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Controversial bird flu research to resume - Mother Nature Network

Controversial bird flu research to resume - Mother Nature Network | science bites | Scoop.it
Mother Nature Network Controversial bird flu research to resume Mother Nature Network Nearly a year ago, a group of about 40 scientists from around the world voluntarily agreed to temporarily stop their work after controversy over the research...
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Impossible immunization - Global Times

Impossible immunization - Global Times | science bites | Scoop.it
Global Times
Impossible immunization
Global Times
Professor Ian Frazer works in a biomedical laboratory on cervical cancer vaccine development at the Princess Alexandra Hospital in Brisbane, Australia.
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Meet the Last Common Ancestor of Bats, Whales, Sloths and Humans | Observations, Scientific American Blog Network

Meet the Last Common Ancestor of Bats, Whales, Sloths and Humans | Observations, Scientific American Blog Network | science bites | Scoop.it
They may run, swim or fly. They may weigh less than a penny or more than a dozen school buses. From humans to whales to bats, ...

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Deaths from vaccine-preventable illnesses


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Best case for vaccines I have ever seen

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One cell is all you need

One cell is all you need | science bites | Scoop.it
Scientists at Harvard have pioneered a breakthrough technique that can reproduce an individual’s entire genome from a single cell.

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Scientists link excess blood sugar to cancer

Scientists link excess blood sugar to cancer | science bites | Scoop.it

It is well known that obesity is a leading cause of diabetes, a disease where the body fails to control blood sugar levels. High blood sugar levels are characteristic in obesity and diabetes. What is less well known is that diabetes and obesity are also linked to an increase in cancer risk. That is, the diabetic population has up to double chances to suffer pancreatic or colon cancer among others, according to well sustained epidemiological studies. With obesity in British and Spanish children reaching 16%, the highest in Europe, this epidemic has major health implications. How obesity or diabetes increase cancer risk has been a major health issue. Scientists led by Dr. Custodia Garcia-Jimenez at the University Rey Juan Carlos in Madrid have uncovered a key mechanism that links obesity and diabetes with cancer: high sugar levels, which increase activity of a gene widely implicated in cancer progression. Dr Garcia Jimenez's laboratory was studying how cells in the intestine respond to sugars and signal to the pancreas to release insulin, the key hormone that controls blood sugar levels. Sugars in the intestine trigger cells to release a hormone called GIP that enhances insulin release by the pancreas. In a study published in Molecular Cell, Dr Garcia Jimenez's team showed that the ability of the intestinal cells to secrete GIP is controlled by a protein called β-catenin, and that the activity of β-catenin is strictly dependent on sugar levels. Increased activity of β-catenin is known to be a major factor in the development of many cancers and can make normal cells immortal, a key step in early stages of cancer progression. The study demonstrates that high (but not normal) sugar levels induce nuclear accumulation of β-catenin and leads to cell proliferation. The changes induced on β-catenin, the molecules involved and the diversity of cancer cells susceptible to these changes are identified.


Via Dr. Stefan Gruenwald
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Anthony Thomas's curator insight, February 24, 2013 9:28 PM

Alcoholic drinks and diet sodas a full of sugar

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Petri dish-grown lens gives hope for new eye treatment

Petri dish-grown lens gives hope for new eye treatment | science bites | Scoop.it

Pluripotent stem cells have the ability to become any cell in the human body including, skin, blood and brain matter. Once the stem cells have begun to differentiate, the challenge for researchers is to control the process and produce only the desired, specific cells.

Using a technology known as fluorescence activated cell sorting (FACS), Associate Professor Barberi and his team were able to identify the precise combination of protein markers expressed in the lens epithelium that enabled them to isolate those cells from the rest of the cultures. Most markers are common to more than one type of cell, making it challenging to determine the exact mix of markers unique to the desired cells.

Associate Professor Barberi said this breakthrough would eventually help cure visual impairment caused by congenital cataracts or severe damage to the lens from injury through lens transplants.

"The lens has, to some extent, the ability to heal well following surgical intervention. However, with congenital cataracts, the fault is wired into the DNA, so the lens will re-grow with the original impairment. This problem is particularly prevalent in developing countries," he said.

