Blood stem cells have the potential to turn into any type of blood cell, whether it be the oxygen-carrying red blood cells, or the many types of white blood cells of the immune system that help fight infection. How exactly is the fate of these stem cells regulated? Preliminary findings from research ...
A team of clinician researchers has discovered a highly virulent, multidrug resistant form of the pathogen, Pseudomonas aeruginosa, in patient samples in Ohio. Their investigation suggests that the particular genetic element involved, which is still rare in the United States, has been spreading heretofore ...
Bee, snake or scorpion venom could form the basis of a new generation of cancer-fighting drugs, scientists will report here today. They have devised a method for targeting venom proteins specifically to malignant cells while sparing healthy ones, which reduces or eliminates side effects that the toxins ...
As the world's human population continues to expand, and as water resources come under increasing pressure and pathogens that cause devastating crop losses continue to spread in the face of increased global commerce and climate change, there is a pressing need for plant research to contribute solutions to improving food security in a sustainable and safe way.
Plant translational research - the development of basic plant research discoveries into technologies or approaches that improve agriculture - has a vital role to play in meeting these challenges, and given the importance of research in this field, PLOS believes that such work should be published in open access journals, ensuring that it reaches the widest possible audience without any barriers to access.
The technical advances highlighted in this PLOS Collection exemplify how basic research discoveries are being translated into methods to develop and improve, both agriculturally and environmentally, important crop traits.
At PLOS, we are committed to supporting breakthroughs in both basic and translational plant science. We encourage plant researchers to submit their high quality plant research and, in particular, plant research that has clear translational possibilities.
The Collection was produced with the support of The Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation.
The Collection will be updated periodically with new Plant Translational Research.
The smallest, most abundant marine microbe, Prochlorococcus, is a photosynthetic bacteria species essential to the marine ecosystem. An estimated billion billion billion of the single-cell creatures live in the oceans, forming the base of the marine food chain and occupying a range of ecological niches based on temperature, light and chemical preferences, and interactions with other species. But the full extent and characteristics of diversity within this single species remains a puzzle.
To probe this question, scientists in MIT’s Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering (CEE) recently performed a cell-by-cell genomic analysis on a wild population of Prochlorococcus living in a milliliter — less than a quarter teaspoon — of ocean water, and found hundreds of distinct genetic subpopulations.
Each subpopulation in those few drops of water is characterized by a set of core gene alleles linked to a few flexible genes — a combination the MIT scientists call the “genomic backbone” — that endows the subpopulation with a finely tuned suitability for a particular ecological niche. Diversity also exists within the backbone subpopulations; most individual cells in the samples they studied carried at least one set of flexible genes not found in any other cell in its subpopulation.
In the 1960s field known as Bionics, many human tissue functions were considered analogous to basic mechanical and electrical systems, such as servomechanisms . Researchers made rapid progress recapitulating components of systems found in the body, and forecasts were made as to when human–machine interfaces would become so completely integrated with our anatomy as to be essentially undetectable. This conceptual framework has proven useful in practice, with contemporary work applied to human patients through surgical implants such as knee, hip, and limb prostheses ; pacemakers; and cochlear and retinal devices . Although these medical devices significantly improve the quality of life for patients today, there are many functions in living tissues which cannot be addressed with electromechanical systems. Shrewd utilization of our best materials simply cannot replace tissues in the body whose functions are intimately tied to their biochemistry. For example, we don't know how to make a plastic or a metal that can metabolize acetaminophen and alcohol like the liver can.
Since cells are the major functional unit responsible for biochemistry in the body, efforts to separate cells from their native environment in vivo and apply them therapeutically in extracorporeal devices have remained steadfast. In extracorporeal liver-assist devices, live cells can be loaded into bioreactor chambers outside the body and then connected in a closed loop with host blood circulation so that the biochemical benefit from cells in the device will positively affect the patient ,. But these strategies that are external to the body, including dialysis of blood during kidney failure, lead to their own morbidities and are not suitable long-term therapies .
