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Updated: 5 min 42 sec ago

Organ donation: Do we opt-in or opt-out?

Thu, 25/09/2014 - 00:26

Researchers say there should be an international database containing the very latest information about organ donations and transplants, so policy makers can make informed decisions on whether to adopt an opt-out or opt-in system.

Insect genomes' analysis challenges universality of essential cell division proteins

Thu, 25/09/2014 - 00:26

Cell division, the process that ensures equal transmission of genetic information to daughter cells, has been fundamentally conserved for over a billion years of evolution. Considering its ubiquity and essentiality, it is expected that proteins that carry out cell division would also be highly conserved. Challenging this assumption, scientists from Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center have found that one of the foundational proteins in cell division, previously shown to be essential in organisms as diverse as yeast, flies and humans, has been surprisingly lost on multiple occasions during insect evolution.

Eyeless Mexican cavefish eliminate circadian rhythm to save energy

Thu, 25/09/2014 - 00:26

Eyeless Mexican cavefish show no metabolic circadian rhythm in either light and dark or constant dark conditions, according to a study published September 24, 2014 in the open-access journal PLOS ONE by Damian Moran from Lund University, Sweden, and colleagues.

Termites evolved complex bioreactors 30 million years ago

Wed, 24/09/2014 - 00:19

Achieving complete breakdown of plant biomass for energy conversion in industrialized bioreactors remains a complex challenge, but new research shows that termite fungus farmers solved this problem more than 30 million years ago. The new insight reveals that the great success of termite farmers as plant decomposers is due to division of labor between a fungus breaking down complex plant components and gut bacteria contributing enzymes for final digestion.

A multi-function protein is key to stopping genomic parasites from 'jumping'

Wed, 24/09/2014 - 00:19

Most organisms, including humans, have parasitic DNA fragments called "jumping genes" that insert themselves into DNA molecules, disrupting genetic instructions in the process. And that phenomenon can result in age-related diseases such as cancer. But researchers at the University of Rochester now report that the "jumping genes" in mice become active as the mice age when a multi-function protein stops keeping them in check in order to take on another role.

Chimpanzees raised as pets or performers suffer long-term effects on their behavior

Wed, 24/09/2014 - 00:19

Although the immediate welfare consequences of removing infant chimpanzees from their mothers are well documented, little is known about the long-term impacts of this type of early life experience. In a year-long study, scientists from Lincoln Park Zoon observed 60 chimpanzees and concluded that those who were removed from their mothers early in life and raised by humans as pets or performers are likely to show behavioral and social deficiencies as adults.

Scientists discover an on-off switch for aging cells

Mon, 22/09/2014 - 22:29


Victoria Lundblad and Timothy Tucey are researchers at the Salk Institute. Scientists at the Salk Institute have discovered an on-and-off "switch" in cells that may hold the key to healthy aging. This switch points to a way to encourage healthy cells to keep dividing and generating, for example, new lung or liver tissue, even in old age.

New hadrosaur noses into spotlight

Sat, 20/09/2014 - 00:16


Rhinorex, a newly discovered dinosaur from the Late Cretaceous period, had an impressive nose. Call it the Jimmy Durante of dinosaurs – a newly discovered hadrosaur with a truly distinctive nasal profile. The new dinosaur, named Rhinorex condrupus by paleontologists from North Carolina State University and Brigham Young University, lived in what is now Utah approximately 75 million years ago during the Late Cretaceous period.

Research predicts possible 6,800 new Ebola cases this month

Sat, 20/09/2014 - 00:16

New research published today in the online journal PLoS Outbreaks predicts new Ebola cases could reach 6,800 in West Africa by the end of the month if new control measures are not enacted.

Melanoma risk found to have genetic determinant

Sat, 20/09/2014 - 00:16

A leading Dartmouth researcher, working with The Melanoma Genetics Consortium, GenoMEL, an international research consortium, co-authored a paper published today in the Journal of the National Cancer Institute that proves longer telomeres increase the risk of melanoma.

Parts of genome without a known function may play a key role in the birth of new proteins

Wed, 17/09/2014 - 23:48

Researchers in Biomedical Informatics at IMIM (Hospital del Mar Medical Research Institute) and at the Universitat Politècnica de Catalunya (UPC) have recently published a study in eLife showing that RNA called non-coding (IncRNA) plays an important role in the evolution of new proteins, some of which could have important cell functions yet to be discovered.

