Gizmag was in Gibraltar at the ribbon cutting event for EWP's innovative wave energy station, installed on the ammunition jetty in the tiny-yet-iconic British territory. The event itself was brief, but its significance could be huge.
Jason Hart, a chief technology officer in charge of identity and data protection with security company Gemalto, demonstrated how hackers could be monitoring an unsuspecting surfer’s web activity before they’ve even taken a sip of their macchiato.
What used to be dismissed by many as "junk DNA" is back with a vengeance as growing data points to the importance of non-coding RNAs (ncRNAs)—genome's messages that do not code for proteins—in development and disease formation. But our progress in understanding these molecules has been slow because of the lack of technologies that allow the systematic mapping of their functions.
Now, Professor Benjamin Blencowe's team at the University of Toronto's Donnelly Centre, including lead authors Eesha Sharma and Tim Sterne-Weiler, have developed a method, described in May 19, 2016 issue of Molecular Cell, that enables scientists to explore in depth what ncRNAs do in human cells. The study is published on the same day with two other papers in Molecular Cell and Cell, respectively, from Dr. Yue Wan's group at the Genome Institute of Singapore and Dr. Howard Chang's group at Stanford University in California, who developed similar methods to study RNAs in different organisms.
Of the 3 billion letters in the human genome, only two per cent make up the protein-coding genes. The genes are copied, or transcribed, into messenger RNA (mRNA) molecules, which provide templates for building proteins that do most of the work in the cell. Much of the remaining 98 per cent of the genome was initially considered by some as lacking in functional importance. However, large swaths of the non coding genome—between half and three quarters of it—are also copied into RNA.
What the resulting ncRNAs might do depends on whom you ask. Some researchers believe that most ncRNAs have no function, that they are just a by-product of the genome's powerful transcription machinery that makes mRNA. However, it is emerging that many ncRNAs have important roles in gene regulation. This view is supported in that some ncRNAs act as carriages for shuttling the mRNAs around the cell, or provide a scaffold for other proteins and RNAs to attach to and do their jobs.
But the majority of available data has trickled in piecemeal or through serendipitous discovery. And with emerging evidence that ncRNAs could drive disease progression, such as cancer metastasis, there was a great need for a technology that would allow a systematic functional analysis of ncRNAs.
"Up until now, with existing methods, you had to know what you are looking for because they all require you to have some information about the RNA of interest. The power of our method is that you don't need to preselect your candidates, you can see what's occurring globally in cells, and use that information to look at interesting things we have not seen before and how they are affecting biology," says Eesha Sharma, a PhD candidate in Blencowe's group who, along with postdoctoral fellow Tim Sterne-Weiler, co-developed the method.
The new tool, called 'LIGR-Seq', captures interactions between different RNA molecules. When two RNA molecules have matching sequences - strings of letters copied from the DNA blueprint - they will stick together like Velcro. The paired RNA structures are then removed from cells and analyzed by state-of-the-art sequencing methods to precisely identify the RNAs that are stuck together. "Most researchers in the life sciences agree that there's an urgent need to understand what ncRNAs do. This technology will open the door to developing a new understanding of ncRNA function," says Blencowe, who is also a professor in the Department of Molecular Genetics.
Not having to rely on pre-existing knowledge is one strength of the method that will boost the discovery of RNA pairs that have never been seen before. The other is that scientists can for the first time look at RNA interactions as they occur in living cells, in all their complexity, unlike in the juices of mashed up cells that they had to rely on before. This is a bit like moving on to explore marine biology from collecting shells on the beach to scuba-diving among the coral reefs where the scope for discovery is so much bigger.
ncRNAs come in multiple flavours: there's rRNA, tRNA, snRNA, snoRNA, piRNA, miRNA, and lncRNA, to name a few, where prefixes reflect the RNA's place in the cell or some aspect of its function. But the truth is that no one really knows the extent to which these ncRNAs control what goes on in the cell, nor how they do this. The new technology developed by Blencowe's group has been able to pick up new interactions involving all classes of RNAs and has already revealed some unexpected findings.
Science often gets a bad rap for being inaccessible. But it’s actually never been easier to satisfy your curiosity on subjects ranging from computer technology, biology, astrophysics, climate science, and just about anything in between. In fact, it’s just a few clicks away. These online courses from edX allow you to learn an array of topics under the instruction of experts from the field. Best of all, it can be done online and it’s free. Yep, free. Not bad, right?
According to witnesses, the 25 alleged 'spies' had been tied together with a rope and lowered in ' a large basin containing nitric acid' in Mosul, Iraq, after ISIS accused them of spying for the government.
Tiny, rolling balls of brain cells knocking around in a lab may one day help keep you from losing your marbles—among other things.
The small cellular balls act like mini-brains, mimicking aspects of the real thing, including forming noggin-like structures and pulsing with electrical signals like a thinking mind, researchers reported Friday at the annual meeting of the American Association for the Advancement of Science in Washington. The mini-brains, which can be personalized based on whose cells they’re made from, may soon help scientists study a wide variety of diseases and health problems—from autism and Parkinson’s to multiple sclerosis and Alzheimer’s, as well as stroke, brain trauma, and infections, such as Zika virus.
“There are a variety of places where a mini brain could be useful,” said Wayne Drevets of Janssen Pharmaceuticals Inc., who was not involved with the research. In some cases, they may offer a cheaper, more ethical, and more realistic model for human health than mice and other animals, he and other researchers said at the conference.
Researchers who developed the wee noodles, led by Thomas Hartung, of Johns Hopkins University Bloomberg School of Public Health, hope to have the mini-brains commercially available this year.
If you have a choice between reading this and installing a security update, install the update. But it would be even better if the patch allowed you zero say on the matter and instead just updated on its own — without making any noise.
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