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The National Institute of General Medical Sciences (NIGMS), one of the National Institutes of Health, supports all research featured in this digest. Although only the lead scientists are named, coworkers and other collaborators also contributed to the findings.

In This Issue... Febraury 16, 2011

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DNA

Cool Video: DNA's Twisted Alter Ego Revealed

Hashim Al-Hashimi • University of Michigan

DNA's well-known structure has an alter ego, at least for 1 percent of the time. Sure, DNA can flex, bend and occasionally even switch from a right-handed to a left-handed double helix. But now scientists have seen a new state of DNA in which certain pieces (bases) are flipped 180 degrees, breaking the normal rules. This "excited state" of DNA could contain a whole new level of genetic information, the scientists say. Read more... Link to external Web site
Endothelial cells embedded in a supportive matrix. Credit: Joseph Franses, MIT.

Cancer-Fighters in Our Blood Vessels

Elazer Edelman • Massachusetts Institute of Technology

To spread, tumors need a rich supply of blood vessels, thought to provide nutrients. Scientists recently discovered that blood vessels—specifically their endothelial cells—also deliver biochemical weapons that target cancer cells. So the researchers wondered whether implanting endothelial cells near a tumor could help treat cancer. The scientists developed a device made of endothelial cells embedded within a synthetic matrix that mimics the cells' natural supportive environment. Already, implanting this device in mice significantly slowed the growth and spread of tumors. Read more... Link to external Web site

Caption: Endothelial cells embedded in a supportive matrix. Credit: Joseph Franses, MIT. High res. image (JPG, 45KB)
Cholera bacteria. Source: http://remf.dartmouth.edu/images/bacteriaSEM/source/1.html

New Way to Detect Cholera

J. Manuel Perez • University of Central Florida

If relief workers could detect cholera before it reaches epidemic proportions, they might be able to contain the potentially fatal diarrheal disease. Scientists recently devised a quick, inexpensive way to detect cholera toxin on the spot, without having to send samples to a lab. The technique uses nanoparticles coated with sugars. Cholera toxin sticks to the sugars and is detected by a sensor instrument. After further testing, the approach might lead to a valuable diagnostic tool and possibly even a new treatment for cholera. Read more... Link to external Web site

Caption: Cholera bacteria. Source: http://remf.dartmouth.edu/images/bacteriaSEM/source/1.html. Link to external Web site High res. image (JPG, 261KB)
Neurofacscin 186 at the node of Ranvier (green) in the sciatic nerve of a mouse. Credit: Bhat lab, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill School of Medicine.

Nerve Gaps Give Clues to Neurological Diseases

Manzoor Bhat • University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill School of Medicine

Nerve cells, which transmit electrical signals to and from the brain, are insulated by a membrane called the myelin sheath. The sheath is interrupted by small gaps called nodes of Ranvier, at which specialized proteins cluster. Researchers learned that one of these proteins, Neurofascin 186, is essential to nerve transmission (mice without it are paralyzed), and appears to be the central organizer that keeps together nodal protein clusters. The work could lead to future treatments for multiple sclerosis and related neurological disorders. Read more... Link to external Web site

NIH's National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke also supported this work.

Caption: Neurofacscin 186 at the node of Ranvier (green) in the sciatic nerve of a mouse. Credit: Bhat lab, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill School of Medicine. High res. image (JPG, 156KB)
Replica of the inhaler used by William T. G. Morton in 1846 in the first public demonstration of surgery using ether. Credit: Wood Library/Museum, Park Ridge, IL.

Understanding Anesthesia

Even though anesthetics have been used on patients for more than 150 years, we still don't know exactly how they work. Recent advances in cell biology, genetics and molecular biology have shed some light. For example, scientists now know that the brain's processes of going under and waking up from anesthesia are different. This growing knowledge will help efforts to develop targeted, personalized anesthetics with fewer side effects. Ongoing research could reveal more about pain, memory and the nature of consciousness itself. Read more...
Caption: Replica of the inhaler used by William T. G. Morton in 1846 in the first public demonstration of surgery using ether. Credit: Wood Library/Museum, Park Ridge, IL.


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This page last reviewed on April 22, 2011