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When a shark is spotted in the ocean, humans and marine animals alike usually flee. But not the remora – this fish will instead swim right up to a shark and attach itself to the predator using a suction disk located on the top of its head. While we know why remoras attach to larger marine animals – for transportation, protection and food – the question of how they attach and detach from hosts without appearing to harm them remains unanswered.
A new study of both computer-created and natural proteins suggests that the number of unique pockets – sites where small molecule pharmaceutical compounds can bind to proteins – is surprisingly small, meaning drug side effects may be impossible to avoid. The study also found that the fundamental biochemical processes needed for life could have been enabled by the simple physics of protein folding.
Future teams of subterranean search and rescue robots may owe their success to the lowly fire ant, a much despised insect whose painful bites and extensive networks of underground tunnels are all-too-familiar to people living in the southern United States.
On April 24th, graduating seniors gathered with Biology faculty, researchers, and other students to present and celebrate their undergraduate research projects. Biology majors at Georgia Tech are required to complete a senior research experience in which they conduct an individual research project mentored by a faculty member or participate in a group research project undertaken as part of the Research Project Lab course. Several Biology majors also completed the Research Option this year, following multiple semesters of research effort and the preparation of an undergraduate thesis.
Sand-dwelling and rock-dwelling cichlids living in East Africa’s Lake Malawi share a nearly identical genome, but have very different personalities. The territorial rock-dwellers live in communities where social interactions are important, while the sand-dwellers are itinerant and less aggressive.
Using underwater video cameras to record fish feeding on South Pacific coral reefs, scientists have found that herbivorous fish can be picky eaters – a trait that could spell trouble for endangered reef systems.
Ryan Bloomquist, the School of Biology’s first joint doctoral DMD/PhD student has received a F30 Ruth L. Kirschstein National Research Service Award (NRSA) aimed at investigating the process of dental tissue regeneration. The F30 Ruth L. Kirschstein NRSA is awarded to promising applicants with the potential to become productive, independent and highly trained physician-scientists.
In what is believed to be the first study of its kind, researchers used genomic techniques to document the presence of significant numbers of living microorganisms – principally bacteria – in the middle and upper troposphere, that section of the atmosphere approximately four to six miles above the Earth’s surface.
SoB Teaching Faculty Member Develops Test to Evaluate Scientific Literacy – The Journal Science Takes Notice
Dr. Cara Gormally, a teaching faculty member in the School of Biology, along with research collaborators Peggy Brickman and Mary Lutz at the University of Georgia, have developed the Test of Scientific Literacy Skills (TOSLS)--a freely available, psychometrically sound, multiple-choice instrument to measure college students’ scientific literacy skill development.
The rise of antibiotic-resistant bacteria has initiated a quest for alternatives to conventional antibiotics. One potential alternative is PlyC, a potent enzyme that kills the bacteria that causes strep throat and streptococcal toxic shock syndrome. PlyC operates by locking onto the surface of a bacteria cell and chewing a hole in the cell wall large enough for the bacteria’s inner membrane to protrude from the cell, ultimately causing the cell to burst and die.
SoB Researchers Reveal How Small DNA Fragments Trigger Chromosomal Rearrangements and Gene Amplification
Researchers in the School of Biology at Georgia Tech have uncovered a novel mechanism of genome mutagenesis and remodeling that could help to explain abnormal DNA amplification in cancer and other degenerative disorders. Cancer and other degenerative disorders are commonly associated with abnormal DNA amplification (resulting in an increase in the number of copies of a DNA segment) in various locations throughout the genome. These mutations can facilitate the aggressiveness of cancer to the detriment of human health and are therefore of great scientific interest.
If the 4.9 million barrels of oil that spilled into the Gulf of Mexico during the 2010 Deep Water Horizon spill was a ecological disaster, the two million gallons of dispersant used to clean it up apparently made it even worse – 52-times more toxic. That’s according to new research from the Georgia Institute of Technology and Universidad Autonoma de Aguascalientes (UAA), Mexico.
The National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, part of the National Institutes of Health, has awarded a five-year contract of up to $19.4 million, depending on contract options exercised, to establish the Malaria Host-Pathogen Interaction Center (MaHPIC).
The consortium includes researchers at Emory University, with partners at the Georgia Institute of Technology, University of Georgia (UGA) and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). The Yerkes National Primate Research Center of Emory University will administer the contract.
Corals under attack by toxic seaweed do what anyone might do when threatened – they call for help. A study reported this week in the journal Science shows that threatened corals send signals to fish “bodyguards” that quickly respond to trim back the noxious alga – which can kill the coral if not promptly removed.
Bringing Structure to Bear on RNA Viruses: School of Biology Scientists Provide New Insight on Viral Packing
Yingying Zeng, a graduate student in the School of Biology, is the lead author on a new paper that describes the complete structure of satellite tobacco mosaic virus (STMV). This is the first model for the structure of any virus that specifies the position of every single atom. Zeng combined high-resolution data from x-ray crystallography, chemical data on the structure of the RNA genome, and knowledge-based molecular modeling methods to develop her model.
Most of us gaze in wonder at how clouds of all different shapes and sizes form and vaporize across the beautiful October Atlanta sky. Few of us think about bacteria playing a role in this process. This is not the case for Natasha DeLeon-Rodriguez, a School of Biology graduate student in the lab of Kostas Konstantinidis (http://enve-omics.gatech.edu/).
Earlier this month a team of undergraduates brought home a silver medal in the 2012 International Genetically Engineered Machine (iGEM) competition. iGEM is considered the premiere undergraduate synthetic biology competition where teams design, construct and analyze novel biological systems to perform new functions in living cells.
New Georgia Tech research shows that cell stiffness could be a valuable clue for doctors as they search for and treat cancerous cells before they’re able to spread. The findings, which are published in the journal PLoS One, found that highly metastatic ovarian cancer cells are several times softer than less metastatic ovarian cancer cells.
Dr. Joshua Weitz (Associate Professor, School of Biology) has been awarded a grant from the Program in Biological Oceanography on "Understanding the Effects of Complex Phage-Bacteria Infection Networks on Ocean Ecosystems". The award provides over $470,000 over 4 years to study the interaction between viruses and bacteria in ocean ecosystems.
Professor Julia Kubanek presented with the Silverstein-Simeone Lecture Award by the International Society of Chemical Ecology.
At the 2012 annual meeting of the International Society of Chemical Ecology in Vilnius, Lithuania, Professor Julia Kubanek delivered an invited lecture sponsored by the society. This award is made each year to a chemical ecologist whose recent work is at the forefront of the field, and is named after the late Milt Silverstein and John Simeone, pioneers of this field and co-founders of the Journal of Chemical Ecology.
Ninety-six percent of a chimpanzee’s genome is the same as a human’s. It’s the other 4 percent, and the vast differences, that pique the interest of Georgia Tech’s Soojin Yi. For instance, why do humans have a high risk of cancer, even though chimps rarely develop the disease?
As the medical community continues to make positive strides in personalized cancer therapy, scientists know some dead ends are unavoidable. Drugs that target specific genes in cancerous cells are effective, but not all proteins are targetable. In fact, it has been estimated that as few as 10 to 15 percent of human proteins are potentially targetable by drugs. For this reason, Georgia Tech researchers are focusing on ways to fight cancer by attacking defective genes before they are able to make proteins.
Dr. Brian Hammer (Assistant Professor, School of Biology), was recently honored with an award from the Faculty Career Development (CAREER) Program at the National Science Foundation. The CAREER award supports junior faculty who exemplify the role of teacher-scholars through effective integration of outstanding research and excellent education. Hammer was chosen for this highly competitive award from among the very best young scientists in the United States. The award provides $900,000 over five years to support his research project in molecular microbiology.
IPST faculty member Jerry Pullman, Ph.D., a Georgia Tech Biology professor, has partnered with the Atlanta Botanical Garden to help save some of the South’s rarest plants. Jerry uses the knowledge and skills he has gained over decades of developing cloning technology for high-value pines and Douglas fir to help multiply and preserve Georgia’s rare and critically endangered species. In the process, he has created some life-changing experiences for his students.
The ecological effects of the 2010 Deepwater Horizon oil spill are still largely unknown. Senior writer Josh Fischman is on the research vessel Endeavor in the Gulf of Mexico with a team of university scientists seeking answers. He is filing reports from the ship.
Georgia Tech, which has had a long-standing history in cancer research, announces a new Integrated Cancer Research Center which will bring together 48 biologists, bioengineers, chemists and physicists from seven different schools and departments, to take new innovative approaches to basic cancer research. John McDonald, PhD, professor of biology in the Parker H. Petit Institute for Bioengineering and Bioscience (IBB), will head the new center.
New research into the cell-damaging effects of Huntington’s disease suggests a new approach for identifying possible therapeutic targets for treating the nerve-destroying disorder.
Huntington’s disease causes the progressive breakdown of nerve cells in the brain and affects an individual’s movement, cognition and mental state. Genetically, the disease is associated with a mutation in the Huntingtin gene that causes the huntingtin protein to be produced with an extended region containing the amino acid glutamine.
On the periodic table of the elements, iron and magnesium are far apart. But new evidence suggests that 3 billion years ago, iron did the chemical work now done by magnesium in helping RNA fold and function properly.
There is considerable evidence that the evolution of life passed through an early stage when RNA played a more central role before DNA and coded proteins appeared. During that time, more than 3 billion years ago, the environment lacked oxygen but had an abundance of soluble iron.
A marine ecologist known for his work on community ecology and chemical ecology has been selected to receive the 2012 Robert L. and Bettie P. Cody Award in Ocean Sciences from Scripps Institution of Oceanography at UC San Diego. Mark Hay, Teasley Professor of Environmental Biology and co-director of the Center for Aquatic Chemical Ecology at Georgia Tech, will be awarded the prestigious prize during a private ceremony on June 14.
New research findings show that embryonic stem cells unable to fully compact the DNA inside them cannot complete their primary task: differentiation into specific cell types that give rise to the various types of tissues and structures in the body.
Researchers from the Georgia Institute of Technology and Emory University found that chromatin compaction is required for proper embryonic stem cell differentiation to occur. Chromatin, which is composed of histone proteins and DNA, packages DNA into a smaller volume so that it fits inside a cell.
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