Biosensors are powerful tools in synthetic biology for engineering metabolic pathways or controlling synthetic and native genetic circuits in bacteria. Scientists have had difficulty developing a method to engineer "designer" biosensor proteins that can precisely sense and report the presence of specific molecules, which has so far limited the number and variety of biosensor designs able to precisely regulate cell metabolism, cell biology, and synthetic gene circuits.
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Taylor, N., Garruss, A., Moretti, R., Chan, S., Arbing, M., Cascio, D., Rogers, J., Isaacs, F., Kosuri, S., Baker, D.... (2015) Engineering an allosteric transcription factor to respond to new ligands. Nature Methods, 13(2), 177-183. DOI: 10.1038/nmeth.3696
A new agent of the tick-borne illness known as Lyme disease has emerged in the upper Midwest. The bacterium is genetically related to Borrelia burgdorferi, until now believed to be the only cause of Lyme disease in the United States. The name proposed for the bacterium is Borrelia mayonii because the work was conducted at the Mayo Clinic. B. mayonii has not been detected in patients outside of the Midwest (so far). The findings are described in The Lancet Infectious Disea........ Read more »
Pritt BS, Mead PS, Johnson DK, Neitzel DF, Respicio-Kingry LB, Davis JP, Schiffman E, Sloan LM, Schriefer ME, Replogle AJ.... (2016) Identification of a novel pathogenic Borrelia species causing Lyme borreliosis with unusually high spirochaetaemia: a descriptive study. The Lancet. Infectious diseases. PMID: 26856777
Way, way up in northwestern Canada (on the lower east side of Cape Bathurst, Northwest Territories), where the mainland meets the Arctic Ocean, a 30 km stretch of seacoast has been smoldering away for hundreds if not thousands of years.The Smoking Hills, named by the explorer John Franklin during one of his early 19th century expeditions to the Canadian Arctic, consist of shale bedrock covered by several meters worth of soil and loose rocks deposited by ancient glaciers and rivers. The land fall........ Read more »
Adams C, & Hutchinson T. (1984) A comparison of the ability of leaf surfaces of three species to neutralize acidic rain drops. New Phytologist, 97(3), 463-478. DOI: 10.1111/j.1469-8137.1984.tb03612.x
Sheath R, Havas M, Hellebust J, & Hutchinson T. (1982) Effects of long-term natural acidification on the algal communities of tundra ponds at the Smoking Hills, N.W.T., Canada. Canadian Journal of Botany, 60(1), 58-72. DOI: 10.1139/b82-008
For Valentine's Day: the fascinating experiments that led to the invention of the defibrillator and CPR - truly a tale from the “heart”!... Read more »
Furman S. (2002) Early history of cardiac pacing and defibrillation. Indian pacing and electrophysiology journal, 2(1), 2-3. PMID: 17006571
Bresadola, M. (1998) Medicine and science in the life of Luigi Galvani (1737–1798). Brain Research Bulletin, 46(5), 367-380. DOI: 10.1016/S0361-9230(98)00023-9
"CFS [chronic fatigue syndrome] affected 1.9% of 16-year-olds in a UK birth cohort and was positively associated with higher family adversity. Gender was a risk factor at age 16 years but not at age 13 years or in 16-year-olds without high levels of depressive symptoms."So said the findings reported by Simon Collin and colleagues  which also gained some media interest as per an entry on the BBC news website for example (see here). Based on data generated by the Children of the ........ Read more »
The age at which an adolescent begins using marijuana may affect typical brain development, according to researchers at the Center for BrainHealth at The University of Texas at Dallas. In a paper recently published, scientists describe how marijuana use, and the age at which use is initiated, may adversely alter brain structures that underlie higher order thinking.
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Filbey, F., McQueeny, T., DeWitt, S., & Mishra, V. (2015) Preliminary findings demonstrating latent effects of early adolescent marijuana use onset on cortical architecture. Developmental Cognitive Neuroscience, 16-22. DOI: 10.1016/j.dcn.2015.10.001
Between the rise of 3D movies and virtual reality, more and more people are getting a chance to don goofy glasses or headsets and experience media in three dimensions. And many of those people are discovering something about themselves: 3D makes them ill. Sitting in the theater or on their own couch, they get a sensation like motion sickness. They might feel nausea, dizziness, or disorientation.
