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Updated: 54 min 53 sec ago

Scientists call for investigation of mysterious cloud-like collections in cells

Tue, 02/09/2014 - 01:25

About 50 years ago, electron microscopy revealed the presence of tiny blob-like structures that form inside cells, move around and disappear. But scientists still don't know what they do — even though these shifting cloud-like collections of proteins are believed to be crucial to the life of a cell, and therefore could offer a new approach to disease treatment.

Memory in silent neurons

Tue, 02/09/2014 - 01:25

When we learn, we associate a sensory experience either with other stimuli or with a certain type of behaviour. The neurons in the cerebral cortex that transmit the information modify the synaptic connections that they have with the other neurons. According to a generally-accepted model of synaptic plasticity, a neuron that communicates with others of the same kind emits an electrical impulse as well as activating its synapses transiently. This electrical pulse, combined with the signal received from other neurons, acts to stimulate the synapses. How is it that some neurons are caught up in the communication interplay even when they are barely connected? This is the crucial chicken-or-egg puzzle of synaptic plasticity that a team led by Anthony Holtmaat, professor in the Department of Basic Neurosciences in the Faculty of Medicine at UNIGE, is aiming to solve. The results of their research into memory in silent neurons can be found in the latest edition of Nature.

Small molecule acts as on-off switch for nature's antibiotic factory

Thu, 28/08/2014 - 23:58

The soil bacteria Streptomyces form filamentous branches that extend into the air to create spiraling towers of spores. Scientists have identified the developmental on-off switch for Streptomyces, a group of soil microbes that produce more than two-thirds of the world's naturally derived antibiotic medicines.

Ebola vaccine trials fast-tracked by international consortium

Thu, 28/08/2014 - 23:58

A candidate Ebola vaccine could be given to healthy volunteers in the UK, The Gambia and Mali as early as September, as part of an series of safety trials of potential vaccines aimed at preventing the disease that has killed more than 1,400 people in the current outbreak in West Africa.

Genomic sequencing reveals mutations, insights into 2014 Ebola outbreak

Thu, 28/08/2014 - 23:58

In response to an ongoing, unprecedented outbreak of Ebola virus disease (EVD) in West Africa, a team of researchers from the Broad Institute and Harvard University, in collaboration with the Sierra Leone Ministry of Health and Sanitation and researchers across institutions and continents, has rapidly sequenced and analyzed more than 99 Ebola virus genomes. Their findings could have important implications for rapid field diagnostic tests. The team reports its results online in the journal Science.

Encyclopedia of how genomes function gets much bigger

Thu, 28/08/2014 - 00:44

A big step in understanding the mysteries of the human genome was unveiled today in the form of three analyses that provide the most detailed comparison yet of how the genomes of the fruit fly, roundworm, and human function.

Walking fish reveal how our ancestors evolved onto land

Thu, 28/08/2014 - 00:44

About 400 million years ago a group of fish began exploring land and evolved into tetrapods – today's amphibians, reptiles, birds, and mammals. But just how these ancient fish used their fishy bodies and fins in a terrestrial environment and what evolutionary processes were at play remain scientific mysteries.

Attacking a rare disease at its source with gene therapy

Wed, 27/08/2014 - 00:45

Treating the rare disease MPS I is a challenge. MPS I, caused by the deficiency of a key enzyme called IDUA, eventually leads to the abnormal accumulation of certain molecules and cell death.

Evolutionary history of honeybees revealed by genomics

Tue, 26/08/2014 - 00:06

New findings show a surprisingly high level of genetic diversity in honeybees, and indicate that the species most probably originates from Asia, and not from Africa as previously thought. In a study published in Nature Genetics, researchers from Uppsala University present the first global analysis of genome variation in honeybees. The findings show a surprisingly high level of genetic diversity in honeybees, and indicate that the species most probably originates from Asia, and not from Africa as previously thought.

Zombie ant fungi 'know' brains of their hosts

Tue, 26/08/2014 - 00:06

A dead ant manipulated by a species of so-called "zombie ant fungus " clings to a twig in a South Carolina forest. A parasitic fungus that reproduces by manipulating the behavior of ants emits a cocktail of behavior-controlling chemicals when encountering the brain of its natural target host, but not when infecting other ant species, a new study shows.

