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Updated: 58 min 49 sec ago

Tarantula venom illuminates electrical activity in live cells

Tue, 21/10/2014 - 23:19

Researchers have created a cellular probe that combines a tarantula toxin with a fluorescent compound to help scientists observe electrical activity in neurons and other cells. The probe binds to a voltage-activated potassium ion channel subtype, lighting up when the channel is turned off and dimming when it is activated.

Physicists solve longstanding puzzle of how moths find distant mates

Tue, 21/10/2014 - 23:19

The way in which male moths locate females flying hundreds of meters away has long been a mystery to scientists.

Amphibians being wiped out by emerging viruses

Thu, 16/10/2014 - 23:21

Scientists tracing the real-time impact of viruses in the wild have found that entire amphibian communities are being killed off by closely related viruses introduced to mountainous areas of northern Spain.

Researchers reach 'paradigm shift' in understanding potassium channels

Thu, 16/10/2014 - 23:21

A new discovery relating to one of the most common processes in human cells is being described as a 'paradigm shift' in understanding.

Scientists find 'hidden brain signatures' of consciousness in vegetative state patients

Thu, 16/10/2014 - 23:21

Scientists in Cambridge have found hidden signatures in the brains of people in a vegetative state, which point to networks that could support consciousness even when a patient appears to be unconscious and unresponsive. The study could help doctors identify patients who are aware despite being unable to communicate.

Drexel study questions 21-day quarantine period for Ebola

Wed, 15/10/2014 - 23:38

As medical personnel and public health officials are responding to the first reported cases of Ebola Virus in the United States, many of the safety and treatment procedures for treating the virus and preventing its spread are being reexamined. One of the tenets for minimizing the risk of spreading the disease has been a 21-day quarantine period for individuals who might have been exposed to the virus. But a new study by Charles Haas, PhD, a professor in Drexel's College of Engineering, suggests that 21 days might not be enough to completely prevent spread of the virus.

Two-faced gene: SIRT6 prevents some cancers but promotes sun-induced skin cancer

Wed, 15/10/2014 - 23:38

A new study published in Cancer Research shows SIRT6—a protein known to inhibit the growth of liver and colon cancers—can promote the development of skin cancers by turning on an enzyme that increases inflammation, proliferation and survival of sun-damaged skin cells.

Versatile antibiotic found with self-immunity gene on plasmid in staph strain

Tue, 14/10/2014 - 01:10

A robust, broad spectrum antibiotic, and a gene that confers immunity to that antibiotic are both found in the bacterium Staphylococcus epidermidis Strain 115. The antibiotic, a member of the thiopeptide family of antibiotics, is not in widespread use, partly due to its complex structure, but the investigators, from Brigham Young University, Provo, Utah, now report that the mechanism of synthesis is surprisingly simple. "We hope to come up with innovative processes for large-scale production and derivitization so that new, and possibly more potent versions of the antibiotic can become available, says co-corresponding author Joel S. Griffitts. The research is published ahead of print in Journal of Bacteriology.

Greater rates of mitochondrial mutations discovered in children born to older mothers

Tue, 14/10/2014 - 01:10

The discovery of a "maternal age effect" by a team of Penn State scientists that could be used to predict the accumulation of mitochondrial DNA mutations in maternal egg cells -- and the transmission of these mutations to children -- could provide valuable insights for genetic counseling. These mutations cause more than 200 diseases and contribute to others such as diabetes, cancer, Parkinson's disease, and Alzheimer's disease. The study found greater rates of the mitochondrial DNA variants in children born to older mothers, as well as in the mothers themselves. The research will be published in the early online edition of the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences on October 13, 2014,

Oral capsule as effective as invasive procedures for delivery of fecal transplant

Mon, 13/10/2014 - 09:06

A noninvasive method of delivering a promising therapy for persistent Clostridium difficile (C. difficile) infection appears to be as effective as treatment via colonoscopy or through a nasogastric tube. In their JAMA report, receiving early online release to coincide with a presentation at the Infectious Diseases Society of America's ID Week conference, investigators from Massachusetts General Hospital (MGH) report that oral administration of the therapy called fecal microbiota transplant (FMT) in acid-resistant capsules was as successful as more invasive methods in eliminating recurrent diarrhea caused by C. difficile.