A new study suggests that these symptoms aren't weakness on the part of the viewer. People who... Read more »
Allen, B., Hanley, T., Rokers, B., & Green, C. (2016) Visual 3D motion acuity predicts discomfort in 3D stereoscopic environments. Entertainment Computing, 1-9. DOI: 10.1016/j.entcom.2016.01.001
Accessing TCGA cancer data has been approached in a variety of ways. This week’s tip of the week highlights a web-based portal for improved access to the data in different ways. The Stanford Cancer Genome Atlas Clinical Explorer is aimed at helping identify clinically relevant genes in the cancer data sets. They note that the data […]... Read more »
Lee, H., Palm, J., Grimes, S., & Ji, H. (2015) The Cancer Genome Atlas Clinical Explorer: a web and mobile interface for identifying clinical–genomic driver associations. Genome Medicine, 7(1). DOI: 10.1186/s13073-015-0226-3
Animals have some interesting nocturnal/diurnal patterns, but can parasites have daytime and nighttime activity patterns? Here is a story of nocturnal owl monkeys, mosquitoes, and malaria parasites and the timing that makes owl monkeys the only primate susceptible to the human and primate forms of malaria.... Read more »
Kreysing, M., Pusch, R., Haverkate, D., Landsberger, M., Engelmann, J., Ruiter, J., Mora-Ferrer, C., Ulbricht, E., Grosche, J., Franze, K.... (2012) Photonic Crystal Light Collectors in Fish Retina Improve Vision in Turbid Water. Science, 336(6089), 1700-1703. DOI: 10.1126/science.1218072
Two papers provide some blogging fodder today. The first is from Agnieszka Rynkiewicz and colleagues  (open-access available here) who introduces a concept that many people with an interest in autism might have considered: a 'female camouflage effect' in autism. The second paper is by C Ellie Wilson and colleagues  and continues the idea that sex/gender differences present in autism might have some important implications for diagnostic evaluation.Both these papers entertain ........ Read more »
Rynkiewicz, A., Schuller, B., Marchi, E., Piana, S., Camurri, A., Lassalle, A., & Baron-Cohen, S. (2016) An investigation of the ‘female camouflage effect’ in autism using a computerized ADOS-2 and a test of sex/gender differences. Molecular Autism, 7(1). DOI: 10.1186/s13229-016-0073-0
Wilson CE, Murphy CM, McAlonan G, Robertson DM, Spain D, Hayward H, Woodhouse E, Deeley PQ, Gillan N, Ohlsen JC.... (2016) Does sex influence the diagnostic evaluation of autism spectrum disorder in adults?. Autism : the international journal of research and practice. PMID: 26802113
Newly developed paperclip sized, mind control device can be placed in the brain, and can be used to help the people with paralysis to walk again.
Researchers from the University of Melbourne have developed a “REVOLUTIONARY” device, a “bionic spinal cord” that can be implanted in a blood vessel in the brain and can help patients of spinal cord injuries to move and walk without any outside assista........ Read more »
Oxley, T., Opie, N., John, S., Rind, G., Ronayne, S., Wheeler, T., Judy, J., McDonald, A., Dornom, A., Lovell, T.... (2016) Minimally invasive endovascular stent-electrode array for high-fidelity, chronic recordings of cortical neural activity. Nature Biotechnology. DOI: 10.1038/nbt.3428
Happy year of the monkey! Last time in the Petri dish, I considered the replicator dynamics between type-A and type-B cells abstractly. In the comments, Arne Traulsen pointed me to Li et al. (2015): We have attempted something similar in spirit with bacteria. Looking at frequencies alone, it looked like coordination. But taking into account […]... Read more »
Li, X.-Y., Pietschke, C., Fraune, S., Altrock, P.M., Bosch, T.C., & Traulsen, A. (2015) Which games are growing bacterial populations playing?. Journal of the Royal Society Interface, 12(108), 20150121. PMID: 26236827
Human and animal movements generate slight neural signals from their brain cells. These signals obtained using a neural interface are essential for realizing brain-machine interfaces (BMI). Such neural recording systems using wires to connect the implanted device to an external device can cause infections through the opening in the skull. One method of solving this issue is to develop a wireless neural interface that is fully implantable on the brain.
