Howard Hughes Medical Institute researchers have found that killer T cells -- the sentinels of the immune system – possess a hidden strength that may be used to improve vaccine design for tough-to-beat bugs, such as Staphylococcus aureus. 

The new experiments show that killer T cells can attack bacteria that attach to the outside of cells. Prior to this work, immunologists thought that killer T cells only attacked cells that had been invaded by bacteria and other pathogens, said Howard Hughes Medical Institute investigator Ralph Isberg, who is at Tufts University.

“Killer T cell responses have long been associated with pathogens that grow within host cells,” says Isberg. “But we were surprised when we found that killer T cells were really important for protection against this extracellular bacterium.”

Dr. Carlo Croceby Sylvia Pagan Westphal

I clutch the seat as the Ferrari halts abruptly at an intersection, then purrs impatiently until the light changes. When it takes off, the roar feels oddly extravagant for the quiet streets of suburban Columbus, Ohio.

The driver is Carlo Croce, a 64-year-old Italian scientist with a big voice, disheveled curly hair and expressive dark eyes. He heads the Human Cancer Genetics Program at Ohio State University, and his silver Scaglietti Ferrari is a fitting symbol of his approach to science: grand, high-powered and, these days especially, sizzling hot.

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.

Robert DarnellA new method promises to cut through the stubborn problem of determining the precise targets of microRNAs – the tiny but powerful bits of nucleic acid that tweak gene expression to influence many aspects of health and human disease, from early development and aging to cancer, heart disease, and diabetes.

Researchers using the new technique, called HITS-CLIP, showed that in a single experiment they could map the binding points of scores of different microRNAs throughout a genome in living mouse or human tissue. The research by Howard Hughes Medical Institute investigator Robert Darnell and his colleagues Sung Wook Chi, Julie Zang, and Aldo Mele at The Rockefeller University was reported June 17, 2009, in an advanced online publication of the journal Nature.

Using high-speed cinematography, scientists at Cambridge University have discovered that individual algal cells can regulate the beating of their flagella in and out of synchrony in a manner that controls their swimming trajectories. Their research was published on the 24th July in the journal Science.

The researchers studied the unicellular organism Chlamydomonas reinhardtii, which has two hair-like appendages known as flagella. The beating of flagella propels Chlamydomonas through the fluid and simultaneously makes it spin about an axis.


The Rosetta Stone of bacterial communication may have been found.

Although they have no sensory organs, bacteria can get a good idea about what's going on in their neighborhood and communicate with each other, mainly by secreting and taking in chemicals from their surrounding environment. Even though there are millions of different kinds of bacteria with their own ways of sensing the world around them, Duke University bioengineers believe they have found a principle common to all of them.

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