Researchers at the University of Liverpool have resolved the debate over the mechanisms involved in the shut-down process during cell division in the body. Research findings, published in the journal PNAS, may contribute to future studies on how scientists could manipulate this shut-down process to ensure that viruses and other pathogens do not enter the cells of the body and cause harm. Previous research has shown that when cells divide, they cannot perform any other task apart from this one. They cannot, for example, take in food and fluids at the same time as managing the important process of dividing into 'daughter cells' to replicate the body's genetic information. Cells, instead, shut-down the intake of food and fluid during cell division and for many years it was thought that they did this by preventing a vehicle - called a receptor - from transporting nutrients through the cell membrane.
By discovering how vital immune cells known as dendritic cells recognize dead and damaged cells, researchers think they may have found a new approach for next generation vaccines that "trick" cells into launching an immune response. Such vaccines would be more effective and result in fewer side-effects, they suggest. Dendritic cells are unique immune cells that detect dead and damaged cells, digest them, and present them to other immune cells capable of recognizing foreign agents such as bacteria, viruses and parasites. They are part of a family called antigen-presenting cells (APCs). But they are unique because they also send signals to other parts of the immune system, such resting T cells, to wake up and join the immune response. Now for the first time, a large collaboration of immunologists, protein chemists and structural biologists, led by scientists at the Walter and Eliza Hall Institute in Parkville, Victoria, Australia, has identified how a protein on the surface of dendritic cells recognizes damage and trauma in cells that could signify infection.
A vast majority of cells in the brain are glial, yet our understanding of how they are generated, a process called gliogenesis, has remained enigmatic. Researchers at Baylor College of Medicine have identified a novel transcripitonal cascade that controls these formative stages of gliogenesis and answered the longstanding question of how glial cells are generated from neural stem cells. The findings appear in the current edition of Neuron. "Most people are familiar with neurons, cells that process and transmit information in the brain. Glial cells, on the other hand, make-up about 80 percent of the cells in the brain and function by providing trophic support to neruons, participating in neurotransmission, myelin sheaths for axons, and comprise the blood brain barrier, " said Dr. Benjamin Deneen, assistant professor of neuroscience at BCM.
A team of researchers at Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) in the US has designed nanoparticles that produce proteins when utraviolet (UV) light shines on them: they suggest the idea could be used to create "nano-factories" that make protein-based drugs at tumor sites to fight cancer. They write about their work in the 20 March online issue of the journal Nano Letters, and there is also a description of it in an article published on the MIT website this week. Protein-based drugs that fight cancer exist, but they are limited by the fact the body breaks them down before they can reach their destination. The team, based in the lab of MIT's David H. Koch Institute Professor, Robert Langer, appear to have overcome this problem by devising a way to make the proteins on demand, in situ, using nanotechnology.
Scientists at Northwestern University in the US have developed a simple, specialized, star-shaped gold nanoparticle that can deliver drugs directly to the nucleus of a cancer cell. They write about their work in a paper published recently in the journal ACS Nano. Senior author Dr Teri W. Odom, said in a statement released on Thursday: "Our drug-loaded gold nanostars are tiny hitchhikers." "They are attracted to a protein on the cancer cell's surface that conveniently shuttles the nanostars to the cell's nucleus. Then, on the nucleus' doorstep, the nanostars release the drug, which continues into the nucleus to do its work, " she added. Scientists are increasingly turning to nanotechnology as a way to fight disease at the cellular level. Although it poses considerable design challenges, nanotechnology offers powerful ways of targeting therapy.