Biosingularity

Archive for October 2009

 

 

 

An interdisciplinary team of researchers has created a new, ultra-sensitive technique to analyze life-sustaining protein molecules. The technique may profoundly change the methodology of biomolecular studies and chart a new path to effective diagnostics and early treatment of complex diseases.Researchers from Boston University and Tufts University near Boston recently demonstrated an infrared spectroscopy technique that can directly identify the “vibrational fingerprints” of extremely small quantities of proteins, the machinery involved in maintaining living organisms.

 

via Identifying Molecules in Infrared Could Lead to New Medicines – US News and World Report.

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An article published online on September 1, 2009 in the Journal of Gerontology: Medical Sciences reported the results of a study of men and women aged 65 and older which revealed risk factors associated with dying over a 13 year average period.

via Premature death risk factor analysis points to inflammation.

Scientists have generated the most comprehensive map of the structural variation that exists among normal, healthy humans, according to a study published online today in Nature. Understanding normal variation between individuals is critical to identifying abnormal changes that may contribute to a wide variety of heritable diseases.

Image: Wikimedia commons

“I think it’s considered to be a landmark paper,” said geneticist Frank Speleman of the Center for Medical Genetics at Ghent University Hospital in Belgium, who was not involved in the work. “It’s quite important in the complete context of genome wide association studies and genetic predisposition.”

via Human variation revealed :The Scientist [7th October 2009].

University of Washington (UW) researchers have succeeded in engineering human tissue patches free of some problems that have stymied stem-cell repair for damaged hearts.

The disk-shaped patches can be fabricated in sizes ranging from less than a millimeter to a half-inch in diameter. Until now, engineering tissue for heart repair has been hampered by cells dying at the transplant core, because nutrients and oxygen reached the edges of the patch but not the center. To make matters worse, the scaffolding materials to position the cells often proved to be harmful.

VIDEO: University of Washington researchers in the Chuck Murry lab at the UW Institute of Stem Cell and Regenerative medicine engineered this heart repair patch from a mix of stem cells….

Click here for more information.

 

Heart tissue patches composed only of heart muscle cells couldn’t grow big enough or survive long enough to take hold after they were implanted in rodents, the researchers noted in their article, published last month in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. The researchers decided to look at the possibility of building new tissue with supply lines for the oxygen and nutrients that living cells require. Read the rest of this entry »

A Swiss research team has found that using an animal’s own brain cells (autologous transplant) to replace degenerated neurons in select brain areas of donor primates with simulated but asymptomatic Parkinson’s disease and previously in a motor cortex lesion model, provides a degree of brain protection and may be useful in repairing brain lesions and restoring function. Read the rest of this entry »

Researchers have shown how an antiviral protein produced by the immune system, dubbed tetherin, tames HIV and other viruses by literally putting them on a leash, to prevent their escape from infected cells. The insights reported in the October 30th issue of the journal Cell, a Cell Press publication, allowed the research team to design a completely artificial protein — one that did not resemble native tetherin in its sequence at all — that could nonetheless put a similar stop to the virus. Read the rest of this entry »

Simvastatin, a commonly used, cholesterol-lowering drug, may prevent Parkinson’s disease from progressing further. Neurological researchers at Rush University Medical Center conducted a study examining the use of the FDA-approved medication in mice with Parkinson’s disease and found that the drug successfully reverses the biochemical, cellular and anatomical changes caused by the disease. Read the rest of this entry »

A natural probiotic therapy may offer a new treatment option to ease symptoms of inflammatory bowel disease and promote the bodys own healing process.Up to 1 million people in the U.S. have inflammatory bowel disease IBD; the main types are ulcerative colitis and Crohns disease. With inflammatory bowel disease the inner lining of the intestines become inflamed and damaged. Symptoms include abdominal pain, diarrhea which may be bloody, weight loss, and rectal bleeding.A new study shows treatment with the probiotic Bacillus polyfermenticus reduced rectal bleeding, lessened tissue inflammation, and promoted weight gain in mice with colitis.

via Probiotics May Help Treat IBD Symptoms.