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Okabe, K., Jeewan, H., Yamagiwa, S., Kawano, T., Ishida, M., & Akita, I. (2015) Co-Design Method and Wafer-Level Packaging Technique of Thin-Film Flexible Antenna and Silicon CMOS Rectifier Chips for Wireless-Powered Neural Interface Systems. Sensors, 15(12), 31821-31832. DOI: 10.3390/s151229885
The fear of cockroaches is so common there’s a name for it, katsaridaphobia. And yet, there are apparently scientists out there with nerves of steal. By working with these creepy critters, they’ve actually created a roach-inspired robot. Just like the real thing, it can slither through tiny cracks, and if it doesn’t scare the dickens out of you, it might just save your life one day.... Read more »
Kaushik Jayarama, & Robert J. Fulla. (2016) Cockroaches traverse crevices, crawl rapidly in confined spaces, and inspire a soft, legged robot. PNAS. info:/10.1073/pnas.1514591113
Babies have an unusual ability to see those things and differences in pictures that are not visible to adults.
In a study conducted by researchers from Japan, it has been reported that infants under 5 months of age have an ability to detect changes in pictures or images that are not visible to adults. However, this ability disappears rapidly, and infants in the age range of 5 months to 6 months are unable to detect image dif........ Read more »
I have to thank Dr Malav Trivedi for bringing my attention to some recent findings reported by Yiting Zhang and colleagues (including Malav)  (open-access) suggesting that: "levels of vitamin B12, especially its MeCbl [methylcobalamin] form, decrease with age in frontal cortex of control human subjects."Further, researchers reported: "abnormally lower total Cbl [cobalamin] and MeCbl levels in subjects with autism and schizophrenia, as compared to age-matched cont........ Read more »
Zhang Y, Hodgson NW, Trivedi MS, Abdolmaleky HM, Fournier M, Cuenod M, Do KQ, & Deth RC. (2016) Decreased Brain Levels of Vitamin B12 in Aging, Autism and Schizophrenia. PloS one, 11(1). PMID: 26799654
Researchers at the University of Minnesota have engineered a new synthetic biopathway that can more efficiently and cost-effectively turn agricultural waste, like corn stover and orange peels, into a variety of useful products ranging from spandex to chicken feed.
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Tai, Y., Xiong, M., Jambunathan, P., Wang, J., Wang, J., Stapleton, C., & Zhang, K. (2016) Engineering nonphosphorylative metabolism to generate lignocellulose-derived products. Nature Chemical Biology. DOI: 10.1038/nchembio.2020
by Anna Schneider For the iconic monarch butterfly, the shorter days in fall mean it’s time to pack up and head south to a warmer climate! Just like clockwork, the Eastern population of monarch butterflies makes a 2000 mile journey to their winter paradise roosts in central Mexico. The journey in itself is one of the greatest migrations among all animals. But here’s the catch: none of these butterflies has made this trip before. Several generations of monarchs have come and gon........ Read more »
Gegear, R., Foley, L., Casselman, A., & Reppert, S. (2010) Animal cryptochromes mediate magnetoreception by an unconventional photochemical mechanism. Nature, 463(7282), 804-807. DOI: 10.1038/nature08719
Guerra, P., Gegear, R., & Reppert, S. (2014) A magnetic compass aids monarch butterfly migration. Nature Communications. DOI: 10.1038/ncomms5164
Merlin, C., Gegear, R., & Reppert, S. (2009) Antennal Circadian Clocks Coordinate Sun Compass Orientation in Migratory Monarch Butterflies. Science, 325(5948), 1700-1704. DOI: 10.1126/science.1176221
Not so long ago, there was a hope in the research community that common genetic variation, i.e. variants present at minor allele frequencies >5% in human populations, might explain most or all of the heritability of common complex disease. That would have been convenient, because such variants can be genotyped with precise, inexpensive, high-density SNP […]... Read more »
Fritsche LG, Igl W, Bailey JN, Grassmann F, Sengupta S, Bragg-Gresham JL, Burdon KP, Hebbring SJ, Wen C, Gorski M.... (2016) A large genome-wide association study of age-related macular degeneration highlights contributions of rare and common variants. Nature genetics, 48(2), 134-43. PMID: 26691988
The title of this quite brief post refers to an important finding detailed by Derek Nord and colleagues  who, when analysing data from the "2008–09 National Core Indicators Adult Consumer Survey", concluded that there were some important inequalities when it came to employment rates for those diagnosed on the autism spectrum.Employment rates and work opportunities for people diagnosed with an autism spectrum disorder (ASD) is a hot topic at the moment. The Nord findings build upon report af........ Read more »
Nord, D., Stancliffe, R., Nye-Lengerman, K., & Hewitt, A. (2016) Employment in the community for people with and without autism: A comparative analysis. Research in Autism Spectrum Disorders, 11-16. DOI: 10.1016/j.rasd.2015.12.013
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