Australian biomedical engineers have developed a 3-D material that successfully mimics nature to transform cells into muscle.
How did Borneo get its elephant? This could be just another of Rudyard Kipling's just so stories. The Bornean elephant is a subspecies of Asian Elephants that only exist in a small region of Borneo. Their presence on this southeastern Asian island has been a mystery. Scientists have discovered that elephants might have arrived on Borneo at a time of the last land bridge between the Sunda Islands in Southeast Asia.
Scientists have created a new chemical tool that can analyze RNA structures within living cells. The technique could facilitate a better grasp of how RNA structures fold and form in cells, as well as help in the design of drugs targeting RNA.
Forty-four of the most abundant new viruses in all the Earth's oceans have been identified by scientists. The finding has been achieved thanks to the application of cutting-edge techniques that mix flow cytometry and genomics and molecular biology techniques.
In brain cells, neurotransmitters are carried inside “cellular vehicles”. Scientists elucidate the mechanisms behind the motion of these vehicles in mammalian synapses.
Scientists have taken a decisive step forward in uncovering the planet's microbial diversity. They report the release of 1,003 phylogenetically diverse bacterial and archaeal reference genomes -- the single largest release to date. The researchers are interested in learning more about this biodiversity because microbes play important roles in regulating Earth's biogeochemical cycles and uncovering gene functions and metabolic pathways has wide applications
A much more detailed reference genome for maize has been published by researchers. The sequence of DNA letters in the plant's 10 chromosomes reveals how how incredibly flexible it is, a characteristic that directly follows from the way its genome is organized. This flexibility not only helps explain why maize has been so successful since its adaptation by agriculturalists thousands of years ago, but also bodes well for its ability to grow in new places as Earth's climate changes.
A new, novel approach to monitor functional protein complexes has now been created by scientists.
In 1859, Charles Darwin included a novel tree of life in his trailblazing book on the theory of evolution, On the Origin of Species. Now, scientists want to reshape Darwin's tree.
The meaning of a word is enough to trigger a reaction in our pupil: when we read or hear a word with a meaning associated with luminosity ("sun," "shine," etc.), our pupils contract as they would if they were actually exposed to greater luminosity. And the opposite occurs with a word associated with darkness ("night," "gloom," etc.). These results open up a new avenue for better understanding how our brain processes language.
The initial phases of animal evolution proceeded faster than hitherto supposed: New analyses suggest that the first animal phyla emerged in rapid succession -- prior to the global Ice Age that set in around 700 million years ago.
The developmental period from adolescence to adulthood is accompanied by a greater vulnerability to addictions than is seen in other periods of life. A new report describes a study in mice of the neurobehavioral impact of chronic, intermittent alcohol-vapor exposure during adolescence, in an effort to model periodic heavy drinking and compare it with similar drinking behavior during adulthood.
Changes to the genes that shortened the Galapagos cormorant's wings are the same genes that go awry in a group of human bone disorders characterized by stunted arms and legs, suggests new research. The findings shed light on the genetic mechanisms underlying the evolution of limb size and could eventually lead to new treatments for people with skeletal ciliopathies.
Multiple genomic elements work cooperatively and over long distances in order to ensure the proper functioning of chromosomes, a team of scientists has found.
The origin of animals was one of the most important events in the history of Earth. Beautifully preserved fossil embryos suggest that our oldest ancestors might have existed a little more than half a billion years ago.
The visual cortex, the human brain's vision-processing center that was previously thought to mature and stabilize in the first few years of life, actually continues to develop until sometime in the late 30s or early 40s, a neuroscientist has found.
More than 550 million years ago, the oceans were teeming with flat, soft-bodied creatures that fed on microbes and algae and could grow as big as bathmats. Today, researchers are studying their fossils to unlock the secrets of early life. Researchers now show that Dickinsonia developed in a complex, highly regulated way using a similar genetic toolkit to today's animals
Human activities, like nuclear tests and radio transmissions, have been changing near-Earth space and weather, and have created artificial radiation belts, damaged satellites and induced auroras.
Researchers say they may have found the cause of the first mass extinction of life.
A pioneering study of invertebrates has discovered 1,445 viruses, including several new families, revealing people have only scratched the surface of the world of viruses.
New research is helping to tease out the mechanics of how the gut microbiome communicates with the cells of its host to switch genes on and off. The upshot of the study, another indictment of the so-called Western diet (high in saturated fats, sugar and red meat), reveals how the metabolites produced by the bacteria in the stomach chemically communicate with cells, including cells far beyond the colon, to dictate gene expression and health in its host.
Researchers have unraveled how a tiny microRNA molecule controls growth and differentiation of brain cells.
As the ancestors of modern humans made their way out of Africa to other parts of the world many thousands of years ago, they met up and in some cases had children with other forms of humans, including the Neanderthals and Denisovans. Scientists know this because traces of those meetings remain in the human genome. Now, researchers find more evidence that those encounters have benefited humans over the years.
By the time you reach the end of this sentence, RNA folding will have taken place in your body more than 10 quadrillion times. The folding of RNA is essential to life, yet because it happens so rapidly, researchers have difficulty studying the process
For the first time, research shows the final stages of how mitochondria, the sausage-shaped, power-generating organelles found in nearly all living cells, regularly divide and propagate.
The powerful K computer has been used to show how molecules move within the extremely crowded interior of a bacterial cell.
Employing a novel sensor made of graphene – a one-atom-thin layer of carbon – researchers have gained new insight into the process of programmed cell death in mitochondria, possibly opening the door to new ways of forcing cancer cells to self-destruct. They also hit a scientific jackpot of sorts by finding that an accepted paradigm of how cells create energy is only half-right.
It's the ultimate chicken-or-egg conundrum: What was the "mother" molecule that led to the formation of life? And how did it replicate itself? One prominent school of thought proposes that RNA is the answer to the first question. Now researchers in this camp demonstrate RNA has more flexibility in how it recognizes itself than previously believed. The finding might change how we picture the first chemical steps towards replication and life
Understanding the molecular mechanisms that exist for cells to safeguard their genome against cancer-causing defects is crucial not only to understand how cancer arises but also because these mechanisms can be targeted therapeutically. Researchers have identified a new net of molecular interactions occurring within cells upon exposure to DNA damaging UV radiation.
Losing the youthful firmness and elasticity in our skin is one of the first outward signs of aging. Now it seems it's not just our skin that starts to sag, but our brains too.
“I have a fast metabolism; I can eat and eat and stay skinny.” Most of us have heard someone say this. But what is metabolism, and can we make ours run a bit faster? A new article helps break down what you should know about your metabolism.
It’s a known fact that cells can move around the body, but how they do it has been unknown – until now.
A study of hundreds of new genomes from across the globe has yielded insights into modern genetic diversity and ancient population dynamics, including compelling evidence that essentially all non-Africans today descend from a single migration out of Africa.
A new study of human genomic diversity suggests there may have in fact been two successful dispersals out of Africa, and that a “trace” of the earlier of these two expansion events has lingered in the genetics of modern Papuans.
Eye contact is a powerful social signal. Another person’s direct gaze not only increases physiological arousal, but it has, in fact, several different types of effects on cognition and behavior. Research has shown that seeing another person’s direct gaze increases peoples’ awareness of themselves, improves memory for contextually presented information, increases the likelihood of behaving in a pro-social manner, and makes people evaluate the gazer more positively. But why does a direct gaze have such diverse effects?
Faces are as unique as fingerprints and can reveal a great deal of information about our health, personalities, age, and feelings. Researchers recently discovered adolescents begin to view faces differently as they prepare for the transition to adulthood. The ability of adolescents to retune their face processing system, from showing a bias toward adult female faces as children, to preferring peer faces that match their own developmental stage in puberty, is part of the social metamorphosis that prepares them to take on adult social roles, say the authors of a new report.
Our brains hold on to memories via physical changes in synapses, the tiny connections between neurons. Unexpected molecular mechanisms by which these changes take place have now been revealed by new research.
A new scientific study conducted by a team of geneticists has characterized how cells know when to stop translating DNA into proteins, a critical step in maintaining healthy protein levels and cell function.
Like fingerprints, immune systems vary from person to person. And although we all inherit a unique set of genes that help us respond to infections, recent studies have found that our history and environment--like where and with whom we live--are responsible for 60% to 80% of the differences between individual immune systems, while genetics account for the rest.
It has long puzzled scientists why, after 3 billion years of nothing more complex than algae, complex animals suddenly started to appear on Earth. Now, a team of researchers has put forward some of the strongest evidence yet to support the hypothesis that high levels of oxygen in the oceans were crucial for the emergence of skeletal animals 550 million years ago.
The DNA of young people is regulated to express the right genes at the right time. With the passing of years, the regulation of the DNA gradually gets disrupted, which is an important cause of aging. A study of over 3,000 people shows that this is not true for everyone: there are people whose DNA appears youthful despite their advanced years.
A study on human behavior has revealed that 90% of the population can be classified into four basic personality types: Optimistic, Pessimistic, Trusting and Envious. However, the latter of the four types, Envious, is the most common, with 30% compared to 20% for each of the other groups
You may have noticed that women are more prone to sleep disturbances than men. They are, for instance, up to twice as likely to suffer from insomnia than men. Could there be a link between the body clock that regulates sleep and being a female or a male? Yes, according to a new study.
Women who reported feeling more stressed during their ovulatory window were approximately 40-percent less likely to conceive during that month than other less stressful months, research shows.
Scientists may be closer to answering a long-standing question in biology -- how do the components of cells' molecular machinery work together to transmit vital gene regulatory information from one cell generation to the next?
When we are busy with something that requires the use of sight, the brain reduces hearing to make it easy for us, concludes a new study. The results give researchers a deeper understanding of what happens in the brain when we concentrate on something.
Several years ago, biologists discovered a new type of genetic material known as long noncoding RNA. This RNA does not code for proteins and is copied from sections of the genome once believed to be "junk DNA." Now, in a related study, biologists have discovered how an enigmatic type of RNA helps to control cell fate.
Inhibitory connections between neurons act as the brain's brakes, preventing it from becoming overexcited. Researchers thought inhibitory connections were less sophisticated than their excitatory counterparts because relatively few proteins were known to exist at these structures. But a new study overturns that assumption, uncovering 140 proteins that have never been mapped to inhibitory synapses. Some of the proteins have already been implicated in autism, intellectual disability and epilepsy, suggesting new treatment avenues.
Can life be brought to celestial bodies outside our solar system which are not permanently inhabitable? This is the question with which experts are dealing in a recent essay.
The children of traumatized people have long been known to be at increased risk for posttraumatic stress disorder, and mood and anxiety disorders. However, according to researchers, there are very few opportunities to examine biologic alterations in the context of a watershed trauma in exposed people and their adult children born after the event.
The search for habitable, alien worlds needs to make room for a second 'Goldilocks,' according to a researcher. A new study suggests that simply being in the habitable zone isn't sufficient to support life. A planet also must start with an internal temperature that is just right.
The brain is well capable of coping with the erratic way individual brain cells transmit information. This robustness is quite useful because variation in signal transmission doesn't merely concern noise, but also contains valuable information, explain neuroscientists.
A research team has discovered the key factor that regulates trunk development in vertebrates and explains why snakes have such a strikingly different body. These findings may open new avenues to the study of spinal cord regeneration.
New work has revealed that in the sea squirt embryo, the orientation of the cell division machinery in epithelial cells is controlled by a unique cell membrane structure, which we call an 'invagination.'
Lions in West and Central Africa form a unique group, only distantly related to lions in East and Southern Africa, biologists have discovered.
A new study that for the first time examined the internal anatomy of a fossil human relative's heel bone, or calcaneus, shows greater similarities with gorillas than chimpanzees.
New study has determined that the total number of neurons, not an enlarged prefrontal region, differentiates the human brain from those of other primates.
Scientists at the interface of biophysics, evolutionary biology and systems biology have developed a new framework to analyze effects of global crosstalk on gene regulation, a new report explains.
Scientists have revealed how a tiny Arctic microbe, crucial to shaping the surface of glaciers, survives in such extreme conditions.
The universe is 13.8 billion years old, while our planet formed just 4.5 billion years ago. Some scientists think this time gap means that life on other planets could be billions of years older than ours. However, new theoretical work suggests that present-day life is actually premature from a cosmic perspective.
A detailed new map lays out the landscape of the cerebral cortex -- the outermost layer of the brain and the dominant structure involved in distinctly human functions such as language, tool use and abstract thinking. The map will accelerate progress in the study of brain diseases, as well as help to elucidate what makes us unique as a species.
Using direct neural recordings from the visual word form area, researchers were able to see words that patients read as the patients read them.
Human cells show deformation under the influence of external forces. But how do they recover their original shape afterwards? This mechanism, which is important in medicine and biology, has been described for the first time.
Scientists studied mouse lemur DNA to determine how Madagascar's landscape changed over time -- since the lemurs are forest-dependent, changes in their DNA show how Madagascar's forests changed thousands of years ago. The study indicates that Madagascar's habitats were changing long before humans arrived on the island.
If the origin of life is common on other worlds, the universe should be a cosmic zoo full of complex multicellular organisms. Scientists use the evolution of Earth life as a model to predict what humans might find living on distant planets and moons in a new paper.
