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Team Makes Zika Drug Breakthrough

Here’s a great article about a collaborative research team from Florida State University, Johns Hopkins University, and National Institutes of Health (NIH) that has identified two different groups of drugs for the treatment of Zika. One group of drugs prevents the virus from replicating in humans and the other protects developing brain cells in newborns. The researchers hope that by using existing drugs they’ll be able to address this global health emergency without waiting years for new drugs to emerge from the development pipeline.

Learn More @ Medical Xpress

An Endosomal Tether Undergoes an Entropic Collapse to Bring Vesicles Together

The targeting of vesicles to the right target membrane is an early and important step in intracellular transport. New research has found that EEA1, a tethering protein that localizes to early endosomes, undergoes a conformational change from an extended form to a collapsed form upon interaction with Rab5:GTP. The change to the collapsed form provides force to pull the vesicle to the target membrane for docking and fusion. Confocal imaging was performed using a Nikon Ti-E inverted microscope with a Yokogawa CSU-X1 spinning disk, and super-resolution imaging with a Nikon N-STORM microscope.

Learn More @ Nature

New Method Creates Endless Supply of Kidney Precursor Cells

Scientists at the Salk Institute have achieved a major breakthrough in regenerative medicine – creating stable cultures of human kidney precursor cells for the first time. The cultured nephron progenitor cells (NPCs) can be used to grow replacement kidney tissue, both for research and therapeutic purposes. This approach could one day be used to grow entire human kidneys in the lab. Previous approaches used induced pluripotent stem cells, requiring time-consuming processes to make the same type of cells and with shorter shelf life.

Learn More @ Medical Xpress

Spider Silk: Mother Nature’s Bio-Superlens

Most of us are accustomed to glass lenses on our microscopes. But new research from Bangor University and University of Oxford shows that spider silk can be used as a superlens – a lens with resolving power exceeding what is possible with conventional optics. The new spiderlens provides a 2x improvement in resolution over what is normally possible. Excitingly, spider silk is also an incredibly cheap, abundant, and robust material.

Learn More @ Bangor University

Seeing Through to a Mouse’s Nervous System

Scientists have come up with a new method for rendering mice and other organisms transparent. Called uDISCO, this optical clearing method allows researchers to selectively highlight the inner workings of usually opaque organisms, lighting up the entire nervous system of a mouse for high-resolution single-cell fluorescence imaging. The authors believe the technique will one day be expanded from mice and rats to the mapping the entire human brain.

Learn More @ The New York Times

Bright Monomeric Near-infrared Fluorescent Proteins as Tags and Biosensors for Multiscale Imaging.

A new open-access paper in Nature Communications takes a closer look at near-infrared fluorescent proteins (IFPs) as optical markers and biosensors for multi-color and thick-specimen imaging. Near-infrared light is not as strongly scattered or absorbed by biological structures as visible wavelengths, making it ideal for deep tissue and in vivo imaging of larger organisms. The authors report 3 new IFPs, validating their utility for imaging, including multi-color Structured Illumination Microscopy with Nikon’s N-SIM system.

Learn More @ Nature Communications

Jellyfish Proteins Used to Create Polariton Laser

In other news this week, scientists are using jellyfish proteins to create tiny lasers. For decades jellyfish-derived GFP (green fluorescent protein) has served as a go-to tool for lighting up different parts of the cell. It turns out that the structure of GFP also makes it a great gain medium for polariton lasers - a special type of low energy laser. Also, unlike existing polariton lasers, the new GFP laser doesn't need to be heavily cooled, operating at room temperature.

Learn More @ PHYS.ORG

A Nanoscale Interface Promoting Molecular and Functional Differentiation of Neural Cells

Here’s a new open-access paper in Scientific Reports detailing the use of Hydrotalcite-like compounds (HTlc) as nanostructured interfaces that are biocompatible with astrocytes in vitro. The use of nanostructured interfaces allows researchers to exert control of cellular behavior at several different scales. HTlc films favor astrocyte differentiation by inducing vinculin polarization and F-actin fiber alignment. This was assessed in part by imaging immunofluorescence with Nikon ECLIPSE 80i and TE-2000U research microscopes.

Learn More @ Nature Scientific Reports

US Grants for Zebrafish Studies on the Rise

A new assessment by the National Institutes of Health (NIH) Office of Portfolio Analysis has found that the popularity of zebrafish as model organisms rose by approximately 60% from 2008 to 2015, marking a shift in model organism trends. This was determined by data mining of successful R01 awards from that period, which found zebrafish mentioned in over 9500 successful grant applications.

Learn More @ Nature

A Far-red Fluorescent Protein Evolved from a Cyanobacterial Phycobiliprotein

A team of researchers have developed a new far-red fluorescent protein (FP): smURFP. This new FP variant has 642 nm excitation and 670 nm emission peaks, an extinction coefficient of 180,000 M−1cm, quantum yield of 18%, and comparable photostability to EGFP. Previous FPs in this spectral class were based upon bacteriophytochromes, but smURFP is part of a new class of FPs evolved from an allophycocyanin alpha-subunit. Such far-red FPs are popular for imaging in live animals because of reduced scattering and absorption.

Learn More @ Nature Methods

Imaging the Brain at Multiple Size Scales

Over the past decade big advances have been made in optical ‪#microscopy‬ for seeing very small details. Recently, Expansion Microscopy has been introduced for imaging such fine detail by making small samples bigger. ‪MIT scientists use this new method to image entire tissues, such as whole mouse brains, by swelling them to over 4x their original size.

Learn More @ MIT News

NIH Plans To Lift Ban On Research Funds For Part-Human, Part-Animal Embryos

The National Institutes of Health (NIH) is advancing a new policy to allow the use of federal money to make chimeras – organisms with two or more genetically distinct populations of cells, including those of different species. There are many possible applications for chimeras, including the use of part-human chimeras as animal models for disease. Extra care is being taken to try to address possible ethical concerns.

Learn More @ npr

Strain and Rate-dependent Neuronal Injury in a 3D in vitro Compression Model of Traumatic Brain Injury

Researchers at Brown University have developed a new in vitro model for assessing neuronal injury due to impact tissue strain, as experienced during traumatic brain injury. Injury is simulated in a 3D neuronal culture using a voice coil actuator mounted on a Nikon A1 confocal microscope, allowing for quantification of neuronal lifetime, pathomorphology, and viability with high spatiotemporal accuracy before, during, and after injury. The results are expected to be of high importance for developing future mitigation and diagnosis programs. Article is open access

Learn More @ Nature

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