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Archive - Jul 17, 2015

Potawatomi Indian Custom of Submerging Black Ash Logs in Moving Streams Found to Kill Larvae of Dangerous Emerald Ash Borer and Preserve Quality of Wood for Basketmaking

Using a combination of traditional ecological knowledge and science, a USDA Forest Service research team has demonstrated that the traditional Indian method of storing black ash logs submerged in rivers can save the traditional art of ask basketmaking, which otherwise can be at the mercy of the voracious emerald ash borer. Working with artisans from the Match-e-be-nash-she-wish Band of Potawatomi Indians of Michigan near Gun Lake, Michigan, scientists from the USDA Forest Service and the USDA Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS) tested the traditional practice of storing black ash logs submerged in rivers to determine whether it can both effectively preserve ash logs for basketmaking and kill emerald ash borer (EAB) larvae lurking under the bark of ash trees and prevent emergence of adults. The study found that submerging logs for 18 weeks during winter or 14 weeks in spring killed EAB larvae and also retained the wood's quality for basketmaking. The study was published online on June 27, 2015 in the journal Agricultural and Forest Entomology and is titled “Submergence of Black Ash Logs to Control Emerald Ash Borer and Preserve Wood for American Indian Basketmaking.” "Black ash has special importance for American Indian and First Nations people in the Great Lakes region and northeastern North America," said Dr. Michael T. Rains, Director of the Forest Service's Northern Research Station and the Forest Products Laboratory.

New Approach to Visualizing Glucose Uptake by Living Single Cells Developed by Columbia Scientists

Researchers at Columbia University in New York City have reported a new approach to visualizing glucose uptake activity in single living cells by light microscopy with minimum disturbance. In a study published online on July 16, 2015 in Angewandte Chemie International Edition, Associate Professor of Chemistry Dr. Wei Min's team developed a new glucose analogue that can mimic the natural glucose, and imaged its uptake as an energy source by living cancer cells, neurons, and tissues at the single cell level. The article is titled “Vibrational Imaging of Glucose Uptake Activity in Live Cells and Tissues by Stimulated Raman Scattering.” Glucose is consumed as an energy source by almost all life forms, from bacteria to human. The uptake of glucose by cells closely reflects their energetic needs, and is becoming poorly regulated in many pathological conditions such as obesity, diabetes, and cancer. To visualize this important process, several prominent techniques have been developed in the past few decades. Radioactive fluorine-18-labeled glucose FDG is widely applied in clinical cancer diagnostics to locate metabolic hot spots in human body using positron emission tomography (PET). Magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) has recently demonstrated glucose imaging in mouse tumors. Although both methods find great use in clinical application, they do not have sufficient spatial resolution to visualize glucose uptake down to the single cell level To image glucose uptake activity at the cellular level, glucose analogues labeled with fluorescent dyes have been developed. Unfortunately, tagging fluorophores onto glucose alters the chemical properties of glucose. Moreover, fluorescent dyes are always larger than the glucose itself.

Yale Researcher Leads Newly Possible Biology-Based Effort to Understand Autism; “Brain Organoid” Study Suggests Early Single Gene Intervention Can Correct Key Neuronal Imbalance

Understanding diseases like autism and schizophrenia that affect development of the brain has been challenging due to both the complexity of the diseases and the difficulty of studying developmental processes in human tissues. In a study published in the July 16, 2015 issue of Cell, researchers have made steps toward overcoming these challenges by converting skin cells from autism patients into stem cells and growing them into tiny brains in a dish, revealing unexpected mechanisms of the disease. The Cell article is titled “FOXG1-Dependent Dysregulation of GABA/Glutamate Neuron Differentiation in Autism Spectrum Disorders." Most autism research has taken the approach of combing through patient genomes for mutations that may underlie the disorder and then using animal or cell-based models to study the genes and their possible roles in brain development. Although this has yielded a handful of rare disease genes, the limitations of these models and the complexity of the disorder have frustrated researchers and left over 80% of autism cases with no clear genetic cause. The new study now turns the traditional approach on its head. "Instead of starting from genetics, we've started with the biology of the disorder itself to try to get a window into the genome," says senior author Dr. Flora Vaccarino, the Harris Professor of Child Psychiatry and Professor or Neurobiology at the Yale School of Medicine. The clinical characteristics of autism are complex and wide-ranging, making the prospect of finding common underlying factors slim. To stack the deck in their favor, the researchers focused on the approximately one-fifth of autism patients that share a distinctive feature correlated with disease severity--an enlarged brain.