Parts of the inner ear that process sounds such as speech and music seem to work differently than other parts of the inner ear, researchers have discovered.
When you're a firefly, finding "the one" can change the world. Literally. A new study demonstrates that for fireflies, octopuses and other animals that choose mates via bioluminescent courtship, sexual selection increases the number of species -- thereby impacting global diversity.
A team of researchers has developed the first scalable method to identify different subtypes of neurons in the human brain. The research lays the groundwork for 'mapping' the gene activity in the human brain and could help provide a better understanding of brain functions and disorders, including Alzheimer's, Parkinson's, schizophrenia and depression.
Researchers have revealed that the genetic ancestries of many of sub-Saharan Africa's populations are the result of historical DNA mixing events, known as admixture, within the last 4,000 years.
Scientists are getting closer to directly observing how and why water is essential to life as we know it.
Early mammals evolved in a burst during the Jurassic period, adapting a nocturnal lifestyle when dinosaurs were the dominant daytime predator. How these early mammals evolved night vision to find food and survive has been a mystery, but a new study suggests that rods in the mammalian eye, extremely sensitive to light, developed from color-detecting cone cells during this time to give mammals an edge in low-light conditions.
Does death really mean the end of our existence? Great thinkers from Plato to Blue Öyster Cult have weighed in on the question. Now, a study shows that that at least one aspect of life continues: Genes remain turned on days after animals die. Researchers may be able to parlay this postmortem activity into better ways of preserving donated organs for transplantation and more accurate methods of determining when murder victims were killed.
As a person ages, perception declines, accompanied by augmented brain activity. Learning and training may ameliorate age-related degradation of perception, but age-related brain changes cannot be undone. Rather, brain activity is enhanced even further, but for other reasons and with different outcomes.
New findings from a systematic study demonstrate that early building blocks of life may be produced when low-energy (< 20 eV) electrons interact with cosmic (interstellar, planetary, and cometary) ices. This work adds crucial data to the study of the 'chemistry of the heavens.'
The old adage 'you are what you eat,' may be better phrased as 'your sleep relates to what you eat.' An individual's body composition and caloric intake can influence time spent in specific sleep stages, according to results of a new study.
New research reports that, contrary to popular belief, mammals began their massive diversification 10 to 20 million years before the extinction of the dinosaurs.
Researchers are resurrecting ancient bacterial protein complexes to determine how 3.5-billion-year-old cells functioned versus cells of today. Surprisingly, they are not that different. Despite a popular hypothesis that primordial organisms had simple enzyme proteins, evidence suggests that bacteria around 500 million years after life began already had the sophisticated cellular machinery that exists today.
The expansion of the cerebral cortex sets humans apart from the rest of their fellow primates. Yet scientists have long wondered what mechanisms are responsible for this evolutionary development. New research has pinpointed a specific long nocoding ribonucleic acid that regulates neural development.
Even before infants understand their first words, they have already begun to link language and thought. Listening to language boosts infant cognition. New evidence provides even greater insight into the crucial role of language exposure in infants' first months of life.
A hominin in the same genus as humans and an ape nicknamed "Laia" are among the discoveries identified by the SUNY College of Environmental Science and Forestry as the Top 10 New Species for 2016. Also on the list are a giant Galapagos tortoise, a seadragon, an anglerfish, three invertebrates, a carnivorous sundew and a small tree.
In the Mesozoic, the time of the dinosaurs, from 252 to 66 million years ago, marine reptiles such as ichthyosaurs and plesiosaurs were top predators in the oceans. But their origins and early rise to dominance have been somewhat mysterious.
What used to be dismissed by many as 'junk DNA' is back with a vengeance as growing data points to the importance of non-coding RNAs (ncRNAs) -- genome's messages that do not code for proteins -- in development and disease. Researchers have developed a method that enables scientists to explore in depth what ncRNAs do in human cells.
A new study demonstrates the evolution of protein structure and function over 3.8 billion years. Snippets of genetic code, consistent across organisms and time, direct proteins to create 'loops,' or active sites that give proteins their function. The link between structure and function in proteins can be thought of as a network. Demonstrating evolution in this small-scale network may help others understand how other networks, such as the internet, change over time.
Seen as antithetical to one another, evolution and religion can hardly fit in a scientific discourse simultaneously. One expert has observed the influences a few major religions have had on evolutionists and their scientific thinking. Inspired by the lack of pigmentation and/or eyes in some cave organisms, he focuses on biospeleology to challenge the notions of predetermination and linearity.
Some anthropologists try to understand how societies and histories construct our identities, and others ask about how genes and the environment do the same thing. Which is the better approach? Both are needed, argues a biological anthropologist.
Relationship satisfaction and the energy devoted to keeping a partner are dependent on how the partner compares with other potential mates, a finding that relates to evolution's stronghold on modern relationship psychology, according to a study.
Using a new conceptual evolutionary model, investigators have reviewed the debated mechanism of speciation, suggesting that competition and a struggle for the existence are not the main drivers of evolution. This research points out the importance of avoidance of competition, biological history, endogenosymbiosis, and three-dimensionality as the main forces that structure ecosystems and allow the evolution of biological diversity.
An unprecedented molecular view of the critical early events in gene expression, a process essential for all life, has been provided by researchers in a new study. Cryo-electron microscopy (cryo-EM), a technique that studies samples at cryogenic temperatures, combined with state-of-the-art computational modeling, allowed researchers to visualize large transcription pre-initiation complexes (PIC) at near-atomic resolution.
Neanderthals in Europe showed signs of nutritional stress during periods of extreme cold, suggesting climate change may have contributed to their demise around 40,000 years ago.
Mountain gorillas from Volcanoes National Park in Rwanda eat up to 30 kilos of plants a day and their diet is highly varied in a habitat that is becoming increasingly fragmented as a result of illegal hunting and deforestation. For the first time, a study shows how dental morphology adapts to the food that is available. The information from the wear on their teeth is used to identify specimens that disappear.
Roses are red, violets are blue. Everybody knows that, but what makes them so? Although plant breeders were aware of some of the genes involved, there was as yet no quantitative study of how pigment turns a flower red, blue or yellow.
The discovery of a deep-water seaweed that evolved into a multi-cellular plant more than 540 million years ago has added a new branch to the tree of life, according to biologists.
When cancer cells are able to block the function of a gene called NLRC5, they are able to evade the immune system and form tumors, according to research. The discovery indicates NLRC5 as a novel biomarker for cancer patient survival and therapeutic response, as well as a potential target for new treatments
Dromedaries have been used for transportation for over 3,000 years. But it was not known where they were first domesticated or which genetic structure was selected in the process. A team of researchers has now identified the origin of the domesticated dromedary and showed that the dromedaries, unlike other domesticated animals, have maintained extensive gene flow in the modern population.
Researchers have uncovered the mechanism underlying a phenomenon in how we smell that has puzzled researchers for several decades. In a new article, the team reports that, surprisingly, the mechanism follows a simple physics principle called cooperativity.
Researchers have found humans have a higher metabolism rate than closely related primates, which enabled humans to evolve larger brains. The findings may point toward strategies for combating obesity.
Large meteorite and comet impacts into the sea are now believed to have formed the nurseries from which life on Earth first sparked.
The textbook 'monogamy hypothesis' argues that monogamy favors the evolution of cooperation by increasing sibling relatedness, since helpers are as related to the full siblings that they care for as they are to their own offspring. Two experts in social and reproductive behavior say that the proof isn't all there.
A new study offers an explanation as to why the genetic code, the dictionary used by organisms to translate genes into protein, stopped growing 3,000 million years ago.
The genome sequencing of the algae, Gonium pectorale, provides valuable clues into how and why single cells live together in groups -- one of the earliest steps on the path to a multicellular existence.
Belgian scientists from VIB and UGent developed Virotrap, a viral particle sorting approach for purifying protein complexes under native conditions. This method catches a bait protein together with its associated protein partners in virus-like particles that are budded from human cells. Like this, cell lysis is not needed and protein complexes are preserved during purification. The development and application of this pioneering technique are described in a paper published this week in Nature Communications.
Cells in the body exchange a number of signals with their surroundings. Deficient signal pathways may adversely affect the function of cells and cause diseases. However, we hardly know more than the vocabulary of cellular language. It is unknown how the “words” are combined in “sentences”. If cell grammar was known, complex processes in cells might be understood. Researchers have now presented a method to decode the grammar of cell signals.
Disorders in the same gene PIGG are the cause for intellectual disability with seizures and hypotonia, scientists have discovered. PIGG is one of the enzymes active in the GPI anchor glycolipid synthesis and the current study revealed its significance in the development of the cerebral nervous system.
Chimpanzees use manipulative dexterity to evaluate and select figs, a vital resource when preferred foods are scarce, according to a new study. The action resembles that of humans shopping for fruits, and the study demonstrates the foraging advantages of opposable fingers and careful manual prehension, or the act of grasping an object with precision. The findings shed new light on the ecological origins of hands with fine motor control.
Neuroscientists discover brain processes which lead to the concept of “zero” on the number line.
By turning skin cells into brain neurons, researchers have identified that certain tiny molecules aiding in gene expression, known as microRNAs (miRNAs), are under-expressed in the brains of the 14 schizophrenia patients they studied.
When the dinosaurs became extinct, plenty of small bird-like dinosaurs disappeared along with giants like Tyrannosaurus and Triceratops. Why only some of them survived to become modern-day birds remains a mystery. Now, researchers suggest that abrupt ecological changes following a meteor impact may have been more detrimental to carnivorous bird-like dinosaurs, and early modern birds with toothless beaks were able to survive on seeds when other food sources declined.
Faced with a pathogen, important signaling chemicals within plant cells travel different routes to inform the plant to turn on its defense mechanisms, according to a recent study.
New research examining the DNA of North American mammoths challenges the way we categorize a species. Several species of mammoth are thought to have roamed across the North American continent. The new study results show that while mammoths clearly evolved differences in their physical appearance to deal with different environments, it did not prohibit them from cross-breeding and producing healthy offspring.
In rare instances, DNA is known to have jumped from one species to another. If a parasite's DNA jumps to its host's genome, it could leave evidence of that parasitic interaction that could be found millions of years later -- a DNA 'fossil' of sorts. An international research team has discovered a new type of so-called transposable element that occurred in the genomes of certain birds and nematodes.
Testosterone might be involved in explaining why men have a greater risk of heart attacks than women of similar age, according to a study.
New research suggests that humans became the large-brained, large-bodied animals we are today because of natural selection to increase brain size. The work contradicts previous models that treat brain size and body size as independent traits. Instead, the study shows that brain size and body size are genetically linked and that selection to increase brain size will 'pull along' body size.
Scientists increasingly realize the importance of gut and other microbes to our health and well-being, but one UC Berkeley biologist is asking whether these microbes—our microbiota—might also have played a role in shaping who we are by steering evolution.
The idea that host diversity can limit disease outbreaks is not new. For example, crop monocultures in agriculture -- which lack genetic diversity -- can suffer severe disease outbreaks that sweep through the entire population. But why is this? Genetic diversity helps to reduce the spread of diseases by limiting parasite evolution, new research shows.
DNA repair is compromised at important regions of our genome, shedding new light on the human body's capacity to repair DNA damage, medical scientists have discovered.
Physicists report that temperature gradients within pores in rock could have separated primitive biopolymers on the basis of their sequences -- a vital precondition for the formation of self-replicating systems in the primordial ocean.
Scientists propose a new way of understanding of how the brain processes unconscious information into our consciousness. According to the model, consciousness arises only in time intervals of up to 400 milliseconds, with gaps of unconsciousness in between.
Prehistoric humans may have developed social norms that favor monogamy and punish polygamy thanks to the presence of sexually transmitted infections (STIs) and peer pressure, according to new research. As hunter-gatherers began living in larger populations of early settled agriculturalists, the spread of STIs could explain a shift towards the emergence of social norms that favored one sexual partner over many.
Genes in the brain that play a crucial role in behavioral adaptation to stressful challenges are controlled by epigenetic mechanisms. Adaptation to stress is known to require changes in the expression of so-called immediate-early genes in the brain, particularly in the hippocampus, a brain region that plays a crucial role in learning and memory, scientsts report.
Scientists have dramatically expanded the tree of life, which depicts the variety and evolution of life on Earth, to account for thousands of new microscopic life forms discovered over the past 15 years. The expanded view finally gives bacteria and Archaea their due, showing that about two-thirds of all diversity on Earth is bacterial -- half bacteria that cannot be isolated and grown in the lab -- while nearly one-third is Archaeal.
A review of latest genetic evidence suggests infectious diseases are tens of thousands of years older than previously thought, and that they could jump between species of 'hominin.' Researchers says that humans migrating out of Africa would have been 'reservoirs of tropical disease' -- disease that may have sped up Neanderthal extinction.
Researchers have shed new light on how the structure of regulatory sequences in DNA is packaged in a cell. This work has implications for better understanding the role that gene sequences called enhancers play within our DNA for governing gene activity.
The Neanderthal counterpart of the human Y chromosome, or male sex chromosome, appears to have died out. Why this happened is up for debate.
