Researchers of the ISREC Institute at the School of Life Sciences, EPFL, have deciphered the mechanism whereby some microRNAs are retained in the cell while others are secreted and delivered to neighboring cells.
“It’s quite amazing,” says evolutionary biologist Matthew Hahn of Indiana University, Bloomington, who wasn’t connected to the study. “It means that the same genes can carry out the same functions after 1 billion years of divergence.”
Scientists have known for years that humans share molecular similarities with the microorganisms that help make our bread and beer. Our genome contains counterparts to one-third of yeast genes. And on average, the amino acid sequences of comparable yeast and human proteins overlap by 32%.
One example of shared genes piqued the interest of systems biologist Edward Marcotte of the University of Texas, Austin, and colleagues. Yeasts are single-celled and bloodless, yet they carry genes that orchestrate the growth of new blood vessels in vertebrates. In yeast, these genes help cells respond to stress. “That got us questioning the extent to which the yeast and human genes are doing the same thing,” Marcotte says.
A dramatic video has captured the behavior of cytotoxic T cells – the body’s ‘serial killers’ – as they hunt down and eliminate cancer cells before moving on to their next target.
In a study published today in the journal Immunity, a collaboration of researchers from the UK and the USA, led by Professor Gillian Griffiths at the University of Cambridge, describe how specialised members of our white blood cells known as cytotoxic T cells destroy tumour cells and virally-infected cells. Using state-of-the-art imaging techniques, the research team, with funding from the Wellcome Trust, has captured the process on film.
“Inside all of us lurks an army of serial killers whose primary function is to kill again and again,” explains Professor Griffiths, Director of the Cambridge Institute for Medical Research. “These cells patrol our bodies, identifying and destroying virally infected and cancer cells and they do so with remarkable precision and efficiency.”
There are billions of T cells within our blood – one teaspoon full of blood alone is believed to have around 5 million T cells, each measuring around 10 micrometres in length, about a tenth the width of a human hair. Each cell is engaged in the ferocious and unrelenting battle to keep us healthy. The cells, seen in the video as orange or green amorphous ‘blobs’ move around rapidly, investigating their environment as they travel.
When a cytotoxic T cell finds an infected cell or, in the case of the film, a cancer cell (blue), membrane protrusions rapidly explore the surface of the cell, checking for tell-tale signs that this is an uninvited guest. The T cell binds to the cancer cell and injects poisonous proteins known as cytotoxins (red) down special pathways called microtubules to the interface between the T cell and the cancer cell, before puncturing the surface of the cancer cell and delivering its deadly cargo.
Water delivery via asteroids or comets is likely taking place in many other planetary systems, just as it happened on Earth, new research strongly suggests. Published by the Royal Astronomical Society and led by the University of Warwick, the research finds evidence for numerous planetary bodies, including asteroids and comets, containing large amounts of water.
The research findings add further support to the possibility water can be delivered to Earth-like planets via such bodies to create a suitable environment for the formation of life. Commenting on the findings lead researcher Dr Roberto Raddi, of the University of Warwick's Astronomy and Astrophysics Group, said: "Our research has found that, rather than being unique, water-rich asteroids similar to those found in our Solar System appear to be frequent. Accordingly, many planets may have contained a volume of water, comparable to that contained in the Earth.
"It is believed that the Earth was initially dry, but our research strongly supports the view that the oceans we have today were created as a result of impacts by water-rich comets or asteroids."
In observations obtained at the William Herschel Telescope in the Canary Islands, the University of Warwick astronomers detected a large quantity of hydrogen and oxygen in the atmosphere of a white dwarf (known as SDSS J1242+5226). The quantities found provide the evidence that a water-rich exo-asteroid was disrupted and eventually delivered the water it contained onto the star.
The asteroid, the researchers discovered, was comparable in size to Ceres -- at 900km across, the largest asteroid in the Solar System. "The amount of water found SDSS J1242+5226 is equivalent to 30-35% of the oceans on Earth," explained Dr Raddi.
