Red meat and organs may pose a significant health hazard
Neu5Gc, a non-human sialic acid sugar molecule common in red meat that increases the risk of tumor formation in humans, is also prevalent in pig organs, with concentrations increasing as the organs are cooked, a study has found. The research suggests that Neu5Gc may pose a significant health hazard among those who regularly consume organ meats from pigs.
A new view of the immune system
Pathogen epitopes are fragments of bacterial or viral proteins. Attached to the surface structure of cells, they prompt the body’s immune system to mount a response against foreign substances. Researchers have determined that nearly a third of all existing human epitopes consist of two different fragments. Known as ‘spliced epitopes’, these types of epitopes have long been regarded as rare. The fact that they are so highly prevalent might, among other things, explain why the immune system is so highly flexible.
Neural stem cells control their own fate
To date, it has been assumed that the differentiation of stem cells depends on the environment they are embedded in. A research group now describes for the first time a mechanism by which hippocampal neural stem cells regulate their own cell fate via the protein Drosha.
Chemical changes in the brain affect Alzheimer’s disease
A new study is helping to explain why the long-term use of common anticholinergic drugs used to treat conditions like allergies and overactive bladder lead to an increased risk of developing dementia later in life. The findings show that long-term suppression of the neurotransmitter acetylcholine – a target for anticholinergic drugs – results in dementia-like changes in the brain.
Researchers show copper is essential for burning fat
Is copper deficiency contributing to the obesity epidemic? Though small amounts of copper are essential to health – oysters, liver, beans and nuts are good sources – copper’s role in metabolism has been unclear: Some studies found that it boosted fat burning, others that it depressed it.
Mobilizing mitochondria may be key to regenerating damaged neurons
Mitochondria, sure it’s the powerhouse of the cell, but maybe it can be much more that. At least that’s what it looks like thanks to researchers at the National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke who have discovered that boosting the transport of mitochondria along neuronal axons enhances the ability of mouse nerve cells to repair themselves after injury.
New muscular dystrophy drug target identified
Scientists have discovered that muscle cells affected by muscular dystrophy contain high levels of an enzyme that impairs muscle repair. This finding provides a new target for potential drug treatments for the disease, which currently has no cure. Muscular dystrophy (MD) is an inherited genetic condition that gradually causes a weakening of muscles.
You are what you eat: Immune cells remember their first meal
Scientists have identified the trigger for immune cells’ inflammatory response — a discovery that may pave the way for new treatments for many human diseases. Immune cells play essential roles in the maintenance and repair of our bodies. When we injure ourselves, immune cells mount a rapid inflammatory response to protect us against infection and help heal the damaged tissue.
Uncovering the genetic elements that drive regeneration
Lose a hand or a leg? It will grow back… oh wait, it won’t, but why not? Trace our evolution — long before the shedding of gills or the development of opposable thumbs — and you will likely find a common ancestor with the amazing ability to regenerate lost body parts. There is theoretically no reason why we shouldn’t be able to regenerate, not quite like in the movie Deadpool, but come on, would you really complain at that point?
Organic nanowires destroy the competition
Last month, we spoke of our vision of the future of humanity here at the lab. It makes sense that humanity would one-day step away from the static, non-living computer constructs we have designed. Moving us instead towards an organic alternative, one that can be readily repaired, replaced, or changed. While we cannot pretend to know what the future may hold, a new discovery helps bolster the stance we presented.
Preventing Alzheimer’s, with an implant
Alzheimer’s has been a losing battle, sure we can fight back with drugs, but that still just prolongs the inevitable. With that said we can all hope this research pans out, to something meaningful. In a cutting-edge treatment for Alzheimer’s disease, EPFL scientists have developed an implantable capsule that can turn the patient’s immune system against the disease. Even better, the implant is subdural, not intracranial.
Alzheimer’s on and now Alzheimer’s off?
