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Controlling movement with light

June 27, 2014 9:29 am | by Anne Trafton, MIT | News | Comments

For the first time, neuroscientists have shown they can control muscle movement by applying optogenetics, a technique that allows scientists to control neurons’ electrical impulses with light, to the spinal cords of animals that are awake and alert. Previously, scientists have used electrical stimulation or pharmacological intervention to control neurons’ activity, but these approaches were not precise enough.

Engineers turn LEGOs into a scientific tool to study plant growth

June 27, 2014 9:25 am | News | Comments

Iowa State University assistant professor of materials science and engineering Ludovico Cademartiri wanted something modular, scalable and structurally precise to serve as the building blocks for controlled environments to support his study of plants. Microfluidics was too expensive and complex, so he turned to the toy aisle.

Scientists find potential new use for cancer drug

June 27, 2014 7:19 am | News | Comments

Scientists working to make gene therapy a reality have solved a major hurdle: how to bypass a blood stem cell’s natural defenses and efficiently insert disease-fighting genes into the cell’s genome. In a new study, a team of researchers report that the drug rapamycin, which is commonly used to slow cancer growth, enables delivery of a therapeutic dose of genes to blood stem cells while preserving stem cell function.

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People with tinnitus process emotions differently from peers

June 26, 2014 12:47 pm | by Chelsey Coombs, Life Sciences Intern, Univ. of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign | News | Comments

Patients with persistent ringing in the ears, a condition known as tinnitus, process emotions differently in the brain from those with normal hearing, researchers report in Brain Research. Tinnitus afflicts 50 million people in the U.S., and causes those with the condition to hear noises that aren’t really there. These phantom sounds are not speech, but rather whooshing noises, train whistles, cricket noises or whines.

FDA grapples with oversight of fecal transplants

June 26, 2014 12:18 pm | by Matthew Perrone - AP Health Writer - Associated Press | News | Comments

Imagine a low-cost treatment for a life-threatening infection that could cure up to 90% of patients with minimal side effects, often in a few days.It may sound like a miracle drug, but this cutting-edge treatment is profoundly simple—though somewhat icky: take the stool of healthy patients to cure those with hard-to-treat intestinal infections.

Sequencing efforts miss DNA crucial to bacteria’s disease causing power

June 25, 2014 10:41 pm | News | Comments

Genomic sequencing is supposed to reveal the entire genetic makeup of an organism. The technology can be used to analyze a disease-causing bacterium to determine how much harm it is capable of causing. But new research at Rockefeller Univ. suggests that current sequencing protocols overlook crucial bits of information: isolated pieces of DNA floating outside the bacterial chromosome, the core of a cell’s genetic material.

Panel: Flu spray better than shots for young kids

June 25, 2014 3:23 pm | by Mike Stobbe - AP Medical Writer - Associated Press | News | Comments

When it comes to flu vaccines, a federal panel says a squirt in the nose is better than a shot in the arm for young children. The advisory panel agreed Wednesday to tell doctors that FluMist nasal spray is a bit better at preventing flu in healthy young kids. The advice is specific to children ages 2 through 8.

Young researcher discovers source of disco clams’ light show

June 25, 2014 11:27 am | by Robert Sanders, UC Berkeley | Videos | Comments

Using high speed video, transmission electron microscopy, spectrometry, energy dispersive x-ray spectroscopy, and computer modeling, a Univ. of California, Berkeley graduate student has unraveled the mystery of the disco clams flashing “lips”. Most people assumed the glowing mantle was the result of bio-luminescence, but Lindsey Dougherty has found it is caused by something else entirely.

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Researchers develop smart gating nanochannels for confined water

June 25, 2014 11:14 am | News | Comments

Confined water exists widely and plays important roles in natural environments, particularly inside biological nanochannels. After several years of work, scientists in China have developed a series of biomimetic nanochannels that can serve as the base for confined transportation of water. The technology suggests a potential use in energy conversion systems.

Fast, portable device for “on-the-go” cocaine testing

June 25, 2014 8:39 am | News | Comments

Testing for cocaine and other drugs usually involves two steps: a quick on-site prescreen, and then a more accurate confirmatory test at a distant laboratory. This process can take days or weeks—but that’s too long in many cases where public safety is at risk. Now, researchers report development of a backpack-sized device that can perform highly accurate and sensitive tests anywhere within 15 min.

Using femtosecond lasers to administer drugs

June 25, 2014 7:59 am | by Kathleen Estes, Okinawa Institute of Science and Technology | News | Comments

A team of scientists in Japan and New Zealand have combined lasers, nanotechnology, and neuroscience to develop a new, versatile drug delivery system. The precise timing of a femtosecond laser is used to release dopamine, a neurochemical, that is dysfunctional in Parkinson’s Disease in a controlled and repeatable manner that mimics the natural dynamic release mechanism.

3-D mammogram scans may find more breast cancer

June 24, 2014 5:22 pm | by Lindsey Tanner - AP Medical Writer - Associated Press | News | Comments

3-D mammograms may be better at finding cancer than regular scans, a large study suggests, although whether that means saving more lives isn't known. The study involved almost half a million breast scans, with more than one-third of them using relatively new 3-D imaging along with conventional scans. The rest used regular mammograms alone.

