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Updated: 16 weeks 4 days ago

Tiny microscopes reveal hidden role of nervous system cells

Thu, 28/04/2016 - 22:59

A microscope about the size of a penny is giving scientists a new window into the everyday activity of cells within the spinal cord. The innovative technology revealed that astrocytes--cells in the nervous system that do not conduct electrical signals and were traditionally viewed as merely supportive--unexpectedly react to intense sensation.

Gene therapy shows long-term benefit for treating rare blindness

Thu, 28/04/2016 - 22:59

Pioneering gene therapy has restored some vision to patients with a rare form of genetic blindness for as long as four years, raising hopes it could be used to cure common causes of vision loss, new University of Oxford research published today shows.

Bearded dragons show REM and slow wave sleep

Thu, 28/04/2016 - 22:59


Sleeping bearded dragon (Pogona vitticeps). Behavioural sleep is ubiquitous among animals, from insects to man. In humans, sleep is also characterized by brain activity: periods of slow-wave activity are each followed by short phases of Rapid-Eye-Movement sleep (REM sleep). These electrical features of brain sleep, whose functions are not well understood, have so far been described only in mammals and birds, but not in reptiles, amphibians or fish. Yet, birds are reptiles--they are the feathered descendants of the now extinct dinosaurs. How then did brain sleep evolve? Gilles Laurent and members of his laboratory at the Max Planck Institute for Brain Research in Frankfurt, Germany, describe for the first time REM and slow-wave sleep in a reptile, the Australian dragon Pogona vitticeps. This suggests that brain sleep dates back at least to the evolution of the amniotes, that is, to the beginning of the colonization of terrestrial landmass by vertebrate animals.

A 'tropical' parasitic disease emerges in the Canadian Arctic

Thu, 28/04/2016 - 22:59


Optical microscopy showing ooscysts of Cryptosporidium sp (in red). An outbreak of an intestinal parasite common in the tropics, known as Cryptosporidium, has been identified for the first time in the Arctic. The discovery was made in Nunavik, Quebec, by a team from the Research Institute of the McGill University Health Centre (RI-MUHC), in collaboration with the Nunavik Department of Public Health, Institut National de Santé Publique du Québec and Health Canada. The discovery, which was documented in the journal PLoS Neglected Tropical Diseases, could have long-term implications for the health of children in Nunavik and Nunavut's communities.

Decoding Zika to fight future outbreaks

Wed, 27/04/2016 - 22:45


Researcher Juan Carlos Saiz from the Department of Biotechnology of the Instituto Nacional de Investigación y Tecnología Agraria y Alimentaria in Madrid studying the Zika virus. The constant emergence of viral outbreaks has become a permanent threat to human health. Last year, Zika virus infected thousands of people in the Americas. It is also associated to several cases of neurological disorders and has raised worldwide public health alerts. Now due to the urgency, researchers are detailing the characteristics of the virus to find solutions.

Coral 'toolkit' allows floating larvae to transform into reef skeletons

Wed, 27/04/2016 - 22:45


A juvenile lace coral (Pocillopora damicornis), with coral tissue and algal symbionts (brown dots within the tissue) covering the newly grown skeleton. In a study published today, researchers from the University of Hawai'i at Mānoa (UHM), Rutgers University, and the University of Haifa identified key and novel components of the molecular "toolkit" that allow corals to build their skeletons (called biomineralization) and described when -- in the transformation from floating larvae to coral skeleton -- these components are used.

Scientists discover a surprising central role of darks in brain visual maps

Wed, 27/04/2016 - 22:45

Scientists have been studying how visual space is mapped in the cerebral cortex for many decades under the assumption that the map is equal for lights and darks. Surprisingly, recent work demonstrates that visual brain maps are dark-centric and that, just as stars rotate around black holes in the Universe, lights rotate around darks in the brain representation of visual space. The work was done by Jens Kremkow and collaborators in the laboratories of Jose Manuel Alonso at the State University of New York College of Optometry and will be published in the May 5, 2016 issue of Nature (advance online publication and press embargo lifted on April 27, 2016 at 1800 London time / 1300 US Eastern Time). A similar result will be reported in the same issue of Nature by Kuo-Sheng Lee et al. in the laboratories of David Fitzpatrick at the Max Planck Florida Institute for Neuroscience.

Revolutionary antibiotics will save the world

Mon, 25/04/2016 - 23:00

An international team of including the Lomonosov Moscow State University researchers discovered which enzyme enables Escherichia coli bacterium (E. coli) to breathe. The study is published in the Scientific Reports.

How Vibrio cholerae is attracted by bile revealed

Mon, 25/04/2016 - 23:00

A group of researchers from Osaka University, Hosei University, and Nagoya University have revealed the molecular mechanism that Vibrio cholerae, the etiological agent of cholera, is attracted by bile. This group has also successfully detected the ligand binding to the bacteria chemoreceptor in vivo for the first time. These results may significantly advance research on mechanism and control of V. cholerae.