 

 

 

A doctor has some tried and true methods of helping her diagnose a disease: examining the lymph nodes, taking your temperature, that whole “turn your head and cough” thing. Now, we need to add one more: whole genome sequencing. Researchers at Yale have sequenced the genome of a patient in order to diagnose his condition, reportedly for the first time. Richard Lifton and his team examined the protein encoding portion of an infant’s DNA to determine whether or not he had Bartter’s syndrome (he didn’t). Though still too expensive to use in everyday clinical work, Lifton has shown that whole genome analysis is an effective and relatively quick method to diagnose some diseases. We’re going to be seeing a lot more of this.

 

via Yale Scientists Diagnose Illness Through Genome Sequencing | Singularity Hub.

 

 

 

An unusual experiment is offering some tantalizing clues about what goes on in the brain before we speak.

 

The study found that it takes about half a second to transform something we think into something we say. And three very different kinds of processing needed for speech are all happening in a small part of the brain called Broca’s area, which lies beneath the left temple.

via In Milliseconds, Brain Zips From Thought To Speech : NPR.

Medical researchers have long suspected that obscure bacteria living within the intestinal tract may help keep the human immune system in balance. An international collaboration co-led by scientists at NYU Langone Medical Center has now identified a bizarre-looking microbial species that can single-handedly spur the production of specialized immune cells in mice.

This remarkable activation of the immune response could point to a similar phenomenon in humans, helping researchers understand how gut-dwelling bacteria protect us from pathogenic bacteria, such as virulent strains of E. coli. The study, published in the Oct. 30, 2009, issue of Cell, also supports the idea that specific bacteria may act like neighborhood watchdogs at key locations within the small intestine, where they sense the local microbial community and sound the alarm if something seems amiss.

Caption: A little-known bacterial species called segmented filamentous bacterium, or SFB, can activate the production of specialized immune cells in mice. This scanning electron microscope image of an SFB colony shows a mass of long hair-like filaments created when the bacteria stay attached to each other after they divide. Credit: Credit: Ivaylo Ivanov and Dan Littman (NYU Langone Medical Center) and Doug Wei (Carl Zeiss SMT, Inc.)

Read the rest of this entry »

A research collaboration led by biologists and neuroscientists at the University of Pennsylvania has found a molecular pathway in the brain that is the cause of cognitive impairment due to sleep deprivation. Just as important, the team believes that the cognitive deficits caused by sleep deprivation, such as an inability to focus, learn or memorize, may be reversible by reducing the concentration of a specific enzyme that builds up in the hippocampus of the brain. Read the rest of this entry »

A genetic tendency to depression is much less likely to be realized in a culture centered on collectivistic rather than individualistic values, according to a new Northwestern University study.

In other words, a genetic vulnerability to depression is much more likely to be realized in a Western culture than an East Asian culture that is more about we than me-me-me.

The study coming out of the growing field of cultural neuroscience takes a global look at mental health across social groups and nations. Read the rest of this entry »

New research from Queen Mary, University of London and Harvard Medical School has revealed precisely why taking fish oils can help with conditions like rheumatoid arthritis.

In a paper published in Nature today*, researchers describe how the body converts an ingredient found in fish oils into another chemical called Resolvin D2 and how this chemical reduces the inflammation that leads to a variety of diseases.

The research also suggests that Resolvin D2 could be the basis for a new treatment for diseases including sepsis, stroke and arthritis. Unlike other anti-inflammatory drugs, this chemical does not seem to suppress the immune system. Read the rest of this entry »

To survive in hostile environments, cockroaches rely on their own vermin: Blattabacterium, a microbe that hitched a ride inside roaches 140 million years ago, and hasn’t left since.

Researchers who sequenced the Blattabacterium genome have found that it converts waste into molecules necessary for a roach to survive. Every cockroach is a testimony to the power of recycling — thanks to their microbes, they don’t even need to pee

 

 

 

 

via Cockroach Superpower No. 42: They Don’t Need to Pee | Wired Science | Wired.com.

Despite a 30-year lifespan that gives ample time for cells to grow cancerous, a small rodent species called a naked mole rat has never been found with tumors of any kind—and now biologists at the University of Rochester think they know why.

