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Making Sense of Mechanosensation

By | May 10, 2004

OPEN WIDE:© 2002 Nature Publishing GroupMscL has one of the widest channel openings. Here transmembrane (TM) segments are in the open state. The side view is shown in relation to a hypothetically distorted bilayer. (Reprinted with permissionStress – the bane of modern existence. Even cells have to deal with it, in its mechanical forms, at least. Osmotic pressure and shear forces from the environment signal dangerous situations that threaten the integrity of the cell membrane. Membrane

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Enter the Matrix

By | April 26, 2004

WHAT A TANGLED WEB:Courtesy of Philip B. MessersmithFibroblasts are cellular workhorses of extracellular matrix production, spinning out the majority of collagens, the most abundant proteins in the animal kingdom.Appreciation in biology can come slowly. Researchers once deemed as junk the parts of genes not represented in proteins; likewise, neuroglia were thought to be mere bystanders to neurons. So it is with the extracellular matrix (ECM), the "scaffolding" and "glue" that fill the spaces amo

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More Than Skin Deep

By | April 26, 2004

© 2003 Massachusetts Medical SocietyPsoriatic skin and an immune synapse (Inset). (From T.S. Kupper, N Eng J Med, 349:1987–90, 2003.)The red, cracked, and bleeding scales of psoriasis appear on the scalps, knees, elbows, and trunks of 2% of the global population. Psoriasis is more than the annoying skin condition portrayed in the 1960s-era advertisements bemoaning "the heartbreak of psoriasis." Understanding the immunological underpinnings of the disease has spawned new treatments and

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o's Imprint

By | April 26, 2004

SELECTIVE PRESSURE:Courtesy of Richard DaviesInvertebrate seed predators, like this Alcidodes ramezii from Thailand, may exert selective pressure influencing El Niño-associated dipterocarp bumper crops.Human activities often disrupt the delicate balance between predators and prey, but an unusual example has come to light among the equatorial rainforests of Indonesia. Dipterocarp, the economically important canopy trees that account for 70% of the region's biomass, are vanishing. Indeed, pro

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Scouring Sequences for the Fountain of Youth

By | April 26, 2004

"EVERY man desires to live long; but no man would be old," wrote Jonathan Swift. In the quest to live life long and well, people have consumed everything from turtle soup to owl meat to gladiator's blood. Russian French microbiologist Ilya Mechnikov thought a human could live for 150 years on a steady diet of milk cultured with bacteria (he died at 71). While the Internet offers a wide variety of products for fountain-of-youth seekers, some researchers have turned their attention to the genes (s

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A Left-Brain/Right-Brain Conundrum Revisited

By | April 12, 2004

A prominent British psychiatrist recently revived old arguments about the origins of language and the evolution of humans. Tim Crow at Warneford Hospital in Oxford says that reports on ape brain asymmetry are distorted by observer bias.1 Those criticized point to "plenty of evidence" that general functions and skills have gravitated to one side of the brain or the other in animals from chicks to chimps.Crow argues that researchers are finding evidence of language precursors in apes because they

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Dinner, Pets, and Plagues by the Bucketful

By | April 12, 2004

UNEXPECTED ROUTES:Top: Courtesy of Thomas Strömberg; Bottom: Courtesy of David J. Jefferies http://www.ee.surrey.ac.uk/Personal/D.Jefferies/bird/Any time animals are brought together in unnatural densities, it raises the potential for disease disaster. Bullfrogs, mass farmed in South America, are shipped to the United States without disease inspection. Their discarded skins might spread amphibian fungal plagues. Outbreaks of House Finch conjunctivitis and salmonellosis in song birds have sp

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Exploring Inositide Diversity

By | April 12, 2004

RELEASING THE SECOND MESSENGERS:© 2002 Garland Science/Taylor & Francis BooksIn this common pathway, activated phospholipase C-β hydrolyzes the inositide PI 4,5-bisphosphate to release diacylglyerol and inositol 1,4,5 trisphosphate. IP3 opens specific Ca2+ channels releasing the ions from the lumen of the endoplasmic reticulum. Diacylglycerol can be further cleaved to release arachidonic acid, a signaling molecule needed for the synthesis of other messengers such as prosta-glandins

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On The Fringes Of Life

By | April 12, 2004

THE VIRAL TREE OF "LIFE"Compiled by Jill U. AdamsIn the late-19th century, scientists showed that certain infectious agents, such as those causing tobacco mosaic virus and yellow fever, were distinct from other microbes because they were so small. Still, it was presumed that they were living organisms until 1935 when tobacco mosaic virus was crystallized. The discovery of its acellular structure made viruses "seem more like nonliving chemical entities of disease," a view still held by many, writ

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How Sex May Have Started it All

By | March 29, 2004

STRANDED SEX:© 2003 Elsevier ScienceIn this two-pot recombination scheme a ribozyme is incubated with an excess of RNA substrate A-B. The 3' portion of the substrate is covalently attached to the 3' end of the ribozyme in a "pick-up-the-tail" (PUTT) reaction. When the ribozyme is purified and incubated with an excess of substrate C-D, recombination (REC) of the substrates results in the product C-B. Exogenous GTP marginally improves recombination frequency which ranges from 5% to 45%. (From

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