The genetic information we receive from our parents in the form of chromosomes are mosaics assembled from the two copies of chromosomes each parent has. How such cuts -- or breaks -- in our genetic material are repaired is the research interest of a team of researchers whose findings give important insights into the processes that ensure the integrity of our genetic material, preventing genetic disease and cancer development.
Salamanders and fish possess genes that can enable healing of damaged tissue and even regrowth of missing limbs. The key to regeneration lies not only in the genes, but in the DNA sequences that regulate expression of those genes in response to an injury. Researchers have discovered regulatory sequences that they call 'tissue regeneration enhancer elements' or TREEs, which can turn on genes in injury sites.
The secretion of fluids like saliva and digestive juices are important in countless activities that keep our bodies running day and night. When secretions are disrupted, diseases like dry mouth and pancreatitis occur. A new study uncovers a previously mysterious process that makes these secretions possible.
People prone to seeking stimulation and acting impulsively may have differences in the structure of their brains.
Biomechanics researchers have discovered that insects repair their injured bodies by deploying a DIY cuticle repair kit after meeting with mishap. Repaired limbs provide around two-thirds of their original strength, which helps individuals from the world's most diverse group of animals to survive in the wild. The study is the first to ever assess the biomechanics of repair in arthropods.
Scientists have developed computer models of the bodies of sauropod dinosaurs to examine the evolution of their body shape.
Most non-Africans possess at least a little bit Neanderthal DNA. But a new map of archaic ancestry suggests that many bloodlines around the world, particularly of South Asian descent, may actually be a bit more Denisovan, a mysterious population of hominids that lived around the same time as the Neanderthals. The analysis also proposes that modern humans interbred with Denisovans about 100 generations after their trysts with Neanderthals.
Viruses that infect bacteria are among the most abundant life forms on Earth. Our oceans and soils, and potentially even our own bodies, would be overrun with bacteria were it not for bacteria-eating viruses--called bacteriophages--that keep the microbial balance in check. Now, a new study suggests that bacteriophages made of RNA -- a close chemical cousin of DNA -- likely play a much larger role in shaping the bacterial makeup of worldwide habitats than previously recognized.
How do neurons become neurons? They all begin as stem cells, undifferentiated and with the potential to become any cell in the body. Now neuroscientists document some of the first steps in the process by which a stem cell transforms into different cell types.
Paleontologists have found fossilized multicellular marine algae, or seaweed, dating back more than 555 million years, ranking among the oldest examples of multicellular life on Earth.
A healthy brain is critical to a person's cognitive abilities, but measuring brain health can be a complicated endeavor. A new study reports that healthy brain metabolism corresponds with fluid intelligence -- a measure of one's ability to solve unusual or complex problems -- in young adults.
Why humans and other animals sleep is one of the remaining deep mysteries of physiology. A study shows that homeostatic mechanisms are indeed gated by sleep and wake, but in the opposite direction from that theorized previously.
Perception experts have long known that we see less of the world than we think we do. We create mental models of our surroundings by stitching together scraps of information gleaned while shifting attention from place to place. The process that creates the illusion of a complete picture relies on filtering out most of what's out there. Now, researchers find people have more control over what gets filtered out than previously believed.
Natural selection has shaped the ways in which babies grow in different species, including the rate or speed with which they develop. A new study by Canadian researchers suggests that some baby monkeys develop faster than others in the same population, and that this is best explained by the threat of infanticide they face.
Archaic Denisovan and Neanderthal DNA that persists in modern Pacific islanders of Melanesia, far from the Siberian cave where Denisovan fossils have been found, is a source of information about early human history. Equally informative are genome regions where DNA from extinct, human-like species has vanished and been replaced with sequences unique to people. These large regions have genes for brain development, language and brain cell signalling. Retained archaic DNA in human genomes may confer infection-fighting advantages.
New research shows a person's belief in God is strengthened when thinking of "what might have been" especially in reflecting on a major life event that could have turned out poorly. Importantly, the study shows how believers can come to perceive evidence for their religious conviction via deliberate and rational cognitive processes. The study, "But for the Grace of God: Counterfactuals Influence Religious Belief and Images of the Divine," is published in the April issue of Social Psychological and Personality Science.
Scientists at the Jagiellonian University in Poland taught Braille to sighted individuals and found that learning such a complex tactile task activates the visual cortex, when you'd only expect it to activate the tactile one.
Nature has its own economy, with trading as dynamic as that of any stock exchange. To cope with nutrient deficiencies in their respective habitats, certain plants, animals and fungi have evolved partnerships by which they can swap resources. In a new study, researchers analyze how nutrient pollution can negatively impact important ecological relationships.
European honeybees are being poisoned with up to 57 different pesticides, according to new research. A new method for detecting a whole range of pesticides in bees could help unravel the mystery behind the widespread decline of honeybees in recent years, and help develop an approach to saving them.
According to a new study, our ancestors between 2 and 3 million years ago started to spend far less time and effort chewing by adding meat to their diet and by using stone tools to process their food. The researchers estimate that such a diet would have saved early humans as many as 2.5 million chews per year, and made possible further changes that helped make us human.
Researchers from Boston College, US, have revealed the global spread of an ancient group of retroviruses that affected about 28 of 50 modern mammals' ancestors some 15 to 30 million years ago.
Since prehistoric times, clays have been used by people for medicinal purposes. Whether by eating it, soaking in a mud bath, or using it to stop bleeding from wounds, clay has long been part of keeping humans healthy. Now scientists have discovered the two key ingredients that give some natural clays the power to kill even antibiotic-resistant microbes.
Some corals may cope with climate change by changing markings on their DNA to modify what the DNA produces.
The gene p53 has been described as the 'guardian of the genome' due to its prominent role in preventing genetic mutations. More than half of all cancers are thought to originate from p53 mutations or loss of function, and now a recent study explains why.
Researchers are tapping information found in the cells of all life on Earth, and using it to trace life's evolution.
Around 390 million years ago, the first vertebrate animals moved from water onto land, necessitating changes in their musculoskeletal systems to permit a terrestrial life. Forelimbs and hind limbs of the first tetrapods evolved to support more weight. But what specific mechanisms drove changes in bone function? The tiger salamander might provide some clues.
Through the analysis of 230 samples of prehistoric genome, scientists believe they have identified the genes that gave rise to the European Neolithic revolution - with the transition from hunting and gathering to agriculture and domestication. They have also been able to detect variations in 12 genes associated with traits such as skin color, eye color, tolerance to lactose, and the height difference visible in European populations.
They've identified several noncoding RNA molecules of viral origins that are necessary for a fertilized human egg to acquire the ability in early development to become all the cells and tissues of the body. Blocking the production of this RNA molecule stops development in its tracks, they found.
Within the first year of life, children can make transitive inferences about a social hierarchy of dominance.
Scientists have discovered that human brains exhibit more plasticity, propensity to be modeled by the environment, than chimpanzee brains and that this may have accounted for part of human evolution.
Researchers have conducted an extensive study of the relationship between the sound structures of a worldwide sample of human languages and climatic and ecological factors. The results show a correlation between ecological factors and the ratio of sonorant segments to obstruent segments in the examined languages. This supports the hypothesis that acoustic adaptation to the environment plays a role in the evolution of human languages.
Researchers at North Carolina State University have used computational modelling to shed light on precisely how charged gold nanoparticles influence the structure of DNA and RNA – which may lead to new techniques for manipulating these genetic materials.
Researchers have conducted an extensive study of the relationship between the sound structures of a worldwide sample of human languages and climatic and ecological factors. The results show a correlation between ecological factors and the ratio of sonorant segments to obstruent segments in the examined languages. This supports the hypothesis that acoustic adaptation to the environment plays a role in the evolution of human languages.
The first animals to have complex skeletons existed about 550 million years ago, fossils of a tiny marine creature unearthed in Namibia suggest. The find is the first to suggest the earliest complex animals on Earth -- which may be related to many of today's animal species -- lived millions of years earlier than was previously known.
DNA represents a dynamic form of information, balancing efficient storage and access requirements. Packaging approximately 1.8m of DNA into something as small as a cell nucleus is no mean feat, but unpacking it again to access the required sections and genes? That requires organization.
Scientists have discovered a basis of communication in plant cells: The 'MICU' protein controls the calcium ion concentration in the cellular power stations. Using these chemical signatures, the plants regulate, for instance, the formation of organs and react to water stress. The results may be used in the future to optimize agricultural crops.
The diameter of a single, cylindrical DNA component is always the same, regardless of whether it forms part of a fruit fly, a beech tree, or a human being. This tiny building block in the DNA architecture is part of what is known as the nucleosome. The diameter of the nucleosome has long been a source of fascination for Professor Jakob Bohr of DTU Nanotech at Technical University of Denmark. Because if it is the same in all species, what universal principle or law of nature is in effect?
The first ancient human genome from Africa to be sequenced has revealed that a wave of migration back into Africa from Western Eurasia around 3,000 years ago was up to twice as significant as previously thought, and affected the genetic make-up of populations across the entire African continent.
A new study shows that iron-bearing rocks that formed at the ocean floor 3.2 billion years ago carry unmistakable evidence of oxygen. The only logical source for that oxygen is the earliest known example of photosynthesis by living organisms, say University of Wisconsin-Madison geoscientists.
A team of scientists led by Dr Pierre-Marc Delaux (John Innes Centre / University of Wisconsin, Madison) has solved a long-running mystery about the first stages of plant life on earth.
Research into 430,000-year-old fossils collected in northern Spain found that the evolution of the human body's size and shape has gone through four main stages.
Astrophysicists now show that if life can travel between the stars (a process called panspermia), it would spread in a characteristic pattern that we could potentially identify.
Cell mechanics are considerably more complex than previously thought and may affect cell structures at various levels.
New analyses of vertebrate groups performed by an evolutionary biologist suggest that land animals proliferate more rapidly than their aquatic counterparts. The findings may help explain biodiversity patterns throughout the animal kingdom.
An intriguing study involving walking stick insects shows how natural selection, the engine of evolution, can also impede the formation of new species.
A new analysis of early hominin body size evolution suggests that the earliest members of the Homo genus (which includes our species, Homo sapiens) may not have been larger than earlier hominin species.
Environmental factors are having an underappreciated effect on the course of disease and evolution by prompting genetic mutations through epigenetics, a process by which genes are turned on and off independent of an organism's DNA sequence. Researchers assert that is a dramatic shift in how we might think of disease and evolution's underlying biology.
Age is believed to change the way our brains respond and how its networks interact, but studies looking at these changes tend to use very artificial experiments, with basic stimuli. To try to understand how we respond to complex, life-like stimuli, researchers showed 218 subjects aged 18-88 an edited version of an episode from a Hitchcock TV series while using functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) to measure their brain activity.
A study by biologists now provides evidence that, at the molecular level, evolution is both unpredictable and irreversible. The study focuses exclusively on the type of evolution known as purifying selection, which favors mutations that have no or only a small effect in a fixed environment. This is in contrast to adaptation, in which mutations are selected if they increase an organism's fitness in a new environment. Purifying selection is by far the more common type of selection.
A new study of New York state apple orchards finds that pesticides harm wild bees, and fungicides labeled 'safe for bees' also indirectly may threaten native pollinators.
The human sensory systems contend with enormous diversity in the natural world. But it has been known for a long time the brain is adapted to exploit statistical regularities that nonetheless arise amongst this diversity. New research reports that established statistical distributions of visual features, such as visual contrast, spatial scale and depth, differ between dark and bright components of the natural world.
Our brains are wired to prepare us, during quiet moments, to be socially connected to other people, neuroscientists report. Facebook is aligned with the state of our brains at rest -- which can explain why it's such a popular activity when we want to take a break.
Sleep is important for long lasting memories, particularly during this exam season. New research suggests that sleeping triggers the synapses in our brain to both strengthen and weaken, which prompts the forgetting, strengthening or modification of our memories in a process known as long-term potentiation.
Although scientists are confident that all modern human populations can trace their ancestry back to Africa, the route taken out of Africa is still unclear. New genomic analyses of people currently living in Ethiopia and Egypt indicate that Egypt was the major gateway out of Africa and that migration followed a northern rather than a southern route. The findings add a crucial piece of information to help investigators reconstruct humans' evolutionary past.
A surprising link has been found between creative problem-solving and heightened activity in the cerebellum, a structure located in the back of the brain and more typically thought of as the body's movement-coordination center.
Not every encounter between predator and prey results in death. A new study co-authored by a University of Tennessee, Knoxville, professor suggests that prey emit warning cues that can ultimately lead to both their survival and that of their predators. The hypothesis addresses a 150-year-old mystery of evolution on how warning signals of animals and plants arise and explains animals' instinctive avoidances of dangerous prey.
A critical role for two proteins in chromatin structure has been uncovered by researchers. Their breakthrough helps explain how DNA is organized in our cells. This discovery could lead to a better understanding of what causes certain types of cancer, such as lymphoma.
Sperm in the first fraction of ejaculate are more numerous, move more and present better quality DNA than those lagging behind. This is the conclusion of a study that confirms that while the objective of the first fraction is to fertilize the egg, the second phase is so that no sperm from any other male has a chance to fertilize it.
Significant similarities have been highlighted by researchers between the behavioral effects of oxytocin and alcohol. The research team warns that the oft-used nickname hides the darker side of oxytocin, and claim that it bears more semblances with the effects of alcohol than previously thought.
