When biologists want to compare different sequences of DNA or protein, it’s as simple as plugging the information into a browser and pressing enter. Within 15 seconds, an online software tool contrasts one sequence of DNA with up to 18 million others catalogued in public databases. Now, a software tool developed by Whitehead Institute scientists promises to apply this same computational muscle to the far more intricate world of protein interaction networks, giving researchers a new view of the complexities of cellular life.
DNA sequencing technologies allow scientists to easily identify genes and their nucleotide building blocks -- linear strings of information represented by the letters A, C, T and G. The wide accessibility of these technologies has enabled both companies and academic labs to assemble huge libraries of genomic information. Computer engineers, in turn, have helped scientists navigate these oceans of data through tools such as BLAST, the primary software platform that scientists use to compare protein and DNA sequences. However, many researchers believe that the next phase of genomics research will be to map out interaction networks -- the cell’s internal wiring system through which genes and proteins communicate.
"The 80s and 90s were about sequences," says Trey Ideker, a former Whitehead Fellow who recently was named an assistant professor of bioengineering at University of California, San Diego. "Now we’re starting to see newer types of technologies -- like microarrays -- that allow us to look at how a cell, in its entirety, responds to drugs and other kinds of stimuli. These technologies will revolutionize biology." Already, researchers like Whitehead’s Rick Young are beginning to assemble libraries of cellular network pathway maps using microarrays.
Ageless ears? Elderly barn owls do not become hard of hearing
26.09.2017 | Carl von Ossietzky-Universität Oldenburg
eTRANSAFE – collaborative research project aimed at improving safety in drug development process
26.09.2017 | Fraunhofer-Gesellschaft
Controlling electronic current is essential to modern electronics, as data and signals are transferred by streams of electrons which are controlled at high speed. Demands on transmission speeds are also increasing as technology develops. Scientists from the Chair of Laser Physics and the Chair of Applied Physics at Friedrich-Alexander-Universität Erlangen-Nürnberg (FAU) have succeeded in switching on a current with a desired direction in graphene using a single laser pulse within a femtosecond ¬¬ – a femtosecond corresponds to the millionth part of a billionth of a second. This is more than a thousand times faster compared to the most efficient transistors today.
Graphene is up to the job
At the productronica trade fair in Munich this November, the Fraunhofer Institute for Laser Technology ILT will be presenting Laser-Based Tape-Automated Bonding, LaserTAB for short. The experts from Aachen will be demonstrating how new battery cells and power electronics can be micro-welded more efficiently and precisely than ever before thanks to new optics and robot support.
Fraunhofer ILT from Aachen relies on a clever combination of robotics and a laser scanner with new optics as well as process monitoring, which it has developed...
Plants and algae use the enzyme Rubisco to fix carbon dioxide, removing it from the atmosphere and converting it into biomass. Algae have figured out a way to increase the efficiency of carbon fixation. They gather most of their Rubisco into a ball-shaped microcompartment called the pyrenoid, which they flood with a high local concentration of carbon dioxide. A team of scientists at Princeton University, the Carnegie Institution for Science, Stanford University and the Max Plank Institute of Biochemistry have unravelled the mysteries of how the pyrenoid is assembled. These insights can help to engineer crops that remove more carbon dioxide from the atmosphere while producing more food.
A warming planet
Our brains house extremely complex neuronal circuits, whose detailed structures are still largely unknown. This is especially true for the so-called cerebral cortex of mammals, where among other things vision, thoughts or spatial orientation are being computed. Here the rules by which nerve cells are connected to each other are only partly understood. A team of scientists around Moritz Helmstaedter at the Frankfiurt Max Planck Institute for Brain Research and Helene Schmidt (Humboldt University in Berlin) have now discovered a surprisingly precise nerve cell connectivity pattern in the part of the cerebral cortex that is responsible for orienting the individual animal or human in space.
The researchers report online in Nature (Schmidt et al., 2017. Axonal synapse sorting in medial entorhinal cortex, DOI: 10.1038/nature24005) that synapses in...
Whispering gallery mode (WGM) resonators are used to make tiny micro-lasers, sensors, switches, routers and other devices. These tiny structures rely on a...
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26.09.2017 | Information Technology
26.09.2017 | Physics and Astronomy
26.09.2017 | Life Sciences