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“Junk” Cells Maintain the Brain

The most abundant immune cells in your brain are not the neurons, but microglia – spindly cells that were thought to be static and immobile, the smallest of the glia cells that were once considered mere scaffolding to support the more important gray matter (see 11/20/2001 and 01/29/2001 entries).  When two scientists recently applied the […]

Small Wonder: Tubulin Visualized Up Close

Science Daily printed a neat story about microtubules, complete with a 3D visualization of how the protein components are arranged.  They are not just ropes or chains, but complex cylinders of precise parts.  Scientists are starting to get an idea of why they continually grow and shrink within the cell.  The process allows them to […]

Reverse-Engineering Biological Networks Challenges Caltech Scientists

Evolutionists love to quote Dobzhansky saying, “Nothing in biology makes sense apart from evolution.”  An article in the current issue of Caltech’s magazine Engineering and Science,1 however, might change that proverb to, “Nothing in biology makes sense apart from information theory and systems engineering.”  The article makes no mention of evolution, but rather looks at […]

Cell Wonders Accelerate

Scientific papers on cell biology continue to uncover amazing things as techniques improve to peer into the workings of these units of life.  Here are our Top Ten from the last few weeks: Immunity Tunes:  A press release from Johns Hopkins talked about how, unlike other cells, immune cells undergo a “dizzying loop of activity” […]

Enzymes Chew Like Pac-Man

Evidence is growing that many enzymes have moving parts.  They act like scissors, clamps and little pac-mans.  When precisely-folded chains of amino acids emerge from the ribosome, they fold into unique shapes with the aid of chaperones.  But those shapes are not static globs.  They move, say Dmitry A. Kondrashov and George N. Phillips, Jr. […]

Stem Cell Headlines

Research on embryonic stem cells is proceeding apace without an ethical anchor, and no clue where it will lead.  News coverage of the debate accelerated with an announcement from South Korea. Match point:  The BBC News and many other news sources published South Korea’s announcement that stem cells matched to the individual have been tailored […]

Design Language Gushes Out of Article Describing Cell Quality Control

Here are the design words found in a press release from Michigan State describing the editing mechanisms of the cell DNA-to-RNA transcription process: high fidelity, quality control, inner workings, genetic coding, exquisite nanotechnology in living systems, genetic control, blueprint for life, industrial assembly line, conveyor belt, preloading, criteria, backs up to correct the error, sensed […]

Rotary Clock Discovered in Bacteria

What could be more mechanical than a mechanical clock?  A biochemist has discovered one in the simplest of organisms, one-celled cyanobacteria.  Examining the three complex protein components of its circadian clock, he thinks he has hit on a model that explains its structure and function: it rotates to keep time.  Though it keeps good time, […]

Can Gene Duplication Promote Evolution?

Imagine you had no mouth but needed to eat.  A hamburger comes flying at you.  When it hits your body, your skin folds around it and pinches off, sealing it inside.  Dozens of 3-armed parts form a geodesic dome around it and carry it to the stomach.  Once delivered, all the parts are recycled for […]

World’s Smallest Rotary Motors Coming Into Focus

Science April 29 had three articles on the ATP synthase rotary motors that inhabit all living cells.1,2,3  Using creative techniques of extreme microscopy and crystallography, research teams are beginning to get more focused images of the carousel-like rotating engines of both F-type and V-type motors.  (V-type enzymes pump ions into the cell to regulate acidity; […]

Bacterial Hydrogen Fuel Cell May Yield Cleaner World

Scientists at Penn State are working on a new, improved fuel cell.  Its secret?  Bacteria that can be coaxed with a little electricity to produce “four times as much hydrogen directly out of biomass than can be generated typically by fermentation alone.”  Will you someday be able to harness hydrogen from organic waste to drive […]

Molecular Motors Do Ballet

Scientists at University of Illinois studied dynein and kinesin – the tiny molecular trucks that ferry cargo inside the living cell – and found that they are not just individualists: they cooperate in a delicate yet effective performance.     Some scientists had thought that the two machine types, which travel in opposite directions, were […]

Flagellum Described in High-Performance Lingo

The bacterial flagellum, a virtual icon of the intelligent design movement, has been studied by many researchers, notably Howard Berg of Harvard, an expert on chemotaxis (the attraction of bacteria to chemical stimuli).  Berg was interviewed in Current Biology1 and talked like a race car mechanic when discussing this molecular machine, though he is not […]

Your Linemen at Work: DNA Search and Rescue Machine Imaged in Action

DNA is amazing enough, but its automatic error-correction utilities are enough to stagger the imagination.  There are dozens of repair mechanisms to shield our genetic code from damage; one of them was portrayed in Nature1 March 31 (see also analysis by Sheila David in the same issue2) in terms that should inspire awe.     […]

The Future of Biology: Reverse Engineering

Just as an engineer can model the feedback controls required in an autopilot system for an aircraft, the biologist can construct models of cellular networks to try to understand how they work.  “The hallmark of a good feedback control design is a resulting closed loop system that is stable and robust to modeling errors and […]
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