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Scientists identify genes that could lead to tough, disease-resistant rice

April 1, 2014 3:28 pm | by Marcia Goodrich, Michigan Technological Univ. | News | Comments

As the Earth’s human population marches toward 9 billion, the need for hardy new varieties of grain crops has never been greater. It won’t be enough to yield record harvests under perfect conditions; new grains must also be able to handle stress from climate changes. Researchers in Michigan have recently identified a set of genes that could be key to the development of the next generation of super rice.

Phage “cocktail” wipes out 99% of E. coli in meat, spinach

April 1, 2014 3:24 pm | by Natalie van Hoose, Purdue Univ. | News | Comments

Bacteriophages are viruses that target and kill bacteria. Recent research at Purdue Univ. shows that treating food products with select bacteriophages could significantly reduce concentrations of E. coli. The study demonstrated that an injection of bacteriophages nearly eradicated a toxin-producing strain of E. coli in contaminated spinach and ground beef, in some cases decreasing E. coli concentrations by about 99%.

Ancient whodunit may be solved: The microbes did it!

April 1, 2014 8:41 am | by David L. Chandler, MIT | News | Comments

Fossil remains show that sometime around 252 million years ago, about 90% of all species on Earth were suddenly wiped out in what was the largest of this planet’s five known mass extinctions. But pinpointing the culprit has been difficult, and controversial. Now, a team of Massachusetts Institute of Technology researchers may have found enough evidence to convict the guilty parties, but you’ll need a microscope to see the killers.

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New micro-environment could be major advance for stem cell growth strategies

April 1, 2014 8:18 am | News | Comments

Stem cells have the potential to repair human tissue and maintain organ function in chronic disease, but a major problem has been how to mass-produce such a complex living material. Scientists in the U.K. have now developed a new substance which could simplify the manufacture of therapeutic cells by allowing both self-renewal of cells and evolution into cardiomyocyte cells.

New gel permits targeted therapy after heart attack

April 1, 2014 8:17 am | News | Comments

Combatting the tissue degrading enzymes that cause lasting damage following a heart attack is tricky. Each patient responds to a heart attack differently and damage can vary from one part of the heart muscle to another, but existing treatments can’t be fine-tuned to deal with this variation. Univ. of Pennsylvania researchers have developed a way to address this problem via a material that can be applied directly to the damaged heart tissue.

Vibration may help heal chronic wounds, researchers say

March 31, 2014 3:33 pm | by Jeanne Galatzer-Levy, Univ. of Illinois, Chicago | News | Comments

Wounds may heal more quickly if exposed to low-intensity vibration, report researchers at the Univ. of Illinois at Chicago. The finding, in mice, may hold promise for the 18 million Americans who have type 2 diabetes, and especially the quarter of them who will eventually suffer from foot ulcers. Their wounds tend to heal slowly and can become chronic or worsen rapidly.

Nano-paper filter can remove viruses

March 31, 2014 12:49 pm | by Linda Koffmar, Uppsala Univ. | News | Comments

Researchers in Sweden have designed a paper filter which is capable of removing virus particles with the efficiency matching that of the best industrial virus filters. The paper filter, which is manufactured according to traditional paper making processes, consists of 100% high purity cellulose nanofibers directly derived from nature.

Effectiveness prompts Novartis to end drug study

March 31, 2014 10:23 am | by The Associated Press | News | Comments

Novartis said it's cutting off late-stage research into a potential chronic heart failure treatment because the drug has proven so effective, sending shares to an all-time high when markets opened Monday. Patients taking its twice-daily pill labeled LCZ696 lived longer without being hospitalized for heart failure than those who received a standard of care, Novartis said.

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Surgery gives long-term help for obese diabetics

March 31, 2014 10:23 am | by Marilynn Marchione - AP Chief Medical Writer - Associated Press | News | Comments

New research is boosting hopes that weight-loss surgery can put some patients' diabetes into remission for years and perhaps in some cases, for good. Doctors on Monday gave longer results from a landmark study showing that stomach-reducing operations are better than medications for treating "diabesity," the deadly duo of obesity and Type 2 diabetes.

Erasing a genetic mutation

March 31, 2014 9:15 am | by Anne Trafton, MIT News Office | News | Comments

Using a new gene-editing system based on bacterial proteins, Massachusetts Institute of Technology researchers have cured mice of a rare liver disorder caused by a single genetic mutation. The findings offer the first evidence that this gene-editing technique, known as CRISPR, can reverse disease symptoms in living animals.

New app draws genetic pedigrees at point of care

March 31, 2014 8:57 am | News | Comments

Long before next-generation sequencing technology appeared, clinicians have been taking family histories by jotting down pedigrees: hand-drawn diagrams recording how diseases may recur across generations. Now healthcare providers can create those diagrams digitally on an iPad screen with a few finger taps, during a face-to-face encounter with an individual and his or her family.

The circadian clock: An orchestra with many conductors

March 31, 2014 7:55 am | by Laura Bailey, Univ. of Michigan | News | Comments

New findings challenge the prevailing wisdom about how our body clocks are organized, and suggest that interactions among neurons that govern circadian rhythms are more complex than originally thought. A Univ. of Michigan team looked at the circadian clock neuron network in fruit flies, which is functionally similar to that of mammals, but at only 150 clock neurons is much simpler.

Study backs non-surgical way to fix heart valves

March 29, 2014 11:21 am | by Marilynn Marchione - AP Chief Medical Writer - Associated Press | News | Comments

A new study gives a big boost to fixing a bad aortic valve, the heart's main gate, without open-heart surgery. Survival rates were better one year later for people who had a new valve placed through a tube into an artery instead. The results were reported at an American College of Cardiology conference in Washington and prompted some doctors to predict that in the near future, far fewer people will be having the traditional operation.

