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Tag Archive for Biology


A long-standing mystery in membrane traffic solved

In 2013, James E. Rothman, Randy W. Schekman, and Thomas C. Südhof won the Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine for their discoveries of molecular machineries for vesicle trafficking, a major transport system in cells for maintaining cellular processes. Vesicle traffic acts as a kind of “home-delivery service” in cells. Vesicles package and deliver materials such as proteins and hormones from one cell organelle to another. Then it releases its contents by fusing with the target organelle’s membrane. One example of vesicle traffic is in neuronal communications, where neurotransmitters are released from a neuron. Some of the key proteins for vesicle traffic discovered by the Nobel Prize winners were N-ethylmaleimide-sensitive factor (NSF), alpha-soluble NSF attachment protein (α-SNAP), and soluble SNAP receptors (SNAREs).

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Seeing the (UV) light: Previously undetected difference in human mutation rate unique to Europeans

(—Although humans are a single species, not all genetic variation is shared between populations – and the ability to sequence our entire genome has allowed scientists to catalogue mutations that occur in one ethnic group alone. These so-called population-private mutations give researchers a unique window into recent human history. Recently, graduate student Kelley Harris – a scientist at University of California, Berkeley – revealed a previously undetected difference between Europeans and other ethnic groups by comparing population-private mutation frequencies from Europe, Asia, and Africa, finding that Europeans experience higher rates of a specific mutation type that has known associations with UV light exposure. Harris concludes that while it is unclear whether the excess mutations are harmful or directly related to the UV sensitivity of light skin, her results demonstrate that the human mutation rate has evolved on a much faster timescale than previously believed, with implications for cancer genetics, anthropology and other fields of inquiry.


Antibiotic effectiveness imperiled as use in livestock expected to increase

Antibiotic consumption in livestock worldwide could rise by 67 percent between 2010 and 2030, and possibly endanger the effectiveness of antimicrobials in humans, according to researchers from Princeton University, the International Livestock Research Institute, the Université Libre de Bruxelles and the Center for Disease Dynamics, Economics and Policy.