say they now know why it didn't protect young children against swine flu—the doses got too warm. The spray FluMist works well for most flu strains, but small studies found it didn't work very well against the swine flu bug that first emerged in 2009.

Study maps extroversion types in brain’s anatomy

February 26, 2015 12:43 pm | by David Orenstein, Brown Univ. | News | Comments

Everyday experience and psychological studies alike tell us there are two different types of extroverts: The gregarious “people-persons” and the ambitious “go-getters”. A new study shows that these overlapping yet distinct personalities have commensurately overlapping yet distinct signatures in the anatomy of the brain.

The body’s transformers

February 26, 2015 8:59 am | by Julie Cohen, UC Santa Barbara | Videos | Comments

Like the shape-shifting robots of "Transformers" fame, a unique class of proteins in the human body also has the ability to alter their configuration. These so-named intrinsically disordered proteins lack a fixed or ordered 3-D structure, which can be influenced by exposure to various chemicals and cellular modifications. A new study looked at a particular IDP called tau, which plays a critical role in human physiology.

Can an HIV drug beat strep throat, flesh-eating bacteria?

February 25, 2015 8:44 am | by American Chemical Society | News | Comments

With antibiotic resistance on the rise, scientists are looking for innovative ways to combat bacterial infections. The pathogen that causes conditions from strep throat to flesh-eating disease is among them, but scientists have now found a tool that could help them fight it: a drug approved to treat HIV. Their work, appearing in ACS Chemical Biology, could someday lead to new treatments.

Graphene shows potential as anticancer therapeutic strategy

February 25, 2015 8:11 am | by Jamie Brown, Univ. of Manchester | News | Comments

Univ. of Manchester scientists have used graphene to target and neutralize cancer stem cells while not harming other cells. This new development opens up the possibility of preventing or treating a broad range of cancers, using a non-toxic material.

Garlic extract could help cystic fibrosis patients fight infection

February 24, 2015 12:31 pm | by Corin Campbell, Univ. of Edinburgh | News | Comments

A chemical found in garlic can kill bacteria that cause life-threatening lung infections in people with cystic fibrosis, research suggests. The study is the first to show that the chemical, known as allicin, could be an effective treatment against a group of infectious bacteria that is highly resistant to most antibiotics.

Innovations in Cell Culture Technology Drive Drug Discovery Studies

February 24, 2015 9:14 am | by Cindy Neeley, PhD, Field Applications Scientist, Thermo Fisher Scientific, Labware & Specialty Plastics, Rochester, N.Y. | Thermo Fisher Scientific | Articles | Comments

Scientists around the world make use of cell culture techniques on a daily basis. Whether they happen to be working with primary cell cultures, secondary cultures or cell lines, they all face many of the same problems: slow growth, spontaneous differentiation, evaporation, contamination and a host of other issues that require troubleshooting.

Computational Model Reveals the Importance of Transitional Dynamics of “Memory Molecule” in Memory Formation

February 24, 2015 9:01 am | by Glen C. Rains | Articles | Comments

The dynamics of a molecule abundant in the synapse, Ca2+/Calmodulin dependent kinase type II (CaMKII), known as the “memory molecule”, are important in memory formation. Synapses are junctions connecting neurons and there’s increasing evidence they store memory when neurons are stimulated by the environment.

Sobering effect of the love hormone

February 24, 2015 8:47 am | by Verity Leatherdale, Univ. of Sydney | News | Comments

Oxytocin, sometimes referred to as the “love” or “cuddle” hormone, has a legendary status in popular culture due to its vital role in social and sexual behavior and long-term bonding. Now researchers from the Univ. of Sydney and the Univ. of Regensburg have discovered it also has a remarkable influence on the intoxicating effect of alcohol.

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