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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.

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.

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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.

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.

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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.

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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.

Study to test "chocolate" pills for heart health

March 17, 2014 2:18 am | by Marilynn Marchione - AP Chief Medical Writer - Associated Press | News | Comments

It won't be nearly as much fun as eating candy bars, but a big study is being launched to see if pills containing the nutrients in dark chocolate can help prevent heart attacks and strokes. The pills are so packed with nutrients that you'd have to eat a gazillion candy bars to get the amount being tested in this study, which will enroll 18,000 men and women nationwide.

Big data tackles tiny molecular machines

March 14, 2014 12:11 pm | News | Comments

Biophysicists at Rice Univ. have used a miniscule machine, a protease called an FtsH-AAA hexameric peptidase, as a model to test calculations that combine genetic and structural data. Their goal is to solve one of the most compelling mysteries in biology: how proteins perform the regulatory mechanisms in cells upon which life depends.

Nasty nanoinjectors pose a new target for antibiotic research

March 14, 2014 12:03 pm | News | Comments

If you’ve ever suffered the misery of food poisoning from a bacterium like Salmonella, then your cells have been on the receiving end of “nanoinjectors”, microscopic spikes made from proteins through which pathogens secrete effector proteins into human host cells, causing infection. Researchers are using advanced nuclear magnetic resonance spectrometry to unlock the structure of these injector, which are built from 20 different proteins.

Roomy cages built from DNA

March 14, 2014 11:48 am | News | Comments

Move over, nanotechnologists, and make room for the biggest of the small. Scientists at the Harvard's Wyss Institute have built a set of self-assembling DNA cages one-tenth as wide as a bacterium. The structures are some of the largest and most complex structures ever constructed solely from DNA.

Researchers write languages to design synthetic living systems

March 14, 2014 10:08 am | by Emily Kale, Virginia Tech | News | Comments

A computer-aided design tool has been used by researchers at Virginia Tech and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology to create genetic languages to guide the design of biological systems. Known as GenoCAD, the open-source software was developed to help synthetic biologists capture biological rules to engineer organisms that produce useful products or health-care solutions from inexpensive, renewable materials.

New high-throughput method proposed for screening, ranking anti-aging drugs

March 14, 2014 7:27 am | News | Comments

Scientists in the U.K. have proposed a new computer-based method of screening drugs that could be used to slow the aging process in humans. The proposed method uses gene expression data from “young” and “old” tissues to construct the cloud of molecular signalling pathways involved in ageing and longevity. It then evaluates the effects of a large number of drugs and drug combinations to emulate a youthful state for cells and tissues.

What happened when? How the brain stores memories by time

March 13, 2014 12:54 pm | News | Comments

Very often, our memories must distinguish not just what happened and where, but when an event occurred, and what came before and after. New research from the Univ. of California, Davis, Center for Neuroscience shows that a part of the brain called the hippocampus stores memories by their "temporal context": what happened before, and what came after.

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