Researchers from Caltech now believe they have found a way to help the brain replace damaged myelin, a material that forms a protective cape around the axons of our nerve cells so that they can send signals quickly and efficiently.
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, 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.
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.
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).
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.
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.
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.