Genetics & Molecular Biology

A proof-of-concept study in mice showed it is possible to prevent transmission of mitochondrial disease to children without resorting to controversial cytoplasmic transfer - "three-parent" IVF.

Mitochondria are known as the powerhouse of the cell because they generate most of the cell's supply of energy. Each cell in the body contains anywhere from 1,000 to 100,000 copies of mitochondrial DNA, which is exclusively transmitted through maternal inheritance. In most patients with mitochondrial disease, mutated and normal mitochondrial DNA molecules are mixed together in cells.

Tumor necrosis factor (TNF), an immune system regulatory protein that promotes inflammation, also helps regulate sensitivity to bitter taste, a finding which may provide a mechanism to explain the taste system abnormalities and decreased food intake that can be associated with infections, autoimmune disorders, and chronic inflammatory diseases. 

Because TNF is known to suppress food intake, the current study asked whether TNF affects food intake via the taste system. The findings are published online ahead of print in the journal Brain, Behavior, and Immunity.

Sweet potatoes, one of the most important food crops for human consumption, contain genes from the bacterium Agrobacterium but that was not done by scientists. The foreign DNA that turned sweet potatoes into a GMO was put there by nature.

The researchers discovered the foreign DNA sequences of Agrobacterium while searching the genome - this is the entire DNA-code - of sweet potato for viral diseases. Instead of contributing this peculiar finding to bacterial contamination of the plant samples, the researchers decided to study these sequences in more detail.

Female liver cells, and in particular those in post-menopausal women, are more susceptible to adverse effects of drugs than their male counterparts, according to new research carried out by the European Commission, Joint Research Centre (JRC).

It is established that women are more vulnerable than men when it comes to drug-induced liver effects, but this is the first time it has been shown that there are differences at cellular level. The findings are clinically relevant, and emphasize the importance of considering sex-based differences in human health risk assessment.

Researchers have identified an important cause of why secondary corneal transplants are rejected at triple the rate of first-time corneal transplants.

The cornea - the most frequently transplanted solid tissue - has a first-time transplantation success rate of about 90 percent. But second corneal transplants undergo a rejection rate three times that of first transplants.

More than 40,000 transplants are performed annually to replace the cornea, the clear outer lens at the front of the eye, with tissue from a donor. Most corneal transplants are done to correct severe visual impairments caused by keratoconus, a condition in which the normally dome-shaped cornea progressively thins and becomes cone-shaped, according to the American Academy of Ophthalmology.

Most of today's anticancer drugs target the DNA or proteins in tumor cells, but a new discovery unveils a whole new set of potential targets: the RNA intermediaries between DNA and proteins.

This RNA, called messenger RNA, is a blueprint for making proteins. Messenger RNA is created in the nucleus and shuttled out into the cell cytoplasm to hook up with protein-making machinery, the ribosome. Most scientists have assumed that these mRNA molecules are, aside from their unique sequences, generic, with few distinguishing characteristics that could serve as an Achilles heel for targeted drugs.

It is estimated that 5% of women experience two clinical miscarriages and approximately 1% suffer three or more losses. 

Researchers at the University of Warwick and University Hospitals Coventry and Warwickshire (UHCW) NHS Trust have found that body clock genes could affect women's ability to have children. The study pinpoints how body clock genes are temporarily switched off in the lining of the womb to allow an embryo to implant. Timing of this event is critical for pregnancy. 

Shaved heads have come in and out of fashion over the past few decades, but some people don’t have the option of allowing their locks to grow.

Thankfully, for those who do suffer from hair loss, or alopecia, help may be at hand. Somewhat counter-intuitively an effective treatment for baldness may come from plucking a certain number of hairs – in a specific formation – from the scalp.

Skin is remarkably resistant to tearing and a team of researchers from the University of California, San Diego and the Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory now have shown why.

Using powerful X-ray beams and electron microscopy, researchers made the first direct observations of the micro-scale mechanisms that allow skin to resist tearing. They identified four specific mechanisms in collagen, the main structural protein in skin tissue, that act together to diminish the effects of stress: rotation, straightening, stretching, and sliding. Researchers say they hope to replicate these mechanisms in synthetic materials to provide increased strength and in better resistance to tearing.
Bacteria have an immune system to fight off invasive viruses called phages, and like any immune system, from single-celled to human, the first challenge of the bacterial immune system is to detect the difference between “foreign” and “self.”

Since all living things are made of DNA and proteins, how do viruses and bacteria recognize their own? 

“In most environments, phages are around ten times more abundant than bacteria. And, like all viruses, phages use the host cell’s replication machinery to make copies of themselves,” says Prof. Rotem Sorek of the Weizmann Institute’s Department of Molecular Genetics. “And they are constantly evolving new ways to do this. So bacteria need a very active immune system to survive.”