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Scientists criticize Europe’s $1.6B brain project

Dozens of neuroscientists are protesting Europe s $1.6 billion attempt to recreate the functioning of the human brain on supercomputers, fearing it will waste vast amounts of money and harm neuroscience in general. The 10-year Human Brain Project is largely funded by the European Union. In an open letter issued Monday, more than 190 neuroscience researchers called on the EU to put less money into the effort to build a brain, and to invest instead in existing projects. If the EU doesn t adopt their recommendations, the scientists said, they will boycott the Human Brain Project and urge colleagues to do the same. EU spokesman Ryan Heath called for patience, and said it was too early to say whether the project is a success because it had only been under way for nine months. He said the EU plans to rigorously review the scientific progress made and the project s management every year. Henry Markram, who heads the Human Brain Project at the Swiss Federal Institute for Technology in Lausann
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Bioengineered red blood cells could carry precious therapeutic cargo

Whitehead Institute scientists have genetically and enzymatically modified red blood cells to carry a range of valuable payloads—from drugs, to vaccines, to imaging agents—for delivery to specific sites throughout the body. “We wanted to create high-value red cells that do more than simply carry oxygen,” says Whitehead Founding Member Harvey Lodish, who collaborated with Whitehead Member Hidde Ploegh in this pursuit. “Here we’ve laid out the technology to make mouse and human red blood cells in culture that can express what we want and potentially be used for therapeutic or diagnostic purposes.” The work, published this week in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (PNAS), combines Lodish’s expertise in the biology of red blood cells (RBCs) with biochemical methods developed in Ploegh’s lab. RBCs are an attractive vehicle for potential therapeutic applications for a variety of reasons, including their abundance—they are more numerous than any other ce
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Researchers regrow corneas

Researchers have identified a way to enhance regrowth of human corneal tissue to restore vision, using a molecule known as ABCB5 that acts as a marker for hard-to-find limbal stem cells. The research is also one of the first known examples of constructing a tissue from an adult-derived human stem cell. This is a restored functional cornea following transplantation of human limbal stem cells to limbal stem cell-deficient mice. Photo Credit: Paraskevi Evi Kolovou, Bruce Ksander, and Natasha and Markus Frank Boston researchers have identified a way to enhance regrowth of human corneal tissue to restore vision, using a molecule known as ABCB5 that acts as a marker for hard-to-find limbal stem cells. This work, a collaboration between the Massachusetts Eye and Ear/Schepens Eye Research Institute (Mass. Eye and Ear), Boston Children s Hospital, Brigham and Women s Hospital and the VA Boston Healthcare System, provides promise to burn victims, victims of chemical injury and others with damag
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A step closer to bio-printing transplantable tissues and organs: Study

Researchers have made a giant leap towards the goal of bio-printing transplantable tissues and organs for people affected by major diseases and trauma injuries, a new study reports. Photo Credits: unknown Scientists from the Universities of Sydney, Harvard, Stanford and MIT have bio-printed artificial vascular networks mimicking the body s circulatory system that are necessary for growing large complex tissues. Thousands of people die each year due to a lack of organs for transplantation, says study lead author and University of Sydney researcher, Dr Luiz Bertassoni. Many more are subjected to the surgical removal of tissues and organs due to cancer, or they re involved in accidents with large fractures and injuries. Imagine being able to walk into a hospital and have a full organ printed – or bio-printed, as we call it – with all the cells, proteins and blood vessels in the right place, simply by pushing the print button in your computer screen. We are still far away from that, b
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Fasting triggers stem cell regeneration of damaged, old immune system

In the first evidence of a natural intervention triggering stem cell-based regeneration of an organ or system, a study in the June 5 issue of the Cell Stem Cell shows that cycles of prolonged fasting not only protect against immune system damage — a major side effect of chemotherapy — but also induce immune system regeneration, shifting stem cells from a dormant state to a state of self-renewal. During fasting the number of hematopoietic stem cells increases but the number of the normally much more abundant white blood cells decreases. In young or healthy mice undergoing multiple fasting/re-feeding cycles, the population of stem cells increases in size although the number of white blood cells remain normal. In mice treated with chemotherapy or in old mice, the cycles of fasting reverse the immunosuppression and immunosenescence, respectively. Photo Credit: Cell Stem Cell, Cheng et al. In both mice and a Phase 1 human clinical trial, long periods of not eating significantly lowered
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Man’s greatness lies in his power of thought.

