Posts Tagged ‘biotechnology’

Proteins Behaving Badly

 :: Posted by American Biotechnologist on 02-23-2012

Interesting story out of the Biophysical Society’s 56th Annual Meeting.

Several neurodegenerative diseases – including Alzheimer’s and ALS (Lou Gehrig’s disease) – are caused when the body’s own proteins fold incorrectly, recruit and convert healthy proteins to the misfolded form, and aggregate in large clumps that gum up the works of the nervous system. Now scientists have developed an algorithm that can predict which regions of a protein are prone to exposure upon misfolding, and how mutations in the protein and changes in the cellular environment might affect the stability of these vulnerable regions. These predictions help scientists gain a better understanding of protein dynamics, and may one day help in developing treatments to effectively combat currently incurable neurodegenerative diseases.

The algorithm uses the energy equations of thermodynamics to calculate the likelihood that certain stretches of protein will be displayed when the protein misfolds. Since the exposed regions are specific to the misfolded version of the protein, researchers can use these regions as targets for diagnostic and therapeutic treatments. The algorithm can be adapted for different proteins and predicts several potential target regions for each protein. The group has used it to study neurodegenerative disease-causing proteins as well as misfolded proteins that have been implicated in some cancers.

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Bacteria have social lives too!

 :: Posted by American Biotechnologist on 02-09-2012

Sit back and relax with some popcorn as you watch this interesting talk by Professor Bonnie Bassler of Princeton University talk about the social world of bacteria. And you thought that only human’s had Facebook!

H/T to Labguru for the find!

If you don’t have enough patience (or popcorn) to watch the 50 minute version of her talk, checkout her 20 minute 2009 TED talk on the same subject below.

A Simple Way to Study Cells

 :: Posted by American Biotechnologist on 02-08-2012

Remember MacGyver? He could do almost anything with a piece of scotch tape and a paper clip. The following story reminds me very much of McGyver and how much can be accomplished with a little imagination.

National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) research engineer Javier Atencia has a reputation for creating novel microfluidic devices out of ordinary, inexpensive components. This time, he has combined a glass slide, plastic sheets and double-sided tape into a “diffusion-based gradient generator”—a tool to rapidly assess how changing concentrations of specific chemicals affect living cells.

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Blueberry wine to the rescue

 :: Posted by American Biotechnologist on 02-07-2012

A couple of weeks ago, we were excited to report that coffee consumption helps protect drinkers against acquiring type 2 diabetes. In the same article we mentioned that the UConn scientist responsible for promoting the beneficial effects of resveratrol which is found in red wine was recently accused of fraud and has had many of his publications recalled from prestigious scientific journals.

However, a recent study out of the University of Florida is once again providing us with a reason to rejoice over our alcohol consumption (I knew that it wouldn’t take long!). According to the University, researchers with UF’s Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences have shown that Blueberry wine contain more antioxidants than white wines and many red wines.

The researchers found the Florida wine, produced from southern highbush blueberries, had more antioxidants than all of the reported white wine values and all but 20 percent of the reported values for red wines, which are considered high in antioxidants.

According to study author Wade Yang, a food science and human nutrition assistant professor with IFAS, “for people seeking the potential health benefits of a glass of wine, blueberry wine is a comparable, and, in many instances, better alternative to grape wines.”

Click here to read the full story.

Evolutionary evidence why tenured professors don’t need a brain

 :: Posted by American Biotechnologist on 01-02-2012

In a very entertaining talk, Neuroscientist Daniel Wolpert explains the “real” reason for brains and how evolutionary evidence proves that the brain has evolved to control movement and not as a thinking or feeling organ.

Perhaps one of Wolpert’s best lines is when he compares tenured professors to Sea Squirts. Appartently, Sea Squirts swim around the ocean as juveniles and then implant themselves on a rock where they remain indefinitely. Once they no longer need to move, they digest their brains which, Wolpert contends, is proof that their brain was only necessary for movement. As Wolpert so eloquently put it:

Once you don’t need to move, you don’t need the luxury of that brain. This animal is often taken as an analogy to what happens in universities when professors get tenure…