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Don’t PNA in our OOL

Theories for the origin of life (OOL) are in a crisis, unable to imagine how something as complex as a replicating cell could come into existence. Could PNA do it?

One-Celled Organism’s Spring Generates Enormous Forces

The pioneering Dutch microscopist Antony van Leeuwenhoek marveled at the miniature “animalcules” he witnessed darting through the water and spinning like a top.  One such marvelous protozoan was Vorticella.  The way it rapidly contracted and expanded on its little stalk must have reminded Leeuwenhoek of a spring.  It turns out, it is a spring – […]

Micro-RNAs are Cell’s Optimizers

“Unnoticed next to the main ingredients, microRNAs were considered to be ‘junk’ DNA, leftovers from millions of years of evolution.”  That line comes from an article on EurekAlert telling about how dramatically that picture has changed.  RNA molecules are now seen to be indispensable, with many roles in the cell.  This article talked about how […]

Cell Ribosome Assembly Is Like Throwing Car Parts Together

Ribosomes are the protein-assembly machines in the living cell (11/24/2005, 07/26/2005, 01/19/2005).  A bacterium can have thousands of them.  They are composed of two large RNA complexes; the smaller one has 20 unique proteins that fit snugly in various parts of the apparatus, and the larger complex has even more.  How do the parts all […]

Nature Cover Exploits Intelligent Design While Inside Attacks It

The 11/24 issue of Nature included two very caustic letters attacking intelligent design, yet its cover story highlighted the promising new field of Synthetic Biology.  In one of the leading papers,1 David Sprinzak and Michael B. Elowiz of Caltech (see 06/25/2005 entry) described the synthetic approach in terms reminiscent of William Paley’s old Divine Watchmaker: […]

Living Wonders at a Glance

Here is an assortment of recently-reported biological marvels at the cellular level.  Researchers into creation and evolution explanations may wish to delve into these more deeply. Clock Conductor:  The brain is a “time machine,” reports EurekAlert on research at Duke University about the human biological clock.  Each structure in the brain has a resonant frequency […]

Bacterial Flagellum Visualized

Tom Magnuson at Access Research Network found this link that came out last year but is too good to pass up: another visualization of the bacterial flagellum, the “poster child of the ID movement,” by Japanese researchers on NanoNet, the Nanotechnology Researchers Network Center of Japan.  The 02/05/2004 NanoNet Bulletin features the bacterial flagellum with […]

Red Blood Cells Are Master Contortionists

Biophysicists have analyzed why red blood cells are able to squeeze through tight spaces on their journeys through our tissues, reports the UCSD Jacobs School of Engineering.  Their membranes contain a network of 33,000 hexagons arranged in a complex geodesic dome formation.  Each hexagon vertex is joined with flexible lines to a central maypole-like proto-filament, […]

Stem Cell Breakthroughs: No More Ethical Concerns?

Several science news sites have been reporting two new techniques for creating embryonic stem cells that do not involve the creation of viable embryos (see, for instance, New Scientist, Science Now, and Nature news, 437, 1065 (20 October 2005) | doi: 10.1038/4371065a).     There is no consensus yet, however, whether these methods overcome all […]

Molecular Machine Updates

Scientists continue to make headway understanding the detailed workings of molecular motors.  The two most famous rotary motors yielded additional secrets recently: ATP Synthase:  “Making ATP” was the short title of a paper in PNAS this week.1  Xing, Liao and Oster came up with a model that linked the rotation of the gamma subunit (the […]

Stupid Evolution Quote of the Week:  Network Evolution Trumps ID

This entry will make more sense after reading yesterday’s story on the evolution of modular networks (10/04/2005).  A reader sent in a reference to a very similar article from scientists at Johns Hopkins published in PLoS Biology.1  It must be Network Evolution Week.  Before awarding the SEQOTW prize, some background is necessary.     Like […]

Can Networks Design Themselves?

A molecular biologist and a physicist at the Weizmann Institute of Science in Israel (see also 09/26/2003) wrote a paper in PNAS1 with an intriguing title: “Spontaneous evolution of modularity and network motifs.”  Can a network arise spontaneously?     Biologists increasingly speak of the interaction of genes, proteins and metabolic processes in terms of […]

Muscle Motor Observed in Action

Myosin proteins have been heavily studied in recent years since they are critical to many cellular and tissue functions, including muscle.  According to EurekAlert Scientists from the Burnham Institute for Medical Research and the University of Vermont have captured the first 3-dimensional (3D) atomic-resolution images of the motor protein myosin V as it “walks” along […]

Cell Has Automatic Jam-Clearing Proofreading Machinery

Findings at Rockefeller University have scientists excited.  DNA copying machines work on a “sliding clamp” that can hold two repair machines at the same time.  One is a low-fidelity repair tool, the other a high-fidelity repair tool.  Usually, the high-fidelity one is active, but when it needs a bigger hammer that is perhaps more effective […]

Bacterial Parcel Service Discovered

Bacteria send letters and parcels to one another.  Some of them are love letters, some of them are letter bombs.  This amazing packaged system of communication, separate from the mere sending of diffusible chemicals, was described in Nature1 with the title, “Microbiology: Bacterial speech bubbles.”  Stephen C. Winans described what is known about bacterial communication: […]
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