Category: Biotechnology

Using magnetically controlled nanoparticles to force tumour cells to 'self-destruct' sounds like science fiction, but could be a future part of cancer treatment, according to research from Lund University in Sweden.

Nanotechnology and Functional Materials, Uppsala University have developed a paper filter, which can remove virus particles with the efficiency matching that of the best industrial virus filters. The paper filter consists of 100 percent high purity cellulose nanofibers, directly derived from nature.

Georgia Tech researchers examine the production of the hydrocarbon pinene in a series of laboratory test tubes.
Researchers at the Georgia Institute of Technology and the Joint BioEnergy Institute have engineered a bacterium to synthesize pinene, a hydrocarbon produced by trees that could potentially replace high-energy fuels, such as JP-10, in missiles and other aerospace applications. With improvements in process efficiency, the biofuel could supplement limited supplies of petroleum-based JP-10, and might also facilitate development of a new generation of more powerful engines.

With the new SIF-seq technique, mouse embryonic stem cells can be used to identify human embryonic stem cell enhancers even when the human enhancers are not present in the mouse.
An international team led by researchers with the Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory (Berkeley Lab) has developed a new technique for identifying gene enhancers - sequences of DNA that act to amplify the expression of a specific gene – in the genomes of humans and other mammals. Called SIF-seq, for site-specific integration fluorescence-activated cell sorting followed by sequencing, this new technique complements existing genomic tools, such as ChIP-seq (chromatin immunoprecipitation followed by sequencing), and offers some additional benefits.

Small protein fragments, also called peptides, are promising as drugs because they can be designed for very specific functions inside living cells. Insulin and the HIV drug Fuzeon are some of the earliest successful examples, and peptide drugs are expected to become a $25 billion market by 2018.

Sometimes it only takes a quick jolt of electricity to get a swarm of cells moving in the right direction.

Lentiviruses, which belong to the family of retroviruses, are used as vectors to exchange genetic material in cells and can be used to replace a defective gene as defined by gene therapy. Increasing the efficiency of such a treatment poses a major medical challenge: the virus should specifically track the target cells, but the number of virus used should be as low as possible.

Göttingen-based scientists working at DESY's PETRA III research light source have carried out the first studies of living biological cells using high-energy X-rays. The new method shows clear differences in the internal cellular structure between living and dead, chemically fixed cells that are often analysed. "The new method for the first time enables us to investigate the internal structures of living cells in their natural environment using hard X-rays," emphasises the leader of the working group, Prof. Sarah Köster from the Institute for X-Ray Physics of the University of Göttingen. The researchers present their work in the scientific journal Physical Review Letters.

Stars, diamonds, circles. Rather than your average bowl of Lucky Charms, these are three-dimensional cell cultures generated by an exciting new digital microfluidics platform, the results of which have been published in Nature Communications this week by researchers at the University of Toronto. The tool, which can be used to study cells in cost-efficient, three-dimensional microgels, may hold the key to personalized medicine applications in the future.

Photoreactive compounds developed by scientists of Ludwig-Maximilians-Universitaet (LMU) in Munich directly modulate nerve-cell function, and open new routes to the treatment of neurological diseases, including chronic pain and certain types of visual impairment.

A biologist at the University of York is part of an international team which has shown that advanced DNA sequencing technologies can be used to accurately measure the levels of inbreeding in wild animal populations.

Engineers like to make things that work. And if one wants to make something work using nanoscale components—the size of proteins, antibodies, and viruses—mimicking the behavior of cells is a good place to start since cells carry an enormous amount of information in a very tiny packet. As Erik Winfree, professor of computer science, computation and neutral systems, and bioengineering, explains, "I tend to think of cells as really small robots. Biology has programmed natural cells, but now engineers are starting to think about how we can program artificial cells. We want to program something about a micron in size, finer than the dimension of a human hair, that can interact with its chemical environment and carry out the spectrum of tasks that biological things do, but according to our instructions."

The power of regenerative medicine now allows scientists to transform skin cells into cells that closely resemble heart cells, pancreas cells and even neurons. However, a method to generate cells that are fully mature—a crucial prerequisite for life-saving therapies—has proven far more difficult. But now, scientists at the Gladstone Institutes and the University of California, San Francisco (UCSF), have made an important breakthrough: they have discovered a way to transform skin cells into mature, fully functioning liver cells that flourish on their own, even after being transplanted into laboratory animals modified to mimic liver failure.

Duckweed is a relatively simple plant with fronds that float on the surface of the water and roots that extend into the water.
Duckweed is a tiny floating plant that's been known to drive people daffy. It's one of the smallest and fastest-growing flowering plants that often becomes a hard-to-control weed in ponds and small lakes. But it's also been exploited to clean contaminated water and as a source to produce pharmaceuticals. Now, the genome of Greater Duckweed (Spirodela polyrhiza) has given this miniscule plant's potential as a biofuel source a big boost. In a paper published February 19, 2014 in the journal Nature Communications, researchers from Rutgers University, the Department of Energy Joint Genome Institute and several other facilities detailed the complete genome of S. polyrhiza and analyzed it in comparison to several other plants, including rice and tomatoes.

