Scientists at the National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences have identified a gene called RFX4 that is responsible for the birth defect hydrocephalus in mice. Loss of a single copy of this gene in mice leads to a failure of drainage of cerebrospinal fluid from the brain cavity, which causes the skull to swell.
About one child in 2,000 worldwide is afflicted by hydrocephalus. Identification of the mouse gene provides a means for researchers to study the possible genetic origins of this common birth defect in humans.
The gene was discovered when researchers noticed that pups in one line of transgenic mice from a completely different study developed head swelling and neurological abnormalities shortly after birth. The NIEHS research team then cloned the defective gene and found that it was responsible for development of a critical structure in the brain that controls cerebrospinal fluid drainage. All of the mice with the defective gene developed the classic symptoms of hydrocephalus, whereas none of the littermates with the normal gene developed this condition. Although the head-swelling led to rapid neurological deterioration and death in many of the transgenic animals, a number have survived to reproduce and propagate the line.
Tom Hawkins | EurekAlert!
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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.
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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.
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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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