News

The new AggTag method allows researchers to see the previously undetectable but potentially disease-causing intermediate forms of proteins as they misfold. The method uses fluorescence to simultaneously detect two different proteins (red, green) within the cell (blue). Credit: Zhang lab, Penn State

New method uses fluorescence to identify disease-causing forms of proteins

A new method uses fluorescence to detect potentially disease-causing forms of proteins as they unravel due to stress or mutations. A team of researchers from Penn State and the University of Washington reengineered a fluorescent compound and developed a method to simultaneously light up two different proteins as they misfold and aggregate inside a living cell, highlighting forms that likely play a role in several neurodegenerative diseases including Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s.

Troy Ott

Troy Ott to discuss "the improbable series of events that led to your birth"

At this month’s "Science on Tap" event, Huck Associate Director and professor of reproductive biology Troy Ott will discuss viviparity — the development of an embryo inside the body leading to the birth of a live offspring. Viviparity is thought to have evolved from egg-laying animals. Ott's talk will focus on one of the enigmas of live birth that relates to the mother’s immune system.

A new program developed by researchers from Penn State and Microsoft Azure automatically detects regions of interest within images, alleviating a serious bottleneck in processing photos for wildlife research. The new program successfully identified the region of interest—unique marks on giraffe torsos—in giraffe photos, even when the giraffe occupied a small region of the photo or when they were partially covered by vegetation. Credit: Penn State/Wild Nature Institute

Toward automated animal identification in wildlife research

A new automated method to prepare digital photos for analysis will help wildlife researchers who depend on photographs to identify individual animals by their unique markings. A wildlife biologist from Penn State teamed up with scientists from Microsoft Azure, a cloud computing service, using machine learning technology to improve how photographs are turned into usable data for wildlife research. A paper describing the new technique appears online in the journal Ecological Informatics.

A simple treatment using four small molecules converts human astrocytes – a common type of cells in the nervous system – into new neurons, which develop complex structures after 4 months, as pictured. Credit: Gong Chen Lab, Penn State

Simple drug combination creates new neurons from neighboring cells

A simple drug cocktail that converts cells neighboring damaged neurons into functional new neurons could potentially be used to treat stroke, Alzheimer’s disease, and brain injuries. A team of researchers at Penn State identified a set of four, or even three, molecules that could convert glial cells—which normally provide support and insulation for neurons—into new neurons.

Norman Augustine, retired chairman and CEO of Lockheed Martin, leads a panel discussion with Penn State Professor Martin Pietrucha; Mathew Burrows, director of the Scowcroft Center’s Foresight, Strategy and Risks Initiative; and Penn State Professor Ellen Laipson in the Great Hall of the National Academy of Sciences Building in Washington, D.C.IMAGE: PENN STATE

College of Engineering and Atlantic Council host workshop on strategic foresight

The College of Engineering partnered with the Atlantic Council’s Scowcroft Center for Strategy and Security to host a three-day workshop, a joint initiative to understand the evolving interactions between technology and our economic, political and social institutions, in spring 2018.

Membraneless protocells — called complex coacervates — can bring together molecules of RNA, allowing the RNAs to perform certain reactions, an important step in the origin of life on Earth. The Image shows droplets of complex coacervates as seen under a microscope. The inset shows RNA molecules (cyan) are highly concentrated inside the droplets compared to the surrounding (dark). At roughly 2-5 micrometers in diameter, the droplets are about 14-35 times thinner than human hair. IMAGE: BEVILACQUA LABORATORY, PENN STATE

Membraneless protocells could provide clues to formation of early life

Membraneless assemblies of positively- and negatively-charged molecules can bring together RNA molecules in dense liquid droplets, allowing the RNAs to participate in fundamental chemical reactions. These assemblies, called “complex coacervates,” also enhance the ability of some RNA molecules themselves to act as enzymes — molecules that drive chemical reactions.

Melik Demirel, professor of engineering science and mechanics and director, Center for Research on Advanced Fiber TechnologiesIMAGE: PENN STATE

Melik Demirel named Huck Chair in Biomimetic Materials

Melik C. Demirel, professor of engineering science and mechanics at Penn State, was recently named Lloyd and Dorothy Foehr Huck Chair in Biomimetic Materials by the University’s Huck Institutes of the Life Sciences.

Dr. Melissa Rolls with current and prospective graduate students

Prospective Grad Students Get A Taste of Life at Penn State

Students interested in the Bioinformatics and Genomics; Plant Biology; Neuroscience; and Molecular, Cellular, and Integrative Biosciences graduate programs were given a warm welcome on a snowy weekend.

Sean B. Carroll, vice president of science education at the Howard Hughes Medical Institute will deliver a 2019 Darwin Day Lecture at Penn State. IMAGE: PHOTO PROVIDED BY PENN STATE CENTER FOR HUMAN EVOLUTION AND DIVERSITY

Sean B. Carroll to deliver 2019 Darwin Day Lecture

Sean B. Carroll, vice president of science education at the Howard Hughes Medical Institute (HHMI), will deliver the 2019 Darwin Day Lecture titled “The Serengeti Rules: The Regulation and Restoration of Biodiversity” at 3:30 p.m. on Friday, Feb. 8 in 101 Thomas Building. Carroll’s lecture will be followed by a reception from 4:30 to 6:00 p.m. in the Commons on the third floor of the Millennium Science Complex. Both events are free and open to the public.

A new method by researchers at Penn State uses ultraviolet light and small amounts of gold or titanium dioxide nanoparticles to gather larger particles of interest at the point of light. This method was used to gather polystyrene particles, which form a well-packed structure called a colloid crystal, as depicted in this image. IMAGE: SEN LAB, PENN STATE

New method uses ultraviolet light to control fluid flow and organize particles

A new, simple and inexpensive method that uses ultraviolet light to control particle motion and assembly within liquids could improve drug delivery, chemical sensors and fluid pumps. The method encourages particles — from plastic microbeads, to bacterial spores, to pollutants — to gather and organize at a specific location within a liquid and, if desired, to move to new locations.