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An aging population means that neurodegeneration, such as Alzheimer’s disease, is one of the major health problems in the developed world.

One of the causes of neurodegeneration is a modification to the protein ‘tau’, which helps to maintain the stability of neurones in the brain, causing them to form aggregates termed ‘tangles’.

These diseases, or ‘tauopathies’ are believed to be caused by a form of the protein tau which has been excessively modified with phosphate.

When tumor cells acquire the capacity to move around and invade other tissues, there is a risk of metastases and cancer treatment becomes more difficult.

At the Institut Curie, CNRS Director of Research Philippe Chavrier and his group have just discovered how breast cancer cells break the bonds that tether them to the tumor. The basement membrane around the mammary gland is a barrier to the spread of cancer cells. Three proteins in the tumor cells transport enzymes needed to perforate this barrier, and another protein puts these enzymes in the right place.

These discoveries, published in Cell Biology and Current Biology, shed light on the early mechanisms of the formation of metastases in certain breast cancers. These findings constitute an essential step in the quest for the early identification of highly invasive tumors, or even the blocking of formation of metastases.


When Sir Thomas More stood on the scaffold in 1535 he continued to make jokes. We don't often associate humor with executions by berserk kings over religious convictions but that is why humor has always fascinated us and it leads to questions about what is funny, how humor works at such moments, and when it is 'appropriate' to rely on a sense of humor.

Renaissance humor (1500-1700) comes under scrutiny at a conference at the University of Leicester on Friday 18th July, where experts in the literature of the period will gather for the first time to discuss Renaissance humor in some detail.

A flavor of humor of what the conference might have to offer can be found in Ben Jonson's Volpone (1607), in which Jonson's anti-hero, the miser and swindler Volpone, feels such contempt for the medical profession that he twists the English language into a glorious new direction, referring to a money-grabbing quack doctor as 'a turdy-facy, nasty-paty, lousy-fartical rogue.'

Dutch ecologist Marijke van Kuijk has studied the regeneration of the tropical forest in Vietnam. Abandoned agricultural land does regenerate to tropical forest, but only slowly. Two procedures are used to help nature along: pruning of foliage to free up space for trees and planting the desired tree species. Van Kuijk used the PHOLIAGE model to calculate the appropriate measures.

People in the tropics depend heavily on the products and services the forest supplies. However, the natural regeneration process from agricultural land to forest often stagnates at the scrub stage. Some plants and shrubs grow vigorously and become dominant as a result of which young trees do not receive enough light to grow.

European researchers have taken a major step towards the goal of developing printable electronics that can be used for creating radio frequency identification tags and flexible watch displays.

Researchers have long dreamed of being able to print electronic components directly onto organic materials such as paper, fabrics, or plastic.

In addition to being able to fabricate large numbers of everyday devices such as watch displays and other applications cheaply, they envision novel applications including electronic paper, eyeglasses with embedded displays, or even smart clothing.

A dynamic way to alter the shape and size of microscopic three-dimensional structures built out of proteins has been developed by biological chemist Jason Shear and his former graduate student Bryan Kaehr at The University of Texas at Austin.

Shear and Kaehr fabricated a variety of detailed three-dimensional microstructures, known as hydrogels, and have shown that they can expand and bend the hydrogels by altering the chemistry of the environment in which they were built.

Hydrogels have been in development over the last couple of decades and are being used as parts in biology-based microdevices and medical diagnostic technologies, for drug delivery, and in tissue engineering. But the future utility of these "smart materials" relies on finding better ways to control their conformation.