Genetics & Molecular Biology

Researchers have cracked a code that governs infections by the common cold and polio viruses.

The code was known, it was 'hidden in plain sight' in the sequence of the ribonucleic acid (RNA) that makes up this type of viral genome but its meaning had not been unlocked. Now, researchers have found that jamming the code can disrupt virus assembly. Stopping a virus assembling can stop it functioning and therefore prevent disease. 

Single-stranded RNA viruses are the simplest type of virus and were probably one of the earliest to evolve. However, they are still among the most potent and damaging of infectious pathogens.

An insulin-regulating hormone that had only been postulated to exist has been discovered.

The hormone, called limostatin after the Greek goddess of starvation, Limos, tamps down circulating insulin levels during recovery from fasting or starvation. In this way, it ensures that precious nutrients remain in the blood long enough to rebuild starving tissues, rather than being rapidly squirreled away into less-accessible fat cells.

The researchers first discovered limostatin in fruit flies but then quickly identified a protein with a similar function in humans.
Some babies seem to have a genetic predisposition to a higher risk of being born too soon, according to a paper being presented Thursday at the Society for Maternal-Fetal Medicine's annual meeting in San Diego.

The study Birth found that variants in the fetus's DNA - not the mother's - may be what triggers some early births. 
Researchers have revealed that genetically modified Camelina plants produce omega-3 fish oils suitable for feeding Atlantic salmon. The new GMO plants can produce up to 20% of eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA), one of the two omega-3 LC PUFA conferring health benefits. 

Consumption of omega-3 fish oils, specifically long-chain polyunsaturated fatty acids (omega-3 LC-PUFA), through eating oily fish like salmon and mackerel, has been linked with improved cardiovascular health and cognitive development. The primary dietary sources of these fatty acids are wild or farmed fish.
Researchers have mapped the physical structure of the nuclear landscape to better understand changes in genomic interactions occurring in cell senescence and aging.

Their findings have allowed them to reconcile the contradictory observations of two current models of aging: cellular senescence of connective tissue cells called fibroblasts and cellular models of an accelerated aging syndrome.
The betting line created for this weekend's Super Bowl is done by very smart people. They are not trying to fool anyone, they want the betting to be as even as possible and they make their money on a 'commission' - the vigorish or 'vig' - from the winners. It's not like selling football jerseys, where more volume helps, they need losers to fund the winners so making the odds as even as possible is important.

To do that, they try to take into account everything - which player has a cold, the type of field, the weather, the wind. According to a new study, they may take into account a biological clock.
Almost 2,500 women of child-bearing age in the United Kingdom are at risk of transmitting mitochondrial disease to their children, evidence of how many families could potentially be helped by new IVF techniques to it.

The paper adds data to emotional debates about new regulations.  

Mitochondrial diseases are caused by inherited mutations in the DNA contained in mitochondria - tiny structures present in every cell that generate energy. Mitochondrial diseases can be devastating and particularly affect tissues that have high energy demands - brain, muscle (including heart), liver and kidney.
Mitochondria produce adenosine triphosphate (ATP), commonly called the universal energy currency of the body.

The driver for this process is an electrochemical membrane potential, which is created by a series of proton pumps - positive charges and negative ones. These complex, macromolecular machines are collectively known as the respiratory chain.

The structure of the largest protein complex in the respiratory chain, that of mitochondrial complex I, has been examined by scientists from the Frankfurt "Macromolecular Complexes" cluster of excellence, working together with the University of Freiburg, by X-ray diffraction analysis.
Scientists may be on the way to genetically modifying plants to naturally protect against pests in new ways. That is good news for people in developing nations and fans of the environment. Older insecticides present environmental and health risks and insects develop resistance to them, complicating pest-control strategies. 

Along with that, millions of deaths result from diseases transmitted by insects each year, not to mention economic losses totaling billions of dollars annually.
Researchers have used human induced pluripotent stem cells (iPSCs) to generate new hair, the first step toward the development of a cell-based treatment for people with hair loss. 

In the United States alone, more than 40 million men and 21 million women are affected by hair loss. The research team developed a protocol that induced human pluripotent stem cells to become dermal papilla cells. They are a unique population of cells that regulate hair-follicle formation and growth cycle. 

Human dermal papilla cells on their own are not suitable for hair transplants because they cannot be obtained in necessary amounts and rapidly lose their ability to induce hair-follicle formation in culture.