Combined with advances in producing pluripotent stem cells from fully-differentiated adult cells, the research will also progress treatments for eye diseases.

"In the future, we will be able to take adult skin cells, for example, and turn back the clock to produce stem cells. From there, using processes like we have developed for lens epithelium, we will be able to produce diseased cells - an invaluable asset for medical research," Associate Professor Barberi said.


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Self-organizing crystals could be a step toward creating self-repairing smartphones

Self-organizing crystals could be a step toward creating self-repairing smartphones | science bites | Scoop.it

A study in which chemical compounds are prompted to self-form into crystals could be a step toward creating self-repairing smartphone screens, experts say, or even body armor.

 

Showing that microscopic particles can be made to come together or break apart on their own "opens a new area for design and production of novel and moving structures," wrote the study authors, a team of physicists and chemists from New York University and Brandeis University in Waltham, Mass.

 

The researchers said they were inspired by the way flocks of birds and schools of fish are able to move as if they are a single living organism. The team wanted to see if they could duplicate — and control — that collective motion using non-living objects.

 

The objects they used were made of simple chemicals including sodium, iron, chloride, oxygen and hydrogen. Roughly the size of a single bacterium, they included a piece of the mineral hematite that jutted out, like the front of a car.

 

The researchers placed hundreds of these particles into a drop of a liquid solution on a glass slide. One of the ingredients in the solution was hydrogen peroxide, which is like fuel to a piece of hematite when it's exposed to blue-violet light.

 

Without the specialized light, the particles pretty much vibrated in place like so many tiny idling engines. When the scientists turned on the light, the hydrogen peroxide and hematite began a chemical reaction that propelled the particles forward.

 

The scientists watched under a microscope as, at first, the particles moved about at random. Then, about 25 seconds into the chaos, the limited space and directionless driving produced a traffic jam of particles, said study leader Jeremie Palacci, a postdoctoral fellow at NYU.

 

The jammed particles forced themselves against each other in the pattern of a crystal, each dot surrounded by six others in a hexagonal shape. When they reached a certain size, some of the particles on the edge broke off and grew into other crystals, which slowly moved about. When the blue-violet light was switched off, it took about 10 seconds for the crystals to dissolve.

 

In additional tests, the researchers induced a magnetic field in the liquid to see if they could steer the crystals in a particular way. They found that the iron in the particles was drawn toward the magnetic field, making it possible to control the crystals' movement.

 

Since the crystals are able to sense changes in their environment and move accordingly, they are alive in a fundamental way, the researchers said.

"They're flocking," just like birds, said Paul Chaikin, a coauthor of the study and an NYU physicist.

 

Creating materials that can respond to conditions around them is a long-held goal of scientists and engineers working in the field of active materials, said Aparna Baskaran, a physicist at Brandeis who wasn't involved in the study.


Via Dr. Stefan Gruenwald
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History Of Life On Earth Shown As A 24 Hour Clock

History Of Life On Earth Shown As A 24 Hour Clock | science bites | Scoop.it

For decades the origin and evolution of life was restricted to the fossil record that recorded hard-shelled life. We now know, through determination of absolute ages by radioactive decay, that this record only record the last 500 m.y. or so of life. Prior to that, life existed as soft-bodied organisms, or even earlier, as single cell bacteria (prokaryotes) or single-celled organisms with nuclei (eukaryotes). The oldest microfossils, composed of single-celled organisms that probably were similar to cyanobacteria, are 3.5 b.y. old, and are found in Western Australia (not the same locality where the very old zircon mineral grains were found). More convincing evidence for life in the Archean comes from fossil layered microbial communities called stromatolites. Although the 3.5 b.y. old microfossils are still debated, people pretty much agree that the fossil record for life is undisputable by about 3.0 b.y., and stromatolites are part of this evidence. Fossil bacteria are universally accepted for the Proterozoic, where the images (and chemical compositions) are much more clear than the fuzzy images for the 3.5 b.y. old microfossils.

 

The Proterozoic microfossils are much more similar to the modern cyanobacteria. The occurrence of cyanobacteria early in earth's history is critical, since their metabolic "waste product" is oxygen, and it was essential to produce high levels of oxygen in the earth's atmosphere before more complex life (which requires different means of metabolism and energy storage) could evolve. In the latest part of the Proterozoic (~ 600 m.y. ago), multi-cellular, complex life is recorded in the fossil record.

