In a finding with potentially major implications for identifying a viral cause of prostate cancer, a type of virus known to cause leukemia and sarcomas in animals has been found for the first time in malignant human prostate cancer cells.

In a finding with potentially major implications for identifying a viral cause of prostate cancer, researchers at the University of Utah and Columbia University medical schools have reported that a type of virus known to cause leukemia and sarcomas in animals has been found for the first time in malignant human prostate cancer cells.

Bonnie BasslerInterfering with communication among bacteria can prevent them from mounting a unified and perhaps deadly assault on their host organism, research by Howard Hughes Medical Institute (HHMI) investigators shows. The finding suggests a different kind of medicine that could be less likely than traditional antibiotic to promote the development of drug-resistant bacteria.

The new research, published July 30, 2009, in Molecular Cell, targeted a bacterial communication process known as quorum sensing, which triggers bacteria to act collectively only once they reach sufficient numbers to make their common activity worthwhile. In the case of disease-causing bacteria, that collective action is often the release of toxins.

by Anne Trafton

New model allows researchers to design more stable drugs

A new computer model developed at MIT can help solve a problem that has plagued drug companies trying to develop promising new treatments made of antibodies: Such drugs have a relatively short shelf life because they tend to clump together, rendering them ineffective.

Antibodies are the most rapidly growing class of human drugs, with the potential to treat cancer, arthritis and other chronic inflammatory and infectious diseases. About 200 such drugs are now in clinical trials, and a few are already on the market.

Skin stem cells are constantly replacing and repairing the body's surface. Fuchs says figuring out how this happens is a delight

Elaine Fuchs of Rockefeller University in New York City studies how stem cells in the skin maintain their orderly but complicated cycle of skin renewal, how they adjust so effectively to heal wounds and what goes wrong in disease. She is also a leader in the stem cell field and an advocate of women in science. Nature Reports Stem Cells spoke to her about the progress of stem cell science and scientists.

What's the best advice you've received as a scientist?

The best advice was from my graduate mentor teaching me how to do a well-controlled experiment. It's easy to come up with controls for what you think is going be the answer in your experiment. It's much more difficult to think more broadly about what could be the possible outcomes if you don't get the result you're expecting. My mentor taught me to set up the controls to be able to interpret an unexpected finding.

During the early days of an embryo’s development, the heart begins to beat. It turns out that beating heart does more than circulate the embryo’s small existing blood supply. Howard Hughes Medical Institute investigators have found that the blood’s movement through the aorta triggers the production of new blood stem cells, which will give rise to all the red and white blood cells the organism needs to survive.

The researchers have also discovered that this essential biomechanical signal can be mimicked with drugs. The findings could help clinicians expand the supply of blood stem cells needed to treat leukemia, autoimmune disorders, and other diseases.

by Monya Baker

An RNAi screen finds a protein complex that keeps pluripotency genes open for transcription

In efforts to piece together the network that maintains pluripotency, one strategy is to remove potential components and see if pluripotency is disrupted. Researchers led by Frank Buchholz of the Max Planck Institute of Molecular Cell Biology and Genetics in Dresden, Germany, knocked down thousands of genes one by one and found evidence that embryonic stem cells have specialized gene-transcription machinery. Buchholz's team set up a screen so that they could identify whether levels of a key pluripotency protein, Oct4, dropped in the presence of a series of over 25,000 short RNA molecules (which could be mapped to approximately 15,000 annotated genes). This screen identified hundreds of genes, so the researchers focused on the ones that reproducibly made Oct4 levels drop the most dramatically, and they decreased this number to a set of 16 genes.

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