Biomedical Beat - A monthly digest of research news from NIGMS

March 21, 2007

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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. To read additional news items, visit NIGMS News. To check out other free NIGMS publications, go to the order form.

Cool Image: Color-Coded Chromosomes

Color-Coded Chromosomes
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By mixing fluorescent dyes like an artist mixes paints, scientists are able to color code individual chromosomes. The technique, abbreviated multicolor-FISH, allows researchers to visualize genetic abnormalities often linked to disease. In this image, "painted" chromosomes from a person with a hereditary disease called Werner Syndrome show where a piece of one chromosome has fused to another (see the gold-tipped maroon chromosome in the center). As reported by molecular biologist Jan Karlseder of the Salk Institute for Biological Studies, such damage is typical among people with this rare syndrome. Courtesy of Anna Jauch, Institute of Human Genetics, Heidelberg, Germany.

Full story
Karlseder lab home page
Article abstract (from the February 6, 2007, issue of PNAS)

MicroRNA Helps Prevent Tumors

Scientists have linked tiny bits of genetic material called microRNAs to many cellular processes, but pinpointing their precise targets has been a challenge. Now, molecular biologist David Bartel of the Whitehead Institute has shown that a microRNA called let-7 quashes the activity of a gene implicated in human cancers. When Bartel's team rendered the cancer gene unresponsive to let-7 and injected it into mice, the rodents developed multiple tumors. The results not only highlight a new mechanism for cancer formation, they mark the first time a microRNA has been directly linked to a specific gene in mammals.

Full story
Bartel lab home page
Article abstract (from the February 22, 2007, online issue of Science)

DNA Technology Gives Strength to New Suture

TephaFLEX Absorbable Suture. Courtesy of Jeffery Titcomb Studio.
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TephaFLEX Absorbable Suture. Courtesy of Jeffery Titcomb Studio.

A new suture could stitch up the market on cuts that heal slowly or need an especially strong closure. David P. Martin and colleagues at biotechnology firm Tepha, Inc., used recombinant DNA technology to develop an absorbable suture that's stronger and lasts longer than other materials currently available. The suture has been cleared by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration, and the approach used to develop it could lead to other new surgical materials.

Full story
Tepha, Inc., home page

Artificial Protein Looks Natural

Ribbon diagrams showing part of the artificial protein. Courtesy of Schepartz.
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Ribbon diagrams showing part of the artificial protein. Courtesy of Schepartz.

Chemists led by Yale University's Alanna Schepartz have used artificial building blocks to create a synthetic protein with the potential for therapeutic applications. The protein-like molecule looks and seems to act much like a natural protein. Because the body doesn't have processes to degrade synthetic proteins, this molecule or others like it could last longer or work in more parts of the body—key advantages over existing protein drugs.

Full story (no longer available)
Schepartz lab home page
Article abstract (from the January 19, 2007, online issue of the Journal of the American Chemical Society)

Explore The New Genetics

Cover, The New Genetics.
Cover, The New Genetics

All living things use the DNA in genes as an instruction manual for life. To learn how genes influence health and disease, read NIGMS' latest science education booklet, The New Genetics. This free publication explains the basics of DNA, its molecular cousin RNA, and much more. When you're done reading, you'll understand why studies of evolution drive medical research and how computers are advancing genetics in the 21st century.

Order or view The New Genetics
Order companion poster
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