Cells loaded into extracorporeal devices or growing at the bottom of a Petri dish bear little resemblance to the exquisite anatomical complexity found in the human body. Organs like the lung, heart, brain, kidney, and liver are pervaded by incredibly elegant yet frighteningly complex vascular networks (carrying air, lymph, blood, urine, and bile), leaving us without a clear path toward physical recapitulation of these tissues in the laboratory (Figure 1). However, we don't need to fully understand tissue organization or all of developmental biology (e.g., spatiotemporal growth factor release) before we can improve the quality of life for patients suffering from damaged or diseased organs. Transplanting whole organs from a human donor into a recipient can provide lifelong benefit when accompanied with immunosuppressive therapy ,. Moreover, isolated cells have been shown to be able to provide biochemical benefit to the host, even when injected or placed at ectopic sites inside the recipient –.
As we look toward the future, the prospect of using a patient's own cells to develop living models of their active biochemistry as well as functional, life-lasting cellular implants offers potentially revolutionary changes to research and healthcare. Stem cell biologists are uncovering exciting new ways to induce pluripotency  and direct lineage commitment . But simple questions about cell number and cell types, their spatial arrangement, and local extracellular and microenvironmental considerations remain largely intractable because of difficulties in placing and culturing cells in three-dimensional (3D) space. For example, embryoid body aggregates containing thousands of cells change differentiation trajectory as a function of cell population and microenvironmental characteristics , while larger cell populations packed at physiologic densities rapidly die because of lack of adequate oxygen and nutrient transport.
Recent advances in 3D printing, a suite of technologies originally developed for plastic and metal manufacturing, are now being adapted to operate within the soft, wet environments where cells function best. Because 3D printing excels at producing heterogeneous physical objects of high complexity, biologists and bioengineers are gaining unprecedented access to a rich landscape of tissue architecture we've always wanted to explore.
Global warming is among the most alarming environmental issues that the world faces today. This phenomenon does not simply involve the significant rise in the earth’s temperature but a lot more. The adverse effects of global warming have become more and more apparent since the dawn of the 20th century, with more hurricanes and tropical storms causing massive destruction in different areas around the world, more animal species losing their habitats and becoming extinct, and more people dying because of too much heat. Here are 25 alarming global warming statistics.
Some bird eggs have visual signatures that help them distinguish they own clutch from impostor cuckoo .
For most honest bird species, brood parasites like the cuckoo are no joke. These sneaky free-loaders comprise about one percent of all bird species. Sniffing out false eggs is serious business for many birds. Brood parasites plant eggs in unsuspecting nests and leave the duped foster parents to care for their chicks—usually to the deadly detriment of the foster parents' own babies.
Now, researchers from Harvard University and the University of Cambridge have discovered one way that bird parents likely keep an eye on their own eggs: with special visual signature. The researchers used the same kind of software that companies rely on for facial recognition and image stitching but applied that technology to hundreds of eggs of eight different parasitized bird species. They call the new program NaturePatternMatch.
The host birds, they found, have previously unrecognized egg "signatures"—essentially, secret visual cues that allow them to recognize their own among the imposters. The more intensely the bird species is targeted by cuckoos, the more complex and sophisticated their egg signatures. Some of the host birds, they found, produce exactly the same egg, whereas some show variation within their own clutch or between females within the same species. All of these methods, the team says, would likely be effective strategies for lessening the likelihood of being duped.
"The ability of Common Cuckoos to mimic the appearance of many of their hosts' eggs has been known for centuries," the researchers say in a statement. "The astonishing finding here is that hosts can fight back against cuckoo mimicry by evolving highly recognizable patterns on their own eggs, just like a bank might insert watermarks on its currency to deter counterfeiters."
Climate change could spread a debilitating disease that's prevalent in developing countries, according to a recent study.
Researcher from Bournemouth University in the United Kingdom found that Buruli ulcer, a disease that affects thousands of people every year, mainly in developing countries, could be spread by the changes in rainfall patterns.
Around half of the genes that influence how well a child can read also play a role in their mathematics ability, say scientists from UCL, the University of Oxford and King’s College London who led a study into the genetic basis of cognitive traits.
While mathematics and reading ability are known to run in families, the complex system of genes affecting these traits is largely unknown. The finding deepens scientists’ understanding of how nature and nurture interact, highlighting the important role that a child’s learning environment may have on the development of reading and mathematics skills, and the complex, shared genetic basis of these cognitive traits.
The collaborative study, published today in Nature Communications as part of the Wellcome Trust Case-Control Consortium, used data from the Twins Early Development Study (TEDS) to analyse the influence of genetics on the reading and mathematics performance of 12-year-old children from nearly 2,800 British families.
