Genetics & Molecular Biology

Our fat contains a variety of cells with the potential to become bone, cartilage, or more fat if properly prompted. This makes adipose tissue a key potential resource for regenerative therapies such as bone healing if doctors can get enough of those cells and compel them to produce bone.

In a new study, scientists at Brown University demonstrate a new method for extracting a wide variety of potential bone-producing cells from human fat. They developed a fluorescent tag that could find and identify cells expressing a gene called ALPL. Expression of the gene is an indicator of bone-making potential.

Our immune system must distinguish between self and foreign and in order to fight infections without damaging the body's own cells at the same time. The immune system is loyal to cells in the body, but how this works is not fully understood.

A new study has discovered that the immune system uses a molecular biological clock to target intolerant T cells during their maturation process. 

Geneticists have found a mechanism sought for more than four decades that explains how gene duplication leads to novel functions in individuals. 

Gene duplication is a biological phenomenon that leads to the sudden emergence of new genetic material. 'Sister' genes – the products of gene duplication – can survive across long evolutionary timescales, and allow organisms to tolerate otherwise lethal mutations. 

Epigenetics has been used and abused in many ways - can it tell researchers that an expectant mother had no electricity for a few days?

In January of 1998, what came to be called the North American Ice Storm of 1998 occurred. It knocked out power for days in cities and weeks in remote areas, impacting up to 4 million people. It was so worrisome that the government, concerned about panic among peaceful Canadians, deployed nearly 25 percent of its armed forces to keep peace in Quebec.

Melatonin, a hormone that governs sleep and jet lag in humans, may also drive the mass migration of plankton in the ocean, according to a report by scientists at the European Molecular Biology Laboratory (EMBL) in Heidelberg. 

Melatonin, is essential to maintain our daily rhythm, and the scientists have now discovered that it governs the nightly migration of a plankton species from the surface to deeper waters. The findings, published online today in Cell, indicate that melatonin's role in controlling daily rhythms probably evolved early in the history of animals, and hold hints to how our sleep patterns may have evolved.

A person's face is the first thing that others see, and much remains unknown about how it forms — or malforms — during early development. Recently, Chong Pyo Choe, a senior postdoctoral fellow working in the lab of USC stem cell researcher Gage Crump, has begun to unwind these mysteries.

In a September study published in the journal Development, Choe and Crump describe how a mutation in a gene called TBX1 causes the facial and other deformities associated with DiGeorge syndrome.

A longstanding question in science has the role of mitochondria in debilitating and fatal motor neuron diseases.

Mitochondria are organelles – compartments contained inside cells – that serve several functions, including making ATP, a nucleotide that cells convert into chemical energy to stay alive. For this reason mitochondria often are called "cellular power plants." They also play a critical role in preventing too much calcium from building up in cells, which can cause apoptosis, or cell death.

For mitochondria to perform its functions, it must be distributed to cells throughout the body, which is accomplished with the help of small protein "motors" that transport the organelles along axons.

Circular RNA were discovered a few years ago, but their role in our bodies is poorly understood. 

Our genetic information is stored in DNA, tiny strands of nucleic acid that contain instructions for the functioning of our bodies. To express this genetic data, our DNA is copied into RNA molecules, which then translate the instructions into proteins that perform tasks in our cells. Several years ago, scientists discovered a new type of RNA molecule. Unlike all other known RNAs, this molecule is circular, and was labeled circular RNA.

There is never enough of this golden beauty. Credit: bradhigham, CC BY

By Angela White, University of Sheffield