The findings, presented in today’s issue of the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, show that the mole rat’s cells express a gene called p16 that makes the cells “claustrophobic,” stopping the cells’ proliferation when too many of them crowd together, cutting off runaway growth before it can start. The effect of p16 is so pronounced that when researchers mutated the cells to induce a tumor, the cells’ growth barely changed, whereas regular mouse cells became fully cancerous.

Scientists discover that the naked mole rat, the only known cancerless animal, has two-tier defense against cancer. Credit: University of Rochester

Read the rest of this entry »

Cornell researchers have discovered a genetic mechanism in fruit flies that prevents two closely related species from reproducing, a finding that offers clues to how species evolve.

When two populations of a species become geographically isolated from each other, their genes diverge from one another over time.

Eventually, when a male from one group mates with a female from the other group, the offspring will die or be born sterile, as crosses between horses and donkeys produce sterile mules. At this point, they have become two distinct species. Read the rest of this entry »

A single injection of DNA into the eyes of four children born with a blindness-causing disease has given them enough vision to walk without help. The study, published today, confirms that if patients with this disease are given gene therapy early in life, the results can be dramatic.

via Gene Therapy Helps Blind Children See — Kaiser 2009 1024: 1 — ScienceNOW.

Our body’s activity levels fall and rise to the beat of our internal drums—the 24-hour cycles that govern fundamental physiological functions, from sleeping and feeding patterns to the energy available to our cells. Whereas the master clock in the brain is set by light, the pacemakers in peripheral organs are set by food availability. The underlying molecular mechanism was unknown.

Now, researchers at the Salk Institute for Biological Studies shed light on the long missing connection: A metabolic master switch, which, when thrown, allows nutrients to directly alter the rhythm of peripheral clocks.

Read the rest of this entry »

Brain signals can drive arm movement in a monkey with a paralyzed arm. A monkey with a paralyzed arm can still grasp a ball, thanks to a novel system designed to translate brain signals into complex muscle movements in real time. The research, presented at the Society for Neuroscience conference in Chicago this week, could one day allow people with spinal cord injury to control their own limbs.

Technology Review: Awakening Paralyzed Limbs.

Emory University researchers have identified the first fish known to have switched from ultraviolet vision to violet vision, or the ability to see blue light. The discovery is also the first example of an animal deleting a molecule to change its visual spectrum.

Their findings on scabbardfish, linking molecular evolution to functional changes and the possible environmental factors driving them, were published Oct. 13 in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

aption: The scabbardfish (Lepidopus fitchi) is now the only fish known to have switched from ultraviolet to violet vision, or the ability to see blue light.  Credit: Carol Clark, Emory University

aption: The scabbardfish (Lepidopus fitchi) is now the only fish known to have switched from ultraviolet to violet vision, or the ability to see blue light. Credit: Carol Clark, Emory University

Read the rest of this entry »

Researchers at Children’s Hospital Boston report that an enzyme known as Mst3b, previously identified in their lab, is essential for regenerating damaged axons (nerve fibers) in a live animal model, in both the peripheral and central nervous systems. Their findings, published online by Nature Neuroscience on October 25, suggest Mst3b – or agents that stimulate it – as a possible means of treating stroke, spinal cord damage and traumatic brain injury. Normally, neurons in the central nervous system (the brain and spinal cord) cannot regenerate injured nerve fibers, limiting people’s ability to recover from brain or spinal cord injuries. Read the rest of this entry »

Applying a small mechanical force to embryonic stem cells could be a new way of coaxing them into a specific direction of differentiation, researchers at the University of Illinois report. Applications for force-directed cell differentiation include therapeutic cloning and regenerative medicine. Read the rest of this entry »

Fate Therapeutics, Inc. announced today the generation of human induced-pluripotent stem cells (iPSCs) using a combination of small molecules that significantly improves the speed and efficiency of reprogramming. The discoveries, which were made by Sheng Ding, Ph.D. under a research collaboration between Fate Therapeutics and The Scripps Research Institute (TSRI), represent a more than 200-fold improvement in reprogramming efficiency and reduce the reprogramming period to two weeks as compared to methods using only the four reprogramming factors (Oct 3/4, Sox2, Klf4 and c-Myc).

