Neutralizing HIV

Each time a virus invades a healthy individual, antibodies created by the body fight to fend off the intruders. For HIV, the antibodies are very specific and are generated too slowly to combat the rapidly changing virus. However, scientists have found that some HIV-positive people develop highly potent antibodies that can neutralize different subtypes of the virus. Now, a study involving Caltech researchers points to the possibility of using these neutralizing antibodies in the development of a vaccine.

 

Tracking Bacteriophages

Figuring a virus's host is can be difficult, especially when you're talking about bacteriophages, a group of bacteria-infecting viruses. The problem lies in identifying which bacteriophages are infecting which bacteria, without having to culture either the viruses or their hosts in the lab. Now, a Caltech-led team has created a technique that can "physically link single bacterial cells harvested from a natural environment with a viral marker genes," the scientists report in the July 1 issue of the journal Science.

$6 Million Gift To Spur Innovative Research Collaborations Between Caltech, City of Hope

As part of a program to foster innovative biomedical research projects, an anonymous donor has pledged $3 million each to Caltech and City of Hope to strengthen scientific collaborations between the two leading research institutions.

Caltech Scientist Awarded $5 Million Grant for Plant Research

Elliot Meyerowitz, a plant genetics and developmental biology expert at Caltech, has been awarded one of 15 five-year, $5 million grants for fundamental plant science research from the Howard Hughes Medical Institute and the Gordon and Betty Moore Foundation. Meyerowitz is an expert in the study of Arabidopsis thaliana, a small flowering plant in the mustard family and a model organism for plant genetics and molecular biology studies.

 

From Pre-Gut Cells to Glory

For all animals, development begins with the embryo. It is here that uniform cells divide and diversify, and blueprints are laid for future structures, like skeletal and digestive systems. Although biologists have known for some time that signaling processes exist at this stage, there has not been a clear framework explanation of how it all comes together. Now, a research team at Caltech has outlined exactly how specific sets of cells in sea-urchin embryos differentiate to become the endoderm.

 

Learning to Tolerate Our Microbial Self

The human gut is filled with 100 trillion symbiotic bacteria which we blissfully live with, although they look very similar to infectious bacteria we react against. What decides whether we ignore—or fight? In the case of a common "friendly" gut bacterium, Bacteroides fragilis, Caltech researchers have discovered the surprising answer: The decision is not made by us, but by the bacteria, who co-opt cells of the immune system for our benefit—and theirs.

Caltech Biologist Recognized for Cellular Noise Research

Nearly ten years ago, Michael Elowitz, Caltech Bren Scholar and professor of biology, bioengineering, and applied physics, first amplified the idea that stochasticity—or noise—plays an important role in the process of gene expression. For his pioneering work, Elowitz has been named the winner of the 2011 Human Frontier Science Program Nakasone Award. 

 

Pamela Bjorkman Named Among Most Powerful Moms

When Working Mother magazine recently compiled its list of the Most Powerful Moms in STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math), it included Caltech's Pamela Bjorkman—a pioneer in the study of cell-surface recognition in the immune system, and a mother of two—among its 10 honorees. 

Caltech-Led Team Pinpoints Aggression Neurons in the Brain

Where does violence live in the brain? And where, precisely, does it lay down its biological roots? With the help of a new genetic tool that uses light to turn nerve cells on and off, a team led by researchers at the California Institute of Technology (Caltech) has tracked down the specific location of the neurons that elicit attack behaviors in mice, and defined the relationship of those cells to the brain circuits that play a key role in mating behaviors.

Neurobiologists Find that Weak Electrical Fields in the Brain Help Neurons Fire Together

The brain—awake and sleeping—is awash in electrical activity, and not just from the individual pings of single neurons communicating with each other. In fact, the brain is enveloped in countless overlapping electric fields, generated by the neural circuits of scores of communicating neurons. The fields were once thought to be a 'bug' of sorts, occurring during neural communication. New work, however, suggests that the fields do much more—and that they may, in fact, represent an additional form of neural communication.

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