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Bioengineered miniature structures could prevent heart failure

February 4, 2015 4:10 pm | by Medical College of Wisconsin | News | Comments

The delivery of tiny biodegradable microstructures to heart tissue damaged by heart attack may help repair the tissue and prevent future heart failure. A team led by cardiovascular researchers at the Medical College of Wisconsin bioengineered the microstructures to be the same size, shape and stiffness as adult heart muscle cells, or cardiomyocytes, with the goal of releasing biologically active peptides that act as cardioprotective agents.

Scientists call for antibody “bar code” system to follow Human Genome Project

February 4, 2015 4:05 pm | by Nancy Ambrosiano, Los Alamos National Laboratory | News | Comments

More than 100 researchers from around the world have collaborated to craft a request that could fundamentally alter how the antibodies used in research are identified, a project potentially on the scale of the now-completed Human Genome Project.

Microscopy technique allows mapping protein synthesis in living tissues, animals

February 4, 2015 3:06 pm | by Jessica Guenzel, Columbia Univ. | News | Comments

Researchers at Columbia Univ. have made a significant step toward visualizing complex protein metabolism in living systems with high resolution and minimum disturbance, a longstanding goal in the scientific community. In a recent study, the research team has reported a light microscopy method to image where the new proteins are produced and where the old proteins are degraded inside living tissues and animals.

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How the brain ignores distractions

February 4, 2015 10:18 am | by David Orenstein, Brown Univ. | News | Comments

When we concentrate on something, we also engage in the unsung, parallel act of purposefully ignoring other things. A new study describes how the brain may achieve such “optimal inattention.” With this knowledge, scientists at Brown Univ. hope they can harness our power to ignore.

Tiny robotic hands could improve cancer diagnostics, drug delivery

February 4, 2015 10:08 am | by American Chemical Society | Videos | Comments

Many people imagine robots today as clunky, metal versions of humans, but scientists are forging new territory in the field of “soft robotics”. One of the latest advances is a flexible, microscopic hand-like gripper. The development could help doctors perform remotely guided surgical procedures or perform biopsies. The materials also could someday deliver therapeutic drugs to hard-to-reach places.

Record keeping helps bacteria’s immune system fight invaders

February 4, 2015 10:01 am | by SLAC Office of Communications | News | Comments

Bacteria have a sophisticated means of defending themselves, and they need it: more viruses infect bacteria than any other biological entity. Two experiments undertaken at the SLAC National Accelerator Laboratory provide new insight at the heart of bacterial adaptive defenses in a system called CRISPR, short for Clustered Regularly Interspaced Short Palindromic Repeat.

Splash down

February 4, 2015 8:40 am | by Jennifer Chu, MIT News Office | News | Comments

Farmers have long noted a correlation between rainstorms and disease outbreaks among plants. Fungal parasites known as “rust” can grow particularly rampant following rain events, eating away at the leaves of wheat and potentially depleting crop harvests. While historical weather records suggest rainfall may scatter rust and other pathogens throughout a plant population, the mechanism by which this occurs has not been explored, until now.

Pfizer breast cancer drug gets early FDA approval

February 3, 2015 6:18 pm | by The Associated Press | News | Comments

Federal health regulators on Tuesday approved a highly anticipated medicine from Pfizer Inc. to treat postmenopausal women with a certain type of advanced breast cancer who have not already taken other drugs. The Food and Drug Administration approved Ibrance for women who have tumors that do not contain a protein known as HER-2. Ibrance, known generically as palbociclib, works by blocking molecules linked to cancer cell growth.

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Federal health officials face tough questions on flu vaccine

February 3, 2015 1:20 pm | by Lauran Neergaard, AP Medical Writer, Associated Press | News | Comments

Federal health officials are facing questioning about why this year's flu vaccine isn't giving good protection against the winter menace. This is a particularly bad flu season, and one reason is that the most common flu strain isn't a good match to this year's vaccine. Lawmakers on Tuesday asked why the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention didn't act months ago when concerns first arose to create a better-matched vaccine.

Getting yeast to pump up the protein production

February 3, 2015 11:43 am | by Amanda Morris, Northwestern Univ. | News | Comments

From manufacturing life-saving biopharmaceuticals to producing energy-efficient biofuels, the cost-effective production of proteins will be essential to revolutionizing the future of health care and energy. For years, scientists have turned to yeast as a quick and inexpensive way to mass-produce proteins for a variety of useful products. Now Northwestern Univ. has found a way to gather more protein without making the yeast produce more.

Top 10 challenges facing global pharmaceutical supply chains

February 3, 2015 8:25 am | by Robert Polner, New York Univ. | News | Comments

Ten years after the 2005 Paris Declaration on Aid Effectiveness reported on the need for better coordination in the global fight against disease, global pharmaceutical supply chains remain fragmented and lack coordination, facing at least 10 fundamental challenges, according to a newly published paper.

How the brain controls robotic grasping tools

February 3, 2015 8:01 am | by Jeff Sossamon, Univ. of Missouri-Columbia | News | Comments

Grasping an object involves a complex network of brain functions. First, visual cues are processed in specialized areas of the brain. Then, other areas of the brain use these signals to control the hands to reach for and manipulate the desired object. New findings suggest that the cerebellum may play a critical role. Findings could lead to advancements in assistive technologies benefiting the disabled.

