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We're a little crazy, about science!

Posts tagged “molecular biology

Cold medicine could stop cancer spread

cold medicine

cold medicine

Bladder cancer is the seventh most common cancer in males worldwide. Every year, about 20,000 people in Japan are diagnosed with bladder cancer, of whom around 8,000–mostly men–succumb to the disease. Bladder cancers can be grouped into two types: non-muscle-invasive cancers, which have a five-year survival rate of 90 percent, and muscle-invasive cancers, which have poor prognoses.

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Vitamins A and C help erase cell memory

epigenetics

epigenetics

Vitamins A and C aren’t just good for your health, they affect your DNA too. Researchers have discovered how vitamins A and C act to modify the epigenetic ‘memory’ held by cells; insight which is significant for regenerative medicine and our ability to reprogramme cells from one identity to another.

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Research team may have observed building blocks of memories in the brain

memory

memory

A team of researchers has observed what they believe are the building blocks of memories in a mouse brain. In their paper, the researchers describe how they caused certain neurons to become illuminated when they fired, allowing them to watch in real time as memories were made and then later as they were replayed while the mouse was sitting idle.

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Caffeine reverts memory deficits by normalizing stress responses in the brain

coffee brain

coffee brain

A new study describes the mechanism by which caffeine counteracts age-related cognitive deficits in animals. The international teams showed that the abnormal expression of a particular receptor – the adenosine A2A, target for caffeine – in the brain of rats induces an aging-like profile namely memory impairments linked to the loss of stress controlling mechanisms.

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Why you’re stiff in the morning: Your body suppresses inflammation when you sleep at night

joint pain in the morning

joint pain in the morning

Feeling stiff first thing in the morning? It’s not your imagination, new research has found a protein created by the body’s “biological clock” that actively represses inflammatory pathways within the affected limbs during the night. This protein, called CRYPTOCHROME, has proven anti-inflammatory effects in cultured cells and presents new opportunities for the development of drugs that may be used to treat inflammatory diseases and conditions, such as arthritis.

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FAMIN or feast? Newly discovered mechanism influences how immune cells ‘eat’ invaders

macrophage

macrophage

A new mechanism that affects how our immune cells perform – and hence their ability to prevent disease – has been discovered by an international team of researchers. To date, researchers have identified hundreds of genetic variants that increase or decrease the risk of developing diseases from cancer and diabetes to tuberculosis and mental health disorders.

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Researchers temporarily turn off brain area to better understand function

parts of the brain

parts of the brain

Capitalizing on experimental genetic techniques, researchers have demonstrated that temporarily turning off an area of the brain changes patterns of activity across much of the remaining brain. The research suggests that alterations in the functional connectivity of the brain in humans may be used to determine the sites of pathology in complex disorders such as schizophrenia and autism.

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Organic computers are coming

organic computer

organic computer

Move over silicon, tomorrow’s computers could be made of something completely different. A team of international researchers managed to find a molecule that, to their opinion, could give the impetus to the development of organic electronics.

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New supplement may switch off cravings for high-calorie foods

sweets

sweets

Eating a type of powdered food supplement, based on a molecule produced by bacteria in the gut, reduces cravings for high-calorie foods such as chocolate, cake and pizza, a new study suggests. Scientists asked 20 volunteers to consume a milkshake that either contained an ingredient called inulin-propionate ester, or a type of fibre called inulin.

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Unlocking the secrets of nerve regeneration

nerve regenreation

nerve regenreation

Nerves in the central nervous system of adult mammals do not usually regenerate when injured. The granule cell, a nerve cell located in the cerebellum, is different. When its fibres, called parallel fibres, are cut, rapid regeneration ensues and junctions with other neurons called “synapses” are rebuilt. The precise mechanism for this was unclear.

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New method to grow and transplant muscle stem cells holds promise for treatment of MD

muscle

Satellite cells are stem cells found in skeletal muscles. While transplantation of such muscle stem cells can be a potent therapy for degenerative muscle diseases such as Duchenne muscular dystrophy, these cells tend to lose their transplantation efficiency when cultured in vitro.

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New tool brings personalized medicine closer

personalized medicine

personalized medicine

Scientists have developed a powerful tool for exploring and determining the inherent biological differences between individuals, which overcomes a major hurdle for personalized medicine.

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Uncovering the genetic elements that drive regeneration

deadpool tiny hand
deadpool tiny hand

It’s still growing, but it’s already bigger than Trumps….

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?

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Organic nanowires destroy the competition

nanowires

nanowires

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.

