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Cells get ready for their close-up

March 21, 2014 7:45 am | by Anne Trafton, MIT News Office | News | Comments

In 2007, Massachusetts Institute of Technology scientists developed a type of microscopy that allowed them to detail the interior of a living cell in 3-D, without adding any fluorescent markers or other labels. This technique also revealed key properties, such as the cells’ density. Now the researchers have adapted that method so they can image cells as they flow through a tiny microfluidic channel.

Gene silencing instructions acquired through “molecular memory” tags on chromatin

March 20, 2014 12:46 pm | News | Comments

Scientists at Indiana Univ. have unlocked one of the mysteries of modern genetics: how acquired traits can be passed between generations in a process called epigenetic inheritance. The new work finds that cells don’t know to silence some genes based on information hardwired into their DNA sequences, but recognize heritable chemical marks that are added to the genes.

A layered nanostructure held together by DNA

March 20, 2014 12:40 pm | by David Lindley, Argonne National Laboratory | News | Comments

A new strategy for building nanoscale constructs uses the binding properties of complementary strands of DNA to attach nanoparticles to each other. A series of controlled steps builds up a layered thin-film nanostructure. Small-angle x-ray scattering analysis has revealed the precise form that the structures adopted, and points to ways of exercising still greater control over the final arrangement.

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Giant macrophages discovered in blood of cancer patients

March 20, 2014 11:44 am | News | Comments

When cancers become advanced, tumor cells from the primary tumor can enter the bloodstream and cause metastasis at another organ with deadly effect. While researching the biological implications of CTC spread, Creatv MicroTech researchers found a group of previously unreported cells associated with primary cancer spread. These macrophage-like cells could serve as biomarkers.

Assembling a colossus

March 20, 2014 9:19 am | News | Comments

Geneticists at the Univ. of California, Davis have decoded the genome sequence for the loblolly pine. The accomplishment is a milestone for genetics because this pine’s genome is massive. Bloated with repetitive sequences, it is seven times larger than the human genome and easily big enough to overwhelm standard genome assembly methods.

Past HIV vaccine trials reveal new path to success

March 20, 2014 8:05 am | News | Comments

A multinational research team led by Duke Medicine scientists has identified a subclass of antibodies associated with an effective immune response to an HIV vaccine. The finding helps explain why a combination of two vaccines was able to show some effect, when one vaccine alone did not. The study also provides key insights that could aid development of new vaccines.

IBM's Watson to help in brain cancer research

March 19, 2014 3:20 pm | by Bree Fowler - AP Technology Writer - Associated Press | News | Comments

IBM is teaming up with the New York Genome Center to help fight brain cancer. The company said Wednesday that its Watson cloud computing system will be used in partnership with a New York-based genetic research center to help develop treatments for glioblastoma, the most common type of brain cancer in U.S. adults.

New app delivers pocket diagnosis

March 19, 2014 1:40 pm | News | Comments

A new app developed by researchers the U.K. accurately measures color-based, or colorimetric, tests for use in home, clinical or remote settings, and enables the transmission of medical data from patients directly to health professionals. Called Colorimetrix, the app helps transform any smartphone into a portable medical diagnostic device.

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Frozen for 1,600 years, Antarctic moss revived

March 19, 2014 8:43 am | by Seth Borenstein, AP Science Writer | News | Comments

Scientists have revived a moss plant that was frozen beneath the Antarctic ice and seemingly lifeless since the days of Attila the Hun. Dug up from Antarctica, the simple moss was about 1,600 years old, black and looked dead. But when it was thawed in a British lab's incubator, it grew again.

Researchers survey protein family that helps brain form synapses

March 19, 2014 8:35 am | by Tom Abate, Stanford Engineering | News | Comments

Neuroscientists and bioengineers at Stanford Univ. are working together to solve a mystery: How does nature construct the different types of synapses that connect neurons—the brain cells that monitor nerve impulses, control muscles and form thoughts.

Fast synthesis could boost drug development

March 19, 2014 7:42 am | by Anne Trafton, MIT News Office | News | Comments

Small protein fragments, also called peptides, are promising as drugs because they can be designed for very specific functions inside living cells. Insulin and the HIV drug Fuzeon are some of the earliest successful examples, and peptide drugs are expected to become a $25 billion market by 2018. However, a major bottleneck has prevented peptide drugs from reaching their full potential.

New lens design improves kidney stone treatment

March 18, 2014 10:53 am | by Ken Kingery, Duke Univ. | News | Comments

Duke Univ. engineers have devised a way to improve the efficiency of lithotripsy—the demolition of kidney stones using focused shock waves. After decades of research, all it took was cutting a groove near the perimeter of the shock wave-focusing lens and changing its curvature.

Scientists slow development of Alzheimer’s trademark cell-killing plaques

March 18, 2014 10:12 am | by Laura Bailey, Univ. of Michigan | News | Comments

Univ. of Michigan researchers have learned how to fix a cellular structure called the Golgi that mysteriously becomes fragmented in all Alzheimer's patients and appears to be a major cause of the disease. They say that understanding this mechanism helps decode amyloid plaque formation in the brains of Alzheimer's patients, plaques that kills cells and contributes to memory loss and other Alzheimer's symptoms.

