Alexander Varshavsky Receives King Faisal International Prize for Science

Alexander Varshavsky, Caltech's Howard and Gwen Laurie Smits Professor of Cell Biology, has been awarded the 2012 King Faisal International Prize (KFIP) for Science. The winners of the prize, which also includes awards for medicine, Arabic language and literature, Islamic studies, and service to Islam, were announced in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia, on January 16. 

 

Making Sense of Sensory Connections

A key feature of human and animal brains is that they are adaptive; they are able to change their structure and function based on input from the environment and on the potential associations, or consequences, of that input. To learn more about such neural adaptability, researchers at Caltech have explored the brains of insects and identified a mechanism by which the connections in their brain change to form new and specific memories of smells.

 

Worm Seeks Worm: Caltech Researchers Find Chemical Cues Driving Aggregation in Nematodes

Scientists have long seen evidence of social behavior among many species of animals. Dolphins frolic together, lions live in packs, and hornets construct nests that can house a large number of the insects. And, right under our feet, it appears that roundworms are having their own little gatherings in the soil. Until recently, it was unknown how the worms communicate to one another when it's time to come together. Now, however, researchers from Caltech have identified, for the first time, the chemical signals that promote aggregation.

Eric Davidson Awarded the International Prize for Biology

Eric Davidson, Caltech's Norman Chandler Professor of Cell Biology, has been awarded the 2011 International Prize for Biology by the Japan Society for the Promotion of Science. On November 28, Davidson received a medal at a ceremony in Tokyo and an imperial gift, a silver vase from Emperor Akihito. The award also includes ten million yen (more than $125,000 USD).

Biologists Deliver Neutralizing Antibodies that Protect Against HIV Infection in Mice

Over the past year, researchers at Caltech, and around the world, have been studying a group of potent antibodies that have the ability to neutralize HIV in the lab; their hope is that they may learn how to create a vaccine that makes antibodies with similar properties. Now, biologists at Caltech led by Nobel Laureate David Baltimore have taken one step closer to that goal: they have developed a way to deliver these antibodies to mice and, in so doing, have effectively protected them from HIV infection.

 

Caltech Scientists Point to Link between Missing Synapse Protein and Abnormal Behaviors

Although many mental illnesses are uniquely human, animals sometimes exhibit abnormal behaviors similar to those seen in humans with psychological disorders. Such behaviors are called endophenotypes. Now, Caltech researchers have found that mice lacking a gene that encodes a particular protein found in the synapses of the brain display a number of endophenotypes associated with schizophrenia and autism spectrum disorders.

Caltech Researchers Find Pulsating Response to Stress in Bacteria

Turning on the heater is a reasonable response to a cold environment: switch to a toastier state until it warms up outside. Biologists have long thought cells would respond to their environment in a similar way. But now researchers at Caltech are finding that cells can respond using a new kind of pulsating mechanism. The principles behind this process are surprisingly simple, the researchers say, and could drive other cellular processes, revealing more about how the cells—and ultimately life—work.

Switching Senses

Many meat-eating animals have unique ways of hunting down a meal using their senses. To find a tasty treat, bats use echolocation, snakes rely on infrared vision, and owls take advantage of the concave feathers on their faces, the better to help them hear possible prey. Leeches have not just one but two distinct ways of detecting dinner, and, according to new findings from biologists at Caltech, their preferred method changes as they age.

 

 

Building Better HIV Antibodies

Using highly potent antibodies isolated from HIV-positive people, researchers have recently begun to identify ways to broadly neutralize the many possible subtypes of HIV. Now, a team led by biologists at Caltech has built upon one of these naturally occurring antibodies to create a stronger version they believe is a better candidate for clinical applications. 

 

Caltech Professors Mark E. Davis and David A. Tirrell Elected to the Institute of Medicine

Mark E. Davis and David A. Tirrell of Caltech have been elected to the Institute of Medicine, an honor that is considered among the highest in the fields of health and medicine. Both Davis and Tirrell are already members of the National Academy of Sciences and the National Academy of Engineering, making them two of only 13 living individuals who have been elected to all three branches of the National Academies.

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