Platelet Destruction Seen for First Time in Liver As Well As Spleen in ImmuneThrombocytopenia (ITP); Tamiflu Treatment May Be Effective Against Platelet Destruction in Liver

Immune thrombocytopenia (ITP) is an autoimmune disease whereby the immune system sends antibodies to attack and destroy the body's platelets--blood cells responsible for controlling bleeding. Stopping ITP is important because if platelet counts in a body are low, simple cuts could bleed for hours and more traumatic injuries could be fatal. The body's inability to control bleeding can also lead to stroke. ITP affects one in 10,000 people in Canada and accounts for 0.18 per cent of all hospital admissions. Most cases are spontaneous and without any clear cause. ITP's severity and the effectiveness of its treatment vary from patient to patient. A new study, published online on July 17, 2015 in an open-access article in Nature Communications, may explain why there is so much variance in symptoms and response to treatment. The article is titled “Desialylation Is a Mechanism of Fc-Independent Platelet Clearance and a Therapeutic Target in Immune Thrombocytopenia.” The surface of every platelet is covered with thousands of different proteins and each type of antibody targets a specific protein on the platelet. The first antibody to find a platelet latches on and leads the platelet to an organ where it will be destroyed. It's always been thought that all ITP antibodies lead platelets to the spleen for destruction. "Every existing treatment for ITP has been dedicated to stopping antibodies from destroying platelets in the spleen, but we've discovered that some antibodies actually destroy platelets in the liver," said Dr. Heyu Ni, a scientist in the Keenan Research Centre for Biomedical Science of St. Michael's Hospital in Toronto, Canada.

Researchers Led by George Church Simplify Powerful CRISP/Cas9 Gene Editing Tool by Developing Interactive Software to Find Guide RNAs Predicted to be Highly Specific and Highly Active for Their Gene Targets

Researchers at Harvard University and the University of California, San Diego (UC San Diego), have developed a new user-friendly resource to accompany the powerful gene editing tool called CRISPR/Cas9, which has been widely adopted to make precise, targeted changes in DNA. This new breakthrough has the potential to facilitate new discoveries in gene therapies and basic genetics research. The research was published online on July 13, 2015 in Nature Methods. The article is titled “Unraveling CRISPR-Cas9 Genome Engineering Parameters via a Library-on-Library Approach.” The study describes a way to simplify a laborious part of the gene-editing process using the CRISPR/Cas9 system: choosing the best components to match specific gene targets. "We've taken a step towards making the CRISPR/Cas9 system more robust," said Dr. Prashant Mali, an Assistant Professor in the Department of Bioengineering at the UC San Diego Jacobs School of Engineering, and a co-first author of the Nature Methods publication. CRISPR/Cas9 is a relatively new genome engineering tool that can target a particular segment of DNA in living cells -- such as a gene mutation -- and replace it with a new genetic sequence. This technology ultimately has applications in gene therapies for genetic disorders such as sickle cell anemia and cystic fibrosis. The CRISPR/Cas9 system has two components: a short "guide RNA" with a sequence matching a particular gene target, and a large protein called Cas9 that cuts DNA precisely at that target. Herein lies the beauty of the CRISPR/Cas9 system: to target another region of the genome, researchers can simply change the guide RNA sequence to match the new gene target. However, finding the best guide RNA match for a specific gene target is a labor-intensive process.