Scientists have long toyed with the idea of putting to work a special class of biological catalysts, called ribozymes, as therapeutic agents. These molecular scissors would harness the activities of overly active genes that contribute to diseases like cancer by cutting their immediate products, messenger RNAs, into unusable pieces. The advantage of this approach, is that these molecules can be made to recognize very specific targets. This is reported in this month issue of EMBO reports.
Up until now, however, technical difficulties have hampered the development of such tools; the targets for these molecules are often folded extensively, making particular cleavage sites inaccessible to the catalyst. However, in the May 15 issue of EMBO reports, H. Kawasaki and K. Taira report on a technical breakthrough. By linking ribozymes to helicases, cellular components whose normal function is to ‘smooth out’ folded RNA’s to allow them to be ‘translated’ into proteins, these investigators have managed to circumvent this ‘folding’ difficulty. They have been able to efficiently inhibit the activities of a number of target RNA’s, even at sites that are known to be inaccessible to regular ribozymes. This has further allowed them to develop a method for investigating the functions of random RNA’s, creating a tool that may be invaluable in characterizing the functions of many of the previously unknown genes that have only recently been uncovered by various genome projects. Although we are not yet ready to treat any diseases using ribozymes, this study may indeed be a big step in the right direction.
Ellen Peerenboom | alphagalileo
Rainbow colors reveal cell history: Uncovering β-cell heterogeneity
22.09.2017 | DFG-Forschungszentrum für Regenerative Therapien TU Dresden
The pyrenoid is a carbon-fixing liquid droplet
22.09.2017 | Max-Planck-Institut für Biochemie
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...
Using ultrafast flashes of laser and x-ray radiation, scientists at the Max Planck Institute of Quantum Optics (Garching, Germany) took snapshots of the briefest electron motion inside a solid material to date. The electron motion lasted only 750 billionths of the billionth of a second before it fainted, setting a new record of human capability to capture ultrafast processes inside solids!
When x-rays shine onto solid materials or large molecules, an electron is pushed away from its original place near the nucleus of the atom, leaving a hole...
For the first time, physicists have successfully imaged spiral magnetic ordering in a multiferroic material. These materials are considered highly promising candidates for future data storage media. The researchers were able to prove their findings using unique quantum sensors that were developed at Basel University and that can analyze electromagnetic fields on the nanometer scale. The results – obtained by scientists from the University of Basel’s Department of Physics, the Swiss Nanoscience Institute, the University of Montpellier and several laboratories from University Paris-Saclay – were recently published in the journal Nature.
Multiferroics are materials that simultaneously react to electric and magnetic fields. These two properties are rarely found together, and their combined...
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