:: Posted by American Biotechnologist on 12-09-2013
Like tiny construction workers, cells sculpt embryonic tissues and organs in 3D space. This task is complicated and requires constant communication between cells to coordinate their actions and generate the forces that will shape their environment into complex tissue morphologies.
Biologists have long studied the communication between cells and their behavior while building these structures, but until now, it had not been possible to see the forces cells generate to shape them. A new method to quantify the mechanical forces that cells exert while building tissues and organs can help answer long unresolved questions in biology and provide new diagnostic tools for medicine.
Developed initially in the Wyss Institute at Harvard University by Otger Campàs and Donald Ingber, this technique is the first of its kind to measure the mechanical forces that cells generate in living embryos. Now an assistant professor who holds the Mellichamp Chair in Systems Biology at UC Santa Barbara, Campàs leads a lab that is developing this droplet technique in several new directions, and applying it to discover the patterns of cellular forces that shape embryonic structures in fish and chicken.
“There is a lot of interest in understanding how genetics and mechanics interplay to shape embryonic tissues,” said Campàs. “I believe this technique will help many scientists explore the role that mechanical forces play in morphogenesis and, more generally, in biology.”
:: Posted by American Biotechnologist on 11-21-2013
Obesity may alter the way we taste at the most fundamental level: by changing how our tongues react to different foods.
In a Nov. 13 study in the journal PLOS ONE, University at Buffalo biologists report that being severely overweight impaired the ability of mice to detect sweets.
Compared with slimmer counterparts, the plump mice had fewer taste cells that responded to sweet stimuli. What’s more, the cells that did respond to sweetness reacted relatively weakly.
The findings peel back a new layer of the mystery of how obesity alters our relationship to food.
“Studies have shown that obesity can lead to alterations in the brain, as well as the nerves that control the peripheral taste system, but no one had ever looked at the cells on the tongue that make contact with food,” said lead scientist Kathryn Medler, PhD, UB associate professor of biological sciences.
:: Posted by American Biotechnologist on 11-08-2013
One of biology’s most fundamental processes is something called transcription. It is just one step of many required to build proteins—and without it life would not exist. However, many aspects of transcription remain shrouded in mystery. But now, scientists at the Gladstone Institutes are shedding light on key aspects of transcription, and in so doing are coming even closer to understanding the importance of this process in the growth and development of cells—as well as what happens when this process goes awry.
In the latest issue of Molecular Cell, researchers in the laboratory of Gladstone Investigator Melanie Ott, MD, PhD, describe the intriguing behavior of a protein called RNA polymerase II (RNAPII). The RNAPII protein is an enzyme, a catalyst that guides the transcription process by copying DNA into RNA, which forms a disposable blueprint for making proteins. Scientists have long known that RNAPII appears to stall or “pause” at specific genes early in transcription. But they were not sure as why.
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