Man s greatness lies in his power of thought. Blaise Pascal The post Man s greatness lies in his power of thought. appeared first on Bioengineer.org.
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Researchers pinpoint new role for enzyme in DNA repair, kidney cancer

Twelve years ago, UNC School of Medicine researcher Brian Strahl, PhD, found that a protein called Set2 plays a role in how yeast genes are expressed – specifically how DNA gets transcribed into messenger RNA. Now his lab has found that Set2 is also a major player in DNA repair, a complicated and crucial process that can lead to the development of cancer cells if the repair goes wrong. The enzyme SET2 is needed for DNA repair, a critical step that keeps cells from mutating into cancer cells. When mutated, the human version of the enzyme SETD2 has been implicated in kidney cancer. Photo Credit: Max Englund, UNC Health Care We found that if Set2 is mutated, DNA repair does not properly occur said Strahl, a professor of biochemistry and biophysics. One consequence could be that if you have broken DNA, then loss of this enzyme could lead to downstream mutations from inefficient repair. We believe this finding helps explain why the human version of Set2 – which is called SETD2 – is f
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Compact and Extremely Small-Scale Incubator Microscope to Examine Cells in Time Lapse

Biologists and doctors rely heavily on incubators and microscopes. Now the Fraunhofer Institute for Biomedical Engineering IBMT has come up with a novel solution that combines the functions of both these tools in a compact and extremely small-scale system. No bigger than a soda can, the small-scale incubator microscope is a space-saving and cost effective solution for time-lapse observation of cell cultures. Photo Credit:Fraunhofer IBMT It is ideally suited for time-lapse examination over a number of weeks and for automatic observation of cell cultures. The incubator microscope is no bigger than a soda can and costs 30 times less than buying an incubator and a microscope separately. It will be on display for the first time at MEDTEC in Stuttgart (Hall 7, Booth B10). Cells play a prominent role in biology and in medicine. Just like humans, they need nutrients to survive. Cultivating human and animal cells requires parameters such as temperature and humidity to be specified with absolut
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Study reveals rats show regret

New research from the Department of Neuroscience at the University of Minnesota reveals that rats show regret, a cognitive behavior once thought to be uniquely and fundamentally human. Research findings were recently published in Nature Neuroscience. To measure the cognitive behavior of regret, A. David Redish, Ph.D., a professor of neuroscience in the University of Minnesota Department of Neuroscience, and Adam Steiner, a graduate student in the Graduate Program in Neuroscience, who led the study, started from the definitions of regret that economists and psychologists have identified in the past. Regret is the recognition that you made a mistake, that if you had done something else, you would have been better off, said Redish. The difficult part of this study was separating regret from disappointment, which is when things aren t as good as you would have hoped. The key to distinguishing between the two was letting the rats choose what to do. Redish and Steiner developed a new task t
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Immune therapy for advanced bladder cancer yields promising results

A multi-center phase I study using an investigational drug for advanced bladder cancer patients who did not respond to other treatments has shown promising results in patients with certain tumor types, researchers report. Yale Cancer Center played a key role in the study, the results of which will be presented Saturday, May 31 at the 2014 annual conference of the American Society of Clinical Oncology in Chicago. Daniel P. Petrylak, MD The trial included 68 people with previously treated advanced bladder cancer, including 30 patients identified as PD-L1 positive. PD-L1 is a protein expressed by many tumor types that can render the cancer invulnerable to immune attack. The patients in the study were treated with MPDL3280A, a drug being developed by Genentech, a member of the Roche group. At six weeks, the objective response rate (ORR) was 43%; at 12 weeks, the ORR was 52% in patients with PD-L1-positive tumors. A complete response — one showing no evidence of tumors — was seen in 7%
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NIH releases bold and game-changing report calling for $4.5 billion in brain-research funding