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Scientists develop largest developmental proteomic data set for any animal

March 28, 2014 8:49 am | by Gene Stowe and Marissa Gebhard, Univ. of Notre Dame | News | Comments

Now that the human genome is sequenced, researchers are focusing on the study of the proteome, which is the protein content of an organism, tissue or cell. Bioanalytical chemists at Univ. of Notre Dame have successfully tracked the changing patterns of protein expression during early development of African clawed frog embryos, producing the largest data set on developmental proteomics for any organism.

Study: Married folks have fewer heart problems

March 28, 2014 8:22 am | by Marilynn Marchione - AP Chief Medical Writer - Associated Press | News | Comments

What's good for the heart? Marriage, researchers say. A study of more than 3.5 million Americans finds that married people are less likely than singles, divorced or widowed folks to suffer any type of heart or blood vessel problem. This was true at any age, for women as well as for men, and regardless of other heart disease risk factors they had such as high cholesterol or diabetes.

Researcher invents “mini heart” to help return venous blood

March 27, 2014 2:20 pm | News | Comments

A new organ has been developed at George Washington Univ. to help return blood flow from veins lacking functional valves. A rhythmically contracting cuff made of cardiac muscle cells surrounds the vein acting as a 'mini heart' to aid blood flow through venous segments. The cuff can be made of a patient’s own adult stem cells, eliminating the chance of implant rejection.

Cancer researchers find key protein link

March 27, 2014 12:58 pm | News | Comments

A new understanding of proteins at the nexus of a cell’s decision to survive or die has implications for researchers who study cancer and age-related diseases, according to biophysicists at the Rice Univ.-based Center for Theoretical Biological Physics. Experiments and computer analysis of two key proteins revealed a previously unknown binding interface that could be addressed by medication.

Robotic arm probes chemistry of 3-D objects by mass spectrometry

March 27, 2014 11:49 am | by John Toon, Georgia Institute of Technology | News | Comments

When life on Earth was first getting started, simple molecules bonded together into the precursors of modern genetic material. A catalyst would’ve been needed, but enzymes had not yet evolved. One theory is that the catalytic minerals on a meteorite’s surface could have jump-started life’s first chemical reactions. But scientists need a way to directly analyze these rough, irregularly shaped surfaces.

Model predicts blood glucose levels 30 minutes later

March 27, 2014 9:21 am | by Sara LaJeunesse, Penn State | News | Comments

A mathematical model created by Penn State Univ. researchers can predict with more than 90% accuracy the blood glucose levels of individuals with type 1 diabetes up to 30 min in advance of imminent changes in their levels, which is plenty of time to take preventative action. The model was estimated by the extended Kalman filtering technique and accounts for time-varying changes in glucose kinetics due to insulin and meal intake.  

Engineered bacteria produce biofuel alternative for high-energy rocket fuel

March 27, 2014 8:17 am | by John Toon, Georgia Institute of Technology | News | Comments

Researchers have engineered a bacterium to synthesize pinene, a hydrocarbon produced by trees that could potentially replace high-energy fuels, such as JP-10, in missiles and other aerospace applications. With improvements in process efficiency, the biofuel could supplement limited supplies of petroleum-based JP-10, and might also facilitate development of a new generation of more powerful engines.

Autism may be tied to flawed prenatal brain growth

March 26, 2014 5:21 pm | by Lindsey Tanner - AP Medical Writer - Associated Press | News | Comments

A small study that examined brains from children who died found abnormal patterns of cell growth in autistic children. The research bolsters evidence that something before birth might cause autism, at least in some cases. Clusters of disorganized brain cells were discovered in tissue samples from brain regions important for regulating social functioning, emotions and communication, which can all be troublesome for children with autism.

Researchers engineer resistance to ionic liquids in biofuel microbes

March 26, 2014 2:24 pm | News | Comments

Joint BioEnergy Institute scientists have identified the genetic origins of a microbial resistance to ionic liquids and successfully introduced this resistance into a strain of E. coli bacteria for the production of advanced biofuels. The ionic liquid resistance is based on a pair of genes discovered in a bacterium native to a tropical rainforest in Puerto Rico.

Desktop human “body” could reduce need for animal drug tests

March 26, 2014 1:13 pm | News | Comments

Call it “homo minutus”. A team at Los Alamos National Laboratory is developing four human organ constructs (liver, heart, lung and kidney) that will work together to serve as a drug and toxicity analysis system that can mimic the actual response of human organs. Called ATHENA, for Advanced Tissue-engineered Human Ectypal Network Analyzer, the system will fit neatly on a desk.

Last drinks: Brain’s mechanism knows when to stop

March 26, 2014 1:05 pm | News | Comments

A new brain imaging study in Australia found a “stop mechanism” that determined brain signals telling the individual to stop drinking water when no longer thirsty. The study, which used magnetic resonance imaging, also gauged the brain effects of drinking more water than required.

Real-life CSI: What can investigators really tell from gunshot residue?

March 26, 2014 1:02 pm | News | Comments

The popular TV series “CSI” is fiction, but everyday, real-life investigators and forensic scientists collect and analyze evidence to determine what happened at crime scenes. In a recent study, scientists say they have developed a more rapid and accurate method based on infrared spectroscopy that could allow crime scene investigators to tell what kind of ammunition was shot from a gun based on the residue it left behind.

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