Imaging Tumor Growth – Potential for Treating Early Stage Cancer

The imaging of tumour growth in zebrafish has revealed for the first time how newly formed cancer cells have the capacity to co-opt the immune system into spreading the disease, leading the way for investigations into potential therapies for eliminating early-stage cancer in humans. Using different coloured fluorescent tags, scientists at the University of Bristol labelled immune cells and tumour-forming cells in the translucent zebrafish in order to track their behaviour and interactions by live cell imaging.  These findings are published in the online in PLoS Biology.

The Birth of Time

Physicists from the Faculty of Physics, University of Warsaw have put forward — on the pages of Physical Review D — a new theoretical model of quantum gravity describing the emergence of space-time from the structures of quantum theory. It is not only one of the few models describing the full general theory of relativity advanced by Einstein, but it is also completely mathematically consistent. “The solutions applied allow to trace the evolution of the Universe in a more physically acceptable manner than in the case of previous cosmological models,” explains Prof. Jerzy Lewandowski from the Faculty of Physics, University of Warsaw (FUW).

Genetic Basis of Brain Diseases

Scientists have isolated a set of proteins that accounts for over 130 brain diseases, including diseases such as Alzheimer’s disease, Parkinson’s disease, epilepsies and forms of autism and learning disability. The team showed that the protein machinery has changed relatively little during evolution, suggesting that the behaviors governed by and the diseases associated with these proteins have not changed significantly over many millions of years. The findings open several new paths toward tackling these diseases.   In the brain synapses have a set of proteins, which, like the components of an engine, bind together to build a molecular machine called the postsynaptic density — also known as the PSD. 

A team of scientists, led by Professor Seth Grant at the Wellcome Trust Sanger Institute and Edinburgh University, have extracted the PSDs from synapses of patients undergoing brain surgery and discovered 1461 proteins, each one encoded by a different gene. This has made it possible, for the first time, to systematically identify the diseases that affect human synapses and provides a new way to study the evolution of the brain and behaviour.    Read more in the Dec 19 issue of Nature Neuroscience.

Cellular Protein Hobbles HIV-1

A cellular protein called BST-2 had already been known to interfere with the spread of human immunodeficiency virus type 1 (HIV-1), by inhibiting the release of its progeny particles from infected cells. Now a team from McGill University, Montreal, shows that in addition, each progeny virion’s ability to cause infection is severely impaired.

“BST-2 may exert a more potent inhibition effect on HIV-1 transmission than previously thought,” says coauthor Chen Liang. The research is published in the December Journal of Virology.

Harvard-Led Team Develops DNA Microchip-Based Gene Synthesis Method

Researchers from Harvard University and Agilent Technologies have developed a strategy for using DNA microchips to ramp up — and reduce the cost of — gene synthesis.

The new approach relies on selective enrichment of long oligonucleotides from DNA microchips, allowing researchers to synthesize and assemble many oligonucleotides simultaneously. That, in turn, provides an opportunity to scale up and streamline the gene synthesis process. A study demonstrating the feasibility of the approach appears in the current issue of Nature Biotechnology.

NIH Board Approves New Translational Institute

National Institutes of Health Director Francis Collins says the agency has taken a “bold step”  deciding to create a new NIH center that will focus on advancing translational medicine and therapeutics (TMAT), and which will have major implications for the National Center for Research Resources.

The new center’s mission will be to support, foster, and catalyze TMAT research and serving as a resource for the business sector.   It will do so by taking over several of NCRR’s current programs, the TMAT Working Group of NIH’s Scientific Management Review Board (SMRB) agreed yesterday.  The TMAT center arose out of the scientific need for new approaches and avenues for getting medicine from the lab to the clinic more swiftly and cost-effectively. Collins aims to have the center funded by the 2012 fiscal year.

Top Ten Innovations 2010

The Scientist received more than 60 entries to the third annual Top 10 Innovations competition, presenting  judges—Northwestern University molecular chemist Neil Kelleher, sequencing pioneer Jonathan Rothberg, Princeton University genomicist Amy Caudy, and Pacific Northwest National Laboratory biologist H. Steven Wiley—with the very challenging task of winnowing these products down to the 10 best.

This year’s winners include essential tools, such as sequencers, imagers, and cell counters, that have the potential to simplify and streamline work in biology labs; and cutting-edge advances, from tailor-made disease-model cell lines to heart cells derived from induced pluripotent stem cells.

Read more: Top Ten Innovations 2010 – The Scientist – Magazine of the Life Sciences

The Consequences of Having Evolved: Our Uniquely Human Flaws

The latest issue of Smithsonian Magazine names and explains those daily consequences of having evolved into Homo sapiens via Mother Nature’s crafty use of the gene pool at her disposal. 

evolution of man From hiccups to wisdom teeth, our own bodies are worse off than most because of the differences between the wilderness in which we evolved and the modern world in which we live.

Read more:

Harvard’s Wyss Institute Inaugurates New Labs in Boston, Cambridge

NEW YORK (GenomeWeb News) — Harvard University’s Wyss Institute for Biologically Inspired Engineering has officially inaugurated a combined 60,000 square feet of office and laboratory space — the entire fifth floor of the Center for Life Science Boston building on Harvard’s Longwood campus; and the fourth floor of 60 Oxford St. in Cambridge, Mass.

During a Nov. 29 ceremony marking the formal opening of the labs, Harvard Provost Steven E. Hyman said the new space would help the institute as it creates a new model of how Harvard commercializes innovations from its laboratories, according to an account on the university’s official news website, the Harvard Gazette.

Wyss has nearly 200 researchers and support staffers engaged in projects led by 16 core faculty members and a group of associated faculty drawn from several Harvard schools and affiliated institutions, including Harvard Medical School, the Faculty of Arts and Sciences, the School of Engineering and Applied Sciences, and several affiliated hospitals.

The Wyss Institute focuses on technology development and translation in research disciplines ranging from medicine to bioenergy. The Institute was launched in January 2009 with a $125 million gift from Swiss engineer and businessman Hansjörg Wyss, representing the largest single philanthropic gift in the history of Harvard University.