Gene behind 'evolution in action' in Darwin's finches identified

Thu, 21/04/2016 - 22:10

Scientists from Princeton University and Uppsala University in Sweden have identified a specific gene that within a year helped spur a permanent physical change in a finch species in response to a drought-induced food shortage. The findings provide a genetic basis for natural selection that, when combined with observational data, could serve as a comprehensive model of evolution.

New insights in how blood vessels increase their size

Thu, 21/04/2016 - 22:10

A new study from the group of Holger Gerhardt (VIB/KU Leuven/Cancer Research UK/ MDC/BIH Berlin) in collaboration with Katie Bentley's Lab (Cancer Research UK/BIDMC-Harvard Medical School) addresses a long standing question in the wider field of developmental biology and tissue patterning in general, and in the vascular biology field in particular: 'What are the fundamental mechanisms controlling size and shape of tubular organ systems'. Whereas the most obvious way to grow a tube in size would be to add more building blocks (by proliferating cells) to enlarge its circumference, or to increase the size of the building blocks (the cells, hypertrophy), an alternative way would be to rearrange existing building blocks. Benedetta Ubezio, Raquel Blanco and colleagues under the direction of Holger Gerhardt and Katie Bentley now show that cell rearrangement is the way blood vessels switch from making new branches to increasing the size of a branch. The researchers also found that this switch is triggered by synchronization of cells under the influence of increasing levels of the growth factor VEGFA.

Bird genomes contain 'fossils' of parasites that now infect humans

Thu, 21/04/2016 - 22:10


The researchers found DNA 'fossils' of parasitic nematodes in seven groups of birds (clockwise): trogons, mesites, parrots, hummingbirds, hornbills, manakins, tinamous. In rare instances, DNA is known to have jumped from one species to another. If a parasite's DNA jumps to its host's genome, it could leave evidence of that parasitic interaction that could be found millions of years later -- a DNA 'fossil' of sorts. An international research team led from Uppsala University has discovered a new type of so-called transposable element that occurred in the genomes of certain birds and nematodes.

New genetic risk factors for myopia discovered

Thu, 21/04/2016 - 22:10

Myopia, also known as short-sightedness or near-sightedness, is the most common disorder affecting the eyesight and it is on the increase. The causes are both genetic and environmental. The Consortium for Refractive Error and Myopia (CREAM) has now made important progress towards understanding the mechanisms behind the development of the condition. This international group of researchers includes scientists involved in the Gutenberg Health Study of the University Medical Center of Johannes Gutenberg University Mainz (JGU). The team has uncovered nine new genetic risk factors which work together with education-related behavior as the most important environmental factor causing myopia to generate the disorder. The results of the study "Genome-wide joint meta-analyses of genetic main effects and interaction with education level identify additional loci for refractive error: The CREAM Consortium" have recently been published in the scientific journal Nature Communications.

Targeted missiles against aggressive cancer cells

Thu, 21/04/2016 - 00:03

Targeted missiles that can enter cancer cells and deliver lethal cell toxins without harming surrounding healthy tissue. This has been a long-standing vision in cancer research, but it has proved difficult to accomplish. A research group at Lund University in Sweden has now taken some crucial steps in this direction.

Building a CRISPR rainbow

Thu, 21/04/2016 - 00:03

CRISPRainbow, a new technology using CRISPR/Cas9 developed by scientists at UMass Medical School, allows researchers to tag and track up to seven different genomic locations in live cells. This labeling system, details of which were published in Nature Biotechnology, will be an invaluable tool for studying the structure of the genome in real time.

Parts of Europe may be exposed to dengue outbreaks

Thu, 21/04/2016 - 00:03

Global travel and climate change increase the risk for epidemics of the mosquito-borne dengue virus, and potentially other climate-sensitive infectious diseases, spreading into temperate areas. This according to a doctoral dissertation at Umeå University in Sweden.

Ancient DNA reveals evolution of giant bears in the Americas

Thu, 21/04/2016 - 00:03

The work of University of Adelaide researchers is shedding new light on the evolution of what are believed to be the largest bears that ever walked the Earth.

Transfer of gut bacteria affects brain function and nerve fiber insulation

Thu, 21/04/2016 - 00:03

Specific combinations of gut bacteria produce substances that affect myelin content and cause social avoidance behaviors in mice, according to a study conducted at the Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai and published today in the medical journal eLife. This research suggests that targeting intestinal bacteria, or their metabolites, could be one way to treat debilitating psychiatric disorders and demyelinating diseases, like multiple sclerosis.

Causes of childhood obesity complex, but families, media play key roles

Tue, 19/04/2016 - 23:30

Children's genetic risks for obesity may be reduced by interventions that strengthen family communication and help children manage their emotions and feelings of satiety, according to a new review of research on the problem.

Sonic hedgehog gene provides evidence that our limbs may have evolved from sharks' gills

Tue, 19/04/2016 - 23:30


This is a skeletal preparation of a late stage skate embryo. Latest analysis shows that human limbs share a genetic programme with the gills of cartilaginous fishes such as sharks and skates, providing evidence to support a century-old theory on the origin of limbs that had been widely discounted.