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Scientists track evolution of a superbug

March 18, 2014 8:59 am | News | Comments

Using genome sequencing, National Institutes of Health scientists and their colleagues have tracked the evolution of the antibiotic-resistant bacterium Klebsiella pneumoniae sequence type 258 (ST258), an important agent of hospital-acquired infections. Their results promise to help guide the development of new strategies to diagnose, prevent and treat this emerging public health threat.

Discovery could yield more efficient plants for biofuels

March 18, 2014 8:16 am | by Natalie van Hoose, Purdue Univ. | News | Comments

Genetically modifying a key protein complex in plants could lead to improved crops for the production of cellulosic biofuels, a Purdue Univ. study says. The researchers generated a mutant Arabidopsis plant whose cell walls can be converted easily into fermentable sugars, but doesn't display the stunted growth patterns of similar mutants.

Tension triggers muscle building

March 18, 2014 7:56 am | News | Comments

Skeletal muscles are built from small contractile units, the sarcomeres. Many of these sarcomeres are connected in a well-ordered series to form myofibrils that span from one muscle end to the other. Scientists recently identified a key mechanism how this basic muscle architecture is built during development.

Bacterial reporters that get the scoop

March 18, 2014 7:55 am | by Kristen Kusek, Wyss Institute for Biologically Inspired Engineering, Harvard Univ. | News | Comments

It's a jungle in there. In the tightly woven ecosystem of the human gut, trillions of bacteria compete with each other on a daily basis while they sense and react to signals from the immune system, ingested food and other bacteria. Problems arise when bad gut bugs overtake friendly ones, or when the immune system is thrown off balance.

Nanopores control inner ear’s ability to select sounds

March 18, 2014 7:41 am | by David L. Chandler, MIT News Office | News | Comments

Even in a crowded room full of background noise, the human ear is remarkably adept at tuning in to a single voice—a feat that has proved remarkably difficult for computers to match. A new analysis of the underlying mechanisms, conducted by researchers at Massachusetts Institute of Technology, has provided insights that could ultimately lead to better machine hearing, and perhaps to better hearing aids as well.

Marijuana study in veterans wins federal backing

March 17, 2014 2:22 pm | by Matthew Perrone - AP Health Writer - Associated Press | News | Comments

The federal government has signed off on a long-delayed study looking at marijuana as a treatment for veterans with post-traumatic stress disorder, a development that drug researchers are hailing as a major shift in U.S. policy. The Dept. of Health and Human Services' decision surprised marijuana advocates who have struggled for decades to secure federal approval for research into the drug's medical uses.

Team implants human innate immune cells in mice

March 17, 2014 11:51 am | by Helen Dodson, Yale Univ. | News | Comments

Overcoming a major limitation to the study of the origins and progress of human disease, Yale Univ. researchers report that they have transplanted human innate immune cells into mouse models, which resulted in human immune responses. This study has reproduced human immune function at a level not seen previously, and could significantly improve the translation of knowledge gained from mouse studies into humans.

Bright future for protein nanoprobes

March 17, 2014 11:39 am | by Lynn Yarris, Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory | News | Comments

The term a “brighter future” might be a cliché, but in the case of ultra-small probes for lighting up individual proteins, it is now most appropriate. Researchers at Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory have discovered surprising new rules for creating ultra-bright light-emitting crystals that are less than 10 nm in diameter.

Data-mining for crystal “gold” at SLAC’s x-ray laser

March 17, 2014 9:21 am | by Glenn Roberts Jr., SLAC National Accelerator Laboratory | News | Comments

A new tool for analyzing mountains of data from SLAC National Accelerator Laboratory’s Linac Coherent Lightsource x-ray laser can produce high-quality images of important proteins using fewer samples. Scientists hope to use it to reveal the structures and functions of proteins that have proven elusive, as well as mine data from past experiments for new information.

Vast gene-expression map yields neurological, environmental stress insights

March 17, 2014 8:22 am | by Dan Krotz, Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory | News | Comments

A consortium led by scientists from Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory has conducted the largest survey yet of how information encoded in an animal genome is processed in different organs, stages of development and environmental conditions. Their findings paint a new picture of how genes function in the nervous system and in response to environmental stress.

An equation to describe the competition between genes

March 17, 2014 8:08 am | by Kimm Fesenmaier, Caltech | News | Comments

In biology, scientists typically conduct experiments first, and then develop mathematical or computer models afterward to show how the collected data fit with theory. In his work, Rob Phillips flips that practice on its head. The Caltech biophysicist tackles questions in cellular biology as a physicist would—by first formulating a model that can make predictions and then testing those predictions.

In the laboratory, scientists coax E. coli to resist radiation damage

March 17, 2014 7:45 am | News | Comments

Capitalizing on the ability of an organism to evolve in response to punishment from a hostile environment, scientists have coaxed the model bacterium Escherichia coli to dramatically resist ionizing radiation and, in the process, reveal the genetic mechanisms that make the feat possible. The study provides evidence that just a handful of genetic mutations give E. coli the capacity to withstand doses of radiation.

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