Read the rest of this entry »

Red-eye flights, all-night study sessions, and extra-inning playoff games all deprive us of sleep and can leave us forgetful the next day. Now scientists have discovered that lost sleep disrupts a specific molecule in the brain's memory circuitry, possibly leading to treatments for tired brains.

via

Why Sleepyheads Forget — Torrice 2009 (1021): 1 — ScienceNOW.

October 15, 2009 A team led by scientists from The Scripps Research Institute has developed a method that dramatically improves the efficiency of creating stem cells from human adult tissue, without the use of embryonic cells. The research makes great strides in addressing a major practical challenge in the development of stem-cell-based medicine. Read the rest of this entry »

A 21-year Michigan State University experiment that distills the essence of evolution in laboratory flasks not only demonstrates natural selection at work, but could lead to biotechnology and medical research advances, researchers said.

Charles Darwin’s seminal Origin of Species first laid out the case for evolution exactly 150 years ago. Now, MSU professor Richard Lenski and colleagues document the process in their analysis of 40,000 generations of bacteria, published this week in the international science journal Nature.

Caption: E. coli cultures in the laboratory of Michigan State University evolutionary biologist Richard Lenski.  Credit: Greg Kohuth, Michigan State University

Caption: E. coli cultures in the laboratory of Michigan State University evolutionary biologist Richard Lenski. Credit: Greg Kohuth, Michigan State University

Read the rest of this entry »

Biologists long have marveled at the ability of some animals to re-grow lost body parts. Newts, for example, can lose a leg and grow a new one identical to the original. Zebrafish can re-grow fins.

These animals and others also can repair damaged heart tissue and injured structures in the eye. In contrast, humans have only rudimentary regenerative abilities, so scientists hoping eventually to develop ways of repairing or replacing damaged body parts are keenly interested in understanding in detail how the process of regeneration works. Read the rest of this entry »

An insight from the labs of Harvard chemist George Whitesides and cell biologist Don Ingber is likely to make a fundamental shift in how biologists grow and study cells – and it’s as cheap and simple as reaching for a paper towel.

Ratmir Derda, a postdoctoral student co-mentored by Whitesides and Ingber at Harvard’s new Wyss Institute for Biologically Inspired Engineering, has realized that by growing cells on several sheets of uncoated paper, he can solve a problem that has bedeviled biologists for years: how to easily grow and study cells that mimic the three-dimensionality of real tissue.

Endothelial cells grown in small stacks of paper, forming vessel-like structures that crawl among the cellulose fibers (cellulose fibers are purple, nucleus is yellow and the cytoskeleton is red). Harvard researchers have found that paper is an excellent medium for culturing cells with the accuracy of a 3-D medium and the simplicity of a 2-D one

Endothelial cells grown in small stacks of paper, forming vessel-like structures that crawl among the cellulose fibers (cellulose fibers are purple, nucleus is yellow and the cytoskeleton is red). Harvard researchers have found that paper is an excellent medium for culturing cells with the accuracy of a 3-D medium and the simplicity of a 2-D one - Credit: Ratmir Derda

Read the rest of this entry »

he cheeseburger and French fries might look tempting, but eating a serving of broccoli or leafy greens first could help people battle metabolic processes that lead to obesity and heart disease, a new University of Florida study shows.

Eating more plant-based foods, which are rich in substances called phytochemicals, seems to prevent oxidative stress in the body, a process associated with obesity and the onset of disease, according to findings published online in advance of the print edition of the Journal of Human Nutrition and Dietetics. Read the rest of this entry »

Groups of neurons that precisely keep time have been discovered in the primate brain by a team of researchers that includes Dezhe Jin, assistant professor of physics at Penn State University and two neuroscientists from the RIKEN Brain Science Institute in Japan and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT). “This research is the first time that precise time-keeping activities have been identified in recordings of neuron activity,” Jin said. The time-keeping neurons are in two interconnected brain regions, the prefrontal cortex and the striatum, both of which are known to play critical roles in learning, movement, and thought control. Read the rest of this entry »

Scientists who study RNA have faced a formidable roadblock: trying to examine RNA’s movements in a living cell when they can’t see the RNA. Now, a new technology has given scientists the first look ever at RNA in a live bacteria cell—a sight that could offer new information about how the molecule moves and works. Read the rest of this entry »

Memory fuzzy after missing out on sleep? Researchers may be one step closer to figuring out what to do about it.