Some news today about the federal BRAIN Initiative – a major research plan aimed at revolutionizing our understanding of the human brain. (Stanford neurologist William Newsome, PhD, is co-chair of the initiative.) Francis Collins, MD, PhD, director of the National Institutes of Health, today heard and accepted a working group’s recommendations for the initiative’s budget and long-term scientific vision. As outlined in an NIH release: The report drafted by the ACD BRAIN Working Group maps out a sustained commitment of $4.5 billion in new federal funding over 10 years beginning in fiscal year 2016 to achieve seven primary goals. NIH already announced an investment of $40 million in fiscal year 2014 and President Obama has made a request for $100 million for NIH’s component of the initiative in his fiscal year 2015 budget. The NIH efforts on the BRAIN Initiative will seek to map the circuits of the brain, measure the fluctuating patterns of electrical and chemical activity flowin
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Prostate cancer biomarkers identified in seminal fluid

Improved diagnosis and management of one of the most common cancers in men – prostate cancer – could result from research at the University of Adelaide, which has discovered that seminal fluid (semen) contains biomarkers for the disease. Results of a study now published in the journal Endocrine-Related Cancer have shown that the presence of certain molecules in seminal fluid indicates not only whether a man has prostate cancer, but also the severity of the cancer. Speaking in the lead-up to Men s Health Week (9-15 June), University of Adelaide research fellow and lead author Dr Luke Selth says the commonly used PSA (prostate specific antigen) test is by itself not ideal to test for the cancer. While the PSA test is very sensitive, it is not highly specific for prostate cancer, Dr Selth says. This results in many unnecessary biopsies of non-malignant disease. More problematically, PSA testing has resulted in substantial over-diagnosis and over-treatment of slow growing, non-lethal
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Liver Regeneration – ‘Switch’ Changes Cells Back

Harvard Stem Cell Institute scientists at Boston Children s Hospital have new evidence in mice that it may be possible to repair a chronically diseased liver by forcing mature liver cells to revert back to a stem cell-like state. When the Hippo pathway is inactivated, mature liver cells revert back to a stem cell-like state. Picture shows a group of cells transitioning from a mature cell type (green) to a stem cell type (red). White cells are the cells where Hippo is being inactivated. Photo Credit: Dean Yimlamai/Boston Children s Hospital The researchers, led by Fernando Camargo, PhD, happened upon this discovery while investigating whether a biochemical cascade called Hippo, which controls how big the liver grows, also affects cell fate. The unexpected answer, published in the journal Cell, is that switching off the Hippo-signaling pathway in mature liver cells generates very high rates of dedifferentiation. This means the cells turn back the clock to become stem-cell like again, th
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Rats Use Whiskers Almost as Humans Use Fingers

The way rats use their whiskers is more similar to how humans use their hands and fingers than previously thought, new research from the University of Sheffield has found. Rats deliberately change how they sense their environment using their facial whiskers depending on whether the environment is novel, if there is a risk of collision and whether or not they can see where they are going. Exploring rats move their long facial whiskers back and forth continuously while they are moving – a behaviour called “whisking”. Scientists have known for a long time that movement of the whiskers provides these animals with a sense of touch that allows them to move around easily in the dark. However, until now they did not know to what extent animals were able to deliberately control their whisker movement. Academics from the Active Touch Laboratory in the University’s Department of Psychology used high-speed videography to study animals that had been trained over several days to run circuit
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New reprogramming method makes better stem cells

A team of researchers from the University of California, San Diego School of Medicine, Oregon Health & Science University (OHSU) and Salk Institute for Biological Studies has shown for the first time that stem cells created using different methods produce differing cells. The findings, published in the July 2, 2014 online issue of Nature, provide new insights into the basic biology of stem cells and could ultimately lead to improved stem cell therapies. This image depicts scanning electron micrograph of cultured human neuron from induced pluripotent stem cell. Photo Credit: Mark Ellisman and Thomas Deerinck, National Center for Microscopy and Imaging Research, UC San Diego Capable of developing into any cell type, pluripotent stem cells offer great promise as the basis for emerging cell transplantation therapies that address a wide array of diseases and conditions, from diabetes and Alzheimer’s disease to cancer and spinal cord injuries. In theory, stem cells could be created and pr
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Muscle-powered bio-bots walk on command