A new study shows that the microbial communities we carry in and on our bodies known as the human microbiome have the potential to uniquely identify individuals, much like a fingerprint. Scientists demonstrated that personal microbiomes contain enough distinguishing features to identify an individual over time from among a research study population of hundreds of people. The study is the first to show that identifying people from microbiome data is feasible.
Explaining the evolution of insect society, with sterile society members displaying extreme levels of altruism, has long been a major scientific challenge, dating back to Charles Darwin's day. A new genomic study of 10 species of bees representing a spectrum of social living - from solitary bees to those in complex, highly social colonies - offers new insights into the genetic changes that accompany the evolution of bee societies.
DNA (deoxyribonucleic acid) is the main component of our genetic material. It is formed by combining four parts: A, C, G and T (adenine, cytosine, guanine and thymine), called bases of DNA combine in thousands of possible sequences to provide the genetic variability that enables the wealth of aspects and functions of living beings.
A clever combination of two different types of computer simulations enabled a group of researchers to uncover an unexpectedly cooperative group dynamic: the spontaneous emergence of resource sharing among individuals in a community. Who were the members of this friendly, digitally represented collective? Escherichia coli, rod-shaped bacteria found in the digestive systems of humans and many other animals
Although the human ability to write evolved from our ability to speak, writing and talking are now such independent systems in the brain that someone who can't write a grammatically correct sentence may be able say it aloud flawlessly.
In a new study, published in Nature this week, a research team led from Uppsala University in Sweden presents the discovery of a new microbe that represents a missing link in the evolution of complex life. The study provides a new understanding of how, billions of years ago, the complex cell types that comprise plants, fungi, but also animals and humans, evolved from simple microbes.
DNA is synonymous with life, but where did it originate? One way to answer this question is to try to recreate the conditions that formed DNA's molecular precursors. These precursors are carbon ring structures with embedded nitrogen atoms, key components of nucleobases, which themselves are building blocks of the double helix.
Species exchange between North and South America created one of the most biologically diverse regions on Earth. A new study by Smithsonian scientists and colleagues published this week in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences shows that species migrations across the Isthmus of Panama began about 20 million years ago, some six times earlier than commonly assumed. These biological results corroborate advances in geology, rejecting the long-held assumption that the Isthmus is only about 3 million years old.
Hot vents on the seabed could have spontaneously produced the organic molecules necessary for life, according to new research by UCL chemists. The study shows how the surfaces of mineral particles inside hydrothermal vents have similar chemical properties to enzymes, the biological molecules that govern chemical reactions in living organisms. This means that vents are able to create simple carbon-based molecules, such as methanol and formic acid, out of the dissolved CO2 in the water.
The human body is a cross between a factory and a construction zone -- at least on the cellular level. Certain proteins act as project managers, which direct a wide variety of processes and determine the fate of the cell as a whole. A new study reveals a novel function for WDR5, a protein known for its critical role in gene expression.
Zebras' vivid pigmentation and the fight or flight instinct. These and other features of the world's vertebrates stem from neural crest cells, but little is known about their origin. Scientists propose a new model for how neural crest cells, and thus vertebrates, arose more than 500 million years ago. They report that these cells retain the molecular underpinnings that control pluripotency -- the ability to give rise to all the cell types that make up the body.
It may come as a bit of a surprise to learn that bacteria have an immune system - in their case to fight off invasive viruses called phages. And like any immune system - from single-celled to human - the first challenge of the bacterial immune system is to detect the difference between "foreign" and "self." This is far from simple, as viruses, bacteria and all other living things are made of DNA and proteins. A group of researchers at the Weizmann Institute of Science and Tel Aviv University has now revealed exactly how bacteria do this. Their results were published online today in Nature.
The molecular mechanism of cancer development caused by well-known 'resistance' mutations in the gene called epidermal growth factor receptor has been revealed by researchers for the first time. While these mutations were known for quite a long time, the question as to why they cause cancer or make some drugs ineffective was still not answered.
While looking for life on planets beyond our own solar system, a group of international scientists has created a colorful catalog containing reflection signatures of Earth life forms that might be found on planet surfaces throughout the cosmic hinterlands. The new database and research gives humans a better chance to learn if we are not alone.
Artificial night time light from sources such as street lamps affects the growth and flowering of plants and even the number of insects that depend on those plants for food, a study confirms.
Speed matters when it comes to how messenger RNA deciphers critical information within the genetic code -- the complex chain of instructions critical to sustaining life. The investigators' findings give scientists critical new information in determining how best to engage cells to treat illness -- and, ultimately, keep them from emerging in the first place.
Newly discovered fossils of a giant, extinct sea creature show it had modified legs, gills on its back, and a filter system for feeding -- providing key evidence about the early evolution of arthropods.
Biomolecules, if large enough (several nanometers) and with an electrical charge, will seek their own type with which to form large assemblies. This is essentially 'self-recognition' of left-handed and right-handed molecule pairs.
Until now scientists have believed that the variations in traits -- such as our height, skin colour, tendency to gain weight or not, intelligence, tendency to develop certain diseases, etc., all of them traits that exist along a continuum -- were a result of both genetic and environmental factors. But they didn't know how exactly these things worked together. By studying ants, McGill researchers have identified a key mechanism by which environmental (or epigenetic) factors influence the expression of all of these traits, along with many more.
Many animals, including humans, acquired essential 'foreign' genes from microorganisms co-habiting their environment in ancient times, according to research published in the open access journal Genome Biology. The study challenges conventional views that animal evolution relies solely on genes passed down through ancestral lines, suggesting that, at least in some lineages, the process is still ongoing.
Bacteria that live on iron were found for the first time at three well-known vent sites along the Mid-Atlantic Ridge, one of the longest undersea mountain ranges in the world. Scientists report that these bacteria likely play an important role in deep-ocean iron cycling, and are dominant members of communities near and adjacent to sulfur-rich, black-smoker hydrothermal vents prevalent along the Mid-Atlantic Ridge.
Older brains may be more similar to younger brains than previously thought. In a new paper, researchers demonstrate that previously reported changes in the aging brain using functional magnetic resonance imaging may be due to vascular (or blood vessels) changes, rather than changes in neuronal activity itself.
Online dating, chatty smartphones, and social media played no role in the evolution of our ancestors, yet humans manage to deal with and even exploit these hallmarks of modern living. In a new article, researchers review the latest social neuroscience literature and argue that our ability to respond to the challenges of a fast-changing culture comes from our brains' ability to flexibly combine and repurpose the neural resources that evolution provided us.
In one of the most comprehensive studies of body size evolution ever conducted, scientists have found fresh support for Cope's rule, a theory in biology that states that animal lineages tend to evolve toward larger sizes over time.
A new University of Toronto study may force scientists to rethink what is behind the mass extinction of amphibians occurring worldwide in the face of climate change, disease and habitat loss.
The ascent of multi-celled life or multicellularity is a major evolutionary transition. Multicellularity evolved independently at least 25 times among eukaryotes, and complex multicellularity (characterized by intercellular communication and tissue differentiation controlled by regulatory gene networks) occurs in a handful of eukaryotic groups including animals.
When marine mammals such as whales, dolphins, manatees and walruses moved from land to water, a series of physical abilities —– limbs adapted for swimming, less dense bones that make them more buoyant and a large store of oxygen relative to their body size – made it possible. Yet these animals made the transition from land to water millions of years apart.
Scientists using supercomputers found genes sensitive to cold and drought in a plant help it survive climate change. These findings increase basic understanding of plant adaptation and can be applied to improve crops.
There are 3 billion letters in the human genome, and scientists have endlessly debated how many of them serve a functional purpose. There are those letters that encode genes, our hereditary information, and those that provide instructions about how cells can use the genes. But those sequences are written with a comparative few of the vast number of DNA letters. Scientists have long debated how much of, or even if, the rest of our genome does anything, some going so far as to designate the part not devoted to encoding proteins as “junk DNA.”
Since the discovery of how DNA encodes genetic information, most research on the evolution of life has focused on genes. According to the "selfish gene" theory, cells and organisms exist simply as packages to protect and transmit genes. New research challenges this idea, proposing instead that if anything is "selfish" it must be the ribosome. That up-ends everything we think we know about the evolution of life and, in fact, the function of ribosomes themselves.
When a rapidly-growing cell divides into two smaller cells, what triggers the split? Is it the size the growing cell eventually reaches? Or is the real trigger the time period over which the cell keeps growing ever larger?
University of Alberta PhD student Javier Luque has found the oldest crown-group true higher crab ever discovered, deep in the tropics of Colombia. The discovery of Telamonocarcinus antiquus pushes back the oldest known record of true higher crabs into the Early Cretaceous, dating about 110 million years ago.
Paleontologists have documented the evolutionary adaptations necessary for ancient lobe-finned fish to transform pectoral fins used underwater into strong, bony structures, such as those of Tiktaalik roseae. This enabled these emerging tetrapods, animals with limbs, to crawl in shallow water or on land. But evolutionary biologists have wondered why the modern structure called the autopod--comprising wrists and fingers or ankles and toes--has no obvious morphological counterpart in the fins of living fishes.
Whether you're cramming for an exam or just trying to remember where you put your car keys, learning and memory are critical functions that we constantly employ in daily life.
Scientists in a lab used a powerful laser to re-create what might have been the original spark of life on Earth.
Charles Darwin noted more than 150 years ago that animals on the Galapagos Islands, including finches and marine iguanas, were more docile than mainland creatures. He attributed this tameness to the fact that there are fewer predators on remote islands.
For the first time, chemists have successfully produced amino acid-like molecules that all have the same 'handedness', from simple building blocks and in a single test tube. Could this be how life started. On earth? Or in space, as the Philae lander is currently exploring? Rene Steendam researcher in Astrochemistry at Radboud University, the Netherlands has published the findings in Nature Communications.
Enzymes carry out fundamental biological processes such as photosynthesis, nitrogen fixation and respiration, with the help of clusters of metal atoms as 'active' sites. But scientists lack basic information about their function because the states thought to be critical to their chemical abilities cannot be experimentally observed. Now, researchers have reported the first direct observation of the electronic states of iron-sulfur clusters, common to many enzyme active sites.
Underlying circadian rhythms is a clock built of transcription factors that control the oscillation of genes, serving as the wheels and springs of the clock. But, how does a single clock keep time in multiple phases at once? A genome-wide survey found that circadian genes and regulatory elements called enhancers oscillate daily in phase with nearby genes – both the enhancer and gene activity peak at the same time each day
As people age, drastic changes occur in their DNA methylation patterns, which are thought to act as a "second code" on top of the DNA that can lock genes in the on or off position. However, what the consequences of these changes are remains a mystery.
The envelope (or Env) protein of HIV is a key target for vaccine makers: it is a key component in RV144, an experimental vaccine that is so far the only candidate to show promise in clinical trials. Also called gp120, the Env protein associates with another protein called gp41 and three gp120/gp41 units associate to form the final trimeric structure. The gp120 trimer is the machine that allows HIV to enter and attack host cells.
The Y chromosome, that little chain of genes that determines the sex of humans, is not as tough as you might think. In fact, if we look at the Y chromosome over the course of our evolution we've seen it shrink at an alarming rate.
The human genome consists of six billions rungs of DNA – but how much of this DNA is actually doing anything important?
The human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) can insert itself at different locations in the DNA of its human host - and this specific integration site determines how quickly the disease progresses, report researchers at KU Leuven's Laboratory for Molecular Virology and Gene Therapy. The study was published online today in the journal Cell Host & Microbe.
The adult human body is made up of about 37 trillion cells. Microbes, mainly bacteria, outnumber body cells by 10 to 1. Increasingly, scientists recognize that this huge community of microbes, called the microbiome, affects the health, development and evolution of all multicellular organisms, including humans.
Two astrophysicists argue that questions about the future of life on Earth and beyond may soon be resolvable scientifically, thanks to new data about the Earth and about other planets in our galaxy, and by combining the earth-based science of sustainability with the space-oriented field of astrobiology.
Bird populations across Europe have experienced sharp declines over the past 30 years, with the majority of losses from the most common species, according to a new study. However numbers of some less common birds have risen
A new analysis of geologic history may help solve the riddle of the "Cambrian explosion," the rapid diversification of animal life in the fossil record 530 million years ago that has puzzled scientists since the time of Charles Darwin. New research suggests a major tectonic event may be connected with the apparent burst of life that occurred 530 million years ago during the Cambrian explosion.
When it comes to genitalia, nature enjoys variety. Snakes and lizards have two. Birds and people have one. And while the former group's paired structures are located somewhat at the level of the limbs, ours, and the birds', appear a bit further down. In fact, snake and lizard genitalia are derived from tissue that gives rise to hind legs, while mammalian genitalia are derived from the tail bud. But despite such noteworthy contrasts, these structures are functionally analogous and express similar genes. How do these equivalent structures arise from different starting tissues?
The DNA of a plant virus was still in "great shape" after spending 700 years encased in frozen caribou feces, scientists report
The gene GAS5 acts as a brake on steroid hormone receptors, making it a key player in diseases such as hormone-sensitive prostate and breast cancer. Unlike many genes scientists are familiar with, GAS5 does not encode a protein. It gets transcribed into RNA, like other genes, but with GAS5 the RNA is what's important, not the protein. The RNA accumulates in cells subjected to stress and soaks up steroid hormone receptors, preventing them from binding DNA and turning genes on and off.
