Syndicate content

Inbreeding Role in Extinction of the Spanish Habsburg Dynasty

Statistical genetic evidence supports the history-based theory that inbreeding may have played a role in the extinction of the Spanish Habsburg dynasty (1516-1700). This is the conclusion of research reported in an April 15 article in PLoS. The Spanish Habsburg dynasty was characterized by the frequent marrige of close relatives, in such a way that uncle-niece, first cousin, and other consanguineous unions were common. The dynasty ended with the childless death of the physically and mentally disabled Charles II at the age of 39. [PLoS article]

Molecular Switch Inhibition May Aid Treatment of Deadly Brain Cancers

Inhibition of the expression of a gene called NHERF-1 may be useful in the treatment of deadly brain cancers in the class glioblastoma multiforme (GBM), according to findings published by researchers at the Translational Genomics Research Institute (TGen) and Barrow Neurological Institute in the April issue of Neoplasia. "Our findings suggest a novel mechanism defining NHERF-1 as a 'molecular switch' that regulates the GBM tumor cell's ability to migrate or divide,'' said Dr. Kerri Kislin, the lead author of the study. The findings will be presented during the AACR annual meeting April 18-22. [Press release]

MicroRNAs May Improve Hearing

The lack of certain critical microRNAs can result in deafness, according to findings published in the April 14 issue of PNAS. "The molecules we identified could be used as a molecular tool delivered directly into the ears of deaf people to induce regeneration of important sensory cells that would improve hearing," one of the reporting researchers said. "The molecules also could potentially help people with balance disorders related to inner ear function such as Meniere's disease." Approximately 36 million Americans suffer from some form of hearing loss. In many cases, the cause is the degeneration of special sensory cells in the inner ear called hair cells. Excessive noise, certain medications, aging, and disease can damage or destroy hair cells. Because humans are unable to replace lost hair cells, hearing declines as they are lost. The researches identified specific microRNAs that are critical to the survival of hair cells. [Press release]

New Nucleotide Discovered in Mammals; May Revolutionize Epigenetics

Scientists at Rockefeller University have discovered a new methylated nucleotide in mammals. This discovery may revolutionize the study of epigenetics--i.e., inheritance not governed strictly by the sequence of nucleotides in a gene. The new methylated nucleotide (5-hydroxymethylcytosine) had previously been observed only in bacterial viruses. The Rockefeller researchers report that the new nucleotide is stable and abundant in mouse and human brain. The results are reported online in Science on April 16. [Press release]

Red Pandas Can Taste Artificial Sweetener

In a surprise finding, researchers at the Monell Chemical Senses Center have shown that a non-primate mammal (the red panda) can taste the articifial sweetener aspartame. Previously, only primates were believed able to taste this sweetener. The findings may shed light on how taste preferences and diet choice are shaped by molecular differences in taste receptors. [Press release]

Magnets Might Enable Low-Cost Nanopore DNA Sequencing

A novel technique to move DNA strands through nanopores at a slow enough speed for accurate sequencing has been developed by physicists at Brown University. The techique involves the use of "magnetic tweezers" in conjunction with an electric field to move the DNA. The researchers believe that this new technique might serve as the basis for lower-cost DNA sequencing. The research was reported in the journal Nanotechnology. [Press release]

Lung Cancer Susceptibility Gene Identified

Researchers have identified a lung cancer susceptibility gene (RGS17) that they believe may prove to be as important to lung cancer diagnosis and treatment as the BRCA1 and BRCA2 genes have proven to be in breast cancer. They believe the RGS17 gene might eventually be used to identify high-risk patients who may benefit from earlier, more aggressive lung cancer screening. The research was published in the April 15 issue of Clinical Cancer Research. [Press release]

New Drugs Offer Promise for Treatment of Advanced Prostate Cancer

Researchers report the development of two new anti-androgen drugs that retain their effectiveness in the face of increased expression of the androgen receptor. Patients with metastatic prostate cancer are normally treated with drugs that antagonize androgen function, but most of these patients progress to a more aggressive form of the disease that is driven by increased expression of the androgen receptor. Both the new drugs bind more tightly to the androgen receptor than does the current clinically used anti-androgen. Both new drugs have shown evidence of effectiveness in mouse models, and one of the drugs has shown effectiveness in the early stages of a human clinical trial. The report of the new drug development will be published in the April 9 issue of Science Express.

New Probe Permits Better Visualization of Single RNA Molecules

A new type of probe that allows researchers to visualize single molecules of RNA within living cells more easily than by existing methods has been developed by biomedical engineers at Georgia Tech and collaborating institutions. "The probes we designed shine bright, are small and easy to assemble, bind rapidly to their targets, and can be imaged for hours. These characteristics make them a great choice for studying the movement and location of RNA inside a single cell and the interaction between RNA and binding proteins," said Philip Santangelo, an assistant professor in the Wallace H. Coulter Department of Biomedical Engineering at Georgia Tech and Emory University, and a co-author of the article published online in Nature Methods on April 6.

Syndicate content