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Archive - Sep 2014 - Story


September 13th

African Midge’s Ability to Survive Extreme Conditions May Provide Clues to Better Long-Term Storage and More Successful Transport of Sensitive Biological Materials

New collaborative research published online on September 12, 2014 in an open-access article in the journal Nature Communications by scientists from Japan, Russia, and the United States contains the genetic analysis of a species of African midge, which can survive a wide array of extreme conditions, including large variations in temperature, extreme drought, and even airless vacuums such as space. The team successfully deciphered the genetic mechanism that makes the midge invulnerable to these harsh conditions. Professor Noriyuki Satoh and Dr. Takeshi Kawashima of Professor Satoh’s Marine Genomics Unit, as well as Professor Alexander Mikeyhev of the Ecology and Evolution Unit, and Mr. Manabu Fujie and Dr. Ryo Koyanagi of the DNA Sequencing Section at the Okinawa Institute of Science and Technology Graduate University have contributed to the collaboration. The midge, Polypedilum vanderplanki (image), is capable of anhydrobiosis, a unique state that allows an organism to survive even after losing 97% of its body water. Anhydrobiotic organisms are also able to survive other severe conditions such as extreme temperatures ranging from 90°C to -270°C, vacuums, and high doses of radiation; all of which would be lethal to most other life forms. The midge found in northern Nigeria lives in an environment where the dry season lasts for at least six months and droughts can last up to eight months. By the time eggs have hatched and larvae have developed, the pools of water they breed in have dried up. However, these dried larvae can survive in this dehydrated state for more than 17 years. “This is a very interesting kind of phenomena,” remarks Professor Satoh.

Breakthrough in Detecting Early Onset of Refractory Epilepsy in Children May Lead to Effective Treatment Using Non-Pharmacological Therapies

65 million people around the world today suffer from epilepsy, a condition of the brain that may trigger an uncontrollable seizure at any time, often for no known reason. A seizure is a disruption of the electrical communication between neurons, and someone is said to have epilepsy if they experience two or more unprovoked seizures separated by at least 24 hours. Epilepsy is the most common chronic disease in pediatric neurology, with approximately 0.5-1% of children developing epilepsy during their lifetime. A further 30-40% of epileptic children develop refractory epilepsy, a particular type of epilepsy that cannot be managed by antiepileptic drugs (AED). Regardless of etiology, children with refractory epilepsy are invariably exposed to a variety of physical, psychological, and social morbidities. Patients whose seizures are difficult to control could benefit from non-pharmacological therapies, including surgery, deep brain stimulation, and ketogenic diets. Therefore, the early identification of patients whose seizures are refractory to AED would allow them to receive alternative therapies at an appropriate time. Despite idiopathic etiology being a significant predictor of a lower risk of refractory epilepsy, a subset of patients with idiopathic epilepsy might still be refractory to medical treatment. Using a new electroencephalography (EEG) analytical method, a team of medical doctors and scientists in Taiwan has successfully developed a tool to detect certain EEG features often present in children with idiopathic epilepsy. The team developed an efficient, automated, and quantitative approach towards the early prediction of refractory idiopathic epilepsy based on EEG classification analysis. EEG analysis is widely employed to investigate brain disorders and to study brain electrical activity.

Milestone Achieved in Work to Create Artificial Kidney

Regenerative medicine researchers at Wake Forest Baptist Medical Center have addressed a major challenge in the quest to build replacement kidneys in the lab. Working with human-sized pig kidneys, the scientists developed the most successful method to date to keep blood vessels in the new organs open and flowing with blood. The work was reported online on September 3, 2014 in the journal TECHNOLOGY. "Until now, lab-built kidneys have been rodent-sized and have functioned for only one or two hours after transplantation because blood clots developed," said Anthony Atala, M.D., director and professor at the Wake Forest Institute for Regenerative Medicine and a senior author of the study. "In our proof-of-concept study, the vessels in a human-sized pig kidney remained open during a four-hour testing period. We are now conducting a longer-term study to determine how long flow can be maintained." If proven successful, the new method to more effectively coat the vessels with cells (endothelial) that keep blood flowing smoothly, could potentially be applied to other complex organs that scientists are working to engineer, including the liver and pancreas. The current research is part of a long-term project to use pig kidneys to make support structures known as "scaffolds" that could potentially be used to build replacement kidneys for human patients with end-stage renal disease. Scientists first remove all animal cells from the organ - leaving only the organ structure or "skeleton." A patient's own cells would then be placed in the scaffold, making an organ that the patient theoretically would not reject. The cell removal process leaves behind an intact network of blood vessels that can potentially supply the new organ with oxygen.

