Genetics & Molecular Biology

Researchers have identified a mutation in plants that allows them to break down TNT, an explosive that has become highly prevalent in soil in the last century, particularly at manufacturing waste sites, mines, and military conflict zones.

TNT, or 2,4,6-trinitrotoluene, is a toxic and persistent environmental pollutant that accumulates in the roots of plants, inhibiting growth and development. The identification of a plant mechanism that not only evades the negative impacts of TNT, but breaks down this harmful substance could lead to improved revegetation and remediation of TNT-contaminated sites.


In a way, cancer resembles a runaway car with a gas pedal stuck to the floor, hurling out of control. Most new targeted cancer therapies seek to fix the gas pedal itself, and thus thwart the aggressive behavior of the tumor. But for many types of cancers, the pedal simply cannot be repaired, so new alternatives are desperately needed. A team at Baylor College of Medicine has discovered a way to step on the brakes of some of the deadliest cancers.


A new study clearly establishes a partial genetic basis underlying racial differences in slow-wave sleep, suggesting that it may be possible to develop sleep-related therapies that target specific genetic variants.

Using a panel of 1,698 ancestry informative genetic markers, the study found that greater African genetic ancestry was associated with lower amounts of slow-wave sleep in African-American adults. African ancestry explained 11 percent of the variation in slow-wave sleep after adjustment for potential confounders. Although a similar association was observed for delta power, no association with African ancestry was observed for sleep duration and efficiency.


Preventing inflammation in obese fat tissue may hold the key to preventing or even reversing type 2 diabetes, new research has found.

Researchers from Melbourne's Walter and Eliza Hall Institute and the RIKEN Institute, Japan found they could 'reverse' type 2 diabetes in laboratory models by dampening the inflammatory response in fat tissue.

Dr Ajith Vasanthakumar, Dr Axel Kallies and colleagues from the institute discovered that specialised immune cells, called regulatory T cells (Tregs), played a key role in controlling inflammation in fat tissue and maintaining insulin sensitivity.


Nina Fedoroff, molecular biologist and former Science and Technology Adviser to Condoleezza Rice and then Hillary Clinton, says that genetic modification (GM) is the most critical technology in agriculture for meeting the challenges of feeding a growing global population. Fedoroff warns of the detrimental influence of politics and misinformation on the safety of GM crops and in contrast to anti-science marketing campaigns by groups like Greenpeace and NRDC that, "GM crops are arguably the safest new crops ever introduced into the human and animal food chains."


Could the sperm harpoon the egg to facilitate fertilization? That's the intriguing possibility raised by the University of Virginia School of Medicine's discovery that a protein within the head of the sperm forms spiky filaments, suggesting that these tiny filaments may lash together the sperm and its target.

The finding, 14 years in the making, has earned the cover of the scientific journal Andrology. It represents a significant step forward in the fine dissection of the protein architecture of the sperm's acrosomal matrix, an organelle in the sperm head, and suggests a new hypothesis concerning what happens during fertilization.


Parents go to great lengths to ensure the health and well-being of their developing offspring. The favor, however, may not always be returned.

Dramatic research has shown that during pregnancy, cells of the fetus often migrate through the placenta, taking up residence in many areas of the mother's body, where their influence may benefit or undermine maternal health.

The presence of fetal cells in maternal tissue is known as fetal microchimerism. The term alludes to the chimeras of ancient Greek myth--composite creatures built from different animal parts, like the goat-lion-serpent depicted in an Etruscan bronze sculpture.


Vitamin D is being blamed for or is linked to curing everything in 2015, and so it is little surprise a paper uses a genetic study to bolster observational evidence that lower vitamin D levels are associated with increased risk of multiple sclerosis.


The dominant antibody type present in the blood of transplant recipients may indicate their likelihood of experiencing organ rejection, according to a study which may help doctors identify patients who need aggressive treatments to safeguard the health of their new organ.

Transplant recipients who receive a kidney, heart, or lung often develop an immune response to the foreign tissue in the form of antibodies referred as donor-specific HLA antibodies. Some patients may already have these antibodies before their transplant because they have been exposed to blood products or previous transplants. Although the presence of donor-specific HLA antibodies in a recipient is usually not a good sign, not all patients who have them experience a poor outcome.


    How could you destroy someone with their own words, if their words present no evidence of wrongdoing?  It actually is amazingly simple, and illustrates the danger of limitless access to personal emails through public records requests.  In this post I will show how two writers for a PLoS One Blog* blatantly misrepresent content obtained through such a request. This is how scandals are manufactured from nothing.