Genetics & Molecular Biology

Mice that have a genetic version of mitochondrial disease can easily be mistaken for much older animals by the time they are nine months old: they have thinning gray hair, osteoporosis, poor hearing, infertility and heart problems.

Despite having this disease at birth, these mice have a “secret weapon” in their youth that staves off signs of aging for a time - a longevity hormone helps these mice, born with thousands of mutations in their energy-generating mitochondria, maintain metabolic homeostasis at a young age. 
A long sought after gene that is a critical gateway step in the synthesis of the morphinan class of alkaloids, which include the painkiller drugs morphine and codeine, has been discovered.

 The gene, called STORR, is only found in poppy species that produce morphinans. The STORR gene evolved when two other genes encoding oxidase and reductase enzymes came together millions of years ago. The resulting gene fusion plays a key role in production of morphine. The researchers hope this will enable the breeding of bespoke poppy varieties, including those that produce the anti-cancer compound noscapine. Discovery of the STORR gene completes the set of genes needed for genetic engineering of morphine production in microbes such as yeast.

A new study in Sweden links male infertility to autoimmune prostatic inflammation.  

Infertility - involuntary childlessness - is common, and in half of all cases attributable to infertility in the man. Although male infertility has many possible causes, it often remains unexplained. 

In the present study, researchers from Karolinska Institutet discovered a reason for reduced fertility in people with autoimmune polyendocrine syndrome type 1 (APS1), which increases the risk of developing autoimmune disease (caused by the immune system attacking and damaging healthy cells) and which is often used as a model for autoimmune disease in general. 


Nitric oxide (NO) is a highly stable molecule that is also highly reactive and a free radical, meaning a single, unpaired electron is present in its molecule. NO plays the role of a mediator between elements and helps them combine. Radicals are regularly generated in many metabolic pathways. Some of these radicals can exist in a free form and subsequently interact with various tissue components resulting in dysfunction.


Often referred to as the "body clock", circadian rhythm controls what time of day people are most alert, hungry, tired or physically primed due to a complex biological process that is not unique to humans. Circadian rhythms, which oscillate over a roughly 24-hour cycle in adaptation to the Earth's rotation, have been observed in most of the planet's plants, animals, fungi and cyanobacteria, and are responsible for regulating many aspects of organisms' physiological, behavioral and metabolic functions.


A hereditary autoimmune disease that was thought to be exceedingly rare may have a less severe form that affects one in 1,000 people or even more.

The results suggest that a number of different autoimmune diseases and syndromes may be tied to mutations in a single gene. Among other things, these findings, combined with other research in the Weizmann lab, may help provide new means of diagnosing and treating autoimmune disorders.

Regions all over the globe are suffering from severe drought, which threatens crop production worldwide. This is especially worrisome given the need to increase, not just maintain, crop yields to feed the increasing global population.

Over the course of evolution, plants have developed mechanisms to adapt to periods of inadequate water, and as any gardener can tell you, some species are better able to handle drought than others. Accordingly, scientists have invested much effort to understand how plants respond to drought stress and what can be done to increase the drought tolerance of economically important plants.


Metabolism experts are increasingly convinced that obesity and many of the pathogenic changes it entails, such as Metabolic Syndrome and type 2 diabetes, are a result of chronic inflammatory processes in fatty (adipose) tissue. The adipose tissue of obese people exhibits higher-than-normal quantities of almost all types of immune and inflammatory cells.


New recommendations by EULAR for women's health and pregnancy in patients with systemic lupus erythematosus (SLE) and/or antiphospholipid syndrome (APS) were presented last week at the European League Against Rheumatism Annual Congress (EULAR 2015).

Developed by expert consensus, these evidence-based recommendations provide crucial guidance to support family planning, assisted reproduction, pregnancy and the menopause in these patients.


New human heart muscle cells can be formed, but this mainly happens during the first ten years of life, according to a new study from Karolinska Institutet in Sweden. Other cell types, however, are replaced more quickly. The study, which is published in the journal Cell, demonstrates that the heart muscle is regenerated throughout a person's life, supporting the idea that it is possible to stimulate the rebuilding of lost heart tissue.