Eight percent of your genome derives from retroviruses that inserted themselves into human sex cells millions of years ago. Right now the koala retrovirus (KoRV) is invading koala genomes, a process that can help us understand our own viral lineage and make decisions about managing this vulnerable species
Architecture imitates life, at least when it comes to those spiral ramps in multistory parking garages. Stacked and connecting parallel levels, the ramps are replications of helical structures found in a ubiquitous membrane structure in the cells of the body.
A new idea about the origin of complex life turns current theories inside out. In the open access journal BMC Biology, cousins Buzz and David Baum explain their 'inside-out' theory of how eukaryotic cells, which all multicellular life - including us - are formed of, might have evolved.
Circadian clocks regulate functions ranging from alertness and reaction time to body temperature and blood pressure. New research published in the November 2014 issue of The FASEB Journal further adds to our understanding of the circadian rhythm by suggesting that the suprachiasmaticus nucleus (SCN) clock, a tiny region of the hypothalamus considered to be the body's "master" timekeeper, is not necessary to align body rhythms with the light-dark cycle. This challenges and disproves the commonly held notion that circadian rhythms were strictly organized in a hierarchical manner, and that light resets the master clock in the SCN, which then coordinates the other, subordinate clocks in peripheral tissues. Several metabolic and psychiatric diseases are associated with circadian rhythm and sleep disturbances, and this research opens the doors toward an improved understanding of these disorders.
The process of cell division is central to life. The last stage, when two daughter cells split from each other, has fascinated scientists since the dawn of cell biology in the Victorian era. For just as long, it has been notoriously difficult to study this final step, when the dividing cell creates a furrow before cleaving in two.
From basketball to handball, rugby to American football, teams in a variety of sports huddle together to agree tactics in secret. Cells, too, can huddle to communicate within a restricted group, scientists at the European Molecular Biology Laboratory (EMBL) in Heidelberg, Germany, have found. The study, published today in Nature, is the first demonstration that the way cells organise themselves influences their ability to communicate. The researchers propose that this strategy, which they discovered in developing zebrafish, could be much more widespread, influencing processes like wound repair, organ formation and even cancer.
"Sediment concentrations at levels found in plumes from dredging or in floods cause a significant delay in the development of clownfish larvae," says study lead author, Dr Amelia Wenger, from the ARC Centre of Excellence for Coral Reef Studies (Coral CoE) at James Cook University.
Developing cells come in all sorts of shapes. They may be flat as a pancake, equilateral like a cube or long and skinny like a hose. Developing embryos arise from eggs of different sizes, and they often grow within dynamic environments. Thanks to sexual reproduction and random mutation, they have a variety of genetic signatures. To top it all off, the genetic circuits within the cells are known to be noisy and prone to error. Yet somehow, despite all this chaos, most animals are born perfectly normal.
Elvis did it, Michael Jackson did it, and so do the mitochondria in our cells. They shake. While Elvis and Michael shook for decades before loud and appreciative audiences, mitochondrial oscillations have quietly bewildered scientists for more than 40 years.
For the first time, the three dimensional structure of the protein that is essential for iron import into cells, has been elucidated. Biochemists of the University of Zurich have paved the way towards a better understanding of iron metabolism. The results also provide a basis for novel approaches to treat iron-related metabolic diseases.
The information encoded in our genes is translated into proteins, which ultimately mediate biological functions in an organism. Messenger RNA (mRNA) plays an important role, as it is the molecular template used for translation. Scientist have now unraveled a molecular mechanism of mRNA recognition, which is essential for understanding differential gene regulation in male and female organisms.
Ammonites are a group of extinct cephalopod mollusks with ribbed spiral shells. They are exceptionally diverse and well known to fossil lovers. Régis Chirat, researcher at the Laboratoire de Géologie de Lyon: Terre, Planètes et Environnement (CNRS/Université Claude Bernard Lyon 1/ENS de Lyon), and two colleagues from the Mathematical Institute at the University of Oxford have developed the first biomechanical model explaining how these shells form and why they are so diverse. Their approach provides new paths for interpreting the evolution of ammonites and nautili, their smooth-shelled distant "cousins" that still populate the Indian and Pacific oceans. This work has just been published on the website of the Journal of Theoretical Biology.
The large marine animals of the past, like prehistoric mega-sharks and whales, draw popular attention and the interest of researchers alike. However, the smaller invertebrate animals dominated Earth in the past and still do today.
In spite of its dangerous reputation, cholesterol is in fact an essential component of human cells. Manufactured by the cells themselves, it serves to stiffen the cell's membrane, helping to shape the cell and protect it. By mapping the structure of a key enzyme involved in cholesterol production, Rockefeller University researchers and a colleague in Italy have gained new insight into this complex molecular process.
Tiny vesicles containing protective substances which they transmit to nerve cells apparently play an important role in the functioning of neurons. As cell biologists at Johannes Gutenberg University Mainz (JGU) have discovered, nerve cells can enlist the aid of mini-vesicles of neighboring glial cells to defend themselves against stress and other potentially detrimental factors. These vesicles, called exosomes, appear to stimulate the neurons on various levels: they influence electrical stimulus conduction, biochemical signal transfer, and gene regulation. Exosomes are thus multifunctional signal emitters that can have a significant effect in the brain.
They found a mechanism sought for more than four decades that explains how gene duplication leads to novel functions in individuals.
Researchers working on the European BLUEPRINT initiative (EBI) have published three papers in the journal Science, each outlining their part of the overall mission and explaining what they have found thus far. The initiative is a very large research project that involves 41 leading European Universities—its mission is to decipher the epigenome of blood cells. Elizabeth Pennisi offers an overview of the efforts of the overall team and explains how the work could result in a whole new era of immunological understanding.
Distribution of microscopic plants and animals in our oceans mimics the distribution pattern of larger land-based plants and animals, research reveals.
Cell division, the process that ensures equal transmission of genetic information to daughter cells, has been fundamentally conserved for over a billion years of evolution. Considering its ubiquity and essentiality, it is expected that proteins that carry out cell division would also be highly conserved. Challenging this assumption, scientists from Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center have found that one of the foundational proteins in cell division, previously shown to be essential in organisms as diverse as yeast, flies and humans, has been surprisingly lost on multiple occasions during insect evolution.
A growing body of evidence suggests that environmental stresses can cause changes in gene expression that are transmitted from parents to their offspring, making "epigenetics" a hot topic. Epigenetic modifications do not affect the DNA sequence of genes, but change how the DNA is packaged and how genes are expressed. Now, a study by scientists at the University of California, Santa Cruz, shows how epigenetic memory can be passed across generations and from cell to cell during development. Read more at: http://phys.org/news/2014-09-epigenetic-memory.html#jCp
CRG researchers shed new light on mitosis. The study published in the Journal of Cell Biology describes how Topo 2 disentangles DNA molecules and is essential for proper cell division Read more at: http://phys.org/news/2014-09-unraveling-cell-division.html#jCp
New collaborative research published in the journal Nature Communications by scientists from Japan, Russia and the US contains the genetic analysis on a species of African midge, which can survive a wide array of extreme conditions including large variations in temperature, extreme drought and even airless vacuums such as space. The team successfully deciphered the genetic mechanism that makes the midge invulnerable to these harsh conditions Read more at: http://phys.org/news/2014-09-decipher-genetic-mechanism-midge-invulnerable.html#jCp
If you never understood what "ontogeny recapitulates phylogeny" meant in high school, don't worry: biologists no longer think that an animal's "ontogeny," that is, its embryonic development, replays its entire evolutionary history. Instead, the new way to figure out how animals evolved is to compare regulatory networks that control gene expression patterns, particularly embryonic ones, across species. An elegant study published in the September 14, 2014 advance online issue of Nature from the Stowers Institute for Medical Research shows just how humbling and exhilarating that pursuit can be. Read more at: http://archaeologynewsnetwork.blogspot.fr/2014/09/ancient-vertebrate-uses-familiar-tools.html#.VBhtoRYrOpM Follow us: @ArchaeoNewsNet on Twitter | groups/thearchaeologynewsnetwork/ on Facebook
The life of a cell is straightforward: it doubles, divides in the middle and originates two identical daughter cells. Therefore, it has been long assumed that cells of the same kind are similarly sized and big cells cannot divide symmetrically. Silvia Bulgheresi's team, University of Vienna, revealed that two non-model bacteria divide regularly despite growing so long to be perceivable by the naked eye. These findings have been published in the renowned journal Nature Communications. Read more at: http://phys.org/news/2014-09-big-bacteria-breach-cell-division.html#jCp
G protein-coupled receptors (GPCRs) are the largest class of cell surface receptors in our cells, involved in signal transmission across the cell membrane. One of the biggest questions is how a signal recognized at the extracellular side of a GPCR induces a sequence of conformational changes in the protein and finally evokes an intracellular response Read more at: http://phys.org/news/2014-09-channels-cell-surface-receptors.html#jCp
New research from The University of Nottingham looks set to improve screening for new cancer drugs and drug delivery systems specifically designed for children with brain tumours.
Geologists from Trinity College Dublin have rewritten the evolutionary history books by finding that oxygen-producing life forms were present on Earth some 3 billion years ago – a full 60 million years earlier than previously thought. These life forms were responsible for adding oxygen (O2) to our atmosphere, which laid the foundations for more complex life to evolve and proliferate. Read more at: http://archaeologynewsnetwork.blogspot.fr/2014/09/oxygen-producing-life-forms-appeared-at.html#.VAroPBYrOpM Follow us: @ArchaeoNewsNet on Twitter | groups/thearchaeologynewsnetwork/ on Facebook
The colonization of land by the first land plants was a key step in the evolution of life on Earth. The exact circumstances of this shift, however, have not been fully explained. Taku Demura and colleagues from the RIKEN Center for Sustainable Resource Science have now contributed to the identification of a major set of plant genes that control two fundamental properties required for terrestrial life: structural support and water transport. Read more at: http://phys.org/news/2014-09-genetic-essential-survival.html#jCp
Geologists in Ireland have rewritten the evolutionary history books by finding that oxygen-producing life forms were present on Earth some 3 billion years ago -- a full 60 million years earlier than previously thought. These life forms were responsible for adding oxygen to our atmosphere, which laid the foundations for more complex life to evolve and proliferate.
Simply telling people that hard work is more important than genetics causes positive changes in the brain and may make them willing to try harder, a study shows. "Giving people messages that encourage learning and motivation may promote more efficient performance," said the lead investigator. "In contrast, telling people that intelligence is genetically fixed may inadvertently hamper learning."
Researchers at the University of California, San Diego have produced the first complete genome sequencing of a strain of E. coli that is a common cause of outbreaks of food poisoning in the United States. Although the E. coli strain EDL933 was first isolated in the 1980s, it gained national attention in 1993 when it was linked to an outbreak of food poisoning from Jack-in-the-Box restaurants in the western United Read more at: http://phys.org/news/2014-09-scientists-sequence-genome-coli-strain.html#jCp
For decades, researchers have used petri dishes to study cell movement. These classic tissue culture tools, however, only permit two-dimensional movement, very different from the three-dimensional movements that cells make in a human body. Read more at: http://phys.org/news/2014-08-cell-movement.html#jCp
One of nature's mysteries is how plants survive impact by the huge amounts of energy contained in the sun's rays, while using this energy for photosynthesis. The hypothesis is that the light-absorbing proteins in the plant's blades quickly dissipate the energy throughout the entire protein molecule through so-called protein quakes. Researchers at DTU Physics have now managed to successfully 'film' this process. Read more at: http://phys.org/news/2014-08-protein-quake.html#jCp
In a finding that has implications for life in other extreme environments, both on Earth and planets elsewhere in the solar system, LSU Associate Professor of Biological Sciences Brent Christner and fellow researchers funded by the National Science Foundation, or NSF, this week published a paper confirming that the waters and sediments of a lake that lies 800 meters (2600 feet) beneath the surface of the West Antarctic ice sheet support "viable microbial ecosystems."
Algae might seem easy to ignore, but they are the ultimate source of all organic matter that marine animals depend upon. Humans are increasingly dependent on algae, too, to suck up climate-warming carbon dioxide from the atmosphere and sink it to the bottom of the ocean.
The long-standing mystery of why human children grow so slowly compared with our closest animal relatives has been addressed by new research. A study has shown that energy funneled to the brain dominates the human body's metabolism early in life and is likely the reason why humans grow at a pace more typical of a reptile than a mammal during childhood.
One fundamental question in biology is what constitutes the basic type of the animal body plan and how did all the more complex forms, including that of humans, evolve from it. At the simplest level, this body plan can be described by the three axes. These three axes -- the familiar X, Y and Z axes from geometry -- are the anterior-posterior axis, which determines the position of the mouth in front and the anus at the rear, the dorsal-ventral axis, which in vertebrates separates the front of the body from the back, and the left-right axis, which creates a mirror-like symmetry of our extremities and left-right asymmetry of the organs.
