Yearly Archives: 2007

New method enables scientists to see smells

Animals and insects communicate through an invisible world of scents. By exploiting infrared technology, researchers at Rockefeller University just made that world visible. Now, with the ability to see smells, these scientists show that the brains of Drosophila melanogaster larvae not only make use of stereo cues to locate odors but also to navigate toward them. More »

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Active mechanism locks in the size of cell’s nucleus

Some say that it’s what’s inside that counts. Fission yeast begs to differ, especially when it comes to controlling the size of its nucleus. For the first time, scientists at Rockefeller University reveal that an active mechanism controls how large a cell’s nucleus grows in relation to the size of the cell. But this sensing mechanism resides within the cytoplasm, not the nucleus — a finding that dispels a long-held theory. More »

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Center for Clinical and Translational Science funds eight new pilot studies

The Rockefeller University Center for Clinical and Translational Science (CCTS) has announced the recipients of its 2008 Pilot Project grants. Eight Rockefeller researchers will each receive $25,000 from the center to fund early studies in translational science that, if successful, might lead to clinical trials. More »

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Three biophysicists receive Burroughs Wellcome career awards

Dirk Albrecht, Maria Neimark Geffen and Jan M. Skotheim are among the recipients of a five-year $500,000 award for physical and computational scientists in biology. More »

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Most carriers of Fanconi anemia genes are not at a higher risk of cancer

For many years, the assumption has been that anyone who possesses a single mutated gene associated with Fanconi anemia is at a higher risk of developing cancer. But a new study to examine links between cancer and 13 specific Fanconi anemia genes has determined that in most cases, the risk is no greater for relatives of those with Fanconi anemia than it is for the rest of the population. More »

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New method exploits old mechanism to turn genes on and off at will

When body heat rises to dangerously high temperatures, the heat shock response protects proteins from irreversible damage. Now, new research in C. elegans roundworms exploits this ancient mechanism to control when and where genes are expressed, an ability that helps determine which cells require the expression of certain genes during different stages of development. While existing techniques enabled scientists to achieve this feat, this new method provides them with the same information in a fraction of the time. More »

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Cells use Velcro-like mechanism to keep viruses from spreading

Rockefeller University researchers have found that an immune protein called interferon is responsible for tethering virus particles to the cell surface, thereby preventing viruses from spreading through the body. HIV appears to get around this obstacle by using a protein, called Vpu, that appears to have evolved specifically for this purpose. More »

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Small experience during critical period alters brain

Genes may provide the land, but experience defines the landscape. Now, researchers at Rockefeller University show that a fly’s external environment can alter the genetically determined circuit that detects carbon dioxide, a gas that alerts flies to sources of food and other flies that are experiencing stress. While the structure and function of the neurons that pick up the sensory signals and send them to the brain remain unaltered, those that communicate between the two show significant changes in function and confer neural plasticity onto the fly brain. More »

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Rendering of ion channel suggests how neurons fire

When a nerve cell fires, membrane proteins known as voltage-dependent ion channels open to allow the flow of charged atoms called ions across the cell membrane. The opening of voltage-dependent ion channels is mediated by voltage sensors, which contain charged amino acids that move within the membrane in response to voltage changes. Now, new research from Rockefeller University reveals how these charged amino acids are stabilized on voltage sensor paddles and how they move within the lipid membrane. More »

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Multi-lab collaboration yields first detailed map of nuclear pore complex

The pores that lead into a cell’s nucleus play an incredibly important role in the cell’s metabolism and signaling. Now, Rockefeller University researchers have drafted a protein-by-protein map of the nuclear pore complex’s structure, providing a glimpse into the evolution of the nucleus itself. More »

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Data suggest community involvement is the key to controlling infectious disease

The battles against infectious diseases are challenging enough in Western countries with stable infrastructure and deep-pocketed pharmaceutical firms. In an impoverished section of Latin America, they are much more difficult. But new research from Rockefeller University’s Joel E. Cohen suggests that the key to managing insect-borne illnesses in developing areas is a technologically simple, humanly sophisticated approach of sustained community outreach. More »

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Recently discovered cell is unexpected player in psoriasis

The psoriasis drug etanercept has had a high success rate, but its mechanism was largely unknown. Now, by studying patients’ immune reaction to the drug, Rockefeller University researchers have found that a newly discovered immune cell — the Th17 cell — may be playing an unexpected role in the disease. More »

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Stress response in the brain relies on a blood-thinning protein

Our ability to learn from stressful situations allows us to try to avoid them in the future. New research by Rockefeller University scientists shows that a protein called tPA in the hippocampus — a region of the brain responsible for memory, learning and fear — plays an essential role in this learned fear response and could be involved in depression. More »

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A protein converts immune cells to tumor killers

Increasingly, vaccines are not only being used to preempt viruses; they are being developed to fight cancer. With a single injection of a protein that is naturally found in a group of brain cells, researchers at Rockefeller University have transformed immune cells that were once oblivious to the presence of breast and ovarian tumors into ones that can kill them. These findings, which hold therapeutic promise for ovarian and breast cancer patients, might not have been possible if it wasn’t for a rare neurodegenerative disease called paraneoplastic cerebellar degeneration. More »

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Biologists use microfluidics chips to watch worm behavior

For the first time, researchers have visualized neural impulses in C. elegans olfactory neurons at the moment they occur. Using specialized chips that can monitor the roundworms’ behavior, they’ve found that the worm neural system has similarities to our own. More »

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Pilot study to probe link between kidney disease and heart disease

Kidney disease isn’t just about kidneys: Research has shown that people with kidney abnormalities have a dramatically increased risk of heart disease. A new pilot study at Rockefeller University focuses on a condition called endotoxemia, a buildup of toxins in the blood that may be a link between the two diseases. More »

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Sean Brady named 2007 Beckman Young investigator

Chemical biologist Sean Brady, head of Rockefeller University’s Laboratory of Genetically Encoded Small Molecules, is recognized for his ongoing work on the therapeutic potential of naturally occurring small molecules. More »

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Immune cells can simultaneously stimulate and inhibit killer cell activity

Natural killer cells are taught to attack invaders by dendritic cells, which alter themselves to look a little bit like the invading microbe. Now, new research shows how the dendritic cells are able to prevent their newly trained pupils from turning on their teachers. More »

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Balancing act protects vulnerable cells from cancer

Tumor-suppressing pathways usually suppress tumors. That’s a good thing. Even better? When a vital component of the pathway is removed, it continues to suppress tumors. Research led by Elaine Fuchs at Rockefeller University reveals that when epithelial cells lack a receptor called TβRII, the cells hyperproliferate, a potentially lethal process balanced by elevated levels of cell death. This balancing act occurs in all cells that express a major structural protein called keratin 14, but while some tissues remain healthy for life, others spontaneously develop a highly disfiguring and invasive form of skin cancer, one of the very few cancers on the rise. More »

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Accessory protein determines whether pheromones are detected

Pheromones are big, fatty molecules that living organisms emit in order to send messages to individuals of the same species. New research at Rockefeller University has identified an unanticipated protein that snatches these pheromones and hands them off to their specific pheromone receptor. It is the first time this CD36-related protein, called SNMP, and its mechanism of action have been implicated in pheromone detection; the mechanism also appears to underlie the diverse biological functions regulated by CD36 proteins, ranging from how we taste fats to how our immune system detects and responds to foreign invaders. More »

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