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Cell Motors Play Together

If one molecular machine by itself is a wonder, what would you think of groups of them playing in concert?  Recent papers and news articles are claiming that’s what happens in living cells: molecular motors coordinate their efforts.     Science Daily led off a story on this by saying, “Even within cells, the left […]

Adult Stem Cells, +2; Embryonic Stem Cells, -1

Two more successes were chalked up for adult stem cell therapies recently.  Science Daily said that sufferers from Crohn’s disease may have a new treatment option by getting injections of their own bone marrow stem cells.  This “now constitutes a treatment option to cure an intestinal disease that sometimes does not successfully respond to drugs […]

Assassins Roam Our Highways

Slinking surreptitiously through our blood streams, the assassins prowl about, looking for their targets.  These are not terrorists or vigilantes.  They have a license to kill.  Be glad they are there; they have saved your life many times.  They are called natural killer cells.     PhysOrg reported on work going on at Howard Hughes […]

Disease Genes Play the Wrong Tune

How did disease originate?  It might seem that large changes in genes would be required to turn a benign cell into a pathogen, but an article on Science Daily says it might just be a good cell playing a bad tune.     Bacteria have more genes than they use at any one time.  What […]

Evolution as Efficiency Expert

Who would have thought that a lowly bacterium is a “master of industrial efficiency”?  That’s what a researcher at the Weizmann Institute of Science called it.  E. coli, the best-studied microbe, “can be thought of as a factory with just one product: itself,” a press release said.  “It exists to make copies of itself, and […]

Obama and Stem Cells: Hope Chest or Pandora’s Box?

Any day now, as he promised, President Obama will likely lift funding restrictions on embryonic stem cell research imposed by former President Bush.  Bush had sought the council of leading scientists and ethicists before making his decision.  Obama, by contrast, will be yielding to the opinions of the scientific societies who have clamored for years […]

Biology Now Includes Fluid Dynamic Construction

There’s an old legend that Tibetan monks built a wall by levitating heavy stones with sound by beating their drums and gongs.  Something not quite so fantastic but still amazing is done by cells in the embryo.  Scientists have filmed zebrafish embryos using beating cilia to build little stone structures that they use for balance. […]

Handy Motor Found in Virus

Your job today is to stuff a delicate chain into a barrel without breaking it and make it wrap neatly inside.  A tiny virus does this with helping hands, reported Purdue University.  A research team uncovered the mechanism of a “powerful molecular motor” that crams the viral DNA tightly into the capsid with the help […]

Cilium Likened to GPS

A story on Science Daily says that the primary cilium, a protrusion on most human cells that looks like an antenna, acts like a GPS system.  They “orient cells to move in the right direction and at the speed needed to heal wounds, much like a Global Positioning System helps ships navigate to their destinations.” […]

Applying the Scientific Method to Prehistory

What could be more scientific than the scientific method?  A scientist observes an unexplained phenomenon.  He or she gathers data, analyzes it, proposes a hypothesis to explain it, and tests it.  The results are published in a peer-reviewed journal.  Mission accomplished, right?  Here are two papers on very different phenomena – one dealing with the […]

Nature Plagiarizes Behe’s Mousetrap

The prevention of genomic instability – and cancer – can be attributed to a “complex mousetrap” mechanism, said Robert M. Brosh, Jr (Laboratory of Molecular Gerontology, NIH) in Nature.1  This not-so-subtle reference to Michael Behe’s irreducibly complex system described in Darwin’s Black Box even has a mousetrap illustration with the following caption: The BLM protein […]

Far-Out Science

The following list of bizarre stories coming from science news outlets is jarring on two fronts: it shows how little scientists understand, and calls into question what counts as science these days.  Some stories illustrate one or the other; some both. Roar of the aurora aura:  Both Saturn and Mars turned up auroras that are […]

Proteins Can Tie Knots

Your job today is to invent a chain that can tie itself in a knot.  The chain can contain little magnets and electrical parts, but when you let go of the ends, a knot will spontaneously form.  This means that one end must form a loop and the other end must thread the loop.  Give […]

Cell Chaperone Is an Optimized Two-Stroke Machine

Proteins need a protected space to fold, and the cell provides it: the GroEL-GroES chaperone (see 05/05/2003, 06/07/2006, and 02/13/2007).  More details keep coming in about this “protein dressing room” as scientists continue to probe its secrets.  Two new papers in PNAS by a team at University of Maryland and College Park reveal that this […]

Scientists Marvel at Enzyme Efficiency

Many chemical reactions occur from simple collisions.  One atom may have spare electrons, another may need them.  Attracted by each other’s valences, the atoms collide and bonds form.  Not so with biological enzymes: these molecular machines owe their efficiency to their three-dimensional shapes.  Made up of hundreds of amino acids, enzymes have “active sites” where […]
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