A team of virologists and plant geneticists at Wageningen UR has demonstrated that when tomato plants contain Ty-1 resistance to the important Tomato yellow leaf curl virus (TYLCV), parts of the virus DNA (the genome) become hyper-methylated, the result being that virus replication and transcription is inhibited. The team has also shown that this resistance has its Achilles heel: if a plant is simultaneously infected with another important (RNA) virus, the Cucumber mosaic virus (CMV), the resistance mechanism is compromised. Read more at: http://phys.org/news/2014-08-virus-dna.html#jCp
Researchers of the ISREC Institute at the School of Life Sciences, EPFL, have deciphered the mechanism whereby some microRNAs are retained in the cell while others are secreted and delivered to neighboring cells. Read more at: http://phys.org/news/2014-08-cell.html#jCp
Forming like a blown smoke ring does, a "contractile ring" similar to a tiny muscle pinches yeast cells in two. The division of cells makes life possible, but the actual mechanics of this fundamental process have proved difficult to pin down. Read more at: http://phys.org/news/2014-08-glimpse-cell-division.html#jCp
Everyone's heard of the birds and the bees. But that old expression leaves out the flowers that are being fertilized. The fertilization process for flowering plants is particularly complex and requires extensive communication between the male and female reproductive cells. New research from an international team from Stanford, Regensburg, Heidelberg, and Munich, and including Carnegie's Wolf Frommer, David Ehrhardt, and Guido Grossmann reports discoveries in the chemical signaling process that guides flowering plant fertilization. It is published in Nature Communications. Read more at: http://phys.org/news/2014-08-calcium-reproduction.html#jCp
Are young people losing the ability to read emotions in our digital world? Scientists report that sixth-graders who went five days without even glancing at a smartphone, television or other screen did substantially better at reading emotions than sixth-graders from the same school who, as usual, spent hours each day looking at their smartphones and other screens.
Men and women differ in obvious ways, and scientists have long known that genetic differences buried deep within our DNA underlie these distinctions. In the past, most research has focused on understanding how the genes that encode proteins act as sex determinants. But scientists have found that a subset of very small genes encoding short RNA molecules, called microRNAs, also play a key role in differentiating male and female tissues in the fruit fly.
The small body size associated with the pygmy phenotype is probably a selective adaptation for rainforest hunter-gatherers, according to an international team of researchers. But all African pygmy phenotypes do not have the same genetic underpinning, suggesting a more recent adaptation than previously thought.
Brain differences associated with risk-taking teens have been investigated by researchers who found that connections between certain brain regions are amplified in teens more prone to risk. "Our brains have an emotional-regulation network that exists to govern emotions and influence decision-making," explained the study's lead author. "Antisocial or risk-seeking behavior may be associated with an imbalance in this network."
A scientist has discovered a potentially new form of plant communication, one that allows them to share an extraordinary amount of genetic information with one another. The finding throws open the door to a new arena of science that explores how plants communicate with each other on a molecular level. It also gives scientists new insight into ways to fight parasitic weeds that wreak havoc on food crops in some of the poorest parts of the world.
Parts of the primordial soup in which life arose have been maintained in our cells today according to scientists. Research has revealed how cells in plants, yeast and very likely also in animals still perform ancient reactions thought to have been responsible for the origin of life -- some four billion years ago.
Similarities between proteins reveal that their great diversity has arisen from smaller building blocks. Proteins consist of long chains of 20 different amino acid building blocks that fold into a characteristic three-dimensional structure. It is noteworthy that some modules, known as protein domains, occur more frequently than others. Scientists suspect that many of these domains share a common evolutionary origin.
Paleontologists have recreated the cranial structure of a 308-million-year-old lizard-like vertebrate that could be the earliest example of a reptile and explain the origin of all vertebrates that belong to reptiles, birds and mammals.
Researchers have made an important step in the race to discover whether other planets could develop and sustain life. New research shows the vital role of oceans in moderating climate on Earth-like planets Until now, computer simulations of habitable climates on Earth-like planets have focused on their atmospheres. But the presence of oceans is vital for optimal climate stability and habitability.
Researchers are shedding new light on the brain's complicated barrier tissue. The blood-brain barrier is an effective barrier which protects the brain, but which at the same time makes it difficult to treat diseases such as Alzheimer's. In an in vitro blood-brain barrier, researchers can recreate the brain's transport processes for the benefit of the development of new pharmaceuticals for the brain.
Many animals exhibit segmental patterns that manifest themselves during development. One classical example is the sequential and rhythmic formation the segmental precursors of the backbone, a process that has been linked to the ticking of an oscillator in the embryo -- the "segmentation clock." Researchers now paint a potentially revolutionary picture of the process of developmental segmentation, one controlled by not only the time scale of genetic oscillations, but also by changes in oscillation profile and tissue shortening.
Why does a relentless stream of subjective experiences normally fill your mind? Maybe that's just one of those mysteries that will always elude us. Yet, new research suggests that consciousness lies well within the realm of scientific inquiry -- as impossible as that may currently seem. Although scientists have yet to agree on an objective measure to index consciousness, progress has been made with this agenda in several labs around the world.
The future health of the world’s coral reefs and the animals that depend on them relies in part on the ability of one tiny symbiotic sea creature to get fat -— and to be flexible about the type of algae it cooperates with. In the first study of its kind, scientists discovered that corals -- tiny reef-forming animals that live symbiotically with algae -- are better able to recover from yearly bouts of heat stress, called "bleaching," when they keep large energy reserves -- mostly as fat -- socked away in their cells.
Working with a gene involved in HIV infection, researchers discovered some human genes have an alternate set of operating instructions written into their protein-making machinery, which can quickly alter the proteins' contents, functions and ability to survive. The study is the first to demonstrate the phenomenon of programmed ribosomal frameshifting in a human gene. Frameshifting helps regulate the gene's immune response, the authors report.
Neandertal trait in early human skull suggests that modern humans emerged from complex labyrinth of biology and peoples
Biologists have solved a long-standing mystery concerning the way plants reduce the numbers of their breathing pores in response to rising carbon dioxide levels in the atmosphere. Researchers report the discovery of a new genetic pathway in plants, made up of four genes from three different gene families that control the density of breathing pores—or “stomata”—in plant leaves in response to elevated CO2 levels.
A new study updates the number of human genes to 19,000; 1,700 fewer than the genes in the most recent annotation, and well below the initial estimations of 100,000 genes. The work concludes that almost all of these genes have ancestors prior to the appearance of primates 50 million years ago.
Many traits unique to humans were long thought to have originated in the genus Homo between 2.4 and 1.8 million years ago in Africa. Although scientists have recognized these characteristics for decades, they are reconsidering the true evolutionary factors that drove them.
Scientists have discovered a new way by which metabolism is linked to the regulation of DNA, the basis of our genetic code. The findings may have important implications for the understanding of many common diseases, including cancer.
Can cancer ever be completely defeated? Researchers have now reached a sobering conclusion: "cancer is as old as multi-cellular life on Earth and will probably never be completely eradicated," says one expert, following his latest research results. The researchers have now achieved an impressive understanding of the roots of cancer, providing proof that tumors indeed exist in primitive and evolutionary old animals.
We still have negative feelings about things that approach us -- even if they objectively are not threatening, according to new research. Though we modern humans don't really consider such fear, it turns out that it still plays a big part in our day-to-day lives.
Global warming is generally expected to bring spring forward but, as a new study shows, a concomitant influx of plant species from warmer southern latitudes could counteract this effect. Climate change is already clearly discernible in our part of the world. Data from local weather stations indicate that the average temperature in the Munich region has risen by 1.5°C over the past century. Biologists have now looked at the effects of this warming trend on the timing of leaf emergence ("leaf-out") in a broad range of shrubs and trees.
Many pathogenic bacteria use special secretion systems to deliver toxic proteins into host cells. Researchers have determined the structure of a crucial part of one of these systems -- which are possible targets for novel antibiotics.
Researchers have analyzed the largest collection of ancient fossil hominin species ever recovered from a single excavation site, shedding light on the origin and evolution of Neandertals.
A breakthrough in the race to solve antibiotic resistance has been made by scientists. New research reveals an Achilles' heel in the defensive barrier that surrounds drug-resistant bacterial cells. The findings pave the way for a new wave of drugs that kill superbugs by bringing down their defensive walls rather than attacking the bacteria itself. It means that in future, bacteria may not develop drug-resistance at all.
An alternative to the previous long-held hypothesis that the evolution of the robust faces of our early ancestors resulted largely from the need to chew hard-to-crush foods such as nuts has been presented by researchers.
Researchers find that being in a group makes some people lose touch with their personal moral beliefs.
Engineering professors have identified a new component of the biological mechanism that controls blood flow in the brain, demonstrating that the vascular endothelium plays a critical role in the regulation of blood flow in response to stimulation in the living brain.
Circumcision is performed for various reasons, including those that are based on religion, aesthetics, or health. New research indicates that the procedure may help prevent prostate cancer in some men. The findings add to a growing list of advantages to circumcision Besides advanced age, African ancestry, and family history of prostate cancer, no other risk factors for prostate cancer have been definitively established. This has fueled the search for modifiable risk factors.
The cognitive differences between humans and our closest living cousins, chimpanzees, are staggeringly obvious. However, a new study suggests that human muscle may be just as unique. Scientists have found that metabolite concentrations evolved rapidly over the course of human evolution in two tissues: in the brain and, more surprisingly, in muscle.
A new approach to studying microbes in the wild will allow scientists to sequence the genomes of individual species from complex mixtures. It marks a big advance for understanding the enormous diversity of microbial communities —- including the human microbiome.
Meditation is more than just a way to calm our thoughts and lower stress levels: our brain processes more thoughts and feelings during meditation than when you are simply relaxing, a coalition of researchers has found. "The study indicates that nondirective meditation allows for more room to process memories and emotions than during concentrated meditation," says a co-author of the study.
While it's common knowledge that all organisms inherit their mitochondria -- the cell's "power plants" -- from their mothers, it hasn't been clear what happens to all the father's mitochondria. Surprisingly, how -- and why -- paternal mitochondria are prevented from getting passed on to their offspring after fertilization is still shrouded in mystery; the only thing that's certain is that there must be a compelling reason, seeing as this phenomenon has been conserved throughout evolution. A crucial step in fertilization, and this issue, is now better understood, thanks to recent research.
It is springtime and they are everywhere: Newly enamored couples walking through the city hand in hand, floating on cloud nine. Yet a few weeks later the initial rush of romance will have dissolved and the world will not appear as rosy anymore. Nevertheless, love and romance have long lasting effects.
Chimpanzees have almost the same personality traits as humans, and they are structured almost identically, according to new work. The research also shows some of those traits have a neurobiological basis, and that those traits vary according to the biological sex of the individual chimpanzee.
Although most dinosaurs went extinct 65 million years ago, one dinosaur lineage survived and lives on today as a major evolutionary success story -- the birds. A study that has 'weighed' hundreds of dinosaurs suggests that shrinking their bodies may have helped the group that became birds to continue exploiting new ecological niches throughout their evolution, and become hugely successful today.
Empty nets and few species – environmental hormones are believed responsible for the diminishing numbers of fish. How damaging are these substances really, though? Studies that depict a complete picture of the lives of fish provide clues. Environmental hormones can be found for example in colorants and dyes, pesticides, cosmetics, plastics, and in pharmaceuticals. They are molecules that behave like hormones, because they resemble them in their structure. It has been suspected that the substances getting into an organism via the air, the skin, through foodstuffs.
MS researchers have found brain reserve and cognitive reserve confer long-term protective effect against cognitive decline. In this study, memory, cognitive efficiency, vocabulary (a measure of intellectual enrichment/cognitive reserve), brain volume (a measure of brain reserve), and disease progression on MRI, were evaluated in 40 patients with MS at baseline and at 4.5-year followup. After controlling for disease progression, scientists looked at the impact of brain volume and intellectual enrichment on cognitive decline.
Scientists have concluded that the interactions that human have kept for millennia with scavengers like vultures, hyenas and lions, have been crucial in the evolution and welfare of humankind. The results of the study note that the extinction of large carnivorous mammals threatens to wipe out the many services that they provide us.
Some paper wasps have variable facial patterns recognized by their sister wasps, marking either individuals or their strength, much like a karate belt. Researchers have now shown that those wasps with variable facial patterns have developed bigger facets in their compound eyes, and thus better vision, in order to read these social cues. Social communication may also drive evolution of senses in other species.
The Y chromosome, which distinguishes males from females at the genetic level, appeared some 180 million years ago. It originated twice independently in all mammals. Scientists have managed to date these events that are crucial for both mammalian evolution and our lives, because the Y chromosome determines whether we are born as a boy or girl.
In parallel with modern man (Homo sapiens), there were other, extinct types of humans with whom we lived side by side, such as Neanderthals and the recently discovered Denisovans of Siberia. Yet only Homo sapiens survived. What was it in our genetic makeup that gave us the advantage?
A brain pathway that underlies the emotional behaviors critical for survival have been discovered by neuroscientists. The team has identified a chain of neural connections which links central survival circuits to the spinal cord, causing the body to freeze when experiencing fear. Understanding how these central neural pathways work is a fundamental step towards developing effective treatments for emotional disorders such as anxiety, panic attacks and phobias.