Biologists partner bacterium with nitrogen gas to produce more, cleaner bioethanol

February 3, 2015 7:56 am | by Stephen Chaplin, Indiana Univ. | News | Comments

Indiana Univ. biologists believe they have found a faster, cheaper and cleaner way to increase bioethanol production by using nitrogen gas, the most abundant gas in Earth’s atmosphere, in place of more costly industrial fertilizers. The discovery could save the industry millions of dollars and make cellulosic ethanol more competitive with corn ethanol and gasoline.

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Cyanobacterium found in algae collection holds promise for biotech applications

February 2, 2015 10:53 am | by Diana Lutz, Washington Univ. in St. Louis | News | Comments

Cyanobacteria, bacteria that obtain their energy through photosynthesis, are of considerable interest as bio-factories, organisms that could be harnessed to generate a range of industrially useful products. Part of their appeal is that they can grow on sunlight and carbon dioxide alone and thus could contribute to lowering greenhouse gas emissions and moving away from a petrochemical-based economy.

Why moderate drinking might be healthy for some

February 2, 2015 10:00 am | by Bill Hathaway, Yale Univ. | News | Comments

Moderate consumption of alcohol has been associated with health benefits in some, but not all, studies. Researchers at the Yale Univ. School of Medicine may have found an explanation, in part, for why non-smokers might benefit from a glass of wine.

Walking on ice takes more than brains

February 2, 2015 7:54 am | by The Salk Institute | News | Comments

Walking across an icy parking lot in winter—and remaining upright—takes intense concentration. But a new discovery suggests that much of the balancing act that our bodies perform when faced with such a task happens unconsciously, thanks to a cluster of neurons in our spinal cord that function as a “mini-brain” to integrate sensory information and make the necessary adjustments to our muscles so that we don’t slip and fall.

In a role reversal, RNAs proofread themselves

February 2, 2015 7:42 am | by Jaclyn Jansen, Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory | News | Comments

Building a protein is a lot like a game of telephone: information is passed along from one messenger to another, creating the potential for errors every step of the way. There are separate, specialized enzymatic machines that proofread at each step, ensuring that the instructions encoded in our DNA are faithfully translated into proteins.

Complex environments push “brain” evolution

February 2, 2015 7:31 am | by Univ. of Wisconsin-Madison | News | Comments

Little animations trying to master a computer game are teaching neuroscience researchers how the brain evolves when faced with difficult tasks. Neuroscientists have programmed animated critters that they call "animats." The critters have a rudimentary neural system made of eight nodes: two sensors, two motors and four internal computers that coordinate sensation, movement and memory.

PNNL recognized for moving biofuel, chemical analysis innovations to market

February 2, 2015 7:24 am | by Eric Francavilla, PNNL | News | Comments

Developing renewable fuel from wet algae and enabling analysis of complex liquids are two of the latest innovations Pacific Northwest National Laboratory (PNNL) has successfully driven to the market with the help of commercial partners.

Tasting light

January 30, 2015 4:21 pm | by Anne Trafton, MIT News Office | News | Comments

Human taste receptors are specialized to distinguish several distinct compounds: sugars taste sweet, salts taste salty, and acidic compounds taste sour. Now a new study from Massachusetts Institute of Technology finds that the worm Caenorhabditis elegans has taken its powers of detection a step further: The worm can taste hydrogen peroxide, triggering it to stop eating the potentially dangerous substance.

Why do zebras have stripes?

January 30, 2015 8:53 am | by Stuart Wolpert, Univ. of California, Los Angeles | Videos | Comments

One of nature’s fascinating questions is how zebras got their stripes. A team of life scientists led by Univ. of California, Los Angeles has found at least part of the answer: The amount and intensity of striping can be best predicted by the temperature of the environment in which zebras live.

DNA nanoswitches reveal how life’s molecules connect

January 30, 2015 8:17 am | by Kat J. McAlpine, Wyss Institute for Biologically Inspired Engineering | News | Comments

A complex interplay of molecular components governs most aspects of biological sciences: healthy organism development, disease progression and drug efficacy are all dependent on the way life's molecules interact in the body. Understanding these biomolecular interactions is critical for the discovery of new therapeutics and diagnostics to treat diseases, but currently requires scientists to have access to expensive laboratory equipment.

Obama proposes "precision medicine" to end one-size-fits-all

January 30, 2015 6:18 am | by Lauran Neergaard, AP Medical Writer, Associated Press | News | Comments

President Barack Obama is calling for an investment to move away from one-size-fits-all-medicine, toward an approach that tailors treatment to your genes. The White House said Friday that Obama will ask Congress for $215 million for what he's calling a precision medicine initiative. The ambitious goal: Scientists will assemble databases of about a million volunteers to study their genetics to learn how to individualize care.

Hydrogen sulfide could help lower blood pressure

January 29, 2015 4:30 pm | by Univ. of Exter Medical School | News | Comments

A gas that gives rotten eggs their distinctive odor could one day form the basis of new cardiovascular therapies. Research has indicated that a new compound, called AP39, which generates minute quantities of the gas hydrogen sulfide inside cells, could be beneficial in cases of high blood pressure and diseases of the blood vessels that occur with aging and diabetes.

New clues about a brain protein with high affinity for valium

January 29, 2015 4:18 pm | by Karen McNulty Walsh, Brookhaven National Laboratory | News | Comments

Valium, one of the best known antianxiety drugs, produces its calming effects by binding with a particular protein in the brain. But the drug has an almost equally strong affinity for a completely different protein. Understanding this secondary interaction might offer clues about Valium's side effects and point the way to more effective drugs.

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