Twins and unrelated children were tested for reading comprehension and fluency, and answered mathematics questions based on the UK national curriculum. The information collected from these tests was combined with DNA data, showing a substantial overlap in the genetic variants that influence mathematics and reading.
Dr Chris Spencer (Oxford University), lead author said: “We’re moving into a world where analysing millions of DNA changes, in thousands of individuals, is a routine tool in helping scientists to understand aspects of human biology. This study used the technique to help investigate the overlap in the genetic component of reading and maths ability in children. Interestingly, the same method can be applied to pretty much any human trait, for example to identify new links between diseases and disorders, or the way in which people respond to treatments.”
The number of pathogens known to infect humans is ever increasing. Whether such increase reflects improved surveillance and detection or actual emergence of novel pathogens is unclear. Nonetheless, infectious diseases are the second leading cause of human mortality and disability-adjusted life years lost worldwide [1-2]. On average, three to four new pathogen species are detected in the human population every year . Most of these emerging pathogens originate from nonhuman animal species.
Zoonotic pathogens represent approximately 60% of all known pathogens able to infect humans . Their occurrence in humans relies on the human-animal interface, defined as the continuum of contacts between humans and animals, their environments, or their products. The human-animal interface has existed since the first footsteps of the human species and its hominin ancestors 6–7 million years ago, promoting the prehistoric emergence of now well-established human pathogens . These presumably include pathogens with roles in the origin of chronic diseases, such as human T-lymphotropic viruses and Helicobacter pylori, as well as pathogens causing major crowd diseases, such as the smallpox and measles viruses and Bordetella pertussis . Since prehistory, the human-animal interface has continued to evolve and expand, ever allowing new pathogens to access the human host and cross species barriers .
The suitability of any species to act as a host to a particular pathogen varies due to both host species– and pathogen-dependent factors, which define the species barriers. The species barriers separating nonhuman animal species from humans and thus of concern for zoonotic pathogens are the focus of this paper. However, the proposed conceptual framework is applicable to any host-pathogen system.
The species barriers separating nonhuman animal species from humans represent a major hurdle for effective exposure to, infection by, and subsequent spread of zoonotic pathogens among humans . Accordingly, these species barriers can be divided into three largely complementary sets. First, the interspecies barrier determines the nature and level of human exposure to zoonotic pathogens. Second, the intrahuman barrier determines the ability of zoonotic pathogens to productively infect a human host and effectively cope with the immune response. Third, the interhuman barrier determines the ability of zoonotic pathogens to efficiently transmit among humans, causing outbreaks, epidemics, or pandemics. Zoonotic pathogens may cross, more or less efficiently, one or more of these sets of barriers. Only pathogens that cross all barriers have the potential to sustainably establish in the human population.
In a bid to better understand the brain and also to create robotics limbs that behave more realistically, a team of three European universities has developed a highly accurate new model of how neurons behave when performing complex movements.
The results from the University of Cambridge, University of Oxford, and the Ecole Polytechnique Fédérale de Lausanne (EPFL) are published in the June 18 edition of the journal Neuron.
The new theory was inspired by recent experiments carried out at Stanford University, which had uncovered some key aspects of the signals that neurons emit before, during, and after a movement. “There is a remarkable synergy in the activity recorded simultaneously in hundreds of neurons,” said Guillaume Hennequin, PhD, of EPFL’s Department of Engineering, who led the research. “In contrast, previous models of cortical circuit dynamics predict a lot of redundancy, and therefore poorly explain what happens in the motor cortex during movements.”
I addition to helping us better understand the brain, better models of how neurons behave will aid in designing prosthetic limbs controlled via electrodes implanted in the brain. “Our theory could provide a more accurate guess of how neurons would want to signal both movement intention and execution to the robotic limb,” said Hennequin.
Guillaume Hennequin, Tim P. Vogels, Wulfram Gerstner, Optimal Control of Transient Dynamics in Balanced Networks Supports Generation of Complex Movements, Neuron, 2014, DOI: 10.1016/j.neuron.2014.04.045
Via Dr. Stefan Gruenwald
"The light that a city emits is like its glowing fingerprint. From the orderly grid of Manhattan, to the sprawling, snaking streets of Milan, to the bright contrast of Kuwait’s ring-roads, each city leaves its own pattern of tiny glowing dots. See if you can ID these cities based on the way they shine."