Genetics & Molecular Biology

Nepotism has a bad connotation in the workplace or French politics but being surrounded by relatives does lead to better group dynamics and more cooperation in some animals, and certainly spiders, according to a new study published in BMC Evolutionary Biology.

In a new study, the researchers found that Stegodyphus tentoriicola spiders are far more efficient at foraging for food and cooperate better when they’re related to each other and, as with humans and other animals, relatedness may favor the evolution of less selfish behavior, more collaboration and better group dynamics.
"Speciation is one of the most fascinating, unsolved problems in biology," says Harmit Malik, Ph.D., an associate member of the Hutchinson Center's Basic Sciences Division.   The first appearance of new beings on Earth - the mystery of mysteries - is a great puzzle for scientists and philosophers alike.
Lightweight drinkers rejoice, it may be nature that keeps you from pounding shots like Indiana Jones squeeze Marion in "Raiders of the Lost Ark".

Researchers at North Carolina State University have found a genetic 'switch' in fruit flies that plays an important role in making flies more tolerant to alcohol.  If you're reading this site, you will not that doesn't automatically translate to humans but a counterpart human gene contributes to a shift from metabolizing alcohol to the formation of fat in heavy drinkers. This shift can lead to fatty liver syndrome – a precursor to cirrhosis.
The human heart, a tireless organ that beats within our chests continuously for decades, continues to amaze me, in spite of my having studied it for several years now.  My continued amazement stems not from the fact that this muscle functions for so long, and for the most part without us being aware of it (although this is indeed phenomenal), but from the rich variety of behavior that it exhibits across multiple scales. 
For many years, so called 'junk RNA' was thought to be nothing more than cellular trash. Recent research, however, has called this view into question as scientists have discovered the importance of some small RNAs that generally contain more than 20 molecular units called nucleotides.
Researchers have developed a technique to replicate biological structures, such as butterfly wings, except on a nano scale and the resulting biomaterial could also be used to make optically active structures, such as optical diffusers for solar panels, they say.

Insects' colors and their iridescence (the ability to change colors depending on the angle) or their ability to appear metallic are determined by tiny nano-sized photonic structures (1 nanometer = 10-9 m) which can be found in their cuticle. Scientists have focused on these biostructures to develop devices with light emitting properties.  Their work was presented in the journal Bioinspiration&Biomimetics.
Calcium is crucial for heart regeneration by cardiac stem cells following cardiovascular problems say scientists in an article to be published in the journal Circulation Research this 9th of October. The study also identifies the body molecules controlling calcium levels in the stem cells and reveals, how their manipulation, can lead to the formation of new cardiac tissue. The work, that follows the recent surprising discovery of stem cells within the heart, can have important implications in the regenerative medicine of this organ in patients with cardiovascular diseases.
Most years, we generally don't worry about the flu (unless we're paid to worry about it, or we belong to an especially susceptible population). Yet some years, like this one, threats of a pandemic flu virus make it on everyone's radar screen. So exactly what is it that makes a flu virus reach pandemic proportions?

A group of researchers at the US Centers for Disease Control, Mt. Sinai and Harvard recently used engineered versions of the disastrous 1918 flu virus (don't try this at home!) to learn just what makes a flu virus go global.
Nobel Musings

Nobel Musings

Oct 06 2009 | 0 comment(s)

Three deserving, outstanding scientists have won the Nobel of medicine. As a footnote, Blackburn's outstanding career has included dismissal from Bush II's bioethics committee over her dissent on the Bush administration's stem cell policy. Telomore biology is interesting and important and relevant to cancer, but personally I think Jack Szostak's work on the origins of life is even more interesting. On my hard drive I've got a folder labeled 'Szostak', whose contents include these interesting studies: 'Synthesizing Life' (a review, subscription required)
Recently, we mourned the loss of agricultural pioneer and general guy-who-made-fewer-people-starve Norman Borlaug.

More recently, we stumbled across a tribute rap to Borlaug hosted by AgBioWorld.

I don't know what you been told
about farming and food in days of old,
but listen and take this to the bank:
If there's food in your tummy then you'd better thank