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Oct 11, 2016

Bordensteins Discover a Bacterial Virus with Animal DNA

If you pick a random species of insect and look inside its cells, there’s a 40 percent chance that you’ll find bacteria called Wolbachia. And if you look at Wolbachia carefully, you'll almost certainly find a virus called WO, lying in wait within its DNA. And if you look at WO carefully, as Seth and Sarah Bordenstein, from Vanderbilt University, have done, you'll find parts of genes that look like they come from animals—including a toxin gene that makes the bite of the black widow spider so deadly.

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Aug 9, 2016

Discovery of male-harming DNA mutation reinforces ‘mother’s curse’ hypothesis

There is new evidence that the "mother's curse" - the possibility that moms may transmit genes to their children that harm their sons but not their daughters - holds true in animals. Such a possibility arises because there are two independent parts of the genome in the eukaryote cells, which are found in plants and animals, and the two are locked in a "conflict-driven molecular arms race" that impacts human health and wellness. The lion's share of the genome is located in the cell nucleus. But there is also a much smaller secondary portion located in the mitochondria.

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Jul 13, 2016

These days, fecal transplantation is no joke

Fecal transplants are increasingly being used as the treatment of last resort for certain infections in the human gut and have had remarkable success treating the nursing home and hospital-acquired scourge, Clostridium difficile colitis, an infectious diarrhea that often follows antibiotic treatment. There is also preliminary evidence that the transplantation of stool from healthy individuals can be effective in treating multiple sclerosis and Crohn’s disease.

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Jul 13, 2016

When mitochondrial genes act up

Mitochondrial disorders are a chameleon-like set of diseases that take many different forms and vary widely from individual to individual.

Mitochondria are special organelles found in cells that produce most of the chemical energy that powers cell operations. Mitochondrial dysfunction has been associated with a wide variety of illnesses, including autism, Alzheimer’s disease, schizophrenia, dementia, Parkinson’s disease, epilepsy, stroke, cancer, chronic fatigue syndrome and cardiovascular disease.

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Jun 22, 2016

Study gives new meaning to the term ‘bird brain’

The macaw has a brain the size of an unshelled walnut, while the macaque monkey has a brain about the size of a lemon. Nevertheless, the macaw has more neurons in its forebrain – the portion of the brain associated with intelligent behavior – than the macaque.

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Jun 9, 2016

Lauren Jackson named 2016 Pew Scholar

The Pew Charitable Trusts today named 22 exceptional early-career scientists as Pew scholars in the biomedical sciences. The 2016 class of Pew biomedical scholars is drawn from prestigious institutions across the country, with each scholar receiving four years of flexible funding to pursue foundational, innovative research.

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Jun 9, 2016

Electric eels make leaping attacks

Catania designed a series of experiments specifically to determine what is happening with this newly described “shocking leap” behavior..

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May 2, 2016

Seth Bordenstein and colleagues discuss Wolbachia-mosquito control in Science

Applied strategies are underway at sites across the world in which mosquitoes infected with the bacteria Wolbachia are released to curb the spread of mosquito-borne dengue virus, Zika virus, and other human infectious diseases. Bordenstein joins colleagues in a recent series of Letters in the journal Science to discuss the risks, or lack thereof, potentially associated with these Wolbachia-mosquito releases.

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Feb 2, 2016

Julian Hillyer among 2016 Chancellor Faculty Fellows

Julian Hillyer, associate professor of biological sciences. Hillyer’s research uses state-of-the-art imaging and molecular methodologies to gain a better understanding of mosquito immunology in physiological and organismal contexts with the aim of contributing to the development of novel pest and disease control strategies.

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Dec 18, 2015

How your brain decides blame and punishment—and how it can be changed

New work by researchers at Vanderbilt University and Harvard University confirms that a specific area of the brain, the dorsolateral prefrontal cortex, is crucial to punishment decisions. Researchers predicted and found that by altering brain activity in this brain area, they could change how subjects punished hypothetical defendants without changing the amount of blame placed on the defendants.

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