Biology and Biotech

There are many questionable aging-related products on the market. One of the more recent is TeloYears, a test that supposedly determines your "true age" by measuring the length of a structure on your chromosomes called telomeres.

Telomeres can be thought of as a protective cap. Each time your cells divide, the telomere caps on the DNA that makes up your chromosomes shorten just a bit. When the telomeres get too short, the cell dies. If your telomeres are shorter than they ought to be, the thinking goes, then your body is actually "older" than your chronological age would suggest. On the flip side, if your telomeres are longer than they ought to be, then your body is "younger" than your chronological age would suggest.

Is this test accurate? Probably not. There doesn't...

To people living in the Caribbean, a mosquito bite is far more than an itch. Each one brings the potential of contracting a deadly disease. Facing that daily reality could make even the most science-averse person jump onto the biotech bandwagon, including the release of genetically modified mosquitoes to prevent infection, and the people of the Caribbean island of Saba are leading the way. 

To investigate some concerns about the release of genetically modified mosquitoes, the Executive Council of Saba requested an evaluation by The Netherlands National Institute of Public Health and the Environment's (RIVM) Genetically Modified Organisms Office. Saba is one of the three Caribbean special municipalities of The Netherlands (along with Bonaire...

Mycobacterium tuberculosis (Mtb), with its mere ~4,000 genes, has been outsmarting us for decades. One look at the numbers illustrates this clearly. The disease caused by Mtb, tuberculosis (TB), is one of the top 10 causes of death in the world. It currently infects roughly 1.5 billion people worldwide and causes 1.8 million deaths every year - most commonly in India, Indonesia, China, Nigeria, Pakistan and South Africa.

As if these numbers were not staggering enough, there is a steady increase in the number of cases of TB with strains that are resistant to antibiotics, or multidrug-resistant TB (MDR-TB). The half a million cases annually make the need for new TB drugs critically important. 

The lab of Dr. Brian VanderVen at Cornell University is working on just...

Women suffer about twice as many severe headaches and migraines as men.

Genetics likely plays a role. According to a review published in The Lancet Neurology, migraines are polygenic (i.e., many different genes contribute to migraines.) Indeed, a meta-analysis in Nature Genetics identified several dozen genes, mainly associated with blood vessel and smooth muscle tissue.

But genetics probably does not explain the difference in migraine prevalence between men and women. That discrepancy appears to be the fault of hormones, especially estrogen. According to...

For the last 100 years, slicing a single cell into two equal parts has proven to be a process that's tedious, time-consuming and one that required to be done by hand.

But a young, observant scientist and her fellow researchers at Stanford University have just come up with a method that's 200 times faster, with similar survival rates, and one, according to the school that "could eventually help scientists study and treat a variety of human diseases related to cell regeneration, such as cancer."

The researchers, led by Sindy Tang, an assistant professor of mechanical engineering, have created a "microfluidic guillotine" that channels single cells down a tight corridor before they are bisected by a pointed blade, creating two evenly-sliced cells...

There's new data to suggest that women with breast implants could receive an incorrect diagnosis for a heart attack when undergoing an electrocardiogram. That's according to research released today at a medical conference in Austria.

Doctors could not say with certainty that implants were the only cause for false readings. But their research, presented as "Electrocardiographic modifications induced by breasts implants: a comparative study" at ERHA EUROPACE - CARDIOSTIM 2017 in Vienna, indicated that they could very well be the cause. 

Researchers were interested in this investigation because previous work using echocardiography showed that seeing the heart, using ultrasound, was compromised because breast implants blocked the view. As a result, “We wanted to find...

When an artery feeding the heart (coronary artery) becomes blocked by plaque or a blood clot, the heart muscle fed by that artery suffers from lack of oxygen and nutrients. If the block goes on long enough, that area of muscle dies — and that’s what we call a heart attack or myocardial infarction. If the area is large enough, the person dies too, unless something is done to quickly restore blood flow.

Of course, lowering cholesterol with drugs and decreasing incipient blockages by angioplasty are two effective ways to prevent such events.  A new study suggests that a particular type of bacterium — Synechococcus elongates (SE) — just might be the key to preventing damage when a blockage does...

The history of the field of microbiology may not be as long as other scientific areas, but it is as rich. 

Let's face it - it was only about 300 years ago, when Antonie van Leewenhoek first saw the 'wee animalcules" which we now know were bacteria.   

The editors of the Journal of Bacteriology, a journal in the field of microbiology that publishes solid (although not always the sexiest) research, took a walk down memory lane during the year 2016 and highlighted the top 100 historical papers from the century in their "Classic Spotlight" series. 

The series selected about 120 landmark papers and published summaries in almost every issue of the journal throughout 2016. All of the summaries are free and available online. 

The editors (all well-known...

It's kind of ironic that tans used to be associated with being poor — with having to work outdoors. But more recently, tans are associated more with having the leisure to loll around the pool or beach and acquire that golden girl (or boy) patina.

It's long been understood that people with light skin who don't tan easily are at greater risk of developing UV-induced skin cancer. This is true whether the UV radiation comes from the sun or UV lamps such as those in tanning beds. Such tanning, while it may look healthy, basically means that exposure to UV light has occurred. Some folks have tried to acquire the healthful glow of a tan by the use of various sprays that provide color, but not the protection that melanin can offer.

Forget the spray tans and tanning beds....

The sequence of an organism's genome, a staple in today's world of scientific experimentation, is as essential to scientific research as beakers. So, publishing over one thousand new bacterial genomes is like 'making it rain' to the microbiology research community. 

An article entitled "1,003 reference genomes of bacterial and archaeal isolates expand coverage of the tree of life" was published this week in the journal Nature Biotechnology by an international research team led by the US Department of Energy's Joint Genome Institute. This release effectively doubles the number of currently available bacterial and archaeal genomes available to researchers currently. 

This work...