 

The figure shown above casts the origin and evolution of life into a 24 hour clock.


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HIV-Like Viruses in Non-Human Primates Have Existed Much Longer Than ... - Science Daily (press release)

HIV-Like Viruses in Non-Human Primates Have Existed Much Longer Than ... - Science Daily (press release) | science bites | Scoop.it
HIV-Like Viruses in Non-Human Primates Have Existed Much Longer Than ...
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10 top scientists whose work made a big difference in 2012

10 top scientists whose work made a big difference in 2012 | science bites | Scoop.it
Scientists were plenty busy this year, with landing the 1-ton rover Curiosity on Mars, announcing the discovery of what is likely the Higgs boson and even revealing a little-dirty secret in research.
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Mineral dust sprinkled in oceans could absorb vast amounts of carbon: study

Mineral dust sprinkled in oceans could absorb vast amounts of carbon: study | science bites | Scoop.it
Geoengineering method could reduce emissions but would require huge mining effort and alter balance of the oceans

Via Oceanscience
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Oceanscience's curator insight, January 28, 2013 9:22 AM

Sprinkling billions of tonnes of mineral dust across the oceans could quickly remove a vast quantities of climate-warming carbon dioxide from the atmosphere, according to a new study.

 

The proposed "geoengineering" technique would also offset the acidification of the oceans and could be targeted at endangered coral reefs, but it would require a mining effort on the same scale as the world's coal industry and would alter the biology of the oceans.

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Short Sharp Science: Doubts remain that the Leicester body is Richard III

Short Sharp Science: Doubts remain that the Leicester body is Richard III | science bites | Scoop.it

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4 Ways Your Work Area Could Be Destroying Productivity [Infographic]

4 Ways Your Work Area Could Be Destroying Productivity [Infographic] | science bites | Scoop.it
Is your work area an inspiring place to be productive? If not, check out this infographic which explains 4 ways your desk can destroy your productivity.

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UCI team target p53 for treating wide spectrum of cancers

UCI team target p53 for treating wide spectrum of cancers | science bites | Scoop.it

UC Irvine biologists, chemists and computer scientists have identified an elusive pocket on the surface of the p53 protein that can be targeted by cancer-fighting drugs. The finding heralds a new treatment approach, as mutant forms of this protein are implicated in nearly 40 percent of diagnosed cases of cancer, which kills more than half a million Americans each year.

 

In an open-source study published online this week in Nature Communications, the UC Irvine researchers describe how they employed a computational method to capture the various shapes of the p53 protein. In its regular form, p53 helps repair damaged DNA in cells or triggers cell death if the damage is too great; it has been called the “guardian of the genome.”

Mutant p53, however, does not function properly, allowing the cancer cells it normally would target to slip through control mechanisms and proliferate. For this reason, the protein is a key target of research on cancer therapeutics.

Within cells, p53 proteins undulate constantly, much like a seaweed bed in the ocean, making binding sites for potential drug compounds difficult to locate. But through a computational method called molecular dynamics, the UC Irvine team created a computer simulation of these physical movements and identified an elusive binding pocket that’s open only 5 percent of the time.

 

After using a computer to screen a library of 2,298 small molecules, the researchers selected the 45 most promising to undergo biological assays. Among these 45 compounds, they found one, called stictic acid, that fits into the protein pocket and triggers tumor-suppressing abilities in mutant p53s.

While stictic acid cannot be developed into a viable drug, noted study co-leader Peter Kaiser, professor of biological chemistry, the work suggests that a comprehensive screening of small molecules with similar traits may uncover a usable compound that binds to this specific p53 pocket.

 

“The discovery and pharmaceutical development of such a compound could have a profound impact on cancer treatments,” Kaiser said. “Instead of focusing on a specific form of the disease, oncologists could treat a wide spectrum of cancers, including those of the lung and breast.” He added that there is currently one group of experimental drugs – called Nutlins – that stop p53 degradation, but they don’t target protein mutations as would a drug binding to the newly discovered pocket.

 

The results are the culmination of years of labor by researchers with UC Irvine’s Institute for Genomics & Bioinformatics and the Chao Family Comprehensive Cancer Center.