Sleep deprivation makes it harder for the brain to memorize newly learned information, and scientists may have found a way around that problem.

Writing in Nature, University of Pennsylvania graduate student Christopher G. Vecsey, professor Ted Abel, PhD, and colleagues identify a chemical chain reaction linked to sleep deprivation — and a possible solution.

via Drugs May Save Memory of the Sleep-Deprived.

Researchers at the RIKEN SPring-8 Center have addressed how environmental stimuli are converted into biological signals using the highest resolution analysis of its kind to date. Their findings reveal that interaction between a particular kinase sensor and catalytic domains act as an on/off “switch” that triggers phosphorylation in response to environmental stimuli.

While advancing our understanding of environmental response in bacteria, the current findings could also accelerate the development of products such as antibacterial agents and plant growth regulators.

Microbial response system (two-component system)

Microbial response system (two-component system)

Read the rest of this entry »

Low doses of melatonin may help children with autism get a better night’s rest, researchers report.

Melatonin Helps Autistic Kids Sleep.

A diet rich in cruciferous and green leafy vegetables, nuts, fish, and tomatoes and low in red meat and high-fat dairy products may protect against Alzheimer’s disease, a study suggests.

Nuts, Vegetables, Fish Cut Alzheimer’s Risk.

Scientists prevented age-related changes in the hearts of mice and preserved heart function by suppressing a form of the PI3K gene, in a study reported inCirculation: Journal of the American Heart Association.

“The study provides evidence that delaying or preventing heart failure in humans may be possible,” said Tetsuo Shioi, M.D., Ph.D., senior author of the study and assistant professor of medicine at Kyoto University Graduate School of Medicine in Kyoto, Japan. Read the rest of this entry »

Scientists from the Universities of Michigan and Minnesota show in a research report published online in the FASEB Journal(http://www.fasebj.org) that gene therapy may be used to improve an ailing heart’s ability to contract properly. In addition to showing gene therapy’s potential for reversing the course of heart failure, it also offers a tantalizing glimpse of a day when “closed heart surgery” via gene therapy is as commonly prescribed as today’s cocktail of drugs.

Read the rest of this entry »

Adding the cancer drug Nexavar to standard chemotherapy significantly extends the time until advanced breast cancerprogresses, researchers report.

Nexavar May Treat Advanced Breast Cancer.

By disabling a gene involved in an important biochemical signaling pathway, scientists have discovered a way to mimic the well-known anti-aging benefits of caloric restriction, allowing mice to live longer and healthier lives. This finding, published online today in Science, offers a promising drug target for combating the many health problems associated with aging.

via Technology Review: Genetic Fountain of Youth.

For women, the odds of being healthy at age 70 are best for those who don't gain a lot of weight between ages 18 and 50 and who aren't obese at 50.

via Women’s Weight Tied to Healthy Aging .

Boosting brain waves can make people move in slow motion. This finding is one of the first to show that brain waves directly influence behaviour, and it could lead to new treatments for Parkinson's disease and other disorders that affect movement.

via Brain-wave boost sets us to slow motion – health – 02 October 2009 – New Scientist.

A portable instrument based on an ultrasensitive nanoscale sensor could detect bacteria in minutes, helping to catch infectious diseases early and prevent their spread. The simple, low-cost device should be available within three years, says Benjamin Miller, professor of dermatology and biomedical engineering at the University of Rochester Medical Center, and codeveloper of the sensor.

via Technology Review: Ultrafast DNA Nanosensor.

A new study suggests people who follow a traditional Mediterranean diet, rich in foods like vegetables, fruits, nuts, whole grains, olive oil, and fish, may be less likely to develop depression.

via Mediterranean Diet May Fight Depression.


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