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Updated: 11 min 23 sec ago

Lifelong learning is made possible by recycling of histones, study says

Thu, 02/07/2015 - 10:17

Neurons are a limited commodity; each of us goes through life with essentially the same set we had at birth. But these cells, whose electrical signals drive our thoughts, perceptions, and actions, are anything but static. They change and adapt in response to experience throughout our lifetimes, a process better known as learning.

Scientists unravel elusive structure of HIV protein

Thu, 02/07/2015 - 10:17


The HIV capsid protein plays a critical role in the virus' life cycle. Mizzou researchers recently developed the most complete model yet of this vital protein. HIV, or human immunodeficiency virus, is the retrovirus that leads to acquired immunodeficiency syndrome or AIDS. Globally, about 35 million people are living with HIV, which constantly adapts and mutates creating challenges for researchers. Now, scientists at the University of Missouri are gaining a clearer idea of what a key protein in HIV looks like, which will help explain its vital role in the virus' life cycle. Armed with this clearer image of the protein, researchers hope to gain a better understanding of how the body can combat the virus with the ultimate aim of producing new and more effective antiviral drugs.

Why human egg cells don't age well

Thu, 02/07/2015 - 10:17


Chromosomes are seen as red, and kinetochores are green. (A-B) Bivalent appears normal (green arrows). (C) Bivalent begins to hyperstretch (orange arrows). When egg cells form with an incorrect number of chromosomes--a problem that increases with age--the result is usually a miscarriage or a genetic disease such as Down syndrome. Now, researchers at the RIKEN Center for Developmental Biology in Japan have used a novel imaging technique to pinpoint a significant event that leads to these types of age-related chromosomal errors. Published in Nature Communications, the study shows that as egg cells mature in older women, paired copies of matching chromosomes often separate from each other at the wrong time, leading to early division of chromosomes and their incorrect segregation into mature egg cells.

A microtubule 'roadway' in the retina helps provide energy for vision

Tue, 30/06/2015 - 00:10


Fluorescently labeled microtubules extend from the tips of the dendrites (top) into the axon and down into the giant synaptic terminal (bottom) of a single isolated goldfish retinal bipolar cell. A loop of microtubules encircles the inner plasma membrane of the terminal and anchors mitochondria. Researchers have discovered a thick band of microtubules in certain neurons in the retina that they believe acts as a transport road for mitochondria that help provide energy required for visual processing. The findings appear in the July issue of The Journal of General Physiology.

Researchers discover how petunias know when to smell good

Tue, 30/06/2015 - 00:10


University of Washington researchers have discovered a link between floral scent release and circadian rhythms in the common garden petunia. Good timing is a matter of skill. You would certainly dress up for an afternoon business meeting, but not an evening session of binge-watching Netflix. If you were just a few hours off in your wardrobe timing, your spouse might wonder why you slipped into a stiff business suit to watch "House of Cards."

Flatworms could replace mammals for some toxicology tests

Tue, 30/06/2015 - 00:10

Laboratories that test chemicals for neurological toxicity could reduce their use of laboratory mice and rats by replacing these animal models with tiny aquatic flatworms known as freshwater planarians.

Scientists identify a calcium channel essential for deep sleep

Fri, 26/06/2015 - 23:24


Rodolfo Llinás of New York University School of Medicine at the MBL, Woods Hole, where he spends each summer as a Whitman Center iInvestigator. Sleep seems simple enough, a state of rest and restoration that almost every vertebrate creature must enter regularly in order to survive. But the brain responds differently to stimuli when asleep than when awake, and it is not clear what brain changes happen during sleep. "It is the same brain, same neurons and similar requirements for oxygen and so on, so what is the difference between these two states?" asks Rodolfo Llinás, a professor of neuroscience at New York University School of Medicine and a Whitman Center Investigator at the Marine Biological Laboratory (MBL) in Woods Hole. In a recent paper, Choi, Yu, Lee, and Llinás announced that a specific calcium channel plays a crucial role in healthy sleep, a key step toward understanding both normal and abnormal waking brain functions.

Scientists identify 'decoy' molecule that could help sharply reduce risk of flu death

Fri, 26/06/2015 - 23:24

The flu virus can be lethal. But what is often just as dangerous is the body's own reaction to the invader. This immune response consists of an inflammatory attack, meant to kill the virus. But if it gets too aggressive, this counterattack can end up harming the body's own tissues, causing damage that can lead to death.

Nanoparticle 'wrapper' delivers chemical that stops fatty buildup in rodent arteries

Wed, 24/06/2015 - 00:49

In what may be a major leap forward in the quest for new treatments of the most common form of cardiovascular disease, scientists at Johns Hopkins report they have found a way to halt and reverse the progression of atherosclerosis in rodents by loading microscopic nanoparticles with a chemical that restores the animals' ability to properly handle cholesterol.