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Study finds vast diversity among bacteriophages

bacteriophage

bacteriophage

Viruses that infect bacteria are among the most abundant life forms on Earth. Indeed, our oceans, soils and potentially even our bodies would be overrun with bacteria were it not for bacteria-eating viruses, called bacteriophages, that keep the microbial balance of ecological niches in check. Now, a new study suggests that bacteriophages made of RNA — a close chemical cousin of DNA — likely play a much larger role in shaping the bacterial makeup of worldwide habitats than previously recognized.

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Frankenstein’s E. Coli: How an artificial protein rescues dying cells

it's alive!

it's alive!

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.

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Preemies’ gut bacteria reveal vast scope of antibiotic resistance

premature baby

premature baby

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.

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What makes the brain so fast?

Neuron connections in the brain

Neuron connections in the brain

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.

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A way to track and stop human and agricultural viruses

Virus Artwork

Virus Artwork

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.

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We can build it better: Synthetic biopathway turns agriculture waste into ‘green’ products

synthetic biology art

synthetic biology art

Researchers at the University of Minnesota have engineered a new synthetic biopathway that can more efficiently and cost-effectively turn agricultural waste, like corn stover and orange peels, into a variety of useful products ranging from spandex to chicken feed.

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60 genetic disorders affect skin and nervous system

60 genetic disorders affect skin and nervous system

60 genetic disorders affect skin and nervous system

One of the most common genetic disorders is a condition called neurofibromatosis, which causes brown spots on the skin and benign tumors on the brain, spinal cord and other parts of the nervous system. Neurofibromatosis is one of at least 60 genetic diseases called neurocutaneous disorders that involve the skin, central nervous system, and/or peripheral nervous system.

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Nanodevice, build thyself

Nanodevice, build thyself

Nanodevice, build thyself

As we continue to shrink electronic components, top-down manufacturing methods begin to approach a physical limit at the nanoscale. Rather than continue to chip away at this limit, one solution of interest involves using the bottom-up self-assembly of molecular building blocks to build nanoscale devices.

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Are you multicellular? Thank a random mutation that created a new protein

Evolution of an ancient protein function involved in organized multicellularity in animals - See more at: http://elifesciences.org/content/5/e10147#sthash.yue93BBd.dpuf
Evolution of an ancient protein function involved in organized multicellularity in animals - See more at: http://elifesciences.org/content/5/e10147#sthash.yue93BBd.dpuf

Get it? Cell division, well long division anyway…

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.

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LSD changes consciousness by reorganizing human brain networks

LSD changes consciousness by reorganizing human brain networks

LSD changes consciousness by reorganizing human brain networks

LSD is known to cause changes in consciousness, including “ego-dissolution”, or a loss of the sense of self. Despite a detailed knowledge of the action of LSD at specific serotonin receptors, it has not been understood how this these pharmacological effects can translate into such a profound effect on consciousness.

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Seeing viruses in a new light

Seeing viruses in a new light

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.

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How is a developing brain assembled?

NIH 3-D software tracks worm embryo's brain development

A new, open-source software that can help track the embryonic development and movement of neuronal cells throughout the body of the worm, is now available to scientists.

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Novel insights into genetic cause of autoimmune diseases

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.

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The silence of the genes, an epigenetic tale

The silence of the genes

Research led by Dr. Keiji Tanimoto from the University of Tsukuba, Japan, has brought us closer to understanding the mechanisms underlying the phenomenon of genomic imprinting. In this intriguing event, one copy of a gene is ‘turned off’, or silenced, depending on whether it was derived from the mother or the father.

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Synapse discovery could lead to new treatments for Alzheimer’s 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.

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Insights into protein structure could change the future of biomedicine

New insights into protein structure could change the future of biomedicine

New 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.

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Intestinal worms ‘talk’ to gut bacteria to boost immune system

Intestinal worms 'talk' to gut bacteria to boost immune system

This is the helminth Heligmosomoides polygyrus bakeri (Hpb), which infects rodents. Here seen under fluorescent staining. Hpb was used in the mouse part of this study.
Image credit goes to: Nicola Harris/EPFL

When you think parasites you probably don’t think of anything helpful. However, this isn’t the case and certain parasites inadvertently help the host by helping themselves. In fact, researchers have discovered how intestinal worm infections cross-talk with gut bacteria to help the immune system.