NIH funds research consortia to study more than 200 rare diseases

Wed, 08/10/2014 - 23:33

Physician scientists at 22 consortia will collaborate with representatives of 98 patient advocacy groups to advance clinical research and investigate new treatments for patients with rare diseases. The collaborations are made possible through awards by the National Institutes of Health — totaling about $29 million in fiscal year 2014 funding — to expand the Rare Diseases Clinical Research Network (RDCRN), which is led by NIH's National Center for Advancing Translational Sciences (NCATS).

A glimpse into the 3-D brain: How memories form

Tue, 07/10/2014 - 01:35


This is a 3-D image of the hippocampus of a rat. The way neurons are interconnected in the brain is very complicated. This holds especially true for the cells of the hippocampus. It is one of the oldest brain regions and its form resembles a see horse (hippocampus in Latin). The hippocampus enables us to navigate space securely and to form personal memories. So far, the anatomic knowledge of the networks inside the hippocampus and its connection to the rest of the brain has left scientists guessing which information arrived where and when.

Basel scientists are bringing cells on the fast track

Tue, 07/10/2014 - 01:35

During cancer metastasis, immune response or the development of organisms, cells are moving in a controlled manner through the body. Researchers from the Department of Biomedicine at the University of Basel discovered novel mechanisms of cell migration by observing cells moving on lines of connective tissue. Their results, published in the journal Developmental Cell, could lead to new approaches in combatting cancer metastasis and inflammation.

Twice the DNA yield in less time

Thu, 02/10/2014 - 20:47

Molecular studies of plants often depend on high-quantity and high-quality DNA extractions. This can be quite difficult in plants, however, due to a diversity of compounds and physical properties found in plants. "Tannins, tough fibrous material, and/or secondary compounds can interfere with DNA isolation," explains Dr. Thomas Givnish, principal investigator of a new study published by Jackson Moeller et al. in the October issue of Applications in Plant Sciences (available for free viewing at http://www.bioone.org/doi/pdf/10.3732/apps.1400048).

On invasive species, Darwin had it right all along, study shows

Thu, 02/10/2014 - 20:47


An iceplant, from a region of high diversity in South Africa, is overtopping and killing a native shrub on the New Zealand coast, a region with far less diversity. Dov Sax of Brown University and Jason Fridley of Syracuse University aren't proposing a novel idea to explain species invasiveness. In fact, Charles Darwin articulated it first. What's new about Sax and Fridley's "Evolutionary Imbalance Hypothesis" (EIH) is that they've tested it using quantifiable evidence and report in Global Ecology and Biogeography that the EIH works well.

Ancient protein-making enzyme moonlights as DNA protector

Thu, 02/10/2014 - 20:47

Scientists at The Scripps Research Institute (TSRI) have found that an enzyme best known for its fundamental role in building proteins has a second major function: to protect DNA during times of cellular stress.

Have our bodies held the key to new antibiotics all along?

Wed, 01/10/2014 - 20:52

As the threat of antibiotic resistance grows, scientists are turning to the human body and the trillion or so bacteria that have colonized us — collectively called our microbiota — for new clues to fighting microbial infections. They've logged an early success with the discovery of a new antibiotic candidate from vaginal bacteria, reports Chemical & Engineering News (C&EN), the weekly newsmagazine of the American Chemical Society.

ZEB1, Oscar for leading role in fat storage

Wed, 01/10/2014 - 20:52

The process of adipogenesis made clear by identifying the precise proteins that play the leading roles in fat absorption

And the winner is ... ZEB1! There are many actors involved in the process of adipogenesis, used by the body to store the fat that it absorbs from food. Up to now there had been some uncertainty as to how it was regulated. Yet, understanding this mechanism is of crucial importance to prevent the diseases related to fat accumulation in adipose tissue.

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.