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Archive - Jul 9, 2020

Study of Giant Ant Heads Using Simple Models May Aid Bio-Inspired Designs

[This article was written by Ananya Sen, a graduate student in Microbiology at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. Ms. Sen is also a science writer and her articles can be found at This article was originally published by the Beckman Institute for Advanced Science and Technology ( Permission to reprint this article in BioQuick News has also been granted by Ms. Sen.] Researchers use a variety of modelling approaches to study form and function. By using a basic biomechanical model for studying body form and center of mass stability in ants, new research by scientists at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign identifies the benefits of “simple models” and hope that it can be used for bio-inspired designs. “Most organisms are constrained in their shape and size because they are juggling different needs such as the ability to fly, forage for food, and reproduce,” said Andrew Suarez, PhD, a Professor of Entomology and Head of the Department of Evolution, Ecology, and Behavior at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. “Ants are unique because they live in colonies and divide their responsibilities. Therefore, they don’t have the body constraints that other insects do.” “Ants have a wide range of head sizes relative to their body,” said Philip Anderson, PhD, an Assistant Professor of Evolution, Ecology, and Behavior at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. “Some ants have such extremely large heads that even though they look like their heads should pitch forward, they don’t.

Cancer-Derived Extracellular Vesicles (EVs) May Carry Cancer-Associated Signatures of Palmitoylated Proteins, New Study Shows; Findings Support Further Study to Assess Possible Utility As Liquid Biopsy for Cancer Diagnosis & Monitoring

A new study sheds light on proteins in particles called extracellular vesicles (EVs), which are released by tumor cells into the bloodstream and promote the spread of cancer. The findings suggest how a blood test involving these vesicles might be used to diagnose cancer in the future, avoiding the need for invasive surgical biopsies. The research is a large-scale analysis of what are known as palmitoylated proteins inside EVs, according to Dolores Di Vizio (photo) (, MD, PhD, Professor of Surgery, Biomedical Sciences and Pathology and Laboratory Medicine at Cedars-Sinai. Dr. Di Vizio is co-corresponding author of the study, published online on June 10, 2020 in the Journal of Extracellular Vesicles. The open-access article is titled “Comprehensive Palmitoyl-Proteomic Analysis Identifies Distinct Protein Signatures for Large and Small Cancer-Derived Extracellular Vesicles.” EVs have gained significant attention in the last decade because they can contain proteins and other biologically important molecules whose information can be transferred from cell to cell. EVs are known to help cancer metastasize to distant sites in the body, but exactly how this happens is not clear. To learn more about this process, Dr. Di Vizio and the research team looked into a process called palmitoylation, in which enzymes transfer lipid molecules onto proteins. Palmitoylation can affect where proteins are located within cells, what their activities are, and how they might contribute to cancer progression. The investigators examined two types of EVs, small and large, in samples of human prostate cancer cells. Using centrifuges, they separated the EVs from the other cell materials and analyzed the levels of palmitoylation and the types of proteins present.

Italy’s Rigenerand Launches 3D Bioreactor Development for cGMP Production of Extracellular Vesicles Exosomes

On June 8, 2020, Rigenerand SRL (, a biotech company in Italy that both develops and manufactures medicinal products for cell therapy applications, primarily for regenerative medicine and oncology, announced it has commenced development of a novel 3D bioreactor and pipeline, specifically designed for the incremental production of extracellular vesicles including exosomes (collectively termed EVs) in a cGMP (current Good Manufacturing Practice) environment. Rigenerand’s project development will be supported with part of a grant of EUR 4.4 million (almost $5 million) from Horizon 2020 for the H2020-EU.1.2.2.-FET Proactive program, awarded to the Biogenic Organotropic Wetsuits project ( This project comprises a consortium of companies involving Rigenerand. The Biogenic Organotropic Wetsuits (Grant Agreement ID: 952183) project involves eleven organizations across seven countries in Europe. Rigenerand will contribute to the consortium its combination of expertise, technology, and innovation focused on biomaterials, prototypes production, and industrialization of cell culture devices and 3D cell cultures. Rigenerand will start developing novel ways of improving current EV cGMP production technologies. These technologies ultimately aim to produce EV clinical batches to be used as drug substances for cell-free therapy medicinal products.