This image shows the microbattery, created by Jie Xiao and Daniel Deng and colleagues, amid grains of rice.
Scientists have created a microbattery that packs twice the energy compared to current microbatteries used to monitor the movements of salmon through rivers in the Pacific Northwest and around the world.

Inspired by tiny particles that carry cholesterol through the body, MIT chemical engineers have designed nanoparticles that can deliver snippets of genetic material that turn off disease-causing genes.

Researchers at Brigham and Women's Hospital (BWH) and Carnegie Mellon University have introduced a unique micro-robotic technique to assemble the components of complex materials, the foundation of tissue engineering and 3D printing.

Illustration: Green artificial vesicle is loaded with a basic cellular machinery derived from bacterial cells. This enables it to translate an encapsulated genetic blueprint into a functional protein.
It is a big dream in science: To start from scratch with simple artificial microskopic building blocks and end up with something much more complex: living systemts, novel computers or every-day materials. For decades scientists have pursied the dream of creating artificial building blocks that can self-assemble in large numbers and reassemble to take on new tasks or to remedy defects. Now researchers from University of Southern Denmark have taken a step forward to make this dream come true.

Researchers achieved precise gene modification in monkeys.
Monkeys are important for modeling diseases because of their close similarities to humans, but past efforts to precisely modify genes in primates have failed. In a study published by Cell Press January 30th in the journal Cell, researchers achieved precise gene modification in monkeys for the first time using an efficient and reliable approach known as the CRISPR/Cas9 system. The study opens promising new avenues for the development of more effective treatments for a range of human diseases.

A team of researchers at the University of Toronto has discovered a method of assembling "building blocks" of gold nanoparticles as the vehicle to deliver cancer medications or cancer-identifying markers directly into cancerous tumors. The study, led by Warren Chan, Professor at the Institute of Biomaterials & Biomedical Engineering (IBBME) and the Donnelly Centre for Cellular & Biomolecular Research (CCBR), appears in an article in Nature Nanotechnology this week.

A simple adjustment to a powerful gene-editing tool may be able to improve its specificity. In a report receiving advance online publication in Nature Biotechnology, Massachusetts General Hospital (MGH) investigators describe how adjusting the length of the the guide RNA (gRNA) component of the synthetic enzymes called CRISPR-Cas RNA-guided nucleases (RGNs) can substantially reduce the occurrence of DNA mutations at sites other than the intended target, a limitation the team had previously described just last year.

Left: This is a transmission electron microscopy (TEM) image of a single CVB3 virus showing tens of gold nanoparticles attached to its surface.
Researchers at the Nanoscience Center (NSC) of University of Jyväskylä in Finland have developed a novel method to study enterovirus structures and their functions. The method will help to obtain new information on trafficking of viruses in cells and tissues as well as on the mechanisms of virus opening inside cells. This new information is important for example for developing new antiviral drugs and vaccines. The study was published in the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences January 13, 2014. (1) The research was funded by the Academy of Finland and the TEKES FiDiPro -project NOVAC (Novel methods for vaccination and virus detection).

Scientists have discovered a mutation with a built-in dilemma for dairy cattle breeders. The deleted gene sequence has a positive effect on milk yield but causes embryonic death in dairy cattle.

BiotechnologyDecember 12, 2013 07:32 PM

Since the completion of the Human Genome Project, which identified nearly 20,000 protein-coding genes, scientists have been trying to decipher the roles of those genes. A new approach developed at MIT, the Broad Institute, and the Whitehead Institute should speed up the process by allowing researchers to study the entire genome at once.

Get ready: The "new genetics" promises to change faulty genes of future generations by introducing new, functioning genes using "designer sperm." A new research report appearing online in The FASEB Journal, shows that introducing new genetic material via a viral vector into the sperm of mice leads to the presence and activity of those genes in the resulting embryos. This new genetic material is actually inherited, present and functioning through three generations of the mice tested. This discovery—if successful in humans—could lead to a new frontier in genetic medicine in which diseases and disorders are effectively cured, and new human attributes, such as organ regeneration, may be possible.

This 3D print is next to the original unprepared and erroneously labeled plaster jacket.
Data from computed tomography (CT) scans can be used with three-dimensional (3-D) printers to make accurate copies of fossilized bones, according to new research published online in the journal Radiology.

Researchers led by bioengineers at the University of California, San Diego have generated the most complete genome sequences from single E. coli cells and individual neurons from the human brain. The breakthrough comes from a new single-cell genome sequencing technique that confines genome amplification to fluid-filled wells with a volume of just 12 nanoliters.

Scientists looking to create a potent blend of enzymes to transform materials like corn stalks and wood chips into fuels have developed a test that should turbocharge their efforts.

Researchers at the University of Illinois at Chicago have identified a protein expressed by human bone marrow stem cells that guides and stimulates the formation of blood vessels.

This new method will be a great step forwards to understanding the resulting processes that control gene regulation.

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