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Biotech's new invaluable tool

By | September 16, 2010

In just two decades, the protein equivalent of an intron has carved out a significant niche in biotechnology -- and captured the interest of evolutionary biologists, who suspect these potentially ancient elements could provide clues to early enzymes. Image: Wikimedia commonsWith the ability to splice themselves out of proteins and paste the two loose ends of the protein back together, inteins are proving to be an invaluable tool in biotechnology. Just 20 years since their discovery, inteins are

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Sweet science

By | September 16, 2010

Ever had the urge to take a nice crunchy bite of Drosophila or lick icing off a brain? You will after a visit to linkurl:Not So Humble Pie,;http://notsohumblepie.blogspot.com/ a blog run by scientist-turned-baker, Ms. Humble. A blogger who refers to herself as "a typical nerdy biological anthropologist turned stay at home mom," Ms. Humble -- who chooses to remain anonymous -- began the blog in October 2009. Since then, the popular blog has regularly featured science-themed baked goods, from zebr

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New energy source for microbes

By | September 15, 2010

Microorganisms living in deep sea hydrothermal vents can grow off of energy derived from one of the simplest forms of anaerobic respiration ever described, according to a study published this week in Nature. A deep-sea vent projects hot ventfluid into the frigid water.Image: Wikimedia commons, NationalOceanic and Atmospheric AdministrationThe reaction -- in which a chemical called formate is broken down into hydrogen and carbon dioxide -- was previously thought to be too energy poor to support

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Fish see like mammals

By | September 13, 2010

The archer fish, a skilled marksmen that shoots insects down from trees by spiting streams of water, spots prey that aren't in line with what's behind them, an ability once thought to be found only in mammals, according to a linkurl:study;http://www.pnas.org/cgi/doi/10.1073/pnas.1005446107 published in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (PNAS) today (13th September). The results suggest that the ability to see objects oriented differently than their backgrounds is "a fundamental

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Top 7 hidden jewels

By | September 13, 2010

#1 Long fingers, long toes Darwin suggested that bipedal locomotion allowed our hands to evolve the necessary dexterity for tool handling, but a new study proposes that human hands and feet coevolved: Selection on the toes led to parallel changes in the hands.Photo by Pierre79, linkurl:Wikimedia Commons;http://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Toes.jpg C. Rolian et al., "The coevolution of human hands and feet," linkurl:Evolution,;http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/sites/entrez/20624181?dopt=Abstract

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Video: Fast plants

By | September 10, 2010

Marvels of evolution and adaptation, plants and fungi have developed myriad methods of spreading their seeds or spores. Some of these dispersal events happen with blinding speed, and researchers are exploring these dramatic behaviors in the world's fastest plants and fungi using ultra-high speed video cameras. Feast your eyes on our smorgasbord of fast-moving, spore-shooting, seed-spreading organisms. Blob begets smaller blob -- meet Sphaerobolus stellatus This is the Sphaerobolus stellatus, c

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Video: How roots grow

By | September 9, 2010

A group of researchers literally watched meristem genes turn on and off in a cyclical fashion in the developing roots of higher plants, such as conifers and ferns, according to a study published in Science today (10th September). This oscillating expression, they say, is how these plants form their complex root systems. As the root meristem grows downward into the soil, it produces undifferentiated cells that, once assigned their function, will form the intricate root system of the plant. What

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When is self-plagiarism ok?

By | September 9, 2010

When linkurl:Robert Barbato;http://saunders.rit.edu/directory/facstaff/28 of the E. Philip Saunders College of Business at Rochester Institute of Technology (RIT) heard he was being accused of plagiarizing his own work, he was a bit surprised. "I can't plagiarize myself -- those are my own words," he said. Image: Wikimedia commons, Guillaume CarelsAnd he is not alone in his views. Some scientists and publishers argue that it's "unavoidable" for scientists to re-use portions of their own text (

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Gene networks underlie disease?

By | September 8, 2010

An international group of researchers have developed a novel method for identifying entire networks of genes and their association to disease, providing a more accurate picture of the genetic risks associated with specific diseases than single genes can provide.Photo: linkurl:Joanna Servaes;http://joanna-servaes.magix.net via Wikimedia Commons In the proof-of-concept paper published today (8th September) in __Nature__, the researchers used an integrated genomics approach to identify a network o

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A targeted cancer therapy?

By | September 7, 2010

Some small RNA molecules can selectively kill cultured human cancer cells, leaving healthy cells untouched, according to a study published online yesterday (6th September) in PNAS -- a feat that has surpassed conventional cancer therapies that kill indiscriminately, causing an array of side effects in patients. Prostate cancer, a possibletarget for this therapy.Image: Wikimedia commons, user Nephron"It's a novel approach that will bring about new and cool things in the field," said linkurl:An

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