Engineers at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign demonstrated a class of walking “bio-bots” powered by muscle cells and controlled with electrical pulses, giving researchers unprecedented command over their function. The group published its work in the online early edition of Proceedings of the National Academy of Science. Tiny walking “bio-bots” are powered by muscle cells and controlled by an electric field. Photo Credit: Janet Sinn-Hanlon / Group@VetMed “Biological actuation driven by cells is a fundamental need for any kind of biological machine you want to build,” said study leader Rashid Bashir, Abel Bliss Professor and head of bioengineering at the U. of I. “We’re trying to integrate these principles of engineering with biology in a way that can be used to design and develop biological machines and systems for environmental and medical applications. Biology is tremendously powerful, and if we can somehow learn to harness its advantages for useful appl
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Noninvasive brain control

Optogenetics, a technology that allows scientists to control brain activity by shining light on neurons, relies on light-sensitive proteins that can suppress or stimulate electrical signals within cells. This technique requires a light source to be implanted in the brain, where it can reach the cells to be controlled. Illustration: Jose-Luis Olivares/MIT MIT engineers have now developed the first light-sensitive molecule that enables neurons to be silenced noninvasively, using a light source outside the skull. This makes it possible to do long-term studies without an implanted light source. The protein, known as Jaws, also allows a larger volume of tissue to be influenced at once. This noninvasive approach could pave the way to using optogenetics in human patients to treat epilepsy and other neurological disorders, the researchers say, although much more testing and development is needed. Led by Ed Boyden, an associate professor of biological engineering and brain and cognitive scienc
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Stem cells are a soft touch for nano-engineered biomaterials

Scientists from Queen Mary University of London have shown that stem cell behaviour can be modified by manipulating the nanoscale properties of the material they are grown on improving the potential of regenerative medicine and tissue engineering as a result. Stem cells are special because they are essential to the normal function of our organs and tissues. Previous research shows stem cells grown on hard substrates go on to multiply but do not differentiate: a process by which the cells specialise to perform specific functions in the body. In contrast, stem cells grown on softer surfaces do go on to differentiate. In this new study, published in the journal Nano Letters, the researchers used tiny material patches known as nanopatches to alter the surface of the substrate and mimic the properties of a softer material. By changing the surface properties like the shape of the substrate at the nanoscale level, we tricked the stem cells to behave differently, explains co-author Dr Julien
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Discipline is the bridge between goals and accomplishment.

“Discipline is the bridge between goals and accomplishment.” by #JimRohn The post Discipline is the bridge between goals and accomplishment. appeared first on Bioengineer.org.
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New Test Predicts If Breast Cancer Will Spread

The study was led by researchers at the National Cancer Institute (NCI)─designated Albert Einstein Cancer Center of Albert Einstein College of Medicine of Yeshiva University and Montefiore Einstein Center for Cancer Care and was published online June 03 in the Journal of the National Cancer Institute (JNCI). Metastasis requires the presence of three cells in direct contact on a blood vessel wall: a tumor cell that produces the protein MENA; a peri-vascular macrophage (cells that guide tumor cells to blood vessels); and a blood-vessel endothelial cell. The presence of three such cells in contact with each other is called a tumor microenvironment of metastasis, or TMEM, which is depicted within the box in this illustration. Photo Credit: Albert Einstein College of Medicine Tests assessing metastatic risk can help doctors identify which patients should receive aggressive therapy and which patients should be spared, said Dr. Thomas Rohan, the lead and corresponding author of the study a
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Targeting Tumors Using Silver Nanoparticles