How lizards regenerate their tails: researchers discover genetic 'recipe'

Thu, 21/08/2014 - 00:08

The green anole lizard (Anolis carolinensis), when caught by a predator, can lose its tail and then grow it back. By understanding the secret of how lizards regenerate their tails, researchers may be able to develop ways to stimulate the regeneration of limbs in humans. Now, a team of researchers from Arizona State University is one step closer to solving that mystery. The scientists have discovered the genetic "recipe" for lizard tail regeneration, which may come down to using genetic ingredients in just the right mixture and amounts.

Signs of deforestation in Brazil

Thu, 21/08/2014 - 00:08

Multiple fires are visible in in this image of the Para and Mato Grosso states of Brazil. Multiple fires are visible in in this image of the Para and Mato Grosso states of Brazil. Many of these were most likely intentionally set in order to deforest the land. Deforestation is the removal of a forest or stand of trees where the land is thereafter converted to a nonforest use. Examples of deforestation include conversion of forestland to farms, ranches, or urban use. The herringbone-patterned tan lines cutting through the dark green of the Amazon Rainforest in the middle of the image are evidence of deforestation in the Brazilian state of Pará. The deforestation in Pará follows the Brazialian national motorway BR 163, passing by cities such as Novo Progresso. The lower half of the image shows the state of Mato Grosso.

Pain treatments less effective for those with irritable bowel

Thu, 21/08/2014 - 00:08

University of Adelaide researchers have discovered that the immune system is defective in people suffering from irritable bowel syndrome, which is a major reason why sufferers have ongoing issues with pain.

Sequencing at sea

Tue, 19/08/2014 - 23:16

Daylight was breaking over the central Pacific and coffee brewing aboard the MY Hanse Explorer. Between sips, about a dozen scientists strategized for the day ahead. Some would don wetsuits and slip below the surface to collect water samples around the southern Line Islands' numerous coral reefs. Others would tinker with the whirring gizmos and delicate machinery strewn throughout the 158-foot research vessel. All shared a single goal: Be the first research group to bring a DNA sequencer out into the field to do remote sequencing in real time. Against an ocean of odds, they succeeded.

Antibacterial soap exposes health workers to high triclosan levels

Tue, 19/08/2014 - 23:16

Handwashing with antibacterial soap exposes hospital workers to significant and potentially unsafe levels of triclosan, a widely-used chemical currently under review by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration, according to a study led by researchers from UC San Francisco.

Giant Amazon fish becoming extinct in many fishing communities, saved in others

Thu, 14/08/2014 - 00:16

The arapaima fish, which once dominated Amazon fisheries, is long and can weigh as much as 400 pounds. An international team of scientists has discovered that a large, commercially important fish from the Amazon Basin has become extinct in some local fishing communities.

Single gene controls jet lag

Thu, 14/08/2014 - 00:16

A peptide responsible for cell communication in the brain, Vip (green) is reduced in the brains of mice that have little or no Lhx1 (right). Scientists at the Salk Institute for Biological Studies have identified a gene that regulates sleep and wake rhythms.

Researchers uncover how Ebola virus disables immune response

Thu, 14/08/2014 - 00:16

The Ebola outbreak in West Africa has brought a lot of attention to the deadly virus. According to the World Health Organization, up to 90% of those infected with Ebola die from the virus. Now, researchers publishing August 13 in the Cell Press journal Cell Host & Microbe reveal how Ebola blocks and disables the body's natural immune response. Understanding how Ebola disarms immune defenses will be crucial in the development of new treatments for the disease.

WSU researcher sees survival story in Antarctic fly's small genome

Tue, 12/08/2014 - 23:46

Few animals can boast of being as tough as the Antarctic midge. Its larvae develop over not one but two Antarctic winters, losing nearly half their body mass each time. It endures high winds, salt, and intense ultraviolet radiation. As an adult, the midge gets by without wings and lives for only a week or so before starting its life cycle all over again.

Team determines structure of a molecular machine that targets viral DNA for destruction

Fri, 08/08/2014 - 01:27

With a featured publication in the Aug. 7 issue of Science, Montana State University researchers have made a significant contribution to the understanding of a new field of DNA research, with the acronym CRISPR, that holds enormous promise for fighting infectious diseases and genetic disorders.