Researchers at University of California San Diego School of Medicine were recently awarded two Type 1 Diabetes Special Statutory Funding Program grants from the NIH, totaling more than $5 million in research funding.Read More
Science Market Update
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The Human Computation Institute, in collaboration with UC Berkeley and other institutions, has developed a new game called Stall Catchers that will allow the public to directly contribute to research for a cure to Alzheimer's disease. In the online game, participants will view movies of real blood vessels in mouse brains and search for any clogged capillaries, or stalls. Capillary stalls, where blood is no longer flowing, are thought to be a key cause of Alzheimer's disease.
The National Science Foundation has awarded $24 million to create the Center for Cellular Construction; a new bioengineering center based at UC San Francisco. The cutting edge interdisciplinary center will transform the field of cell biology by bringing together cell biologists, engineers, physicists, and computer scientists to create machines made out of living cells.Read More
For fiscal year 2015-16, UC Irvine received $395 million in grants and contracts and $132.5 million in philanthropic gifts, breaking the university's previous funding records in both areas. Fundraising doubled from the previous fiscal year and funding from research grants and contracts increased by more than $100 million.Read More
The University of California, Riverside was recently guaranteed $15 million a year in continuous funding for the University’s much anticipated medical school when Governor Jerry Brown signed the state’s budget on June 27th. The University of California, Riverside’s medical school will be the first new public medical school on the West Coast in almost 50 years and is expected to be a powerful economic force on the region. The school will also help address the low doctor-to-patient ratio in the region.
Your body's circadian clock is responsible for making sure you stay healthy, by regulating metabolism and carrying out internal housekeeping chores on a steady 24-hour schedule. About 15% of genes are controlled by your bodily clock, including some important ones in your intenstines that keep infectious bacteria like salmonella in check. Dr. Paolo Sassone-Corsi is a professor of biological chemistry at the UC Irvine School of Medicine and Director of UCI's Center for Epigenetics and Metabolism. Together with his colleague, microbiologist Manuela Raffatellu of UCI's Institute for Immunology, the Irvine bio research team has recently published an article in PNAS revealing how the immune system, specifically as it works in your intestinal track, is strongly directed by circadian rhythms. Upset that biological timing and you put yourself at greater risk of getting sick.
[Drs. Sassone-Corsi and RAffatellu, courtesy of Jocelyn Lee / University Communications at UCI]
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One of the reasons cancer is so successful and difficult to treat is that it uses the body's own systems to proliferate, thrive, and hide from attack. Bioresearch scientists out to target cancer are taking a similar approach, building tiny bio-vehicles for locating tumors that reach their destination without setting off a massive immune system alarm or flooding the whole body with toxic chemicals. A team of biochemists at the University of California San Diego led by Dr. Nathan Gianneschi has developed a nanoparticle that assumes a benign shape to travel covertly through the blood system, then, recognizing a tumor, reassembles via an enzymatic cue into a net to attach itself to the cancerous target.
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Researchers at the Broad Center of Regeneration Medicine and Stem Cell Research on the Parnassus Campus of the University of California San Francisco have just published the results of two related studies involving differentiated brain cells transplanted into mice. In one case, the cells were human brain cells integrated successfully into a mouse brain; in the other, epileptic mice were cured with specialized mouse brain cells. In both studies the differentiated cells were a type of interneuron progenitor called medial ganglionic eminence (MGE) cells. Unlike other brain stem cells that can turn into any number of specialized cells, these differentiated MGE cells have a specific function, which is to inhibit signaling in overactive nerve circuits. These experiments hold promise for future treatment of neurological disorders like Parkinson’s disease, Alzheimer’s, epilepsy, and the chronic pain and spasticity caused by spinal cord injury.
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Bioengineers at the University of California San Diego have come up with a novel way of removing dangerous toxins from the bloodstream using biomimetic nanosponges. These tiny clean-up particles work by posing as red blood cells, which serves both to evade the body's immune system response to foreign invaders and to attract the toxins to themselves instead of to actual red blood cells. When the toxins have all attached themselves to the nanosponges, they are processed out through the liver without harming the body. The research into this promising therapy comes out of the Zhang Lab in the Jacobs School of Engineering, where in 2011 they pioneered the red blood cell disguise technology for cloaking cancer drug cocktails, allowing the drugs much more time in the body to target diseased cells. Dr. Liangfang Zhang is also on the research faculty of the UCSD Moores Cancer Center.
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Synthetic biology is the application of engineering principles to altering components of biological systems, like genes and cells, towards creating new and revised living things (watch the video below for an introduction). It's arguably the most radical, cutting-edge laboratory science field today, and one that calls on its scientists to grapple with ethics as well as biotechnology. At the forefront of this life science revolution is the University of California Berkeley-led consortium SynBERC: the Synthetic Biology Engineering Research Center, with partner colleagues at UCSF, Stanford, MIT, and Harvard. Just this week, principal synbio investigators from these institutions came together with industry scientists and ethicists for a symposium on the UCB campus titled Programming Life: the revolutionary potential of synthetic biology, co-sponsored by SynBERC and Discover Magazine. Whether we are going to continue down the road of reengineering life was not the question so much as how we will go about that delicate task and what the implications and promises are of such a bold project.
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