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Gold-digging bacterium makes precious particles

Gold-digging bacterium makes precious particles | science bites | Scoop.it

Biochemical trick could aid in recovery of gold from metal waste.

 

Gold prospectors may one day use Petri dishes to help with their quests. A species of bacterium forms nanoscale gold nuggets to help it to grow in toxic solutions of the precious metal, reports a paper published online today in Nature Chemical Biology.

 

The molecule with which the bacteria create the particles could one day be used to collect gold from mine waste, says Frank Reith, an environmental microbiologist at the University of Adelaide in Australia, who works on gold-processing bacteria but was not involved in the latest study.

 

Reith found some of the first convincing evidence that bacteria thrive on gold particles about ten years ago. At multiple sites, thousands of kilometres apart, he and his team found the bacterium Cupriavidus metallidurans living in biofilms on gold nuggets. The bacteria detoxify dissolved gold by accumulating it in inert nanoparticles inside their cells; Reith and his colleagues have spent the past decade working out how, but have not yet published their complete conclusions.

 

Some biofilms also contained a second species of bacterium:Delftia acidovarans. Nathan Magarvey, a biochemist at McMaster University in Hamilton, Canada, and his team grew this species in the presence of a gold solution and discovered that the bacterial colonies were surrounded by dark haloes of gold nanoparticles. The researchers concluded that D. acidovarans was somehow creating gold particles outside its cell wall, instead of inside as C. metallidurans does.Using biochemical and genome analysis, the researchers discovered a set of genes and a chemical metabolite that were responsible for precipitating the gold. Bacteria engineered to lack the genes no longer formed dark haloes, and their growth was stunted in the presence of gold. The team also isolated a chemical produced by the unengineered bacteria that caused gold particles to precipitate out of a solution. The chemical was dubbed delftibactin.

 

The researchers suggest that the genes they identified are involved in producing delftibactin and shunting it outside the cell. By precipitating gold, D. acidovarans may keep the metal from entering its cells in solution. But Magarvey says that it is possible that D. acidovarans also uses other mechanisms to detoxify gold that breaches its cell walls. Margarvey's work “complements ours really well”, says Reith. The two bacterial species might live in symbiosis, with D. acidovarans using delftibactin to diminish the soluble gold to levels that both species can cope with.

 

A microbe-assisted gold rush might yet happen, says Reith. Delftibactin could be used to produce gold-nanoparticle catalysts for many chemical reactions, or to precipitate gold from waste water produced at mines. “The idea could be to use a bacterium or metabolite to seed these waste-drop piles, leave them standing for years, and see if bigger particles form,” says Reith.


Via Dr. Stefan Gruenwald
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Recyclable Plastics from Biomass - A Blog Which ... - Sciences Blog

The new process uses a zeolite catalyst capable of transforming glucose into p-xylene in a three-step reaction within a high-temperature biomass reactor this is a major breakthrough since other methods of producing renewable are ....
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The UK Braces for a Tidal Wave of Funding for Marine Energy

The UK Braces for a Tidal Wave of Funding for Marine Energy | science bites | Scoop.it

The UK has huge potential for marine power and is considered the most attractive destination to develop marine projects in Europe, states a new report by energy experts GlobalData.The new report* shows that the marine energy industry is in the emerging stages of development, and the UK is home to the R&D resources needed to further develop these power generation technologies.

Energy from the ocean could play a vital role in the UK’s ambition to achieve an 80% cut in carbon emissions by 2050, with the UK government setting a target to develop 2,000 megawatts (MW) of marine installed capacity by 2020. It was estimated by the Department of Energy and Climate Change that the country has wave energy potential of approximately 50 terawatt-hours(TWh) per year and tidal energy potential of approximately 17 TWh/year, which represents an enormous 50% share of Europe’s marine potential.

Thanks to this capacity, the UK has become a hub for marine research centers and leading marine energy companies, and boasts the world’s second largest tidal range in the Severn Estuary. The country is testing a large number of wave and tidal technologies with the support of the European Marine Energy Centre, which has 14 full-scale testing berths in the Orkneys region. As a result of this, the UK is heading the innovation race in marine energy technology, boasting the highest number of projects in a single country currently being actively demonstrated.

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