Welcome to your weekly dose of cell and molecular biology. As always, I’ll choose select posts from blogs that I read – please do contact me with specific posts that you’d like “Cells Weekly” to link to, or topical blog discussions that I might be missing. And of course, please link to the “Cells Weekly” to share it with others.
- Living the Scientific Life: Video of a Nobel-Prize Winning Process: RNAi
- The Neurophilosopher’s Weblog: The brain of the humpback whale contains “human” neurons
- The Daily Transcript: Proks have dynamin-like molecules!, RNA Export Diagram
- Ouroboros: Accumulation of senescent cells in aging primates
- Omics! Omics!: Phage Renaissance
- Science and Reason: RNA Activation of Genes
- Evolgen: Filling the Empty DNA
And some ScienceDaily picks below the fold:
Proteins Anchor Memories In Our Brain
- A University of Utah study suggests that memories are held in our brains because certain proteins serve as anchors, holding other proteins in place to strengthen synapses, which are connections between nerve cells.
- “The essential idea is that synapses are in a constant state of flux, so how can they be the seat of memories that can last a lifetime?” says mathematics Professor Paul Bressloff, a member of the Brain Institute at the University of Utah. “Part of the answer is that there are anchors inside the synapse that keep proteins in place, and these proteins help determine how strong a synapse is, which in turn contributes to forming and retaining memories.”
- Cetaceans, the group of marine mammals that includes whales and dolphins, have demonstrated remarkable auditory and communicative abilities, as well as complex social behaviors. A new study published online November 27, 2006 in The Anatomical Record, the official journal of the American Association of Anatomists, compared a humpback whale brain with brains from several other cetacean species and found the presence of a certain type of neuron cell that is also found in humans. This suggests that certain cetaceans and hominids may have evolved side by side.
- Although the biology of the humpback whale is well understood, there have been virtually no studies published on its brain composition, leaving an open question as to how brain structure may relate to the extensive behavioral and social abilities of this mammal. Although brain to body mass ratio, a rough measure of intelligence, is lower for baleen whales such as the humpback compared to toothed whales such as dolphins, the structure and large brain size of baleen whales suggests that they too have a complex and elaborate evolutionary history.
- Skeletal progenitor cells differentiate into cartilage cells when one master gene actually suppresses the action of another, said Baylor College of Medicine researchers in a report that appears online in the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.
- Skeletons are made of bone and cartilage cells that are differentiated from the same multipotent stem cell, said Dr. Brendan Lee, associate professor of molecular and human genetics at BCM, director of the Skeletal Dysplasia Clinic at Texas Children’s Hospital and a Howard Hughes Medical Institute investigator. This same stem cell gives rise to bone, cartilage, fat and fibroblasts.
- What makes the human brain unique? Of the many explanations that can be offered, one that doesn’t come readily to mind is — myelin.
- Conventional wisdom holds that myelin, the sheet of fat that coats a neuron’s axon — a long fiber that conducts the neuron’s electrical impulses — is akin to the wrapping around an electrical wire, protecting and fostering efficient signaling. But the research of UCLA neurology professor George Bartzokis, M.D., has already shown that myelin problems are implicated in diseases that afflict both young and old — from schizophrenia to Alzheimer’s.
- Now, in a report published in the journal Biological Psychiatry and available online, Myelin, argues Bartzokis, who directs the UCLA Memory Disorders and Alzheimer’s Disease Clinic, is “a recent invention of evolution. Vertebrates have it; invertebrates don’t. And humans have more than any other species.”