Alzheimer’s disease, is anything more frustrating than seeing someone — who otherwise looks healthy — start to forget who you are? Worse than that, we don’t know exactly what causes Alzheimer’s disease, or how to stop it. Well actually that might be changing. Don’t get too excited, because we’ve had false starts before, but an international group of scientists have succeeded in sorting out the mechanism of Alzheimer’s disease development and possibly distinguished its key trigger.
Frankenstein’s E. Coli: How an artificial protein rescues dying cells
It’s alive, ALIVE! No really and it could one day have big implications for you and me. So it is not quite Frankenstein’s monster… yet. However, a new study has revealed how a synthetic protein revives E. coli cells that lack a life-sustaining gene, offering insight into how life can adapt to survive and potentially be reinvented.
Preemies’ gut bacteria reveal vast scope of antibiotic resistance
Yesterday we blogged about the emergent and increasing antibiotic resistance problem, which was good — or bad timing — depending on how you look at it. A new study of gut bacteria in premature infants reveals the vast scope of the problem of antibiotic resistance and gives new insight into the extreme vulnerability of these young patients, according to researchers.
Antibiotic resistance, evolution, and our future
Without the discovery of antibiotics we could not — and most certainly would not — be living in the world we do today. It was a discovery that would save countless lives, while simultaneously compromising our future. From the use (and unfortunate misuse) of antibiotics, we gave rise to more virulent bacteria that have become resistant to more and more types of antibiotics.
What makes the brain so fast?
Surprisingly complex interactions between neurotransmitter receptors and other key proteins help explain the brain’s ability to process information with lightning speed, according to a new study. Scientists at McGill University, working with collaborators at the universities of Oxford and Liverpool, combined experimental techniques to examine fast-acting protein macromolecules, known as AMPA receptors, which are a major player in brain signaling.
Scientists discover the way to a new generation of antibiotics
Antibiotic resistance is becoming a common occurrence. Once isolated, more and more we are turning away from the traditional antibiotics to our so called “last line of defense” antibiotics to fight infections. Sadly, in a growing number of cases these antibiotics are having less of an effect. However, new research reveals the mechanism by which drug-resistant bacterial cells maintain a defensive barrier.
Some aging treatments shown to have opposite effects on males and females
What helps her live longer might be harmful to him, according to a new study that may shed light on how and why organisms age. Analyzing years of previous research on dietary and pharmaceutical tests on flies and mice, researchers showed that aging interventions can have opposite effects on mortality rates in males versus females.
A way to track and stop human and agricultural viruses
Viruses are molecular thieves that take from their hosts under the cloak of darkness. But now a Virginia Tech scientist has found a way to not only track viral hijackers, but also potentially stop them from replicating. The discovery has broad ranging applications in stopping viral outbreaks such as Hepatitis C in humans and a number of viruses in plants and animals because it applies to many viruses in the largest category of viral classes — positive-strand RNA viruses.
Researchers highlight brain region as ‘ground zero’ of Alzheimer’s disease
A critical but vulnerable region in the brain appears to be the first place affected by late onset Alzheimer’s disease and may be more important for maintaining cognitive function in later life than previously appreciated, according to a new review of the scientific literature.
‘Jaws’ may help humans grow new teeth, shark study suggests
A new insight into how sharks regenerate their teeth, which may pave the way for the development of therapies to help humans with tooth loss, has been discovered by scientists. The study has identified a network of genes that enables sharks to develop and regenerate their teeth throughout their lifetime. The genes also allow sharks to replace rows of their teeth using a conveyer belt-like system.
All the lonely people: Pinpointing loneliness in the brain
Humans, like all social animals, have a fundamental need for contact with others. This deeply ingrained instinct helps us to survive; it’s much easier to find food, shelter, and other necessities with a group than alone. Deprived of human contact, most people become lonely and emotionally distressed.
Taser shock disrupts brain function, has implications for police interrogations
More than two million citizens have been Tased by police as Taser stun guns have become one of the preferred less-lethal weapons by police departments across the United States during the past decade. But what does that 50,000-volt shock do to a person’s brain?
