Alexander Varshavsky Awarded Otto Warburg Medal

Alexander Varshavsky, Caltech's Howard and Gwen Laurie Smits Professor of Cell Biology, has been awarded the Otto Warburg Medal of the German Society for Biochemistry and Molecular Biology (GBM). The medal is considered to be the highest German award for biochemists and molecular biologists.

 

Do You Hear What I Hear?

In both animals and humans, vocal signals used for communication contain a wide array of different sounds that are determined by the vibrational frequencies of vocal cords. Knowing how the brain sorts out these different frequencies—which are called frequency-modulated (FM) sweeps—is believed to be essential to understanding many hearing-related behaviors, like speech. Now, a pair of biologists at Caltech has identified how and where the brain processes this type of sound signal.

Understanding Bacterial Sensors

Nearly all motile bacteria can sense and respond to their surroundings through a process called chemotaxis, which begins with proteins known as chemoreceptors. Now researchers at Caltech have built the first model that depicts precisely how chemoreceptors and the proteins around them are structured at the sensing tip of bacteria. Because chemotaxis plays a critical role in the first steps of bacterial infection, a better understanding of the process could pave the way for the development of new, more effective antibiotics.

Some Bacteria Attack Using Spring-loaded Poison Daggers

Bacteria have evolved different systems for secreting proteins. One, called a type VI secretion system, is found in about a quarter of all bacteria with two membranes. Despite being common, researchers have not understood how it works. Now a team, co-led by researchers at Caltech, has figured out the structure of the type VI secretion system apparatus and proposed how it might work—by shooting spring-loaded poison molecular daggers.

Caltech Researchers Develop Gene Therapy to Boost Brain Repair for Demyelinating Diseases

Our bodies are full of tiny superheroes—antibodies that fight foreign invaders, cells that regenerate, and structures that ensure our systems run smoothly. One such structure is myelin, a material that forms a protective cape around the axons of our nerve cells so that they can send signals quickly and efficiently. But myelin becomes damaged in demyelinating diseases like multiple sclerosis, leaving neurons without their sheaths. Researchers from Caltech now believe they have found a way to help the brain replace damaged myelin.

Two Caltech Researchers Receive Frontiers of Knowledge Award

For their work in information and communication technologies, and biomedicine, Carver Mead, Moore Professor Emeritus of Engineering and Applied Science, and Alexander Varshavsky, Smits Professor of Cell Biology, have been honored by the BBVA Foundation as recipients of 2011 Frontiers of Knowledge awards. 

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).

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