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Mechanical engineer bridges math, engineering, and biology

March 9, 2015 12:07 pm | by David L. Chandler, MIT News Office | News | Comments

This professor carries out pioneering work in the creation of biological circuits.                              

Tiny nanoparticles could make big impact for patients in need of cornea transplant

March 9, 2015 12:01 pm | by Johns Hopkins Univ. | News | Comments

Animal study shows that a nanoparticle applied at the time of surgery slowly releases needed medicine to reduce risk of rejection after eye surgery.                   

Synaptic Shortcuts

March 9, 2015 11:46 am | by Stephanie Dutchen, Harvard Medical School | News | Comments

It’s been “known” for decades: Sensory, motor and cognitive signals come in from the brain’s cortex and are processed in the basal ganglia.                    

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Researchers Explain How Aluminum Damages Crops

March 9, 2015 10:02 am | by The Univ. of Queensland | News | Comments

One third of the world’s food-producing land has been lost in the past 40 years as a result of soil degradation, putting global food security at risk. Researchers have discovered how aluminum, a toxic result of soil acidification, acts to reduce plant growth.  

Researchers Untangle DNA

March 9, 2015 8:51 am | by Florida International Univ. | News | Comments

While today’s human body contains a variety of these proteins, a marine sciences professor believes they evolved from a single ancestor millions of years ago. This find is pivotal in unraveling the mysteries of DNA organization and regulation, and could someday lead to innovative biomonitoring strategies and therapies targeting a variety of diseases including cancer.

Heart-on-a-chip Aids Drug Screening

March 9, 2015 8:00 am | by UC Berkeley | News | Comments

Bioengineers are presenting a network of pulsating cardiac muscle cells housed in an inch-long silicone device that effectively models human heart tissue. They have demonstrated the viability of this system as a drug-screening tool by testing it with cardiovascular medications.  

Researchers map switches that shaped the evolution of the human brain

March 6, 2015 1:10 pm | by Lindsay Borthwick, Yale Univ. | News | Comments

Thousands of genetic “dimmer” switches, regions of DNA known as regulatory elements, were turned up high during human evolution in the developing cerebral cortex, according to new research from the Yale Univ. School of Medicine. Unlike in rhesus monkeys and mice, these switches show increased activity in humans, where they may drive the expression of genes in the cerebral cortex.

Large-scale test of Ebola vaccine begins

March 6, 2015 12:53 pm | by Maria Cheng, AP Medical Writer, Associated Press | News | Comments

The World Health Organization will start large-scale testing of an experimental Ebola vaccine in Guinea on Saturday to see how effective it might be in preventing future outbreaks of the deadly virus. The West African nations of Sierra Leone, Liberia and Guinea have been hardest hit in the yearlong Ebola outbreak, which is estimated to have left more than 9,800 people dead.

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Twin copies of gene pair up in embryonic stem cells at critical moment in differentiation

March 6, 2015 8:45 am | by Peter Tarr, Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory | News | Comments

Imagine a pair of twins that everyone believed to be estranged, who turn out to be closer than anyone knew. A genetic version of this heartwarming tale might be taking place in our cells. We and other mammals have two copies of each gene, one from each parent. Each copy, or "allele," was thought to remain physically apart from the other in the cell nucleus, but a new study finds that alleles can and do pair up in mammalian cells.

Research suggests brain’s melatonin may trigger sleep

March 6, 2015 8:01 am | by Jessica Stoller-Conrad, Caltech | News | Comments

If you walk into your local drug store and ask for a supplement to help you sleep, you might be directed to a bottle labeled "melatonin." The hormone supplement's use as a sleep aid is supported by anecdotal evidence and even some reputable research studies. However, our bodies also make melatonin naturally, and until a recent Caltech study using zebrafish, no one knew how melatonin contributed to our natural sleep.

Magnetic material attracts attention for cancer therapy

March 5, 2015 9:23 am | by Monash Univ. | News | Comments

An extraordinary self-regulating heating effect that can be achieved in a particular type of magnetic material may open the doors to a new strategy for hyperthermia cancer treatment. Temperatures that can be tolerated by healthy body cells have long been known to destroy cancerous cells. An approach that uses magnetic particles introduced into tissue and heated remotely has found some success in treating cancer. 

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.

Flu winds down as FDA aims for better vaccine next winter

March 4, 2015 5:10 pm | by Lauran Neergaard, AP Medical Writer, Associated Press | News | Comments

The miserable flu season is winding down but not quite over yet, health officials said Wednesday, even the government picked what it hoped would be a better vaccine recipe for next fall and winter. If it seems early to worry about the next flu season, well, producing 140 million doses of vaccine requires starting months in advance.

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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 electrical pili of the mud-dwelling anaerobic bacterium Geobacter sulfurreducens, truly possess metallic-like conductivity as its discoverers claim. But now a Univ. of Massachusetts Amherst team says they settled the dispute between theoretical and experimental scientists by devising a combination of new experiments and better theoretical modeling.

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 communicate within the brain’s striatum. The findings illustrate structural and functional connections that allow the brain to use reinforcement learning to make spatial decisions, such as the dorsolateral prefrontal, orbitofrontal cortex and posterior parietal cortex.

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, shedding light on how the insect creates growth-stunting galls in wheat. Hessian fly larvae can destroy entire wheat fields by injecting seedlings with potent saliva that "hijacks" the plants' biochemistry, irreversibly halting development and forcing the seedlings to produce a leaky tissue that contains nutrients for the larvae.

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.

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.

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.

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