Scientists shed new light on workings of genetic regulation
A team of scientists has uncovered greater intricacy in protein signaling than was previously understood, shedding new light on the nature of genetic production.
Stem cells regulate their own proliferation and their microenvironment
A study by researchers at the Centro Nacional de Investigaciones Cardiovasculares Carlos III (CNIC) has identified a new mechanism through which hematopoietic stem cells (HSCs) control both their own proliferation and the characteristics of the niche that houses them. This control is exercised by the protein E-Selectin Ligand-1 (ESL-1).
Are you multicellular? Thank a random mutation that created a new protein
All it took was one mutation more than 600 million years ago. With that random act, a new protein function was born that helped our single-celled ancestor transition into an organized multicellular organism. That’s the scenario — done with some molecular time travel — that emerged from basic research in the lab of University of Oregon biochemist Ken Prehoda.
Schizophrenia linked to loss of cells in the brain’s memory center
Scientists at Columbia University’s Mortimer B. Zuckerman Mind Brain Behavior Institute, Columbia University Medical Center (CUMC), and the Université Paris Descartes have found that deficits in social memory–a crucial yet poorly understood feature of psychiatric disorders such as schizophrenia–may be due to a decrease in the number of a particular class of brain cells, called inhibitory neurons, in a little-explored region within the brain’s memory center.
New genes born by accident lead to evolutionary innovation
Novel genes are continuously emerging during evolution, but what drives this process? A new study has found that the fortuitous appearance of certain combinations of elements in the genome can lead to the generation of new genes.
A faster way to evaluate synthetic metabolic pathways
A central challenge in the field of metabolic engineering is the efficient identification of a metabolic pathway genotype that maximizes specific productivity over a robust range of process conditions. A review from researchers at Michigan State University in East Lansing, MI covers the challenges of optimizing specific productivity of metabolic pathways in cells and new advances in pathway creation and screening.
3-D footage of nematode brains links neurons with motion and behavior
Princeton University researchers have captured among the first recordings of neural activity in nearly the entire brain of a free-moving animal. The three-dimensional recordings could provide scientists with a better understanding of how neurons coordinate action and perception in animals. The researchers reported a technique that allowed them to record 3-D footage of neural activity in the nematode Caenorhabditis elegans, a worm species 1 millimeter long with a nervous system containing a mere 302 neurons.
Discovery puts designer dopamine neurons within reach
For decades, the elusive holy grail in Parkinson’s disease research has been finding a way to repair faulty dopamine neurons and put them back into patients, where they will start producing dopamine again. Researchers have used fetal material, which is difficult to obtain and of variable quality. Embryonic stem cells represented a tremendous innovation, but making dopamine neurons from stem cells is a long process with a low yield.
Healthy or sick? Tiny cell bubbles may hold the answer
Rutgers scientists have uncovered biological pathways in the roundworm that provide insight into how tiny bubbles released by cells can have beneficial health effects, like promoting tissue repair, or may play a diabolical role and carry disease signals for cancer or neurodegenerative diseases like Alzheimer’s.
Seeing viruses in a new light
Want to make a virus? It’s easy: combine one molecule of genomic nucleic acid, either DNA or RNA, and a handful of proteins, shake, and in a fraction of a second you’ll have a fully-formed virus. While that may sound like the worst infomercial ever, in many cases making a virus really is that simple. Viruses such as influenza spread so effectively, and as a result can be so deadly to their hosts, because of their ability to spontaneously self-assemble in large numbers.
No two faces are the same
For the very first time, researchers have been able to show that the causes of congenital face blindness can be traced back to an early stage in the perceptual process. These findings are crucial, not just for our understanding of face recognition, but also because they allow us to understand the processes behind the recognition of any visually presented object.