Depicting the Dynamic Structures of Sugar Chains by an NMR-Validated Simulation

We often experience difficulties in identifying the accurate shape of dynamic and fluctuating objects. This is especially the case in the nanoscale world of biomolecules. The research group lead by Professor Koichi Kato of the Institute for Molecular Science, National Institutes of Natural Sciences, has developed a methodology for quantitatively describing the dynamic behaviors of complicated sugar chains in solution at atomic resolution by combining a sophisticated NMR spectroscopic approach with an ingenious molecular dynamics simulation technique. This study was published online on September 4, 2014 in Angewandte Chemie International Edition, a scientific journal that is published on behalf of the German Chemical Society. The sugar chains are flexible accessories decorating the surface of proteins. These variable accessories actually mediate protein-protein communication and even determine the fates of the protein. In other words, the sugar chains serve as transformable "code" that governs the protein's action in our body. For example, it has been revealed that particular sugar chains modifying lipids on cell surfaces offer acceptor sites for viral infections and trigger conformational changes of proteins involved in neurodegenerative disorders including Alzheimer's disease. Hence, decoding the sugar codes is desired not only for better understanding the molecular mechanisms behind a variety of biological processes, but also for designing new drugs targeting these processes. However, conformational characterization of the sugar chains has been hampered by their dynamic properties. Many experimentalists and theorists have taken on the challenge to solve this problem.

September 12th

Small Protein Appears to Protect Against Bone Loss in Arthritis

A small protein named GILZ appears to protect against the bone loss that often accompanies arthritis and its treatment, researchers report. Arthritis, as well as aging, prompt the body to make more fat than bone, and the researchers have previously shown GILZ can restore a more youthful, healthy mix. It also tamps down inflammation, a major factor in arthritis. Now they have early evidence that GILZ might one day be a better treatment option for arthritis patients than widely used synthetic glucocorticoids, which actually increase bone loss, said Dr. Xingming Shi, a bone biologist at the Medical College of Georgia (MCG) at Georgia Regents University. The research is being presented at The American Society for Bone and Mineral Research 2014 Annual Meeting September 12-15 in Houston. In addition to bone loss, glucocorticoids, such as prednisone, produce other side effects, including diabetes. While GILZ is induced by glucocorticoids, directly overexpressing the protein appears to better target sources of bone loss and inflammation and avoid these serious side effects. For this study, the focus was tumor necrosis factor alpha, a proinflammatory cytokine that helps regulate immune cells and is a major player in arthritis. Tumor necrosis factor alpha primarily works though promoting inflammation, which is great if the target is cancer. However, when tumor necrosis factor alpha becomes dysregulated, it can also cause diseases like arthritis and inflammatory bowel disease. To look specifically at the impact on bone loss, the researchers crossed mice bred to overexpress tumor necrosis factor alpha throughout the body with mice that overexpressed GILZ in just their mesenchymal stem cells. These stem cells produce the osteoblasts, which make bone. They also make fat, and when the cells stop making as much bone, they tend to make more of the fat. Dr.

Cause Found for Elevated Pressure in Glaucoma

Glaucoma, a leading cause of irreversible blindness, is associated with elevated pressure in the eye. This elevated pressure is essentially due to a plumbing problem. Fluid builds up in the eye, increasing pressure and eventually damaging the optic nerve. For nearly 150 years, researchers have been trying to understand what causes the blockage that prevents the eye from draining properly. In a unique study of human ocular cells, a multi-institution research team led by a biomedical engineer at Northwestern University has found a new culprit. Glaucoma appears to be a consequence of mechanical dysfunction of endothelial cells -- a thin layer of cells that is the final barrier to fluid entering Schlemm’s canal (image), from which fluid then drains from the eye. The researchers found that these endothelial cells from eyes with glaucoma are stiffer than cells from healthy eyes. This stiffness limits the cells’ ability to deform and allow a fluid called aqueous humor to cross the endothelium and drain into Schlemm’s canal. This increased flow resistance is responsible for the elevated pressure associated with glaucoma. The findings were published online on September 8, 2014 in PNAS. “There is (presently) no cure for glaucoma, which affects more than two million Americans,” said Dr. Mark Johnson, the senior author of the study. “Our work shows that cells of this endothelial layer act as mechanical gates. Therapeutic strategies that alter the stiffness of these cells potentially could lead to a cure for this debilitating disease.” Dr. Johnson is a professor of biomedical engineering and mechanical engineering at Northwestern’s McCormick School of Engineering and Applied Science and a professor of ophthalmology at Northwestern University Feinberg School of Medicine.

Worldwide Study Demonstrates Accuracy of Genomic Sequencing

Physicians envision a future in which genomic data from patients is heavily used to manage care — but experts have questioned the accuracy and reliability of these analyses. Now, a study by 150 researchers in 12 countries finds real strength and agreement across RNA genomic sequencing techniques and laboratories — as well as ways to improve what little variability exists to set a new high standard. The results of the study were published in Nature Biotechnology in three separate research articles. These results should provide assurance to patients, clinicians and the research community that genomic sequencing is accurate, says E. Aubrey Thompson, Ph.D., a professor of cancer biology at the Mayo Clinic in Florida, one of three institutions that led the study. Dr. Thompson is a study co-author and member of the project leadership. "It seems very likely that decisions about patient care are going to be influenced by genomic data, derived from sequencing both RNA and DNA from patient samples, and we now know the extent to which these sequence-based analyses can be relied upon within a given laboratory or from laboratory to laboratory," he says. "That means that results of a patient's sample, from which clinical management decisions will likely be made, will be accurate worldwide," says Dr. Thompson. RNA sequencing is being used with increasing frequency to characterize a growing array of conditions — everything from prenatal birth defects to disorders of the elderly. The other institutions involved in the study are the Beijing Genomic Institute and Weill Cornell Medical School. All three institutions have extensive experience in sequencing RNA and have helped develop novel analytical tools for interpreting the data. The U.S.