Stanford research sheds light on how neurons control muscle movement

Wed, 24/06/2015 - 00:49

Stanford University researchers studying how the brain controls movement in people with paralysis, related to their diagnosis of Lou Gehrig's disease, have found that groups of neurons work together, firing in complex rhythms to signal muscles about when and where to move.

Re-booting the human gut

Wed, 17/06/2015 - 13:10

For decades, American travelers to international destinations have been plagued by acute gastrointestinal illnesses that can arise from travel to other countries. The Center for Disease Control (CDC) warns that depending on the destination, between 30 to 70 percent of travelers can expect to experience gastrointestinal distress from ingesting foreign or pathogenic bacteria that can be present in poorly sanitized water or food.

Complex, large-scale genome analysis made easier

Wed, 17/06/2015 - 13:10


The mSet algorithm by Oliver Stegle at EMBL-EBI makes large-scale, complex genome analyses easier. Researchers at EMBL-EBI have developed a new approach to studying the effect of multiple genetic variations on different traits. The new algorithm, published in Nature Methods, makes it possible to perform genetic analysis of up to 500,000 individuals - and many traits - at the same time.

Tracking the viral parasites cruising our waterways

Wed, 17/06/2015 - 13:10


This is a map of fecal viruses across the globe. Red shades indicate severe concentrations of the deadly rotavirus (based on data from approximately year 2010). Humans aren't the only ones who like to cruise along the waterways, so do viruses. For the first time, a map of fecal viruses traveling our global waterways has been created using modeling methods to aid in assessing water quality worldwide.

Tissue 'scaffold' technology could help rebuild large organs

Wed, 17/06/2015 - 13:10

Scientists have developed a new tissue 'scaffold' technology that could one day enable the engineering of large organs.

Large doses of antioxidants may be harmful to neuronal stem cells

Fri, 12/06/2015 - 02:06

Stem cells are especially sensitive to oxygen radicals and antioxidants shows new research from the group of Anu Wartiovaara in the Molecular Neurology Research Program of University of Helsinki. The research led by researcher Riikka Martikainen was published in Cell Reports -journal May 28th 2015.

Is eating for 2 a good idea? Maintaining a healthy weight during pregnancy helps mother and baby

Fri, 12/06/2015 - 02:06

Pregnant women can improve their health and even reduce the risk of complications during childbirth by maintaining a healthy weight through diet and exercise. Research has shown that gaining too much weight during pregnancy increases the risk of gestational diabetes, high blood pressure, large babies, and delivery by caesarean section; and newborns with large birth weights are at risk of childhood obesity.

Research on gonorrhea uncovers new immune system trigger

Fri, 12/06/2015 - 02:06

Researchers at the University of Toronto have uncovered how Gram-negative bacteria -- a broad class of bugs that cause diseases ranging from gonorrhea to diarrhea and pneumonia -- can trigger a reaction from our immune system. This discovery could lead to new therapies and treatments that use the immune system to fight infections instead of antibiotics.

Spider and centipede venom evolved from insulin-like hormone

Fri, 12/06/2015 - 02:06


This is a Darling Downs funnel-web spider. Its venom evolved from an insulin-like hormone. Funnel-web spider venom contains powerful neurotoxins that instantly paralyze prey (usually insects). Millions of years ago, however, this potent poison was just a hormone that helped ancestors of these spiders regulate sugar metabolism, similar to the role of insulin in humans. Surprisingly, this hormone's weaponization--described on June 11 in the journal Structure--occurred in arachnids as well as centipedes, but in different ways.

UMN scientists identify 2 mutations critical for MERS transmission from bats to humans

Fri, 12/06/2015 - 02:06

Researchers have identified two critical mutations allowing the deadly Middle East Respiratory Syndrome (MERS) virus to transmit from bats to humans. The findings were published in the most recent edition of the Journal of Virology.

The role of dendritic cells in keeping HIV in check without drugs

Fri, 12/06/2015 - 02:06


This image shows cell intrinsic responses against HIV-1 in conventional dendritic cells from Elite Controllers. Elite controllers (EC) are a small group of HIV-infected individuals who are able to suppress the virus in the absence of antiretroviral therapy. EC demonstrate that the human immune system, in principle, is capable of rendering HIV harmless. A study published on June 11th in PLOS Pathogens shows that dendritic cells (DC) of EC are supersensitive to early signs of HIV infection, and contribute to a stronger immune response than that seen in individuals who fail to control the virus in the long term.