New research on domestication raises more questions than it has answered. Scientists have outlined some of the key questions that have been raised about this pivotal event in human history.
Scientists have shown that anatomically modern humans spread from Africa to Asia and Europe in several migratory movements. The first ancestors of today’s non-African peoples probably took a southern route through the Arabian Peninsula as early as 130,000 years ago, the researchers found.
People blog, they don't lbog, and they schmooze, not mshooze. But why is this? Why are human languages so constrained? Can such restrictions unveil the basis of the uniquely human capacity for language? New research shows the brains of individual speakers are sensitive to language universals. Syllables that are frequent across languages are recognized more readily than infrequent syllables. Simply put, this study shows that language universals are hardwired in the human brain.
Synapses are the points of contact at which information is transmitted between neurons. Without them, we would not be able to form thoughts or remember things. For memories to endure, synapses sometimes have to remain stable for very long periods. But how can a synapse last if its components have to be replaced regularly? New research shows that synapses remain stable if their components grow in coordination with each other.
The skull of a newly discovered 325-million-year-old shark-like species suggests that early cartilaginous and bony fishes have more to tell us about the early evolution of jawed vertebrates -- including humans -- than do modern sharks, as was previously thought. The new study shows that living sharks are actually quite advanced in evolutionary terms, despite having retained their basic 'sharkiness' over millions of years.
New research demonstrates how carnivores transitioned into herbivores for the first time on land. Previously unknown, the 300-million-year old fossilized juvenile skeleton of Eocasea martini is less than 20 cm long. Found in Kansas, it consists of a partial skull, most of the vertebral column, the pelvis and a hind limb. By comparing the skeletal anatomy of related animals, scientists discovered that Eocasea martini belonged to the caseid branch of the group Synapsid. This group, which includes early terrestrial herbivores and large top predators, ultimately evolved into modern living mammals. Eocasea lived nearly 80 million years before the age of dinosaurs.
A brain circuit that's key to shifting our focus from one object to another has been identified by neuroscientists. The new findings suggest that there are two types of attention that have similar mechanisms involving related brain regions: object-based attention, and spatial attention. In both cases, the prefrontal cortex -- the control center for most cognitive functions -- appears to take charge of the brain's attention and control relevant parts of the visual cortex, which receives sensory input.
The world's first ranking of evolutionary distinct birds under threat of extinction has been published by a team of international scientists. These birds include a cave-dwelling bird that is so oily it can be used as a lamp and a bird that has claws on its wings and a stomach like a cow. The new rankings will be used in a major conservation initiative called the Edge of Existence program at the London Zoo. The zoo has already identified several species like the huge monkey-eating Philippine eagle that are at once distinct, endangered, and suffer from lack of attention.
Stunning images of a 305-million-year-old harvestman fossil reveal ancestors of the modern-day arachnids had two sets of eyes rather than one. The researchers say their findings add significant detail to the evolutionary story of this diverse and highly successful group of arthropods, which are found on every continent except Antarctica.
The Cambrian Period is a time when most phyla of marine invertebrates first appeared. Also dubbed the 'Cambrian explosion,' fossilized records from this time provide glimpses into evolutionary biology. Most fossils show the organisms' skeletal structure, which may give researchers accurate pictures of these prehistoric organisms. Now, researchers have found rare, fossilized embryos they believe were undiscovered previously. Their methods of study may help with future interpretation of evolutionary history.
One of the greatest mysteries facing humans is how life originated on Earth. Scientists have determined approximately when life began, roughly 3.8 billion years ago, but there is still intense debate about exactly how life began. One possibility -- that simple metabolic reactions emerged near ancient seafloor hot springs, enabling the leap from a non-living to a living world -- has grown in popularity in the last two decades.
Technical objections to the idea that Neandertals interbred with the ancestors of Eurasians have been overcome, thanks to a new genome analysis method. The technique can more confidently detect the genetic signatures of interbreeding than previous approaches and will be useful for evolutionary studies of other ancient or rare DNA samples.
Humans are unique in their ability to acquire language. But how? A new study shows that we are in fact born with the basic fundamental knowledge of language, thus shedding light on the age-old linguistic 'nature vs. nurture' debate.
The same factors that increase the risk of species extinctions also reduce the chance that new species are formed. We often see alarming reports about the global biodiversity crisis through the extinction of species. The reasons why species become extinct is much discussed, particularly the consequences of human activities. Less often discussed is how environmental changes affect the chances that new species are formed.
A comprehensive analysis of the genetic and epigenetic mechanisms by an international group of scientists demonstrated that the majority of the genes, as well as genetic and epigenetic mechanisms that are involved in regulation of longevity, are highly interconnected and related to stress response.
In a study of 14,000 US children, 40 percent lack strong emotional bonds -- what psychologists call 'secure attachment' -- with their parents that are crucial to success later in life, according to a new report. The researchers found that these children are more likely to face educational and behavioral problems.
Why were Neanderthals replaced by anatomically modern humans around 40,000 years ago? One popular hypothesis states that a broader dietary spectrum of modern humans gave them a competitive advantage on Neanderthals. Geochemical analyses of fossil bones seemed to confirm this dietary difference. Indeed, higher amounts of nitrogen heavy isotopes were found in the bones of modern humans compared to those of Neanderthals. However, these studies did not look at possible isotopic variation of nitrogen isotopes in the food resource themselves. In fact, environmental factors such as aridity can increase the heavy nitrogen isotope amount in plants, leading to higher nitrogen isotopic values in herbivores and their predators even without a change of subsistence strategy.
Researchers have achieved surprising results by exploiting nature's own ability to clean up after oil spills. Scientists know that marine bacteria can assist in cleaning up after oil spills. What is surprising is that given the right kind of encouragement, they can be even more effective.
A study of grasslands on six continents suggests a way to counteract the human-made overdose of fertilizer that threatens the biodiversity of the world's prairies. The solution originates in nature: let grazing animals crop fast growing grasses, which have a competitive advantage in an over-fertilized world. The grasses block sunlight from ground level, but herbivores make light available to other plants.
The evolution of the first animals may have oxygenated Earth's oceans -- contrary to the traditional view that a rise in oxygen triggered their development. New research contests the long held belief that oxygenation of the atmosphere and oceans was a pre-requisite for the evolution of complex life forms. The study builds on the recent work of scientists in Denmark who found that sponges -- the first animals to evolve -- require only small amounts of oxygen.
In a new book, a paleoanthropologist incorporates his research with a synthesis of a vast amount of research from other scientists who study primate evolution and behavior. The book explains how apes and humans evolved in relation to one another, and why humans became a bipedal, tool-making, culture-inventing species.
An important molecular change has been discovered that occurs in the brain when we learn and remember. The research shows that learning stimulates our brain cells in a manner that causes a small fatty acid to attach to delta-catenin, a protein in the brain. This biochemical modification is essential in producing the changes in brain cell connectivity associated with learning, the study finds. Findings may provide an explanation for some mental disabilities, the researchers say.
An international team of anthropologists has discovered definitive evidence of the environment inhabited by the early ape Proconsul on Rusinga Island, Kenya. The findings provide new insights into understanding and interpreting the connection between habitat preferences and the early diversification of the ape-human lineage.
Researchers are providing a new explanation as to why life remained as little more than slime for a billion years, before rapidly diversifying in the 'Cambrian explosion of life'. Using a new technology originally developed for mineral exploration, the team has shown how varying levels of oxygen and biologically-important elements in the ancient oceans might have triggered the major evolutionary events that brought us here today.
An interdisciplinary team re-examined Kleiber's Law, a famous 80-year-old equation that accurately describes many biological phenomena, although scientists don't agree on why it works. The team shows that Kleiber's Law captures the physics and mathematics underlying the evolution of plants' and animals' different, but equally efficient forms.
One of science's strongest dogmas is that complex life on Earth could only evolve when oxygen levels in the atmosphere rose to close to modern levels. But now studies of a small sea sponge fished out of a Danish fjord shows that complex life does not need high levels of oxygen in order to live and grow.
Communication is vital to any successful relationship. Researchers have discovered how the beneficial bacteria in our guts communicate with our own cells. This is a key step in understanding how our bodies maintain a close relationship with the population of gut bacteria that plays crucial roles in maintaining our health, fighting infection and digesting our food.
We know much about how embryos develop, but one key stage -- implantation -- has remained a mystery. Now, scientists have discovered a way to study and film this 'black box' of development. This new method revealed that on its way from ball to cup, the blastocyst becomes a 'rosette' of wedge-shaped cells, a structure never before seen by scientists.
Scientists present new fossil evidence for the origin of one of the most important and emotionally significant parts of our anatomy: the face. Scientists show how a series of fossils, with a 410 million year old armored fish called Romundina at its center, documents the step-by-step assembly of the face during the evolutionary transition from jawless to jawed vertebrates.
Ribosomes, the cellular machines that build proteins, are themselves made up of dozens of proteins and a few looping strands of RNA. A new study offers new clues about how the ribosome, the master assembler of proteins, also assembles itself.
People who appreciate the beauty of mathematics activate the same part of their brain when they look at aesthetically pleasing formula as others do when appreciating art or music, suggesting that there is a neurobiological basis to beauty.
Reviewing over 20 years of neuroscience research into sex differences in brain structure, researchers have conducted the first meta-analysis of the evidence. The team performed a quantitative review of the brain imaging literature testing overall sex differences in total and regional brain volumes. They found that males on average have larger total brain volumes than women (by 8 to 13 percent). Looking more closely, the researchers found differences in volume between the sexes were located in several regions. These included parts of the limbic system, and the language system.
A process that turns on photosynthesis in plants likely developed on Earth in ancient microbes 2.5 billion years ago, long before oxygen became available, according to new research.
Given its unique nature, the X chromosome has often been neglected when performing large-scale genetic studies. Because women have two copies of this chromosome and men only one, identifying genetic associations with X chromosomal genes can be particularly valuable in helping us to understand why some characteristics differ between sexes. Researchers have now identified novel X-chromosomal genetic variants that influence human height.
A physicist and his colleagues have found a new application for the tools and mathematics typically used in physics to help solve problems in biology.
The sizes of organisms following mass extinction events may vary more than previously thought, which may be inconsistent with the predictions of the so-called "Lilliput effect."
Scientists have started to explain why some prehistoric organisms evolved into larger animals. They suggest that height offered a distinct advantage to the earliest forms of multicellular life.
Our most recent common male ancestor emerged some 209,000 years ago -- earlier than many scientists previously thought, according to new research.
What happens to our cognitive abilities as we age? If your think our brains go into a steady decline, research reported this week may make you think again. The work takes a critical look at the measures usually thought to show that our cognitive abilities decline across adulthood. Instead of finding evidence of decline, the team discovered that most standard cognitive measures, which date back to the early twentieth century, are flawed.
People who enjoy life maintain better physical function in daily activities and keep up faster walking speeds as they age, compared with people who enjoy life less, according to a new study.
Humans and some of our hominid ancestors such as Homo erectus have been walking for more than a million years, and researchers are close to figuring out how we do it. The research could find some of its earliest applications in improved prosthetic limbs, and later on, a more complete grasp of these principles could lead to walking or running robots that are far more agile and energy-efficient than anything that exists today.
In studying the differences in brain interactions between religious and non-religious subjects, researchers conclude there must be a biological basis for the evolution of religion in human societies.
Like the strings on a violin or the pipes of an organ, the proteins in the human body vibrate in different patterns, scientists have long suspected.
The brain appears to synchronize the activity of different brain regions to make it possible for a person to pay attention or concentrate on a task, scientists at Washington University School of Medicine in St. Louis have learned.
It might be true that people have a harder time controlling themselves when they are tired at the end of the day, but that doesn't mean that self-control is a limited resource, say authors in the Cell Press publication Trends in Cognitive Sciences on January 15th. The trick to fighting that couch potato urge is for you (or your kids) to find pleasure in productive activities.
The discovery of well-preserved pelves and a partial pelvic fin from Tiktaalik roseae, a 375 million-year-old transitional species between fish and the first legged animals, reveals that the evolution of hind legs actually began as enhanced hind fins. This challenges existing theory that large, mobile hind appendages were developed only after vertebrates transitioned to land.
New research shows that humans and other primates burn 50% fewer calories each day than other mammals. The study, published January 13 in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, suggests that these remarkably slow metabolisms explain why humans and other primates grow up so slowly and live such long lives.
During the Age of the dinosaurs, huge reptiles, such as mosasaurs and ichthyosaurs, ruled the seas. Previously, scientists could only guess what colours these spectacular animals had; however, pigment preserved in fossilised skin has now been analysed at SP Technical Research Institute of Sweden and MAX IV Laboratory, Lund University, Sweden. The unique soft tissue remains were obtained from a 55 million-year-old leatherback turtle, an 85 million-year-old mosasaur and a 196-190 million-year-old ichthyosaur. This is the first time that the colour scheme of any extinct marine animal has been revealed.
While it's clear that exercise can improve health and longevity, the changes that occur in the body to facilitate these benefits are less clear. Now researchers publishing in the January issue of Cell Press journal Cell Metabolism have discovered a molecule that is produced during exercise and contributes to the beneficial effects of exercise on metabolism.
