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Protein partially assembles another protein without genetic instructions

January 2, 2015

Protein adds amino acids to a new protein without genetic instructions. The Rqc2 protein (yellow) binds transfer RNAs (dark blue, teal), which add amino acids (bright spot in middle) to a partially made protein (green). The complex binds the ribosome (white). (Credit: anet Iwasa, Ph.D., University of Utah)

Defying textbook science, amino acids (the building blocks of a protein) can be assembled by another protein and without genetic instructions, according to a study published today (Jan. 2) in Science.

It happens just before an incomplete protein is recycled due to an assembly failure: a protein called Rqc2 prompts ribosomes (which assemble proteins) to add just two amino acids (of 20 total) — alanine and threonine — over… read more

Lack of daily physical activity linked to vascular dysfunction

December 31, 2014

(Credit: iStock)

University of Missouri School of Medicine researchers have found that reducing daily physical activity for even a few days leads to decreases in the function of the inner lining of blood vessels in the legs of young, healthy subjects, causing vascular dysfunction that can have prolonged effects.

Paul Fadel, associate professor of medical pharmacology and physiology, and John Thyfault, associate professor of nutrition and exercise physiology, also found that… read more

Resveratrol found to activate ancient stress response and at 1,000 times lower doses

December 30, 2014

400px-Glass_of_red_wine

Scientists at The Scripps Research Institute (TSRI) have found that a fundamental new mechanism for the known beneficial effects of resveratrol — the grapes and red-wine ingredient once touted as an elixir of youth: it powerfully activates an evolutionarily ancient stress response in human cells.

“This stress response represents a layer of biology that has been largely overlooked, and resveratrol turns out to activate it at much lower concentrations… read more

Yoga as a potential therapy for cardiovascular disease and metabolic syndrome

December 30, 2014

(Credit: iStock)

A systematic review of 37 randomized controlled trials showed promising evidence for the ability of yoga to improve cardiovascular and metabolic health, but found no significant difference in the effectiveness of yoga versus aerobic exercise.

Yoga showed significant improvement in body mass index, systolic blood pressure, low-density lipoprotein cholesterol, and high-density lipoprotein cholesterol; and significant changes in body weight, diastolic blood pressure, total cholesterol, triglycerides, and heart rate.… read more

A step toward a potential anti-aging drug

December 29, 2014

Everolimus, AKA RAD001 (credit: Fvasconcellos/public domain)

According to a new study published in Science Translational Medicine, researchers have tested a potential anti-aging drug called everolimus (AKA RAD001) — an analog (version) of the drug rapamycin (sirolimus)*.

In previous research, rapamycin extended the life span of mice by 9 to 14%, even when treatment was initiated late in life, and it improved a variety of aging-related conditions in old mice, including tendon stiffening, cardiac… read more

Optogenetics captures synaptic transmission in live mammalian brain for the first time

Could significantly expand our knowledge of connectivity between various types of neurons as a more realistic alternative to in vitro studies
December 26, 2014

A reconstruction of a pair of synaptically connected neurons (credit: Aurélie Pala/EPFL)

EPFL scientists Aurélie Pala and Carl Petersen have observed and measured synaptic transmission in a live animal for the first time, using optogenetics* to stimulate single neurons in the mouse barrel cortex (which processes sensory information from the mouse’s whiskers).

They shined blue light on the neurons containing a gene-based light-sensitive protein, activating the neurons to fire. Then using microelectrodes, they measured resulting electrical signals in neighboring interneuron cells.… read more

Crafting color coatings from nanometer-thick layers of gold and germanium

New technique works on rough or flexible materials from wearable fabrics to stretchable electronics
December 24, 2014

In 2012, Capasso's research team demonstrated interference effects in layers of gold and germanium deposited on silicon, pictured here. Their latest work takes it much further, demonstrating that the same effects can be achieved on rough surfaces. (Credit: Mikhail Kats, Romain Blanchard, and Patrice Genevet.)

Harvard scientists who developed a technique in 2012 that coats a gray metallic object with a semiconductor layer just a few nanometers thick to achieve a variety of vibrant hues have now applied the technique to almost any rough or flexible material, from wearable fabrics to stretchable electronics.

The coating exploits optical interference effects in the thin films. Researcher Mikhail Kats compares it to the iridescent rainbows that are visible… read more

Piezoelectricity in a 2D semiconductor

Could allow for extremely small force generation/sensing, low-power logic switches, and biological sensors sensitive to molecular mass limits
December 24, 2014

To measure in-plane piezoelectric stress, an MoS2 film was suspended on HSQ posts and clamped by two Au electrodes. When the film was indented with a scanning AFM probe, the induced stress changed the load on the cantilever, which was observed by the deflection of a laser beam. (Credit: Berkeley Lab)

Berkeley Lab scientists have discovered a way to use piezoelectricity — the conversion of mechanical force to electricity and vice versa — with a single layer of molybdenum disulfide (MoS2) semiconductor molecules, which could lead to nanotechnology devices, such as a scanning atomic force microscope (AFM), for extremely small force generation/sensing and other uses.

