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Our Blood

Blood Components

Our blood is a fluid that is also a type of connective tissue. It is composed of blood cells and an aqueous fluid known as plasma. Two major functions of blood include transporting substances to and from our cells and providing immunity and protection against infectious agents. The major components of blood include plasma, red blood cells, white blood cells, and platelets.The image above shows three blood cell types: an activated platelet between a red blood cell (left) and a white blood cell (right).  

Blood Cells
Biology Spotlight10

Cancer Cell Gene Activity

Friday April 18, 2014

This shows dividing human cancer cells as visualized by fluorescence microscopy.
Image: Aki Endo (Lamond Lab)

Researchers have used fluorescence microscopy to visually demonstrate gene activity in cancer cells during the cell cycle. Cancer cells divide uncontrollably and may develop as a result of several factors, including recombination errors that occur during the cell cycle and infections from certain cancer viruses.

According to head researcher Angus Lamond, "What we have been able to produce is a detailed analysis of protein activity in human cancer cells that exceeds what was previously possible. Previously it has been possible to capture a time-averaged snapshot of this activity, but what we can now do is give a much fuller picture." The researchers state that this new high-resolution mapping of gene expression will provide valuable insight into protein production in cancer cells. Information gained from the detailed study of cancer cell protein activity could lead to the development of better cancer drugs.

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Preventing Flu Virus Replication

Thursday April 17, 2014

Influenza Virus Particles
Image: CDC/Frederick Murphy

With influenza viruses developing resistance to current antiviral drugs, it is increasingly important that new antiviral drugs be developed. University of Texas at Austin researchers have identified a protein in influenza A viruses that could be a potential target for new antiviral drugs. When viruses infect cells, they use the host's own genetic machinery to make more virus particles. The body responds with its own antiviral protein DDX21, which blocks the viral replication process. The influenza A virus then counters with the viral protein NS1, which blocks DDX21 and allows viral replication to continue.

Robert Krug, an author on the study states, "If you could figure out how to stop NS1 from binding to DDX21, you could stop the virus cold." The researchers found that DDX21 binds to a viral protein called PB1, which is needed for replication. When the viral protein NS1 blocks DDX21, PB1 is then free to promote viral replication. Potentially, antiviral drugs that target NS1 could be developed to prevent flu virus replication.

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Regenerating Living Organs

Thursday April 10, 2014

University of Edinburgh researchers have accomplished something that has not been done before. They have successfully regenerated a living organ: the thymus. The thymus is a small glandular organ that produces specific immune cells called lymphocytes. The thymus normally deteriorates and shrinks with age. In the study, the researchers were able to reactivate the thymus in mice by increasing the levels of a specific protein. The protein, FOXN1, induced certain cells to rebuild the thymus.

According to researcher Dr. Rob Buckle, "This interesting study suggests that organ regeneration in a mammal can be directed by manipulation of a single protein, which is likely to have broad implications for other areas of regenerative biology." The researchers are hopeful that information gained from this study could be used to develop new treatments for individuals with dysfunctional immune systems.

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Invention of the 'Mini Heart'

Monday April 7, 2014

Human Heart
Image: Dream Designs FreeDigitalPhotos.net

George Washington University researchers have invented a new organ that aids in blood circulation. This organ functions as a 'mini heart' by helping blood to flow in veins with non-functioning valves. The 'mini heart' is a cuff of cardiac muscle cells that is able to contract to help pump blood through the venous portion of the cardiovascular system.

According to researcher Narine Sarvazyan, "We are suggesting, for the first time, to use stem cells to create, rather than just repair damaged organs. We can make a new heart outside of one's own heart, and by placing it in the lower extremities, significantly improve venous blood flow." The ability to create a new organ from a person's own adult stem cells represents an advancement in tissue engineering technology.

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