DNA origami, originated by Paul Rothemund at the California Institute of Technology, consists of folding long pieces of DNA, the genetic or hereditary material of our cells, into 2- and 3-dimensional structures. This would be similar to folding a thin strip of paper into a complex structure like a paper swan or a paper airplane. DNA is particularly good for molecular-scale origami because the 4 bases of DNA – Adenine, Guanine, Cytosine, and Thymine – pair up to help complementary pieces of DNA hybridize or stick together. With enough sticky pieces of DNA, researchers can create amazing 3-dimensional structures, like the cylindrical 24-helix bundles used by Kuzyk and colleagues to guide the self-assembly of helical nanoparticle structures (see multi-helix DNA origami bundles in image to the right).
Continue to the post to hear about the latest applications of DNA origami.
Small Evolution in a big city
Did you know that evolution works on small time scales and in small areas? GrrlScientist reveals that by using New York City’s newts, coyotes and mice as examples, we have learnt that animals can develop genetic differences, even within urban parks. GrrlScientist looks at research by Jason Munshi-South, an assistant professor in the department of natural sciences at CUNY’s Baruch College, who is looking at the DNA of New York City’s animals:
This video was animated by the TED-Ed Animation Team (Jeremiah Dickey, Biljana Labovic, Celeste Lai, Kari Mulholland and Franz Palomares)
Counting on Copper
Anne Pichon on the Sceptical Chymist blog reminds us about last year’s essay competition. Anne explains that the winning essay on copper, written by Tiberiu Moga, appears in this month’s “in your element” feature:
Copper has been part of our lives pretty much for ever — the Copper Age started around 5,000 BC (give or take a couple of thousand years depending on whether you count the Copper–Stone Age or not), made its way into epic poetry (read the article to find out how it features in the Kalevala) and copper-based materials are still virtually everywhere, from the humble penny to electrical wiring. So what exactly does copper do, apart from giving her copper(II) carbonate-green colour to the Statue of Liberty? Scientifically speaking, lots of things.
Find our more about copper and why we’re still very much in a copper age, in the post.
Bob O’Hara is thinking about ecological networks in his latest post. He explains that one common type is a bipartite network, for example a plant-frugivore network, where members of one group (e.g. frugivores) may interact with members of the other (e.g. plants). Bob explains that analysing this sort of data is difficult, because the current methods are designed for networks where the data is completely known, whereas his data has lots missing. In order to remedy this he has come up with some ideas, written a paper on the subject and composed a handy slideshow which you can view below:
Long-fingered African frog rediscovered after 62 years!
Since its last sighting in 1949, the Bururi long-fingered frog (Cardioglossa cyaneospila) is an unusually shaped creature — the males have a single finger on their feet which is longer than the others. The frog was thought to have become extinct, but herpetologists have managed to rediscover a single specimen in a recent expedition to Burundi reveals Leila Haghighat in the News Blog:
Curator David Blackburn and his colleague Eli Greenbaum of the University of Texas at El Paso set out to this tiny African country to rediscover the amphibians and reptiles first described 60 years ago. The team concluded that habitats have remained more or less intact after identifying populations of new and rare species, including C. cyaneospila.
“In a tremendous stroke of luck, I casually moved aside some grass, and the frog was just sitting there on a log,” said David Blackburn in a press release from the California Academy of Sciences. “I heard multiple calls over the next few nights, indicating a healthy population of the species, but I was only able to find this one specimen.”
You can continue to the post to find out more.
Rebecca Hersher, reporting for the Spoonful of Medicine blog, reveals that the two largest databases of information about cancer cells were launched this week. These databases will help to test new chemotherapy treatments. Rebecca discloses that the new databases, compiled at the Dana Farber Cancer Institute and Massachusetts General Hospital, both in Boston, boast 479 and 507 cancer cell lines, respectively:
“This is going to enable us to realize the vision we have for personalized medicine,” says Levi Garraway, a molecular pharmacologist at the Dana Farber Cancer Institute and senior author of the first paper. And, he says, such extensive cancer cell line data will speed up the preclinical process because in the future it will allow drug companies to predict the effectiveness of experimental compounds, decreasing their reliance on slow and costly animal studies. “If you have robust genetic or molecular indicators, that can be sufficient,” he says. “You don’t necessarily need mouse models.”
Some scientists say cell-line data cannot replace testing in animal models; continue to the post to hear the opposing thoughts.
LinkedIn tips for jobseekers
After attending the American Chemical Society virtual career fair and hearing a talk by social media expert and author Joshua Waldman, NatureJobs’ blogger Rachel Bowden has been sharing advice for jobseekers using the social networking site LinkedIn:
Waldman says it’s safe to assume that potential employers will look you up online and so you should have control over the information presented about you.
To start with, make good use of your LinkedIn headline. This gets attached to your name and photo in every communication that you send within LinkedIn and ”is probably going to be in many cases your first impression”, says Waldman. You can write up to 120 characters so instead of just listing your job title alone, consider crafting a statement that explains what you do and what sets you apart from others who do the same. You can change your headline by clicking on the edit link next to your name in the edit profile section.
If you have any tips, why not share them in the comment thread.
Scitable blogger Khalil A. Cassimally is discussing the latest tool that promises to predict the future. Khalil explains that a huge project called FuturICT Knowledge Accelerator is one of the six projects in the running for a €1 billion funding pledge by the European Commission. If selected, FuturICT Knowledge Accelerator will develop scientific models of global scenarios based on gigantic amounts of data which it plans to gather and analyze. In other words, it will simulate the future based on past and current observations:
The first aspect of FuturICT is to forge a deep understanding of how our societies work. To do so, FuturICT will set up a global network of hubs or “sensors” to gather enormous amounts of data about our social (and physical) world. Data from smart grid power meters, mountaintop weather stations, seafloor sonar beacons, smartphones, online social networks and eventually perhaps from every potential source of data, will be collected and thrown into one system. This system called the Planetary Nervous System will synthesize and analyze all the data collected to develop a high understanding of the intricacies and interconnectedness of our worlds.
What do you think about FuturICT’s goals? Feel free to join in the conversation.
Good news, bad news
Viktor Poór’s cartoon this week has been inspired by one of his colleagues currently developing a new protein purification protocol: