How birds can detect the Earth’s magnetic field

he receptors that sense the Earth’s magnetic field are probably located in the birds’ eyes. Now, researchers at Lund University have studied different proteins in the eyes of zebra finches and discovered that one of them differs from the others: only the Cry4 protein maintains a constant level throughout the day and in different lighting conditions. Cry4 belongs to a group of proteins called cryptochromes. Normally they regulate the biological clock, but have also been considered significant for the magnetic sense. With this study, we now know which of the birds’ cryptochromes do what. “Cry4 is an ideal magnetoreceptor as the level of the protein in the eyes is constant. This is something we expect from a receptor that is used regardless of the time of day”, explains Atticus Pinzón-Rodríguez, one of the researchers behind the study. The conclusion is […]

A new class of antibiotics to combat drug resistance

Researchers from the University of Illinois at Chicago and Nosopharm, a biotechnology company based in Lyon, France, are part of an international team reporting on the discovery of a new class of antibiotics. The antibiotic, first identified by Nosopharm, is unique and promising on two fronts: its unconventional source and its distinct way of killing bacteria, both of which suggest the compound may be effective at treating drug-resistant or hard-to-treat bacterial infections. Called odilorhabdins, or ODLs, the antibiotics are produced by symbiotic bacteria found in soil-dwelling nematode worms that colonize insects for food. The bacteria help to kill the insect and, importantly, secrete the antibiotic to keep competing bacteria away. Until now, these nematode-associated bacteria and the antibiotics they make have been largely understudied. To identify the antibiotic, the Nosopharm research team screened 80 cultured strains of the bacteria for […]

Phone Addiction In Teens Is A Cause Of Unhappiness

Happiness is not a warm phone, according to a new study exploring the link between adolescent life satisfaction and screen time. Teens who have a phone addiction with eyes that are habitually glued to their smartphones are markedly unhappier, said study lead author and San Diego State University and professor of psychology Jean M. Twenge. To investigate this link, Twenge, along with colleagues Gabrielle Martin at SDSU and W. Keith Campbell at the University of Georgia, crunched data from the Monitoring the Future (MtF) longitudinal study, a nationally representative survey of more than a million U.S. 8th-, 10th-, and 12th-graders. The survey asked students questions about how often they spent time on their phones, tablets and computers, to assess phone addiciton, as well as questions about their in-the-flesh social interactions and their overall happiness. On average, they found that teens […]

Recording a thought through the brain

University of California, Berkeley neuroscientists have tracked the progress of a thought through the brain, showing clearly how the prefrontal cortex at the front of the brain coordinates activity to help us act in response to a perception. Recording the electrical activity of neurons directly from the surface of the brain, the scientists found that for a simple task, such as repeating a word presented visually or aurally, the visual and auditory cortexes reacted first to perceive the word. The prefrontal cortex then kicked in to interpret the meaning, followed by activation of the motor cortex in preparation for a response. During the half-second between stimulus and response, the prefrontal cortex remained active to coordinate all the other brain areas. For a particularly hard task, like determining the antonym of a word, the brain required several seconds to respond, during […]

Swallowable Balloon Offers Noninvasive Detection for Esophageal Cancer Risk

Scientists have finally invented a minimally invasive way to detect if people are at risk for esophageal cancer. The new approach – a small, swallowable balloon for collecting samples coupled with DNA analysis – could be a promising alternative to endoscopy (a time-consuming procedure that requires sedation) in diagnosing Barret’s esophagus (BE), which is a precursor for esophageal carcinoma. Approximately 95% of BE cases go undetected until a patient progresses to esophageal adenocarcinoma, which has a poor prognosis and a five-year survival rate of less than 20%. The incidence of esophageal adenocarcinoma has more than quadrupled over the past three decades, spurring Helen Moinova and colleagues to devise a device and biomarker-based detection method that could help make BE screening part of routine clinical procedure. After analyzing samples from hundreds of individuals, Moinova et al. zeroed in on a DNA […]

Scientists make cells that enable the sense of touch

Researchers at the Eli and Edythe Broad Center of Regenerative Medicine and Stem Cell Research at UCLA have, for the first time, coaxed human stem cells to become sensory interneurons — the cells that give us our sense of touch. The new protocol could be a step toward stem cell-based therapies to restore sensation in paralyzed people who have lost feeling in parts of their body. The study, which was led by Samantha Butler, a UCLA associate professor of neurobiology and member of the Broad Stem Cell Research Center, was published today in the journal Stem Cell Reports. Sensory interneurons, a class of neurons in the spinal cord, are responsible for relaying information from throughout the body to the central nervous system, which enables the sense of touch. The lack of a sense of touch greatly affects people who are paralyzed. […]

Proper exercise can reverse damage to aging hearts

Exercise can reverse damage to  aging hearts and help prevent risk of future heart failure — if it’s enough exercise, and if it’s begun in time, according to a new study by cardiologists at UT Southwestern and Texas Health Resources. To reap the most benefit, the exercise regimen should begin by late middle age (before age 65), when the heart apparently retains some plasticity and ability to remodel itself, according to the findings by researchers at the Institute for Exercise and Environmental Medicine (IEEM), which is a collaboration between UT Southwestern Medical Center and Texas Health Presbyterian Hospital Dallas. And the exercise needs to be performed four to five times a week. Two to three times a week was not enough, the researchers found in an earlier study. “Based on a series of studies performed by our team over the […]