Got zinc? New zinc research suggests novel therapeutic targets

Everyone knows that vitamins “from A to zinc” are important for good health. Now, a new research study in the August 2009 print issue of the Journal of Leukocyte Biology (http://www.jleukbio.org) suggests that zinc may be pointing the way to new therapeutic targets for fighting infections. Specifically, scientists from Florida found that zinc not only supports healthy immune function, but increases activation of the cells (T cells) responsible for destroying viruses and bacteria. Continue reading “Got zinc? New zinc research suggests novel therapeutic targets”

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Scientists uncork a potential secret of red wine’s health benefits

Scientists from Scotland and Singapore have unraveled a mystery that has perplexed scientists since red wine was first discovered to have health benefits: how does resveratrol control inflammation? New research published in the August 2009 print issue of The FASEB Journal (http://www.fasebj.org), not only explains resveratrol’s one-two punch on inflammation, but also show how it—or a derivative—can be used to treat potentially deadly inflammatory disease, such as appendicitis, peritonitis, and systemic sepsis. Continue reading “Scientists uncork a potential secret of red wine’s health benefits”

Robotics insights through flies’ eyes

Common and clumsy-looking, the blow fly is a true artist of flight. Suddenly changing direction, standing still in the air, spinning lightning-fast around its own axis, and making precise, pinpoint landings – all these maneuvers are simply a matter of course. Extremely quick eyesight helps to keep it from losing orientation as it races to and fro. Still, how does its tiny brain process the multiplicity of images and signals so rapidly and efficiently?

To get to the bottom of this, members of a Munich-based “excellence cluster” called Cognition for Technical Systems or CoTeSys have created an unusual research environment: a flight simulator for flies. Here they’re investigating what goes on in flies’ brains while they’re flying. Their goal is to put similar capabilities in human hands – for example, to aid in developing robots that can independently apprehend and learn from their surroundings.

Caption: Specific flight patterns are simulated by controlling optical flux fields presented to the fly.  Credit: Max-Planck Institute for Neurobiology
Caption: Specific flight patterns are simulated by controlling optical "flux fields" presented to the fly. Credit: Max-Planck Institute for Neurobiology

Continue reading “Robotics insights through flies’ eyes”

Gene transcribing machine takes halting, backsliding trip along the DNA

The body’s nanomachines that read our genes don’t run as smoothly as previously thought, according to a new study by University of California, Berkeley, scientists.

When these nanoscale protein machines encounter obstacles as they move along the DNA, they stall, often for minutes, and even backtrack as they transcribe DNA that is tightly wound to fit inside the cell’s nucleus.

Caption: RNA polymerase II (blue) performs the first step of gene expression by moving along the cells DNA (gray) and transcribing it into messenger RNA (red). During this process, the polymerase encounters obstacles, such as nucleosomes, which tightly wrap the DNA around histone proteins (yellow) and prevent continued transcription. UC Berkeley researchers have developed methods to directly observe this process in real time.  Credit: Courtney Hodges & Lacra Bintu/UC Berkeley
Caption: RNA polymerase II (blue) performs the first step of gene expression by moving along the cell's DNA (gray) and transcribing it into messenger RNA (red). During this process, the polymerase encounters obstacles, such as nucleosomes, which tightly wrap the DNA around histone proteins (yellow) and prevent continued transcription. UC Berkeley researchers have developed methods to directly observe this process in real time. Credit: Courtney Hodges & Lacra Bintu/UC Berkeley

Continue reading “Gene transcribing machine takes halting, backsliding trip along the DNA”

Health benefits of physical activity more pronounced in women

Many experimental studies have found that physical exercise can improve cholesterol levels and subsequently decrease the risks of cardiovascular disease; however, few of these studies have included enough participant diversity to provide ethnic breakdowns. Now, a long-term study of over 8,700 middle-aged men and women provides race- and gender- specific data on the cholesterol effects of physical activity, with the interesting result that women, particularly African-American women, experience greater benefits as a result of exercise than men. Continue reading “Health benefits of physical activity more pronounced in women”

Scientists closer to making implantable bone material

Scientists are closer to understanding how to grow replacement bones with stem cell technology, thanks to research published today in the journal Nature Materials.

Many scientists are currently trying to create bone-like materials, derived from stem cells, to implant into patients who have damaged or fractured bones, or who have had parts of diseased bones removed. The idea is that, ultimately, these bone-like materials could be inserted into cavities so that real bone could meld with it and repair the bone. Continue reading “Scientists closer to making implantable bone material”

Researchers capture bacterial infection on film

Whilst most studies of bacterial infection are done after the death of the infected organism, this system developed by scientists at the University of Bath and University of Exeter is the first to follow the progress of infection in real-time with living organisms.

Caption: Confocal microscope image showing insect immune cells (green) containing fluorescently labelled E.coli (red).  Credit: University of Bath
Caption: Confocal microscope image showing insect immune cells (green) containing fluorescently labelled E.coli (red). Credit: University of Bath

Continue reading “Researchers capture bacterial infection on film”