The impact of water-rich asteroids or comets onto a planet or white dwarf results in the mixing of hydrogen and oxygen into the atmosphere. Both elements were detected in large amounts in SDSS J1242+5226.
Research co-author Professor Boris Gänsicke, also of University of Warwick, explained: "Oxygen, which is a relatively heavy element, will sink deep down over time, and hence a while after the disruption event is over, it will no longer be visible. "In contrast, hydrogen is the lightest element; it will always remain floating near the surface of the white dwarf where it can easily be detected. There are many white dwarfs that hold large amounts of hydrogen in their atmospheres, and this new study suggests that this is evidence that water-rich asteroids or comets are common around other stars than the Sun."
Like other multicellular creatures, plants must coordinate activity among many different types of cells and tissues. Messages, demands, warnings and alerts shuttle among cells near and far. These messages determine what jobs cells take on and how they work together to build and maintain tissues and organs. A team of researchers has identified a mechanism that some plant cells use to receive complex and contradictory messages from their neighbors.
In a stunning discovery that overturns decades of textbook teaching, researchers at the University of Virginia School of Medicine have determined that the brain is directly connected to the immune system by vessels previously thought not to exist.
That such vessels could have escaped detection when the lymphatic system has been so thoroughly mapped throughout the body is surprising on its own, but the true significance of the discovery lies in the effects it could have on the study and treatment of neurological diseases ranging from autism to Alzheimer’s disease to multiple sclerosis.
“Instead of asking, ‘How do we study the immune response of the brain?,’ ‘Why do multiple sclerosis patients have the immune attacks?,’ now we can approach this mechanistically – because the brain is like every other tissue connected to the peripheral immune system through meningeal lymphatic vessels,” said Jonathan Kipnis, a professor in U.Va.’s Department of Neuroscience and director of U.Va.’s Center for Brain Immunology and Glia. “It changes entirely the way we perceive the neuro-immune interaction. We always perceived it before as something esoteric that can’t be studied. But now we can ask mechanistic questions."
He added, “We believe that for every neurological disease that has an immune component to it, these vessels may play a major role. [It’s] hard to imagine that these vessels would not be involved in a [neurological] disease with an immune component.”
For over six decades, scientists have speculated about the existence of plasma structures that reside in the magnetosphere’s inner layers. Researchers in Australia have now created 3D images of these tubes for the very first time, proving they’re quite real.
For generations, humans have looked out at the night sky and wondered if they were alone in the universe. With the discovery of other planets in our Solar System, the true extent of the Milky Way galaxy, and other galaxies beyond our own, this question has only deepened and become more profound.
The findings, published in separate papers in this week's Nature, resolve a long-standing debate about the origins of these stellar explosions, and how they are used to measure cosmic distances across the universe.
"Thermonuclear supernovae explosions appear to be uniform, and we can use that uniformity as measuring sticks to figure out the size of the universe," says Dr Brad Tucker of the Australian National University's Mount Stromlo Observatory, an author on one of the two papers reporting on the phenomena.
Thermonuclear supernovae -- sometimes referred to as type 1a supernovae -- involve the explosive destruction of a white dwarf in a close binary orbit with another star.
"However, we've kind of had this dirty little secret going on, in that we really don't know what the companion star is," says Tucker.
The science behind a rapid paradigm shift When the first human genome was decoded, popular thinking went: "If we know the genes, we know the person." Today, barely 15 years later, science is in the middle of an exciting new area of research, which...
Hot vents on the seabed could have spontaneously produced the organic molecules necessary for life, according to new research. The study shows how the surfaces of mineral particles inside hydrothermal vents have similar chemical properties to enzymes, the biological molecules that govern chemical reactions in living organisms. This means that vents are able to create simple carbon-based molecules, such as methanol and formic acid, out of the dissolved CO2 in the water.
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