Mimicking biological complexity, in a tiny particle – MIT News Office

Tiny particles made of polymers hold great promise for targeted delivery of drugs and as structural scaffolds for building artificial tissues. However, current production methods for such microparticles yield a limited array of shapes and can only be made with certain materials, restricting their usefulness.

In an advance that could broadly expand the possible applications for such particles, MIT engineers have developed a way to make microparticles of nearly any shape, using a micromold that changes shape in response to temperature. They can also precisely place drugs into different compartments of the particles, making it easier to control the timing of drug release, or arrange different cells into layers to create tissue that closely mimics the structure of natural tissues.

The new technique, described in a paper published online July 18 in the Journal of the American Chemical Society, also allows researchers to create microparticles from a much more diverse range of materials, says Halil Tekin, an MIT graduate student in electrical engineering and computer science and lead author of the paper.

via Mimicking biological complexity, in a tiny particle – MIT News Office.

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Scientists Help Pinpoint Cause of Stress-Related DNA Damage

Working closely with a team of researchers from Duke University, scientists from the Florida campus of The Scripps Research Institute have helped identify a molecular pathway that plays a key role in stress-related damage to the genome, the entirety of an organism’s hereditary information.

The new findings, published in the journal Nature on August 21, 2011, could not only explain the development of certain human disorders, they could also offer a potential model for prevention and therapy. Continue reading “Scientists Help Pinpoint Cause of Stress-Related DNA Damage”

Chromosomes and Cancer

Aneuploidy—when the cells of an organism contain more or fewer than the standard number of chromosomes for its species—is found in greater than 90 percent of all human cancers. But how exactly it relates to cancer, and whether it is a cause or merely a consequence of genomic instability, has long been a mystery. Two new studies published today (August 18) in Science show that it’s probably both, pointing to a gene defect that can cause aneuploidy, and elucidating the disastrous effects of aneuploidy on a cell’s genome.

“Aneuploidy is found in virtually all cancers, yet very little is known about its origins or its effects,” said a cancer biologist Bert Vogelstein at Johns Hopkins Medicine, who was not involved in the research. “These two papers provide some really excellent clues to what’s going on.”

via Chromosomes and Cancer | The Scientist.

Watching the Protein Tango

A new microscope has allowed researchers to watch molecules move within a cell on a millisecond-by-millisecond time scale for the first time. The novel method, which combines two preëxisting microscopic techniques, opens a window onto cellular processes that had previously been undetectable, unveiling molecular activity within a cell at a much finer level than ever before possible.

“This allows us to look at interactions of molecules, and their mobility,” says Malte Wachsmuth, a cell biophysicist at the European Molecular Biology Laboratory in Heidelberg, Germany, who helped develop the new microscope. Current microscopy techniques can home in on a single spot within a cell, but they can miss vital information when the focus moves from one spot to another. “A typical protein might spend one to two milliseconds in such a spot,” Wachsmuth says. “Molecules are quite mobile, diffusing all around, and it’s a very fast process. A lot can happen in a few tens of milliseconds.”

via Watching the Protein Tango – Technology Review.

Study: Obese People Live as Long as Slimmer People

Obese people who are otherwise healthy live as long as normal-weight people, new research from Canada suggests.

Some obese but healthy people actually are less likely to die of heart problems than normal-weight people who have some medical conditions, the researchers found.

“You shouldn’t just look at body weight alone,” says researcher Jennifer Kuk, PhD, assistant professor of kinesiology and health science at York University in Toronto.

“A healthy lifestyle, including being physically active and eating a healthy diet, is probably more important than your body weight and focusing on weight loss, if you are otherwise healthy,” she tells WebMD.

Kuk and her colleagues used a new tool that helps identify which people would benefit from weight loss and from weight loss surgery. Called the Edmonton Obesity Staging System (EOSS), it grades or stages obese people depending on whether they have diseases such as heart disease or cancer.

via Study: Obese People Live as Long as Slimmer People.

Study identifies fish oil’s impact on cognition and brain structure

The study was led by Lori Daiello, PharmD, a research scientist at the Rhode Island Hospital Alzheimer’s Disease and Memory Disorders Center. Data for the analyses was obtained from the Alzheimer’s Disease Neuroimaging Initiative (ADNI), a large multi-center, NIH-funded study that followed older adults with normal cognition, mild cognitive impairment, and Alzheimer’s Disease for over three years with periodic memory testing and brain MRIs.

The study included 819 individuals, 117 of whom reported regular use of fish oil supplements before entry and during study follow-up. The researchers compared cognitive functioning and brain atrophy for patients who reported routinely using these supplements to those who were not using fish oil supplements.

Daiello reports that compared to non-users, use of fish oil supplements was associated with better cognitive functioning during the study. However, this association was significant only in those individuals who had a normal baseline cognitive function and in individuals who tested negative for a genetic risk factor for Alzheimer’s Disease known as APOE4. This is consistent with previous research.
Continue reading “Study identifies fish oil’s impact on cognition and brain structure”