“Piezoelectricity is a well-known effect in bulk crystals, but this is the first… read more

Existing drug riluzole may prevent foggy ‘old age’ brain

December 24, 2014

When researchers looked at certain neurons (similar to the one shown on top) in rats treated with riluzole, they found an important change in one brain region, the hippocampus: more clusters of so-called spines, receiving connections that extend from the branches of a neuron (bottom). (Credit: Dr. John H. Morrison's lab, The Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai)

New experiments suggest that riluzole, a drug already on the market as a treatment for ALS (Lou Gehrig’s disease), may help prevent the fading memory and clouding judgment that comes with advancing age.

Researchers at The Rockefeller University and The Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai found they could stop normal, age-related memory loss in rats by treating them with riluzole. The treatment prompted changes known to improve… read more

Quantum physics just got less complicated

Is "wave-particle duality" simply the quantum "uncertainty principle" in disguise?
December 23, 2014

Quantum physics says that particles can behave like waves, and vice versa. Researchers have now shown that this 'wave-particle duality' is simply the quantum uncertainty principle in disguise. (Credit:<br />
Timothy Yeo / CQT, National University of Singapore)

An international team of researchers has proved that two peculiar features of the quantum world previously considered distinct are different manifestations of the same thing. They found that “wave-particle duality” is simply the quantum “uncertainty principle” in disguise, reducing two mysteries to one.

The result was published December 19 in Nature Communications and in arXiv (open access).

Patrick Coles, Jedrzej Kaniewski, and Stephanie Wehner made the breakthrough while at… read more

Hidden molecular structures in proteins revealed

Improved X-ray diffraction software uses statistical methods
December 23, 2014

This is a membrane protein called cysZ, imaged in 3 dimensions with Phenix software using data that could not previously be analyzed. (Credit: Los Alamos National Laboratory)

Los Alamos National Lab scientists have developed statistical methods that allow for creating three-dimensional pictures of previously hidden molecular structures in proteins.

To view the proteins, researchers produce billions of copies, dissolve them in water, and grow crystals of the protein, then shine a beam of X-rays and measure the brightness of each of the thousands of diffracted X-ray spots that are produced.

Then researchers use the powerful… read more

Color-coding brain cells

December 23, 2014

This image shows multicolour tracing of newborn neurons. (Credit:<br />
University of Southampton)

University of Southampton neuroscientists have developed a method called “multicolor RGB tracking” to improve our understanding of how the brain works by color-marking individual brain cells in mice allows them to be tracked over space and time.*

To mark a brain cell, they inject a solution that contains three viral vectors (delivery of genes by a virus) to create a fluorescent protein in each cell. Each cell… read more

It might be possible to restore lost memories

Memories not stored in synapses, neurobiologist finds
December 22, 2014

Synapse (credit: Curtis Neveu/Wikimedia Commons)

New UCLA research indicates that lost memories can be restored, offering hope for patients in the early stages of Alzheimer’s disease.

For decades, most neuroscientists have believed that memories are stored at the synapses — the connections between brain cells, or neurons — which are destroyed by Alzheimer’s disease. The new study provides evidence contradicting the idea that long-term memory is stored at synapses.

“Long-term memory is not… read more

An affordable holodeck for civil engineers

December 21, 2014

VuePod2

Brigham Young University (BYU) student civil engineers have constructed an affordable 3D immersive visualization system from commercial off-the-shelf components and open-source software.

The “VuePod” system uses 12 high-definition, 55-inch 3D televisions all connected to a computer capable of supporting high-end, graphics-intensive visualization.  Images are controlled by a Wii remote that interacts with a Kinect-like  3D tracking device called SMARTTRACK. 3D glasses worn by the user create the… read more

Could ibuprofen be an anti-aging medicine?

December 19, 2014

Ibuprofen extends the lifespan of C. elegans worms: survival curves treated with ibuprofen at 0.1 mM (red) compared to experiment-matched untreated (credit: Chong He et al./PLOS Genetics)

Ibuprofen, a common over-the-counter drug used to relieve pain and fever, could hold the keys to a longer healthier life, according to a study by researchers at the Buck Institute for Research on Aging.  Publishing in PLoS Genetics (open access) December 18, scientists showed that regular doses of ibuprofen extended the lifespan of yeast, worms and fruit flies.

Brian Kennedy, PhD, CEO of the Buck Institute, said treatments, given… read more

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