Skip Over Navigation Links
Biomedical Beat logo

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... June 20, 2013

Quick Links

Browse All Issues

View Cool Image Gallery

Link to Us


Search Issues




Movie showing a computer-generated model of the HIV capsid. Credit: Juan R. Perilla and the Theoretical and Computational Biophysics Group, University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign.

Cool Video: HIV's Inner Shell

Peijun Zhang and Angela Gronenborn • University of Pittsburgh
Klaus Schulten • University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign

This video shows a computer-generated model of the approximately 4.2 million atoms of the HIV capsid, the shell that encloses the virus's genetic material. Scientists determined the exact structure of the capsid and the proteins that it's made of using a variety of imaging techniques and analyses. They then entered this data into a supercomputer that produced the atomic-level image of the capsid. This structural information could be used for developing drugs that target the capsid, possibly leading to more effective therapies. Read more. Link to external Web site

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

Left, the boundary of a malignant breast tumor (yellow) attaches to collagen fibers that are closest to it (green) using DDR2. Right, a tumor without DDR2 remains disconnected from the collagen. Credit: Callie Corsa and Suzanne Ponik, Washington University School of Medicine in St. Louis.

Receptor Promotes Cancer Spread in Dense Breast Tissue

Gregory Longmore • Washington University School of Medicine in St. Louis

It's long been known that women with denser breast tissue are more likely than others to develop aggressive breast cancers that spread. Cancer cells on the edge of a breast tumor have a receptor called DDR2 that attaches to collagen, the protein associated with dense, fibrous breast tissue. Researchers have found that the interaction of DDR2 with collagen starts a biochemical chain of events that promotes high levels of SNAIL1, a protein associated with the spreading of breast cancer cells to other parts of the body. Scientists will now pursue DDR2 inhibitors as possible cancer drugs. Read more... Link to external Web site

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

Caption: On the left, the boundary of a malignant breast tumor (yellow) attaches to collagen fibers that are closest to it (green) using DDR2. On the right, a tumor without DDR2 remains disconnected from the collagen. Credit: Callie Corsa and Suzanne Ponik, Washington University School of Medicine in St. Louis. High res. image (JPG, 154KB)
Using an electrode, electrical pulse is applied onto a piece of muscle tissue affected by Huntington's disease. Credit: Grigor Varuzhanyan and Andrew Voss, California State Polytechnic University.

Huntington's Disease Involves Muscle Cell Malfunction, Too

Andrew Voss • California State Polytechnic University, Pomona

Huntington's disease, a degenerative genetic disorder that usually emerges in early middle age, has long been considered a neurological disease. Scientists had assumed that the uncontrollable muscle movements associated with the disease were due to brain cells losing function. New research shows that muscle cells in mice carrying the RNA coding error associated with the disease also go awry. Diseased cells responded at a lower threshold than normal muscle cells to electrical pulses similar to a nerve cell firing, and some even responded long after such low-level pulses. The findings may open new lines of research into understanding and treating a disease for which there are currently no effective treatments.

Caption: Using an electrode, researchers apply an electrical pulse onto a piece of muscle tissue affected by Huntington's disease. Credit: Grigor Varuzhanyan and Andrew Voss, California State Polytechnic University. High res. image (JPG, 80KB)
The activator cancer cell culture, right, contains a chemical that causes the cells to emit light when in the presence of immune cells. Credit: Mark Sellmyer, Stanford University School of Medicine.

An Accessible Way of Making Cancer Cells Glow

Thomas Wandless • Stanford University School of Medicine

Scientists have created a method of making cell-cell interactions emit light using chemicals common to many biology laboratories. The researchers injected into mice with advanced tumors a chemical that, through the interaction between cancer and immune cells, can be metabolized into luciferin, a molecule found in fireflies and other light-emitting organisms. Using this chemical, scientists could see where cancer cells had spread within the mouse's body simply by looking for areas that lit up. The technique may one day be used as a probe for cancer. Read more... Link to external Web site

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

Caption: The activator cancer cell culture, right, contains a chemical that causes the cells to emit light when in the presence of immune cells. Credit: Mark Sellmyer, Stanford University School of Medicine. High res. image (JPG, 83KB)
Bacillus anthracis being killed by one of the new antibiotics. Credit: John Alumasa, Pennsylvania State University.

New Class of Antibiotics Shows Promise Against Harmful Bacteria

Kenneth Keiler • Pennsylvania State University

A new type of antibiotic that interrupts protein synthesis in bacteria could be used to create more effective treatments against the bacteria that cause shigellosis, tuberculosis and anthrax. Scientists tested about 650,000 different molecules on a strain of E. coli. Of those, they identified 46 that disrupt a process that bacterial cells use to replicate. The scientists then tested those compounds on several bacteria that can cause lethal infections in people. One of the molecules was 100 times more effective than current treatments for tuberculosis and showed antibiotic activity against a broad spectrum of bacterial species. The researchers also predict that bacteria may be slow to evolve resistance to these new antibiotics. Read more... Link to external Web site

Caption: Bacillus anthracis, the bacteria that causes anthrax, being killed by one of the new antibiotics. Credit: John Alumasa, Pennsylvania State University. High res. image (JPG, 38KB)

To read additional news items, visit NIGMS News, Twitter or Facebook or check out our free publications. You may subscribe to receive Biomedical Beat issues by e-mail or by RSS by selecting this XML link and following your news reader's instructions for adding a feed.

For more information about Biomedical Beat, please contact the editor, Emily Carlson, in the NIGMS Office of Communications and Public Liaison at 301-496-7301. The text in this newsletter is not copyrighted, and we encourage its use or reprinting.

This page last reviewed on June 20, 2013