Agilent to Introduce Innovation in Ultra-High-Performance Liquid Chromatography

In a September 11, 2014 press release, Agilent Technologies Inc. (NYSE:A) announced on that it will introduce its latest innovation in ultra-high-performance liquid chromatography (UHPLC) on September 23, 2014 at AnalytiPLCca China, the international trade fair for laboratory technology, analysis, biotechnology, and diagnostics held in Shanghai. “We are pleased to introduce our newest UHPLC solution at this important scientific event,” said Stefan Schuette, vice president and general manager of Agilent’s Liquid Phase Separations Division. “This powerful new instrument will provide scientists with the superior quality and confidence they have come to expect from Agilent, combined with significant new features that will advance their work to the next level of achievement.” The instrument will be unveiled at Shanghai’s New International Expo Center, Hall N2, Booth 2102. Agilent management and scientists will be at the booth throughout the event to discuss product features and specifications with visitors. For more information about the upcoming launch, visit, or join the social media conversation at #NextUHPLC. Agilent Technologies Inc. is a premier measurement company and a technology leader in chemical analysis, life sciences, diagnostics, electronics, and communications. The company’s 20,600 employees serve customers in more than 100 countries. Agilent had revenues of $6.8 billion in fiscal 2013. More information about Agilent is available at On Sept. 19, 2013, Agilent announced plans to separate into two publicly traded companies through a tax-free spinoff of its electronic measurement business. The new company is named Keysight Technologies, Inc. The separation is expected to be completed in early November 2014.

Agilent Introduces Higher-Performance Q-TOF GC/MS System

In a September 2, 2014 press release, Agilent Technologies Inc. (NYSE:A) introduced the 7200B Quadrupole Time of Flight (Q-TOF) Gas Chromatography Mass Spectrometer (GC/MS) System. The system replaces the company’s most advanced GC/QTOF, the 7200A, with new capabilities that will significantly boost laboratory performance. “The Agilent 7200B Quadrupole Time of Flight GC/MS system offers reliability and confidence for the most challenging applications,” said Terry Sheehan, Agilent’s GC/MS marketing director. “Improved hardware performance, newly upgraded software features, and exact mass databases will provide immediate value for laboratories working in a variety of complex applications, such as food safety, environmental, designer drugs, doping, and metabolomics research.” The Agilent 7200B system provides improved mass accuracy specification of less than 3 ppm and an extended mass range, optimizing its capabilities for the most challenging problems. These performance enhancements will allow for the analysis of larger mass compounds and will be particularly beneficial when coupled to Thermal Separation Probes (TSP) or Direct Injection Probes (DIP). Other enhancements include Chemical Ionization Source and Backflush capabilities as standard on all GC/Q-TOF systems. This new high-performance instrumentation, combined with exact mass libraries and screening tools from Agilent’s MassHunter Workstation Software, provides scientists with a new level of confidence in library searching and a more efficient means to screen samples for both known and unknown compounds. For more information, visit: Agilent Technologies Inc. is a leader in chemical analysis, life sciences, diagnostics, electronics, and communications.

Moth Chooses Unusual New Host in Northern Iran, May Benefit Weed Control in Rice Fields

A team of Iranian researchers from the Rice Research Institute of Iran have discovered that Gynnodomorpha permixtana, a well-known moth species from Europe and Asia, has changed its host preferences in order to adjust to Iran's northern region environmental conditions. The importance of this adaptation for biological control of problematic weeds in rice fields and the biology of the moth on a new host plant have been described in the September 8, 2014 issue of the open-access journal Nota Lepidopterologica. The larvae of G. permixtana have so far been reported to feed on the seeds and flowers of plant species such as water-plantain, eyebright, lousewort, bitter root, and European yellow-rattle, which are weeds commonly present across Europe and Asia. A new study of the populations in northern Iran, however, has revealed a new host, Sagittaria trifolia, commonly known as “arrowhead.” This new discovery suggests that climatic and environmental conditions in northern regions of Iran resulted in the choice of a new host plant, and provides an exciting insight into how adaptation mechanisms work. Arrowheads are groups of problematic perennial broadleaf weeds that thrive in rice fields and waterways. Favorable climatic conditions after rice harvesting result in continued activity and thriving populations throughout the year. The economic importance of this weed has prompted researchers from the Rice Research Institute of Iran to seek possible solutions for the management of arrowhead. Their studies have revealed that the larvae of a certain moth species feeding on the fruits and seeds of the problematic weed, can lead to a dramatic decrease of its germination potential. After this discovery, the moth was sent for identification to Dr.