Novel insights into genetic cause of autoimmune diseases
A collaboration between researchers at the Babraham Institute and the University of Manchester has mapped the physical connections occurring in the genome to shed light on the parts of the genome involved in autoimmune diseases. Using a new technique, called Capture Hi-C, the team revealed novel insights into how changes in the genetic sequence have a biological effect and increase the risk of disease.
Synapse discovery could lead to new treatments for Alzheimer’s disease
A team of researchers led by UNSW Australia scientists has discovered how connections between brain cells are destroyed in the early stages of Alzheimer’s disease – work that opens up a new avenue for research on possible treatments for the degenerative brain condition.
Stem cell study paves the way for patient therapies
Stem cells that have been specifically developed for use as clinical therapies are fit for use in patients, an independent study of their genetic make-up suggests. The research – which focused on human embryonic stem cells – paves the way for clinical trials of cell therapies to treat conditions such as Parkinson’s disease, age-related degeneration of the eyes and spinal cord injury.
Insights into protein structure could change the future of biomedicine
Researchers at the University of Waterloo have discovered a new way to create designer proteins that have the potential to transform biotechnology and personalized medicines.
Dopamine measurements reveal insights into how we learn
Virginia Tech Carilion Research Institute scientists have reported measurements of dopamine release with unprecedented temporal precision in the brains of people with Parkinson’s disease. The measurements, collected during brain surgery as the conscious patients played an investment game, demonstrate how rapid dopamine release encodes information crucial for human choice.
The mysterious fungus that has major health consequences
Researchers at the University of Toronto examined fungi in the mucus of patients with cystic fibrosis and discovered how one particularly cunning fungal species has evolved to defend itself against neighbouring bacteria. A regular resident of our microbiome – and especially ubiquitous in the lungs of cystic fibrosis patients -the Candida albicans fungus is an “opportunistic pathogen.”
Inflammation linked to weakened reward circuits in depression
About one third of people with depression have high levels of inflammation markers in their blood. New research indicates that persistent inflammation affects the brain in ways that are connected with stubborn symptoms of depression, such as anhedonia, the inability to experience pleasure.
Yin and yang of serotonin neurons in mood regulation
Low levels of serotonin in the brain are known to play a role in depression and anxiety, and it is customary to treat these disorders with medications that increase the amount of this neurotransmitter. However, a new study carried out by researchers suggests that this approach may be too simple. It appears that neighboring serotonin-producing brainstem regions exert different and sometimes opposing effects on behavior.
The rise of do-it-yourself biology
The Wilson Center’s Synthetic Biology Project has released a short documentary on the growth of the do-it-yourself biology (DIYbio) movement as seen through a community DIYbio lab in Baltimore, Maryland.
A protein-RNA structure hints at how viruses commandeer human proteins
Researchers at Case Western Reserve University and the University of Michigan have produced the first image of an important human protein as it binds with ribonucleic acid (RNA), a discovery that could offer clues to how some viruses, including HIV, control expression of their genetic material. That information could lead to new strategies to block viruses from replicating, thereby limiting or halting infection.
The first line of defense? Think Mucus
By licking a wound it heals faster — this is not simply popular belief, but scientifically proven. Our saliva consists of water and mucus, among other things, and the mucus plays an important role. It stimulates white blood cells to build a good defense against invaders, according to a group of researchers at Lund University in Sweden together with colleagues from Copenhagen and Odense in Denmark.
Brain’s immune system could be harnessed to fight Alzheimer’s
A new study suggests that the brain’s immune system could potentially be harnessed to help clear the amyloid plaques that are a hallmark of Alzheimer’s disease.
Lack of ZZZZs may zap cell growth, brain activity
Lack of adequate sleep can do more than just make you tired. It can short-circuit your system and interfere with a fundamental cellular process that drives physical growth, physiological adaptation and even brain activity, according to a new study. Albrecht von Arnim, a molecular biologist based in the Department of Biochemistry and Cellular and Molecular Biology, studied plants but said the concepts may well translate to humans.