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Researchers have demonstrated the possibility of preventing the human malaria parasite, Plasmodium falciparum, which is responsible for more than a million malaria deaths a year, from becoming sexually mature.

The discovery could have implications for controlling the spread of drug resistance, which is a major public health problem and which hinders the control of malaria.

The life cycle of Plasmodium falciparum is complex, and it is not yet known what triggers the production of parasite gametes or sex cells. These sexual forms of the parasite do not contribute to malaria symptoms, but are essential for transmission of malaria between humans via the bite of a mosquito.

In 1928 Alexander Fleming discovered penicillin, which was subsequently developed into a medicine by Florey and Chain in the 1940s. The antibiotic was hailed as a 'miracle cure' and a golden age of drug discovery followed. However, frequent rediscovery of known natural products and technical challenges forced pharmaceutical companies to retreat and stop looking for new molecules.

Big pharmacy companies gave up on soil bacteria as a source of antibiotics too soon, according to research published in the June issue of Microbiology. Scientists have been mining microbial genomes for new natural products that may have applications in the treatment of MRSA and cancer and have made some exciting discoveries.

"Over the last eight years we have been looking for new natural products in the DNA sequence of the antibiotic-producing bacterium Streptomyces coelicolor," said Professor Gregory Challis from the University of Warwick. "In the last 15 years it became accepted that no new natural products remained to be discovered from these bacteria. Our work shows this widely-held view to be incorrect."

A major contribution to the long-term storage and access of data on mutation for genes and disease has been established with the launch of Human Genomics and Proteomics, the first database journal affiliated with a database, FINDbase: the National/Ethnic Mutation Database documenting frequencies of causative mutations leading to inherited disorders in various populations worldwide.

The first title to be launched through SAGE-Hindawi – the joint collaboration between SAGE and Hindawi Publishing Corporation, Human Genomics and Proteomics (HGP) is a peer-reviewed international open access journal that will provide a unique forum for the discussion of research on human genomics and proteomics, systems biology and various aspects of personalized medicine.

The discovery of four families in which some members only walk on all fours (quadrupedality) may help us understand how humans, unlike other primates, are able to walk for long periods on only two legs, according to professor Tayfun Ozcelik, of Bilkent University, Ankara, Turkey, who presented his study at the annual conference of the European Society of Human Genetics tomorrow.

The quadrupedal families in Turkey previously attracted attention in 2005, when they were discovered. Now the Turkish team reports that they have found the first gene implicated in quadrupedal locomotion in these families.

Ozcelik and colleagues, studied four unrelated families where some members were affected by the rare quadrupedic condition, Unertan syndrome, which is also associated with imperfect articulation of speech, mental retardation, and defects in the cerebellum, a part of the brain involved in motor control. They found that the affected individuals in two families had mutations in the gene responsible for the expression of very low density lipoprotein receptor (VLDLR), a protein which is known to be critical to the proper functioning of the cerebellum during development.

Prenatal biochemical screening tests are widely used to look for chromosomal abnormalities in the fetus which can lead to serious handicap, or even death during gestation or in the first few days after birth. But these tests are only able to detect fewer than half of the total chromosomal abnormalities in the fetus.

Dr. Francesca R. Grati, of the TOMA Laboratory, Busto Arsizio, Italy, says women should be better informed before deciding to undertake it.

The researchers studied 115,576 prenatal diagnoses carried out during the last fourteen years. 84,847 were amniocenteses, usually carried out around the 16th week of pregnancy, and 30,729 chorionic villus samplings, which can be undertaken from 12 weeks into the pregnancy. Both these tests carry an increased risk of miscarriage, so the decision on whether or not to undertake them can be difficult to weigh up.

It’s stronger than steel and nylon, and more extensible than Kevlar.

What is this super-tough material? Spider silk; and learning how to spin it is one of the materials industries’ Holy Grails.

John Gosline has been fascinated by spider silks and their remarkable toughness for most of his scientific career. He explains that if we’re to learn how to manufacture spider silk, we have to understand the relationship between the components and the spun fibre’s mechanical properties; which is why he is focusing on major ampullate silk, one of the many silks that spiders spin. According to Gosline, spiders use major ampullate silk for draglines and to build the frame and radial structures in webs, all of which have to deform and absorb enormous amounts of energy without fracturing.