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Scientists identify key receptor as potential target for treatment of autism

Scientists identify key receptor as potential target for treatment of autism

Scientists from the Florida campus of The Scripps Research Institute (TSRI) have uncovered a significant–and potentially treatable–relationship between a chemical that helps transmit signals in the brain and genetic mutations present in a subset of individuals with autism spectrum disorder. The new research findings focus on the role that the neurotransmitter serotonin plays in the development of social behavior.

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Genetic overlaps in autoimmune diseases may suggest common therapies

Genetic overlapping in multiple autoimmune diseases may suggest common therapies

Scientists who analyzed the genes involved in 10 autoimmune diseases that begin in childhood have discovered 22 genome-wide signals shared by two or more diseases. These shared gene sites may reveal potential new targets for treating many of these diseases, in some cases with existing drugs already available for non-autoimmune disorders.

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Scientists discover what controls waking up and going to sleep

Scientists discover what controls waking up and going to sleep

Fifteen years ago, an odd mutant fruit fly caught the attention and curiosity of Dr. Ravi Allada, a circadian rhythms expert at Northwestern University, leading the neuroscientist to recently discover how an animal’s biological clock wakes it up in the morning and puts it to sleep at night. The clock’s mechanism, it turns out, is much like a light switch.

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Study details ‘rotten egg’ gas’ role in autoimmune disease

Penn study details 'rotten egg' gas' role in autoimmune disease

The immune system not only responds to infections and other potentially problematic abnormalities in the body, it also contains a built-in brake in the form of regulatory T cells, or Tregs. Tregs ensure that inflammatory responses don’t get out of hand and do damage. In autoimmune diseases, sometimes these Treg cells don’t act as they should.

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What’s that!? Brain network that controls, redirects attention identified

social media overload

Researchers at Columbia University Medical Center (CUMC) have found that key parts of the human brain network that give us the power to control and redirect our attention–a core cognitive ability–may be unique to humans. The research suggests that the network may have evolved in response to increasingly complex social cues.

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How the tumor escapes the immune response

lymphoma

Natural killer cells of the immune system can fend off malignant lymphoma cells and thus are considered a promising therapeutic approach. However, in the direct vicinity of the tumor they lose their effect. Scientists have now elucidated which mechanisms block the natural killer cells and how this blockade could be lifted.

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Long-term memories are maintained by prion-like proteins

memories in the brain

memories in the brain

Research from Columbia University Medical Center (CUMC) has uncovered further evidence of a system in the brain that persistently maintains memories for long periods of time. And paradoxically, it works in the same way as mechanisms that cause mad cow disease, kuru, and other degenerative brain diseases.

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Novel DNA repair mechanism brings new horizons

RNA Polymerase

Estimated structure of the nucleosomal DNA loops, which are temporarily formed during transcription of chromatin containing intact DNA by RNA polymerase II (Pol II). In the presence of a single-strand DNA break, the loop structure likely changes, preventing rotation of the RNA polymerase along the DNA helix (orange arrow).
Image credit goes to: Nadezhda S. Gerasimova et al

The DNA molecule is chemically unstable giving rise to DNA lesions of different nature. That is why DNA damage detection, signaling and repair, collectively known as the DNA damage response, are needed. A group of researchers discovered a new mechanism of DNA repair, which opens up new perspectives for the treatment and prevention of neurodegenerative diseases.

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How your brain knows it’s summer

brain in the summertime

brain in the summertime

Researchers led by Toru Takumi at the RIKEN Brain Science Institute in Japan have discovered a key mechanism underlying how animals keep track of the seasons. The study shows how circadian clock machinery in the brain encodes seasonal changes in daylight duration through GABA activity along with changes in the amount of chloride located inside certain neurons.

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Researchers find genetic link between overactive and underactive immune systems

Girl getting sick

In the largest genetic study to date of a challenging immunodeficiency disorder, scientists have identified a gene that may be a “missing link” between overactive and underactive immune activity. The gene candidate also plays a key role in autoimmune diseases such as type 1 diabetes, rheumatoid arthritis and even allergies.

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Squid prolifically edit RNA to enrich their DNA

squid

DNA, it’s what makes us, well us! Not that long ago, before we sequenced human DNA we assumed we had one of the largest genomes around. Frankly it wasn’t a bad assumption, but of course we found out this was far from the case and to make ourselves feel better we said size doesn’t matter. But one of the surprising discoveries to emerge from comparative genomics is that drastically different organisms–humans, sea urchins, worms, flies –are endowed with a more or less common set of genes. So given a similar DNA blueprint, how do species develop such vast differences in physical shape, size, and complexity?

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