Researcher charged in major HIV vaccine fraud case

June 24, 2014 5:22 pm | by Ryan J. Foley - Associated Press - Associated Press | News | Comments

Responding to a major case of research misconduct, federal prosecutors are taking a rare step by charging a scientist with fraud after he admitted falsifying data while researching an HIV vaccine. Authorities say former Iowa State Univ. laboratory manager Dong-Pyou Han has confessed to manipulating data that helped his team get millions in grants and increased hopes of a major breakthrough in AIDS research.

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FDA outlines policy for overseeing nanotechnology

June 24, 2014 3:23 pm | by Matthew Perrone - AP Health Writer - Associated Press | News | Comments

Federal regulators want to hear from companies using engineered micro-particles in their products, part of an effort to stay abreast of the growing field of nanotechnology. The U.S. Food and Drug Administration issued final recommendations Tuesday for companies using nanotechnology in products regulated by the government, which can include medical therapies, food and cosmetics.

Study shows puzzle games can improve mental flexibility

June 24, 2014 10:26 am | News | Comments

Executive functions in your brain are important for making decisions in everyday life when you have to deal with sudden changes in your environment. A recent study by scientists in Singapore showed that adults who played the physics-based puzzle video game Cut the Rope regularly, for as little as an hour a day, had improved executive functions. This marks the first time video games have been shown to deliver such broad improvements.

New particle-sorting method breaks speed records

June 24, 2014 8:52 am | by David L. Chandler, MIT News Office | Videos | Comments

Researchers compare the processing of biological fluid samples with searching for a needle in a haystack—only in this case, the haystack could be diagnostic samples, and the needle might be tumor cells present in just ppm concentrations. Now, a new way of processing these samples could make such detections possible in real time.

Growing unknown microbes one by one

June 24, 2014 8:26 am | by Jessica Stoller-Conrad, Caltech | News | Comments

Trillions of bacteria live in and on the human body; a few species can make us sick, but many others keep us healthy by boosting digestion and preventing inflammation. Although there's plenty of evidence that these microbes play a collective role in human health, we still know very little about most of the individual bacterial species that make up these communities.

MAD science: Understanding cellular signaling

June 24, 2014 7:50 am | News | Comments

A team of researchers in California has zeroed in on the important process of “attenuation,” the way cells guard against potentially harmful overreactions to the external cues that enable them to adapt to prevailing conditions. This bimolecular mutually assured destruction (MAD) mechanism of signaling attenuation broadens our understanding of the range of mechanisms nature has evolved to enact this critical function.

Delivering drugs on cue

June 24, 2014 7:43 am | News | Comments

Current drug delivery systems used to administer chemotherapy to cancer patients typically release a constant dose of the drug over time, but a new study challenges this "slow and steady" approach and offers a novel way to locally deliver the drugs "on demand," as reported in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

Ferroelectric switching seen in biological tissues

June 24, 2014 7:32 am | by Michelle Ma, Univ. of Washington | News | Comments

Measurements taken at the molecular scale have, for the first time, confirmed a key property that could improve our knowledge of how the heart and lungs function. Univ. of Washington researchers have shown that a favorable electrical property is present in a type of protein found in organs that repeatedly stretch and retract, such as the lungs, heart and arteries.

Study: Heart pacer-zapper benefits women more

June 23, 2014 4:22 pm | by Lindsey Tanner - AP Medical Writer - Associated Press | News | Comments

Women with heart failure are less likely to get a special kind of pacemaker than men, but more likely to benefit from the device, a government analysis suggests. The findings come from the first study of its kind conducted by researchers at the U.S. Food and Drug Administration.

Scientists use x-rays to look at how DNA protects itself from UV light

June 23, 2014 2:51 pm | News | Comments

The molecular building blocks that make up DNA absorb ultraviolet light so strongly that sunlight should deactivate them, yet it does not. Now, scientists at SLAC National Accelerator Laboratory have made detailed observations of a “relaxation response” that protects these molecules, and the genetic information they encode, from UV damage.

Biologists find “missing link” in production of protein factories in cells

June 23, 2014 8:02 am | News | Comments

Ribosomes are responsible for the production of the wide variety of proteins that include enzymes. But until now researchers had not uncovered all of the details of how the proteins that are used to construct ribosomes are themselves produced. Biologists in California now say they have found the “missing link” in the chemical system that allows ribosomal proteins to be synthesized.

Protons power protein portal to push zinc out of cells

June 23, 2014 8:01 am | News | Comments

Researchers at The Johns Hopkins Univ. report they have deciphered the inner workings of a protein called YiiP that prevents the lethal buildup of zinc inside bacteria. They say understanding YiiP's movements will help in the design of drugs aimed at modifying the behavior of ZnT proteins, eight human proteins that are similar to YiiP, which play important roles in hormone secretion and in signaling between neurons.

FDA approves Cubist antibiotic for skin infections

June 20, 2014 7:21 pm | by Matthew Perrone - AP Health Writer - Associated Press | News | Comments

The Food and Drug Administration on Friday approved a new antibiotic from Cubist Pharmaceuticals to treat common skin infections often acquired in the hospital. Regulators cleared the company's Sivextro as a pill and as an intravenous solution for adults with skin infections caused by bacteria that are often resistant to older antibiotics.

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