Scientists at UC Santa Barbara have designed a nanoparticle that has a couple of unique — and important — properties. Spherical in shape and silver in composition, it is encased in a shell coated with a peptide that enables it to target tumor cells. What’s more, the shell is etchable so those nanoparticles that don’t hit their target can be broken down and eliminated. The research findings appear today in the journal Nature Materials. The cells take up nanoparticles coated with two different peptides and transport them to the center of the cell. The core of the nanoparticle employs a phenomenon called plasmonics. In plasmonics, nanostructured metals such as gold and silver resonate in light and concentrate the electromagnetic field near the surface. In this way, fluorescent dyes are enhanced, appearing about tenfold brighter than their natural state when no metal is present. When the core is etched, the enhancement goes away and the particle becomes dim. UCSB’s Ruoslahti Res
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Researchers Find Mechanism that Forms Cell-to-Cell Catch Bonds

Certain bonds connecting biological cells get stronger when they’re tugged. Those bonds could help keep hearts together and pumping; breakdowns of those bonds could help cancer cells break away and spread. This ribbon diagram shows a pulling force applied to two common adhesion proteins called cadherins (red and blue) bound together in an X-shape. The green spheres represent calcium ions while the cyan and orange stick figures correspond to amino acids brought together as the force is applied. The hydrogen bonds that form between the amino acids create catch bonds that get stronger when pulled. Photo Credit: Sanjeevi Sivasankar Those bonds are known as catch bonds and they’re formed by common adhesion proteins called cadherins. Sanjeevi Sivasankar, an Iowa State University assistant professor of physics and astronomy and an associate of the U.S. Department of Energy’s Ames Laboratory, has described catch bonds as “nanoscale seatbelts. They become stronger when pulled.” But h
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Better Tissue Healing with Disappearing Hydrogels

When stem cells are used to regenerate bone tissue, many wind up migrating away from the repair site, which disrupts the healing process. But a technique employed by a University of Rochester research team keeps the stem cells in place, resulting in faster and better tissue regeneration. The key, as explained in a paper published in Acta Biomaterialia, is encasing the stem cells in polymers that attract water and disappear when their work is done. This is a representation of hydrogel polymers (straight lines) trapping stem cells (light-colored figures) and water (blue). Photo Credit: Graphic by Michael Osadciw/University of Rochester. The technique is similar to what has already been used to repair other types of tissue, including cartilage, but had never been tried on bone. “Our success opens the door for many—and more complicated—types of bone repair,” said Assistant Professor of Biomedical Engineering Danielle Benoit. “For example, we should now be able to pinpoint repair
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Rhythmic brain activity used to track memories in progress

University of Oregon researchers have tapped the rhythm of memories as they occur in near real time in the human brain. Early transient peaks (top) and later sustained peaks (bottom) correspond to distinct stimulus-specific patterns of neural activity observed during stimulus encoding and storage, respectively. Photo Credits: Courtesy of Edward Awh Using electroencephalogram (EEG) electrodes attached to the scalps of 25 student subjects, a UO team led by psychology doctoral student David E. Anderson captured synchronized neural activity while they held a held a simple oriented bar located within a circle in short-term memory. The team, by monitoring these alpha rhythms, was able to decode the precise angle of the bar the subjects were locking onto and use that brain activity to predict which individuals could store memories with the highest quality or precision. The findings are detailed in the May 28 issue of the Journal of Neuroscience. A colour image illustrating how the item in me
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Herpesviren undercover

Pathogens entering our body only remain unnoticed for a short period. Within minutes our immune cells detect the invader and trigger an immune response. However, some viruses have developed strategies to avoid detection and elimination by our immune system. Researchers from the Helmholtz Centre for Infection Research (HZI) in Braunschweig have now been able to show how the herpesviruses achieve this. Photo Credits: Helmholtz Centre for Infection Research The Kaposi s sarcoma-associated herpesvirus (KSHV), a gammaherpesvirus that can cause multiple forms of cancer, establishes lifelong infections within the body. To do so the virus has to find a way to modulate the immune system of its host. „Intruders are usually fought off immediately by an antiviral immune response that is triggered by sensors including the toll-like receptors (TLR),” says HZI researcher Dr. Kendra Bussey, author of the study that was published in the “Journal of Virology”. Toll-like receptors detect the vir
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