Forkhead Box Protein 01 (Fox01) Is Key Transcription Factor Regulating Abnormal Heart Growth; Fox01 Binds Widely Throughout Genome in Mouse Model of Cardiac Hypertrophy, Activating Broad Array of Genes in Heart Cells & Stimulating Growth Signaling

The human heart is like a sponge, able to expand and grow, increasing its capacity to take up blood. In theory, an enlarged heart can also squeeze out more blood, with more power, than an average-sized heart. But in reality, for most people, this growth--known as cardiac hypertrophy--is abnormal and signals trouble. Cardiac hypertrophy is brought on by various factors, high blood pressure in particular. Existing treatments only delay the inevitable--that the spongy heart muscle becomes thicker and stiffer over time, culminating in heart failure, in which the heart can no longer contract strongly enough to pump blood through the body. A greater understanding of the molecular mechanisms driving abnormal heart growth promises to turn this around, however, and in new work, researchers at the Lewis Katz School of Medicine at Temple University (LKSOM) cast fresh light on a key molecular regulator in the heart known as FoxO1 (forkhead bozx protein 01). In an article published online on July 9, 2020 in Circulation, the Temple scientists are the first to show that the transcription factor FoxO1 attaches to and activates a wide array of genes in heart cells, leading to widespread increases in growth signaling, specifically within the heart. The article is titled “Genomic Binding Patterns of Forkhead Box Protein O1 Reveal Its Unique Role in Cardiac Hypertrophy.” "FoxO1 is a major transcription factor that regulates genes involved in metabolism and growth," said Jessica Pfleger (photo), PhD, Instructor in the Center for Translational Medicine at LKSOM and lead author of the new study.

Gall Fly Outmaneuvers Goldenrod Host Plant in Ongoing Competition for Survival

Over time, goldenrod plants and the gall flies that feed on them have been one-upping each other in an ongoing competition for survival. Now, a team of researchers has discovered that by detecting the plants' chemical defenses, the insects may have taken the lead. According to John Tooker, PhD, Professor of Entomology in the Department of Entomology at Penn State, this complex scenario begins when a female gall fly (Eurosta solidaginis) lays its eggs in the leaf bud of a goldenrod plant (Solidago altissima). This action forces the plant to produce a tumor-like growth, called a gall. This gall, he said, provides the fly larvae with a source of nutrition and safety from predators and the environment, but decreases the plants' ability to reproduce. "Our previous research showed that goldenrod plants have evolved to 'eavesdrop' on the sexual communications of their gall fly herbivores -- specifically, the sex pheromones used by males to attract females," he said. "Our new research, suggests that the plants respond to this 'intelligence' by strengthening, also known as 'priming,' chemical defenses to prevent females from laying eggs and inducing gall formation." Eric Yip, PhD, postdoctoral scholar in the Department of Entomology, Penn State, explained that this plant-insect dynamic is similar to the reversals of fortune that occur in the "Spy vs. Spy" comic strip, only the characters are a plant and an insect rather than a pair of cartoon drawings. To investigate the effects of priming, the researchers, in their new study, exposed almost 300 goldenrod plants comprising 11 genetic types--or genotypes--to male gall flies that varied in age, from one to four weeks old, as well as a control in which the plants were not exposed to flies.

International Society for Extracellular Vesicles (ISEV) 2020 Virtual Annual Meeting, Including Exosomes, July 20-22: Plenary Speakers, Panel Sessions, Oral Abstract Talks, Poster Chats, & Educational Sessions; FOCUS: PANEL SESSIONS

The International Society for ExtracellularVesicles (ISEV) AnnualMeeting (ISEV2020), Including #Exosomes, Is Now VIRTUAL (July 20-22); and will feature over 600 Discussions (Plenary Addresses, Panel Sessions, Oral Abstract Talks, Poster Chats, & Educational Sessions). The program can viewed here ( and registration can be done here ( As eminent Yale professor Philip Askenase, MD, has said, “Exosomes are a sensational biological discovery and they seem to be involved in nearly all biological and clinical processes.” Please attend the virtual ISEV 2020 meeting to learn more about these fascinating and immensely important tiny particles. The 2020 virtual meeting will feature four live panel sessions which will offer presentations by experts in the field, followed by moderated half-hour Q&A/panel discussions. The topics of the four panel discussions are “EV Heterogeneity,” “EVs in Liquid Biopsy (Diagnostics/Biomarkers),” “Extracellular RNA,” and “In Vivo Approaches to Understanding EV Function.” Details on these four panel discussion sessions and the speakers who will be presenting are given below.