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Stressed brains rely on habit

By | July 30, 2009

Exposure to chronic stress causes alterations in brain anatomy that may compel rats to rely too much on routine, even when a change in circumstances calls for a change in behavior, according to a new study published this week in Science. Image: Wikimedia commons, Janet StephensThe study provides "a really nice animal model for a subtle, important problem with cognition that can be caused by chronic stress in humans," neuroscientist linkurl:Robert Sapolsky;http://med.stanford.edu/profiles/Robert

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Alzheimer's clue found

By | July 29, 2009

Researchers report a step forward in understanding the pathology of Alzheimer's disease. Two genes that are commonly mutated in the early-onset form of Alzheimer's may cause the disorder by altering how presynaptic neurons release neurotransmitters, according to a study published this week in Nature. Image: Wikimedia commonsThe mechanism may apply to other neurodegenerative disorders as well, the researchers say. "This is a new concept that's interesting to know," said molecular neurobiologi

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Butterfly sperm explained

By | July 29, 2009

New research has proposed a genetic explanation for the evolution of a bizarre method used by male butterflies to ensure the success of their sperm. Image: Flickr/linkurl:Dave-F;http://www.flickr.com/photos/frield/952293034/ The sperm of male butterflies has a strange property. About 90% of it is non-fertile -- essentially filler for the females' sperm storage organs that tricks females into thinking they have all the sperm they need to fertilize their eggs. The males' ploy reduces the likeliho

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Curves guide bacterial proteins

By | July 29, 2009

Researchers are puzzling out a central mechanism for how some proteins navigate inside bacterial cells: Rather than using biochemical cues, they appear to rely on the cells' geometry, sensing the membrane's curvature, two recent studies suggest. Gram-stained Bacillus subtilis Image: Wikipedia "This is an important and fundamental observation," said linkurl:Lucy Shapiro;http://devbio1.stanford.edu/usr/ls/ at Stanford University, who did not participate in the research. Because bacterial cel

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Retracted: stem cell paper

By | July 29, 2009

A journal editor has linkurl:retracted;http://www.liebertonline.com/doi/pdfplus/10.1089/scd.2009.0063 a linkurl:paper published this month;http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/19583494?ordinalpos=1&itool=EntrezSystem2.PEntrez.Pubmed.Pubmed_ResultsPanel.Pubmed_DefaultReportPanel.Pubmed_RVDocSum that showed sperm could be made from human embryonic stem cells, claiming the authors plagiarized portions of the paper. According to linkurl:ScienceInsider,;http://blogs.sciencemag.org/scienceinsider/2009/

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Biolab site choice flawed: report

By | July 27, 2009

A government report to be released later this week slams the plan to build a contested high security pathogen lab in Kansas, saying the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) did not properly evaluate the risks of conducting such research in the mainland, the linkurl:Washington Post reports.;http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2009/07/26/AR2009072602857_pf.html The report by the Government Accountability Office (GAO) said the idea of building the National Bio and Agro Defense F

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Food dye lessens spinal injuries

By | July 27, 2009

A synthetic blue dye commonly used in food coloring could protect damaged spinal cords from a second wave of injury brought on by inflammatory response to the damage, according to linkurl:a study;http://www.pnas.org/cgi/doi/10.1073/pnas.0902531106 in this week's __Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.__ When a spine is crushed -- but not severed -- patients often gets worse two to three days after the initial injury, when inflammatory cells inundate the spinal cord. The immune cells

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Synthetic enzyme pioneer dies

By | July 27, 2009

Ralph F. Hirschmann, a medicinal chemist who was one of the first to synthesize an enzyme in the lab, died last week (June 20) at age 87 from renal disease complications. Image: University of Pennsylvania"He was extraordinarily forward thinking," said organic chemist linkurl:Jeff Winkler,;http://webdev.chem.upenn.edu/chem/research/faculty.php?id=39 Hirschmann's colleague at the University of Pennsylvania. "His work was really revolutionary in that he achieved things that at the time were imagin

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Airway cilia taste toxins

By | July 23, 2009

Your sense of taste doesn't end in your mouth: Cilia lining airways leading to the lungs express taste receptors and alter their undulations in the presence of bitter chemicals, says a study linkurl:published;http://www.sciencemag.org/sciencexpress/recent.dtlwebsite online today (July 23)in __Science__. These cilia are linked to signaling pathways that regulate their motility, allowing epithelial tissues in airways to sense toxins or noxious compounds and help protect the lungs. Motile cilia

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The poetryome

By | July 23, 2009

Biology is, of course, creative. Without a little non-linear thinking to dream up new conceptual approaches and methodologies, some of the best experiments ever conducted would have never left the drawing board. But when it comes to communicating scientific results -- even stunning, revolutionary ones -- the literature can be drier than chalk dust. Image: Wikimedia commons, George GastinA new project sponsored by The Economic and Social Research Council (ESRC) -- a UK-based organization for res

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