The Huck Institutes of the Life Sciences

News

Unexpected Discovery Reveals Key Protein Plays a Crucial Role in Regeneration of Injured Nerve Cells

New research conducted by a Penn State research team, sheds light on the mechanism by which damaged nerve cells are repaired. Their findings point to the impact of a motor protein, Kinesin-2, in steering the successful growth and organization of the polarized microtubule arrays contained within neurons.

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Reversing autism in a petri dish

Using stem cells taken from the skin of patients with Rett syndrome - the most physically disabling of the autism disorders researchers replicated autism in the lab, identified disease-specific cellular defects, and demonstrated that these defects are reversible. The results raise the hope that, one day, autism may become a treatable condition.

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Students spread flu with thousands of close encounters

On a typical day, high school students engage more than 760,000 social interactions that can spread an infectious disease, according to researchers, who suggest that using social contact networks to devise immunization strategies would be more effective than random vaccination campaigns.

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Loss of species increases infectious disease risk

As biodiversity declines, the emergence and transmission of infectious diseases increases, according to a review of current experimental data published this month in Nature. In an age of unprecedented species extinction rates, it is urgent that the biodiversity of natural ecosystems be preserved to protect humans from increasing pathogenic threats.

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Researchers propose new cause of major depressive disorder

GABAergic deficits appear to play a central and causal role in Major Depressive Disorder, a neuropsychiatric disorder affecting approximately 17% of the population worldwide, according to researchers from the Center for Molecular Investigation of Neurological Disorders.

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Computations 19x faster with new adaptive algorithm

Researchers using a new algorithmic process for a heuristic embedding strategy they call "Adaptive GDDA-BLAST" can now see the results of their computations 19 times faster than with their previous computational method. The new method has the added benefits of detecting structural homology in highly divergent protein sequences and isolating secondary structural elements of transmembrane and ankyrin-repeat domains, with possibly wide-ranging impacts on human health and disease studies.

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Institute for CyberScience Faculty Fellows Program

The ICS Faculty Fellows Program is now accepting applications for 2011 for internal funding.

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Huck Institutes' graduate programs ranked among the nation's best

Three of the Huck Institutes' graduate programs were ranked among the nation's best in the latest report from the National Research Council (NRC). The NRC study ranked 5,000 doctoral programs from 212 universities in over 60 fields.

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Root decomposition study calls for new experimental methods

Observations made in a new study of root decomposition dynamics to be published by the Ecological Society of America later this year were in some cases directly opposed to classic hypotheses, suggesting that true understanding of the contributions of root turnover to carbon and nutrient cycling requires a fundamental shift in experimental methods.

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Possible new target found in fight against malaria

A team of Penn State researchers has determined the dynamic expression and cellular localization of the PfMYST protein, and provided experimental evidence about its role in transcription regulation, cell cycle progression and DNA damage repair, providing a possible new target in the fight against a drug-resistant and extremely virulent form of malaria.

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Sequencing chocolate genome helps farmers in the developing world

The sequencing and analysis of the genome for Theobroma cacao, the chocolate tree, has been completed by an international team that included Mark Guiltinan, Siela Maximova, Stephan C. Schuster, John E. Carlson, Zi Shi, Michael Axtell, Zhaorong Ma, and Yufan Zhang of the Huck Institutes. The team sequenced the cacao Criollo type that produces a fine flavored chocolate, using a specimen that was collected in the Mayan mountains of Belize. The identification of various gene families that impact specific plant qualities and disease resistance could lead to accelerated breeding programs which would have a beneficial impact on the economy of many developing countries in which cocoa is of great economic importance.

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Scientists capture first-ever atomic view of key genetic processes

Using a 3-D visualization method called X-ray crystallography, Song Tan, associate professor of biochemistry and molecular biology has built the first-ever image of a protein interacting with the nucleosome -- DNA packed tightly into space-saving bundles organized around a protein core. The research, performed at the Penn State Center for Eukaryotic Gene Regulation of the Huck Institutes, is expected to aid future investigations into diseases such as cancer.

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Pulsed UV light shows promise in delivering a safer egg

Pulsed UV light has the ability to reduce Salmonella Enteritidis on eggshells by 99.999998%, greatly increasing public food safety, without affecting the quality of the egg, the strength of its shell or damaging its natural protective layer, the cuticle, Penn State researchers, including Ali Demirci of the Huck Institutes, found.

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Ancient gene family linked to the future of epileptic seizures

A potassium-channel gene belonging to an ancient gene family more than 542 million years old is opening new avenues in epilepsy research, and may one day allow researchers to develop more effective drugs with fewer side effects for the treatment of epileptic seizures.

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Carnivorous mice spread deadly plague in prairie dog towns

The abundance of the carnivorous grasshopper mouse determines whether or not prairie dog colonies live or die by the thousands from plague. This discovery, reported in a recent study co-authored by Dr. Marcel Salathe, a new member of the Center for Infectious Disease Dynamics at the Huck Institutes, may have critical ramifications on understanding plague dynamics in Africa and Asia.

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Faculty appointments in systems and computational genomics

We seek computer and information scientists, social scientists, life scientists, physicists, mathematicians, statisticians and biomedical researchers interested in analyzing genomic data, undertaking systems and functional genomics and in applying these results to a broad range of biological problems.

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Yingwei Mao joins the Center faculty

MIT post-doctoral fellow Yingwei Mao joins the Center's faculty in January 2011.

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Yingwei Mao joins the Center faculty

MIT post-doctoral fellow Yingwei Mao joins the Center's faculty in January 2011.

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Genetically defective mice shed new light on treating depression

Researchers led by Dr. Bernhard Luscher have characterized a new mouse model of depression that points to a new cause of Major Depressive Disorder in humans. The mice suffer from a genetic deficiency in GABA-A-receptors, and they exhibit hormonal and pharmacological properties indicative of a form of depression known as Melancholic Depression.

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Critical metabolic sensor uncovered in the fight against diabetes

Diabetes, A Journal of the American Diabetes Association: Sounak Gupta, Barbara McGrath and Douglas R. Cavener, Department of Biology, The Huck Institutes of the Life Sciences, Penn State Institute for Diabetes and Obesity

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