Watching proteins dance

Proteins are so small that visualising them working in a cell has long been elusive, but a new study, published in Cell, has found a way to ‘film’ how they move. These tiny molecules, which include insulin, haemoglobin and collagen, do all sorts of things to run our bodies, carrying out work in our cells … Continue reading Watching proteins dance

How do cells know when they’re fully grown?

UK researchers have answered a long-standing question in biology: how do cells regulate their size? Turns out, they use their DNA content as an internal scale to check how big they are. Cells are the building blocks of life, and like life itself they come in all shapes and sizes. Most eukaryotic cells range between … Continue reading How do cells know when they’re fully grown?

Squeeze like a fungus

As icky as it sounds, some species of fungus can literally squeeze themselves between plant or animal cells and nestle in the space there. A team led by Norio Takeshita of the University of Tsukuba, Japan, along with collaborators at Nagoya University, Mexico, found key features of the squeeze, showing that the fungi has to … Continue reading Squeeze like a fungus

Tau tangles brains

As if Alzheimer’s wasn’t vicious enough, researchers have found the wrong type of breakthrough – a brutal process where toxic proteins break through membranes and leak into neurons. A team led by Jürgen Götz and Juan Polanco from the University of Queensland found that entanglements in neurons – a common sign of dementia – are … Continue reading Tau tangles brains

Scientists brave enough to grow a spine

Growing an embryo outside the body may not be that far away. German scientists report that they have successfully simulated an important phase of the process by growing mouse embryonic cells in a petri dish. The structure was the central trunk, which holds the developing neural tubes that will become the spinal cord. The trunk … Continue reading Scientists brave enough to grow a spine

The protein that walks, folds and rests

The myosin protein is well known for walking, but now it seems it also sleeps. Myosin is a motor protein that helps muscles contract. Motor proteins have the fun quirk of looking as though they walk along the cell’s cytoskeleton to change the shape of the cell and make our muscles move. Now, a team … Continue reading The protein that walks, folds and rests

The value of cellular self-sacrifice

Scientists have uncovered how one of the oldest and simplest animals on Earth sacrifices its own cells for the benefit of the organism. They say the similarities between altruistic cell death in Trichoplax adhaerens – a tiny marine invertebrate that resembles an irregular hairy plate – and a similar but defective process in human cancer … Continue reading The value of cellular self-sacrifice

The fine detail of a healthy heart

Scientists have taken another step in the quest to create a “Google map of the human body” by putting together a detailed cellular and molecular map of the healthy heart. An international team analysed almost half a million individual cells and cell nuclei from six different regions of the heart obtained from 14 organ donors … Continue reading The fine detail of a healthy heart

The origins of life in hot springs

50 years ago, a meteorite landed in Victoria carrying many of the building blocks for life, including amino acids, nucleobases and lipids. These organic molecules formed when compounds in stardust, which had collected on the meteorite, reacted under low temperatures and UV light as it passed through space. Many astrobiologists think the origins of life … Continue reading The origins of life in hot springs

Cells like to move in crowds, it seems

Cells don’t move and interact with each other in the way scientists have always believed, according to Australian researchers. Writing in the Journal of the Royal Society Interface, a team from the ARC Centre of Excellence for Mathematical and Statistical Frontiers (ACEMS) suggests that cell movement actually increases when there are more cells around. “Scientists in … Continue reading Cells like to move in crowds, it seems

Bacteria with robust memories

Bacteria may not be the simple organisms we take them for. US biologists have found that bacterial cells stimulated with light remember the exposure hours after the initial stimulus. The team from the University of California San Diego says it was even able to manipulate the process so that memory patterns emerged. The findings reveal … Continue reading Bacteria with robust memories

Turning skin cells into light-sensing eye cells

US researchers say they have discovered a technique for directly reprogramming skin cells into light-sensing rod photoreceptors used for vision. The lab-made rods enabled blind mice to detect light after the cells were transplanted into their eyes, they report in a paper in the journal Nature. Until now, researchers have replaced dying photoreceptors in animal … Continue reading Turning skin cells into light-sensing eye cells