Iberian pig genome remains unchanged after 5 centuries

Wed, 17/09/2014 - 23:48

A team of Spanish researchers have obtained the first partial genome sequence of an ancient pig. Extracted from a sixteenth century pig found at the site of the Montsoriu Castle in Girona, the data obtained indicates that this ancient pig is closely related to today's Iberian pig. Researchers also discard the hypothesis that Asian pigs were crossed with modern Iberian pigs.

Counting fish teeth reveals regulatory DNA changes behind rapid evolution, adaptation

Wed, 17/09/2014 - 23:48


These are adult marine (top) and freshwater (bottom) threespine sticklebacks (Gasterosteus aculeatus) stained with a red dye that labels calcified bone. Sticklebacks, the roaches of the fish world, are the ideal animal in which to study the genes that control body shape. They've moved from the ocean into tens of thousands of freshwater streams and lakes around the world, each time changing their skeleton to adapt to the new environment.

Gut bacteria, artificial sweeteners and glucose intolerance

Wed, 17/09/2014 - 23:48


This image depicts gut microbiota. Artificial sweeteners, promoted as aids to weight loss and diabetes prevention, could actually hasten the development of glucose intolerance and metabolic disease; and they do it in a surprising way: by changing the composition and function of the gut microbiota – the substantial population of bacteria residing in our intestines. These findings, the results of experiments in mice and humans, were published today in Nature. Among other things, says Dr. Eran Elinav of the Weizmann Institute's Immunology Department, who led this research together with Prof. Eran Segal of Computer Science and Applied Mathematics Department, the widespread use of artificial sweeteners in drinks and food may be contributing to the obesity and diabetes epidemic that is sweeping much of the world.

Protein secrets of Ebola virus

Mon, 15/09/2014 - 23:20


This is a ribbon diagram showing the tertiary structure with secondary-structure elements identified and labeled. The current Ebola virus outbreak in West Africa, which has claimed more than 2000 lives, has highlighted the need for a deeper understanding of the molecular biology of the virus that could be critical in the development of vaccines or antiviral drugs to treat or prevent Ebola hemorrhagic fever. Now, a team at the University of Virginia (UVA), USA – under the leadership of Dr Dan Engel, a virologist, and Dr Zygmunt Derewenda, a structural biologist – has obtained the crystal structure of a key protein involved in Ebola virus replication, the C-terminal domain of the Zaire Ebola virus nucleoprotein (NP) [Dziubanska et al. (2014). Acta Cryst. D70, 2420-2429; doi:10.1107/S1399004714014710].

Gut bacteria tire out T cells

Mon, 15/09/2014 - 23:20

Leaky intestines may cripple bacteria-fighting immune cells in patients with a rare hereditary disease, according to a study by researchers in Lausanne, Switzerland. The study, published in The Journal of Experimental Medicine on September 15, may explain why these patients suffer from recurrent bacterial infections.

Researchers develop improved means of detecting mismatched DNA

Mon, 15/09/2014 - 23:20

Researchers at Johns Hopkins have identified a highly sensitive means of analyzing very tiny amounts of DNA. The discovery, they say, could increase the ability of forensic scientists to match genetic material in some criminal investigations. It could also prevent the need for a painful, invasive test given to transplant patients at risk of rejecting their donor organs and replace it with a blood test that reveals traces of donor DNA.

Decoding virus-host interactions in the oxygen-starved ocean

Mon, 15/09/2014 - 23:20

For multicellular life—plants and animals—to thrive in the oceans, there must be enough dissolved oxygen in the water. In certain coastal areas, extreme oxygen-starvation produces "dead zones" that decimate marine fisheries and destroy food web structure. As dissolved oxygen levels decline, energy is increasingly diverted away from multicellular life into microbial community metabolism resulting in impacts on the ecology and biogeochemistry of the ocean.

Neuroscientists identify key role of language gene

Mon, 15/09/2014 - 23:20

Neuroscientists have found that a gene mutation that arose more than half a million years ago may be key to humans' unique ability to produce and understand speech.

How skin falls apart: Pathology of autoimmune skin disease is revealed at the nanoscale

Thu, 11/09/2014 - 01:06

University at Buffalo researchers and colleagues studying a rare, blistering disease have discovered new details of how autoantibodies destroy healthy cells in skin. This information provides new insights into autoimmune mechanisms in general and could help develop and screen treatments for patients suffering from all autoimmune diseases, estimated to affect 5-10 percent of the U.S. population.