Of Bugs & Brains: Caltech Researchers Discover that Gut Bacteria Affect Multiple Sclerosis

Biologists at Caltech have demonstrated a connection between multiple sclerosis (MS)—an autoimmune disorder that affects the brain and spinal cord—and gut bacteria.

Caltech Biologists Discover How T Cells Make a Commitment

When does a cell decide its particular identity? According to Caltech biologists, in the case of T cells—immune system cells that help destroy invading pathogens—the answer is when the cells begin expressing a particular gene called Bcl11b.

Caltech Researchers Show How Active Immune Tolerance Makes Pregnancy Possible

How a pregnant body tolerates a fetus that is biologically distinct from its mother has long been a mystery. Now, a pair of scientists from Caltech have shown that females actively produce a particular type of immune cell in response to specific fetal antigens—immune-stimulating proteins—and that this response allows pregnancy to continue without the fetus being rejected by the mother's body.

Caltech Biologists Provide Molecular Explanation for the Evolution of Tamiflu Resistance

Biologists at Caltech have pinpointed molecular changes that helped allow the global spread of resistance to the antiviral medication Tamiflu (oseltamivir) among strains of the seasonal H1N1 flu virus.

Caltech Researchers Identify Genes and Brain Centers That Regulate Meal Size in Flies

Biologists from Caltech and Yale University have identified two genes, the leucokinin neuropeptide and the leucokinin receptor, that appear to regulate meal sizes and frequency in fruit flies. Both genes have mammalian counterparts that seem to play a similar role in food intake, indicating that the steps that control meal size and meal frequency are not just behaviorally similar but are controlled by the same genes throughout the animal kingdom.

Flower Organ's Cells Make Random Decisions that Determine Size

The sepals of the plant Arabidopsis thaliana—commonly known as the mouse-eared cress—are characterized by an outer layer of cells that vary widely in their sizes, and are distributed in equally varied patterns and proportions. Scientists have long wondered how the plant regulates cell division to create these patterns. Melding time-lapse imaging and computer modeling, a team of scientists led by biologists from Caltech has provided a somewhat unexpected answer to this question.

 

Caltech-led Team Uncovers New Functions of Mitochondrial Fusion

A typical human cell contains hundreds of mitochondria—energy-producing organelles—that continually fuse and divide. Relatively little is known, however, about why mitochondria undergo this behavior. Now, scientists at the Caltech have taken steps toward a fuller understanding of this process by revealing just what happens to the organelle, its DNA (mtDNA), and its energy-producing ability when mitochondrial fusion fails.

 

Caltech Scientists Uncover Structure of Key Protein in Common HIV Subgroup

Scientists from the Caltech have provided the first-ever glimpse of the structure of a key protein—gp120—found on the surface of a specific subgroup of the human immunodeficiency virus, HIV-1. In addition, they demonstrated that a particular antibody to gp120 makes contact not only with the protein, but with the CD4 receptor that gp120 uses to gain entrance into the body's T cells.

 

Caltech-led Team Provides Proof in Humans of RNA Interference Using Targeted Nanoparticles

A Caltech-led team of researchers and clinicians has published the first proof that a targeted nanoparticle—used as an experimental therapeutic and injected directly into a patient's bloodstream—can traffic into tumors, deliver double-stranded small interfering RNAs, and turn off an important cancer gene using a mechanism known as RNA interference. Moreover, the team demonstrated that this new type of therapy can make its way to human tumors in a dose-dependent fashion.

Caltech and UCSD Scientists Establish Leech as Model for Study of Reproductive Behavior

 

Researchers at Caltech and the University of California, San Diego have discovered that injecting a simple hormone into leeches creates a novel way to study how hormones and the nervous system work together to produce species-specific reproductive behavior. A paper describing the work appears in the March 11 online edition of the journal Current Biology.

 

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