One of the most hotly debated issues in current human origins research focuses on how the 4.4 million-year-old African species Ardipithecus ramidus is related to the human lineage. "Ardi" was an unusual primate. Though it possessed a tiny brain and a grasping big toe used for clambering in the trees, it had small, humanlike canine teeth and an upper pelvis modified for bipedal walking on the ground.
In a finding that directly contradicts the standard biological model of animal cell communication, UCSF scientists have discovered that typical cells in animals have the ability to transmit and receive biological signals by making physical contact with each other, even at long distance.
Researchers found that the most common emotions trigger strong bodily sensations, and the bodily maps of these sensations were topographically different for different emotions. The sensation patterns were, however, consistent across different West European and East Asian cultures, highlighting that emotions and their corresponding bodily sensation patterns have a biological basis.
In 2013, researchers at the California Academy of Sciences discovered 91 new plant and animal species and two new genera, enriching our understanding of the complex web of life on Earth and strengthening our ability to make informed conservation decisions. The new species, previously unknown to science, include 38 different ants, 12 fishes, 14 plants, eight beetles, two spiders, one reptile, and one amphibian. In addition, Academy scientists discovered a new genus of beetle and a previously unidentified genus of sea fan. More than a dozen Academy scientists along with several dozen international collaborators described the newly discovered plants and animals.
With the Neanderthal genome now published, for the first time, scientists have a rich new resource of comparative evolution. For example, recently, scientists have shown that humans and Neanderthals once interbred, with the accumulation of elements of Neanderthal DNA found in up to 5 percent in modern humans.
African crocodiles, long thought of as just three known species, are among the most iconic creatures on that continent. But recent University of Florida research now finds that there are at least seven distinct African crocodile species.
One of the most important processes in the life of cells is genome replication, which consists of making exact copies of the DNA in order to pass it on to their offspring when they split. In most organisms, from yeast to human beings, genome replication follows a set plan, in which certain regions of the genome replicate before others; alterations in the late replication phases had previously been related to cancer and ageing. Now, a team from the Spanish National Cancer Research Centre (CNIO), led by Alfonso Valencia, has for the first time related this process to evolution over millions of years of life on Earth.
Ancient viruses from Neanderthals have been found in modern human DNA by researchers at Oxford University and Plymouth University.
Wolves likely were domesticated by European hunter-gatherers more than 18,000 years ago and gradually evolved into dogs that became household pets, UCLA life scientists report.
Evolution does not operate with a goal in mind; it does not have foresight. But organisms that have a greater capacity to evolve may fare better in rapidly changing environments. This raises the question: does evolution favor characteristics that increase a species' ability to evolve?
University of Arizona doctoral degree candidate Jay Sanguinetti has authored a new study, published online in the journal Psychological Science, that indicates that the brain processes and understands visusal input that we may never consciously perceive.
Researchers at Lund University have shed light on how and when the immune system is formed, raising hope of better understanding various diseases in children, such as leukemia.
People who are in love are less able to focus and to perform tasks that require attention. Researcher Henk van Steenbergen concludes this, together with colleagues from Leiden University and the University of Maryland. The article has appeared in the journal Motivation and Emotion.
What does it mean to be human? According to scientists the key lies, ultimately, in the billions of lines of genetic code that comprise the human genome. The problem, however, has been deciphering that code. But now, researchers at the Gladstone Institutes have discovered how the activation of specific stretches of DNA control the development of uniquely human characteristics -- and tell an intriguing story about the evolution of our species.
Professor of Genetics Scott Williams, PhD, of the Institute for Quantitative Biomedical Sciences (iQBS) at Dartmouth's Geisel School of Medicine, has made two novel discoveries: first, a person can have several DNA mutations in parts of their body, with their original DNA in the rest -- resulting in several different genotypes in one individual -- and second, some of the same genetic mutations occur in unrelated people.
Scientists have puzzled for centuries over how and why multicellular organisms evolved the almost universal trait of using single cells, such as eggs and sperm, to reproduce. Now researchers led by University of Minnesota College of Biological Sciences postdoctoral fellow William Ratcliff and associate professor Michael Travisano have set a big piece of that puzzle into place by applying experimental evolution to transform a single-celled algae into a multicellular one that reproduces by dispersing single cells.
A remarkable new species of tyrannosaur has been unearthed in Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument (GSENM), southern Utah. The huge carnivore inhabited Laramidia, a landmass formed on the western coast of a shallow sea that flooded the central region of North America, isolating western and eastern portions of the continent for millions of years during the Late Cretaceous Period, between 95-70 million years ago.
In the largest study on the topic to date, research shows that speaking a second language may delay the onset of three types of dementias.
"Bisexual men and women face prejudice, stigma and discrimination from both heterosexual and homosexual people," said Dr. Friedman, director of Project Silk, an HIV prevention initiative. "This can cause feelings of isolation and marginalization, which prior research has shown leads to higher substance use, depression and risky sexual behavior. It also can result in lower rates of HIV testing and treatment."
A rudimentary form of life that is found in some of the harshest environments on earth is able to sidestep normal replication processes and reproduce by the back door, researchers at The University of Nottingham have found.
"Even as biologists, we often think of the origin of new species as a moment in time when a new species splits from an old one, and this type of thinking is reflected in the evolutionary 'trees,' or phylogenies, that we draw. In reality, evolution is a long-term process that plays out in stages, and speciation is no different."
Life scientists from UCLA's College of Letters and Science have discovered fundamental rules of leaf design that underlie plants' ability to produce leaves that vary enormously in size.
It has baffled humans for millennia: how did life begin on planet Earth? Now, new research from a Texas Tech University paleontologist suggests it may have rained from the skies and started in the bowels of hell.
A new study by researchers at the U.S. Department of Energy's Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory (Berkeley Lab) has now shown that gene enhancers -- regulatory sequences of DNA that act to turn-on or amplify the expression of a specific gene -- are major players in craniofacial development.
How can some people resist the attraction of immediate pleasures and pursue long-term goals, while others easily succumb and compromise their ultimate expectations? A recent study led by researchers at the Brain and Spine Institute in Paris have found that the brain's memory systems help in resisting temptations. One factor which might explain the difference in people's ability to resist temptation might lie in the activity of a deep brain structure: the hippocampus.
A good night's rest may literally clear the mind. Using mice, researchers showed for the first time that the space between brain cells may increase during sleep, allowing the brain to flush out toxins that build up during waking hours. These results suggest a new role for sleep in health and disease.
Boosting testosterone can promote generosity, but only when there is no threat of competition, according to new research published in Psychological Science, a journal of the Association for Psychological Science. The findings show that testosterone is implicated in behaviors that help to foster and maintain social relationships, indicating that its effects are more nuanced than previously thought.
The outer membrane of bacteria contains many proteins that form tiny pores. They are important for absorbing nutrients and transmitting signals into the cell. The research group of Sebastian Hiller, Professor of Structural Biology at the Biozentrum, University of Basel, has now shown for the first time at atomic resolution, that these pore proteins are transported in an unstructured, constantly changing state to the outer bacterial membrane. This landmark study was recently published in the scientific journal Nature Structural and Molecular Biology.
New research from Western University (London, Canada) is leading to a better understanding of what happens during heart failure; knowledge that could lead to better therapeutics or a more accurate predictor of risk. The research led by Robarts Research Institute scientists Robert Gros, PhD, and Marco Prado, PhD, along with graduate student Ashbeel Roy found the heart is regulated not only by nervous systems but also by heart cells sending messages to each other through the release of the neurotransmitter acetylcholine (ACh).
A recently published study strongly suggests men succumb to sexual temptations more than women -- for example, cheating on a partner -- because they experience strong sexual impulses, not because they have weak self-control.
A duo of scientists at Penn State University has achieved a major milestone in understanding genomic "dark matter" -- called non-coding RNA. This "dark matter" is difficult to detect and no one knows exactly what it is doing or why it is there in our genome, but scientists suspect it may be the source of inherited diseases.
We often ignore what we cannot see, and yet organisms below the soil's surface play a vital role in plant functions and ecosystem well-being. These microbes can influence a plant's genetic structure, its health, and its interactions with other plants. A new series of articles in a Special Section in the American Journal of Botany on Rhizosphere Interactions: The Root Microbiome explores how root microbiomes influence plants across multiple scales -- from cellular, bacterial, and whole plant levels to community and ecosystem levels.
A new study published in the journal American Naturalist helps explain how spatial variation in natural environments helps spur evolution and give rise to biodiversity.
A small pilot study shows for the first time that changes in diet, exercise, stress management and social support may result in longer telomeres, the parts of chromosomes that affect aging.
Before there was life on Earth, there were molecules. A primordial soup. At some point a few specialized molecules began replicating. This self-replication, scientists agree, kick-started a biochemical process that would lead to the first organisms. But exactly how that happened -- how those molecules began replicating -- has been one of science's enduring mysteries.
A new study led by Adelaide researchers has estimated, for the first time, the rates of evolution during the "Cambrian explosion" when most modern animal groups appeared between 540 and 520 million years ago.
This research suggests that panspermia, while certainly not proven, is not impossible either.
By studying processes that occur at the ends of chromosomes, a team of Heidelberg researchers has unravelled an important mechanism towards a better understanding of cellular aging. The scientists focused on the length of the chromosome ends, the so-called telomeres, which can be experimentally manipulated. Their research, which was conducted at the Center for Molecular Biology of Heidelberg University (ZMBH), allows for new approaches in the development of therapies for tissue loss and organ failure associated with senescence (cellular aging). The research results may also be significant for cancer treatment. They were recently published in the journal Nature Structural & Molecular Biology.
No two human beings are the same. Although we all possess the same genes, our genetic code varies in many places. And since genes provide the blueprint for all proteins, these variants usually result in numerous differences in protein function. But what impact does this diversity have? Bioinformatics researchers at Rutgers University and the Technische Universität München (TUM) have investigated how protein function is affected by changes at the DNA level. Their findings bring new clarity to the wide range of variants, many of which disturb protein function but have no discernible health effect, and highlight especially the role of rare variants in differentiating individuals from their neighbors.
The average height of European males increased by an unprecedented 11 cm between the mid-nineteenth century and 1980, according to a new paper published online today in the journal Oxford Economic Papers. Contrary to expectations, the study also reveals that average height actually accelerated in the period spanning the two World Wars and the Great Depression.
Cardiovascular risk factors are highest in winter and lowest in summer, according to research presented at the ESC Congress today by Dr Pedro Marques-Vidal from Switzerland. The analysis included more than 100,000 subjects in 7 countries.
A new study finds that sleep deprivation affects facial features such as the eyes, mouth and skin, and these features function as cues of sleep loss to other people.
The study concludes that the pattern of brain development is similar if you learn one or two language from birth. However, learning a second language later on in childhood after gaining proficiency in the first (native) language does in fact modify the brain's structure, specifically the brain's inferior frontal cortex. The left inferior frontal cortex became thicker and the right inferior frontal cortex became thinner. The cortex is a multi-layered mass of neurons that plays a major role in cognitive functions such as thought, language, consciousness and memory.
The scientists found that whilst the majority of animal species investigated are affected by ocean acidification, the respective impacts are very specific.
In a pioneer study published in the latest issue of the scientific journal Nature Communications, a research team at the Instituto Gulbenkian de Ciência (IGC; Portugal), led by Miguel Godinho Ferreira in collaboration with Isabel Gordo, show for the first time that chromosomes rearrangements (such as inversions or translocations) can provide advantages to the cells that harbor them depending on the environment they are exposed. This study contributes to better understand different biological problems such as: how cancer cells that have chromosomal rearrangements can outgrow normal cells or how organisms may evolve in the same physical location to form distinct species.
The Fukushima Daiichi nuclear disaster spread significant radioactive contamination over more than 3500 square miles of the Japanese mainland in the spring of 2011. Now several recently published studies of Chernobyl, directed by Timothy Mousseau of the University of South Carolina and Anders Møller of the Université Paris-Sud, are bringing a new focus on just how extensive the long-term effects on Japanese wildlife might be.
Manipulation is often thought of as morally repugnant, but it might be responsible for the evolutionary origins of some helpful or altruistic behavior, according to a new study.
Researchers have probed deep into the cell's genome, beyond the basic genetic code, to begin learning the "grammar" that helps determine whether or not a gene gets switched on to make the protein it encodes.
Human supercentenarians share at least one thing in common--over 95 percent are women. Scientists have long observed differences between the sexes when it comes to aging, but there is no clear explanation for why females live longer. In a discussion of what we know about stem cell behavior and sex, researchers argue that it's time to look at differences in regenerative decline between men and women. This line of research could open up new explanations for how the sex hormones estrogen and testosterone, or other factors, modify lifespan.
A research team wanted to know how HIV uses its tiny genome to manipulate our cells, gain entry, and replicate--all while escaping the immune system. They've spent a decade developing an experimental approach that finally is yielding answers
Populations in the ancient Fertile Crescent are the ancestors of modern day South Asians but not of Europeans, new research shows. The earliest farmers from the Zagros mountains in Iran, i.e., the eastern part of the Fertile Crescent, are neither the main ancestors of Europe's first farmers nor of modern-day Europeans. Researchers say that this came as a surprise.
New research challenges a long-held hypotheses about how flight first developed in birds.