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Minimal Cell Modeled in Computer

“The basic design rules relating the regulation of cellular function to genomic structure is of broad interest,” begin three Cornell microbiologists writing in PNAS,1 and so they have turned their attention to the smallest theoretical living cell: A �minimal cell� is a hypothetical cell possessing the minimum functions required for sustained growth and reproduction in […]

Stupid Evolution Quote of the Week: Cell Networks

A team of Chinese scientists analyzed protein interactions in yeast cells, and titled their paper in PNAS1 “The yeast cell-cycle network is robustly designed.”  They “demonstrated that the cell-cycle network is extremely stable and robust for its function,” and “able to survive perturbations.”  The beginning of the paper expresses the wonder the stimulated their research: […]

Cellular Cowboys: How the Cell Rounds Up Chromosomes Before Dividing

Two cancer researchers from UC San Diego describe mitosis (cell division) in the Mar. 4 issue of Nature.1  Pulling together the latest findings about this elaborate and important process, they begin by describing the puzzle that the cell needs to solve: At the beginning of mitosis, the process of cell division, chromosomes are organized randomly […]

DNA Is a Code Operated by Another Code

The discovery in the 1950s that DNA stored a coded language was amazing, but recently a new level of complexity has come to the awareness of biochemists.  Apparently, another code determines which DNA genes will be opened for expression and which should be suppressed.     The Feb. 14 issue of Science News1 describes the […]

Your Internal Motors Can Run Nanotech

In each cell in your body, and in that of every living thing, there exists a tiny motor named ATP synthase that Science News1 calls “the ultimate molecular machine.”  It converts electrical to chemical energy, writes Alexandra Goho, “with amazing efficiency.”  Now, Japanese have harnessed some of these motors (only 12 millionths of a millimeter […]

“Utmost Precision” Found in DNA Repair Enzyme

The cell has many helper enzymes that can repair DNA damage.  One such enzyme, named MutY, has been described in the Feb. 12 issue of Nature.1  Reviewer Tomas Lindahl sets the stage: “Damaged DNA must be removed with the utmost precision, as mistakes are costly.  The structure of a repair enzyme bound to its substrate […]

How Do Plants Know When to Bloom?

Scientists like to use big words to impress the rest of us, so they have a term for how a plant decides when to bloom: vernalization.  But making up a word for a phenomenon is not the same as explaining it.     Everybody observes that plants seem to just “know” that spring is here, […]

Intracellular Railroad Has Park-and-Ride System

Cells are like miniaturized cities, with elaborate transportation systems ferrying their cargo to and fro (see Feb. 25 headline).  Just like a city may have railroads, busses, cars and monorails, the cell has multiple kinds of transport motors: dyneins, kinesins, and myosins.  Scientists have learned that most of the roadways are like one-way monorails: actin […]

Cells Find Signal in the Noise

Parents at an amusement park know the challenge of picking out their child’s voice, or even hearing their own hollering, in the noise of the crowd.  Yelling won’t help much if the rest of the crowd is yelling also.  Acoustic engineers know that raising the volume while playing back a noisy tape amplifies the noise […]

Stem Cell Breakthrough

Stem cells from skin cells: it’s all over the news – see EurekAlert 1, EurekAlert 2, EurekAlert 3, EurekAlert 4, National Geographic News, BreitBart.com, BBC News 1, BBC News 2, MSNBC and and PhysOrg for sample reports.  Two teams working independently, one in Japan and one in America, were able to tinker with just four […]

Subway System Found in Immune Cells

The announcement of a “third form of intercellular communication” hit scientists like TNT: tunneling nanotubules, that is.  Science Now reported that “Scientists have found what appears to be a whole new way for immune cells to communicate with one another: long, narrow tubes that enable them to connect and exchange molecules.”  These subway tunnels between […]

Stupid Evolution Quote of the Week:  Let Darwin Take Over

Jack Szostak (Harvard Medical Center) wins this week’s prize for a comment in an Associated Press article (see PhysOrg) claiming that scientists will create life in a test tube within 10 years.  Szostak was explaining the process of creating a cell membrane to the reporter: His idea is that once the container is made, if […]

Harnessing Cellular Machines for Humans

The cell is loaded with molecular machines, so why reinvent the wheel?  or the whole truck?  Martin G. L. van den Heuvel and Cees Dekker wrote in Science that engineers ought to put the existing technology to work.1  The biological cell is equipped with a variety of molecular machines that perform complex mechanical tasks such […]

“Genomic Junk” Is Cell’s Air-Traffic Control

51; Linc-RNAs (large intervening non-coding RNAs) have been promoted from junk molecules to air traffic controllers.  A mystery about these transcripts of DNA that are not translated into proteins is being explained.     Science Daily reported on work at Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center (BIDMC) and the Broad Institute that found these RNA molecules […]

Adult Stem Cells Lead Health Progress

51; Adult stem cells (AS) and induced pluripotent stem cells from adult tissues (iPS) continue to rack up tallies over embryonic stem cells (ESA).  Do we really need the embryonic variety?  Some continue to say yes, even though the practice of harvesting human embryos creates serious ethical questions for many. Controlling fate:  If you’d rather […]
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