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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.

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In This Issue... November 15, 2012

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Cell wall of actively growing bacteria with multicolored probes.

Cool Image: Bacterial Growth in Multicolor

Yves Brun, Indiana University

This is not a glow-in-the-dark gummy worm. Instead, it's the cell wall of actively growing bacteria. By adding different colored fluorescent dyes during various phases of bacterial cell growth, scientists captured images of the parts of the cell wall that grew when exposed to the colorants. This new method will enable researchers to pinpoint and measure bacterial cell wall growth with a high level of accuracy, and it may help scientists develop new and improved antibiotics. Read more... Link to external Web site

This work also was supported by NIH's National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases.

Cells with normal chromosome ends (top image) with telomerase (yellow) and cells that have an altered patch of amino acids at these ends (bottom). Credit: J. Nandakumar, University of Colorado BioFrontiers Institute.

Possible New Target for Cancer Research, Drug Development

Tom Cech and Leslie Leinwand • University of Colorado at Boulder

Most cancer cells ramp up their production of an enzyme called telomerase, which enables cell division and tumor formation. Researchers have been trying to find ways to block this telomerase activity. One approach might be to target a newly discovered patch of amino acids—protein building blocks—that sits at the ends of chromosomes, where telomerase binds. The scientists who found this patch learned that changing just one of its amino acids keeps telomerase from finding the end of the chromosome and consequently alters a cancer cell's ability to divide continually. These details might aid the development of more effective cancer treatments. Read more... Link to external Web site

This work also was supported by NIH's National Cancer Institute.

Caption: Cells with normal chromosome ends (top image) are able to recruit telomerase (yellow) while cells that have an altered patch of amino acids at these ends (bottom) can't. Credit: J. Nandakumar, University of Colorado BioFrontiers Institute. High res. image (JPG, 47KB)
World map showing countries with malaria risk. Credit: U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Using Cell Phone Data to Curb the Spread of Malaria

Caroline Buckee • Harvard School of Public Health

Malaria annually kills about 1 million people worldwide, most of whom are young children in sub-Sahara Africa. To better understand its spread, scientists have turned to mobile phone data. They mapped the location of outgoing calls and text messages from about 15 million individuals in Kenya, essentially tracking their travel patterns. The researchers combined this data with malaria incidence reports to estimate the probability that each resident or visitor to a particular area would be infected. The results indicate that imported infections—infections that are carried by people passing through one place to another—often wind up in Nairobi. Studying the movement of potentially infected people could provide public health organizations with new ways to predict and control the spread of malaria. Read more... Link to external Web site

This work also was supported by NIH's National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases.

Caption: Most cases of malaria occur in sub-Sahara Africa. Credit: U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. High res. image (JPG, 97KB)
Elf5 protein. Credit: Rumela Chakrabarti, Princeton University.

Lactation Protein Might Hold Key to Early Breast Cancer Detection

Satrajit Sinha • University at Buffalo

Given all the proper hormonal and genetic cues, including a protein called Elf5, a woman's breasts start to secrete milk shortly after she gives birth. Scientists discovered that Elf5 also has another job: It staves off cancer. Human breast cells often lose Elf5 proteins early in the development of cancer. Cells without Elf5 change shape and spread readily—properties associated with metastasis. The researchers are now trying to figure out how to use the loss of Elf5 as a tool to catch breast cancer early, when the disease is most treatable. Read more... Link to external Web site

This work also was supported by NIH's National Cancer Institute.

Caption: The Elf5 protein helps trigger lactation and protects against breast cancer. Credit: Rumela Chakrabarti, Princeton University. High res. image (JPG, 125KB)
Structure of bacterial transcription initiation complex. Credit: Richard Ebright, Rutgers University.

Snapshots Reveal How Transcription Begins

Richard Ebright • Rutgers University

When it comes to transcription—the process that makes RNA copies of genes—the hardest part may be getting started. That's because associated molecules need to find and assemble at the initiation site and set the stage for transcription. Scientists now have a better understanding of how this happens. Working with bacteria, one research team zoomed in on transcription's key players poised at a gene's start line, revealing how RNA polymerase, the enzyme that does the transcribing, interacts with a gene and a key helper molecule. The pictures may shed light on how transcription begins in human cells and might aid the development of antibacterials that work by blocking transcription. Read more... Link to external Web site

This work also was supported by NIH's National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases.

Caption: Structure of bacterial transcription initiation complex. Credit: Richard Ebright, Rutgers University. High res. image (JPG, 185KB)

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This page last reviewed on November 15, 2012