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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... January 20, 2011

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Ribosome
High res. image (JPG, 536 KB)

Cool Image: Ratcheting Ribosome

Karissa Sanbonmatsu • Los Alamos National Laboratory

What looks like a jumble of rubber bands is the ribosome—the protein factory of living cells. Made of long chemical chains of RNA and proteins, the ribosome has two interlocked parts that behave as a single molecular machine. How exactly this machine operates to make proteins, though, has remained a mystery. New snapshots of the machine in motion show that ratchet and swivel movements enable protein synthesis. Since about half of all antibiotics target the ribosome, this understanding could lead to more effective drugs.

Knock-down of a “young” gene arrests fruit fly development. Credit: Manyuan Long, University of Chicago.

New Genes as Essential as Old Ones

Manyuan Long • University of Chicago Medical Center

Evolutionary biologists have long thought that ancient genes have been preserved because they confer a substantial survival advantage while newer ones serve less critical functions. Now, researchers have upended these assumptions by blocking individual genes in fruit flies and showing that survival depends equally on old and new genes. These findings have profound implications for studying evolutionary processes and suggest that important information may lie in the newer parts of the genome. Read more... Link to external Web site

Caption: Knock-down of a “young” gene arrests fruit fly development. Credit: Manyuan Long, University of Chicago. High res. image (PNG, 321 KB)
Induced stem cells made from human adult skin cells. Credit: James Thomson, University of Wisconsin-Madison.

Intestinal Tissue from Stem Cells

James Wells • Cincinnati Children's Hospital Medical Center

Scientists have discovered a way to generate human intestinal tissue with stem cells. To do the job, they used human embryonic stem cells and pluripotent stem cells extracted from biopsied human skin cells. By adding chemicals and growth factor proteins to the two stem cell groups, the researchers were able to manipulate them to form three-dimensional intestinal tissue. This method could help researchers study normal intestinal development, explore new treatments for intestinal diseases and enhance the absorption of oral prescription drugs through intestinal cell membranes. Read more... Link to external Web site

NIH's National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases, National Center for Research Resources and National Cancer Institute also supported this work.

Caption: Induced stem cells made from human adult skin cells. Credit: James Thomson, University of Wisconsin-Madison. High res. image (JPG, 35 9KB)
Protein Apc2 (green) may anchor machinery at branch points in nerve cells (red). Credit: Melissa Rolls Lab/Penn State University.

Nerve Highway Construction Crews

Melissa Rolls • Penn State University

Nerve cells depend on a pair of microtubule "highways" to transport raw materials to their growing ends and rebuild themselves after injury. To function with maximum efficiency, the microtubules along each highway all point in the same direction. Using a fruit fly model, researchers have identified the proteins that keep the microtubules in line at key intersections along the highly branched half of the nerve, called the dendrite. The work improves understanding of how healthy neurons build microtubules and could inform research into treatments for nerve damage and disease. Read more... Link to external Web site

Caption: Protein Apc2 (green) may anchor machinery at branch points in nerve cells (red). Credit: Melissa Rolls Lab/Penn State University. High res. image (JPG, 20 9KB)
Caption: Cover of the January 2011 issue of Findings.
Drugs from Deep Down Brian Bachmann • Vanderbilt University

Mesmerized by Metals Amy Palmer • University of Colorado at Boulder

In the latest issue of Findings, read about Brian Bachmann, a chemist in Tennessee who ventures into caves to find undiscovered organisms that produce substances with medicinal potential. Also meet Amy Palmer, a Colorado-based biochemist who created fluorescent sensors to study the role of zinc and other metals in brain signaling, bacterial infection and diseases like Alzheimer's, diabetes and prostate cancer. Read more...

Caption: Cover of the January 2011 issue of Findings.


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This page last reviewed on April 22, 2011