In a fascinating research carried out by Dr. Tetsuro Matsuzawa of the Primate Research Institute at Kyoto University, young chimps have outperformed humans in a memory test. The test was a Concentration-like game using numerals on a computer screen.

The chimps were first trained to recognize the numerals 1 through 9 in sequence, and the first chimp they trained, an adult female named Ai was found with a memory capability equal to that of adult humans. When young chimps were pitted against humans on this memory test, they had about 80% accuracy while humans had a dismal 40% accuracy.

Take that, humans.

Source: NYTimes


I’m back, hopefully…

Okay, I might have been lost for a while, but I think I’m ready to be back to blogging ways. Will try to avoid the mistakes that I made earlier. I had tried to impose a rule on myself earlier to post at least 3 posts per day or something like that. Obviously that didn’t work, and I eventually lost interest. Got a spam comment today that my spam filter wanted me to decide upon (you see, spams are not all that bad after all), and I felt like I wanted to start posting here again. Hope to get interesting news out soon. 🙂


Researchers led by Howard Hughes Medical Institute investigator K. Christopher Garcia have established how the structure of receptors on the surface of T cells enables this dual recognition, a phenomenon known as alloreactivity. Garcia and his colleagues found that T-cell receptors that adeptly recognize foreign or self antigen-displaying molecules can do so using highly divergent structural solutions. The study was published in the journal Cell.

Garcia and his colleagues set out to analyze how the structure of a specific type of T-cell receptor changed depending on whether it was grabbing onto a self or foreign MHC molecule. “These structures, as well as other experiments we did, showed that the T-cell receptor uses a completely different recognition mechanism for the foreign and self MHC-protein complex,” said Garcia. “Instead of recognizing the similarities, it actually recognizes the differences between them. This was a huge surprise, and it has significant implications for understanding the co-evolution of genes for T-cell receptors and for MHC proteins,” he said.

The immune system’s rejection of transplanted organs has been difficult to explain from an evolutionary perspective, according to Garcia. “Transplantation from person to person is not something that human biology could have ever anticipated,” he said. Better understanding of the fundamental underpinnings of the immune system could help in developing new ways to prevent transplant rejection by damping alloreactivity, he said.

Source: HHMI News

Eat Less, Live Longer

Research has shown that reduced calorie intake can increase health and longevity. Professor Stephen Spindler’s group from the University of California have discovered that reducing calorie intake later in life can still induce many of the health and longevity benefits of life-long calorie reduction. This also includes anti-cancer effects. They are using this knowledge to establish a novel screening technique to find drugs which mimic this longevity effect. “Right now, there are no authentic “anti-ageing drugs” capable of extending the lifespan of healthy people. The technique we have developed allows us to screen a relatively large number of drugs in months rather than years. The hope is that these drugs will be able to extend the lifespan of healthy animals, and possibly, after further testing, healthy humans”, says Professor Spindler who presented his results at the Society for Experimental Biology’s Main Meeting in Glasgow.

Previous research has show that mice can live up to 40% longer if they simply consume fewer calories, but a highly nutritious diet. Because people are not very good at dieting, Dr. Spindler and his colleagues would like to identify drugs which can produce the same beneficial health and longevity effects without the low calorie diet.

Physiological changes associated with ageing include cell damage and the emergence of cancer cells. The most important effects of low calorie diets and longevity therapeutics given late in life may not be to prevent this damage, but instead to stimulate the body to eliminate damaged cells that may become cancerous, and to stimulate repair in damaged cells like neurons and heart cells. Low calorie diets drive the body to replace and repair damaged cells.

Source: Medical News Today

Scientists from US and UK have determined how a plant hormone interacts with its hormone receptor. This discovery will advance cancer research. The scientists from Indiana University-Bloomington, the University of Washington School of Medicine, and the University of Cambridge determined how the plant hormone auxin interacts with its hormone receptor, called TIR1. The research will be published in journal Nature.

The scientists said that their findings might have important implications for the treatment of human disease, because TIR1 is similar to human enzymes that are known to be involved in cancer. “Learning that auxin regulates TIR1 is a huge advance for plant biology that will probably have important implications for agriculture in the future,” said Indiana University plant biologist Mark Estelle. “It’s a bonus for us that TIR1 is related to proteins in other organisms, including humans.”

Until now it was believed enzymes such as TIR1, called ubiquitin ligases, could only be controlled through protein-protein interactions. Ubiquitin ligases influence growth and light response in plants, poison mitigation in yeasts and also cancerous cell division in humans.

Source: Playfuls

UK Hybrid Ban Opposed

In the UK, an unprecedented number of medical research charities join politicians and scientists calling for the use of enucleated animal eggs in human stem cell research. British politicians and more than two hundred medical research charities and patient groups united on April 5th to support British scientists in opposition to a government plan that could forbid the use of enucleated animal eggs to produce human stem cells for research.

The House of Commons Science and Technology Select Committee published a report criticizing the proposed ban, which could be included in upcoming draft legislation in May. “Our report is really quite explicit that the research into cytoplasmic hybrid embryos should go ahead now … and that the proposed legislation that comes into the House in May should be permissive,” the Committee chair Phil Willis said.

A coalition of 223 research charities and patient groups, also added their voices to the debate, sending a letter to Prime Minister Tony Blair saying that the research was needed to overcome a shortage of human eggs for medical research. The letter described the research as “a vital avenue of inquiry which could greatly increase our understanding of serious medical conditions and ultimately lead to new treatments.”

The government’s view on the issue first came to light in December when public health minister Caroline Flint released a “White Paper” policy document which recommended that the human-animal hybrids and chimeras be banned when the Human Fertilization and Embryology Act (HFEA) is updated in 2008. That document prompted a letter to the Times newspaper in January, signed by 45 scientists, academics and politicians.

Source: TheScientist

According to a study a new regulating messenger IP4, a small soluble molecule, was found to augment the binding of three different PH domain proteins to one of the most commonly recognized membrane lipids, PIP3. The study also showed that inhibiting production of IP4 can result in reduced protein binding to membranes and reduced activation of key signaling molecules in developing T cells, leading to a block of T cell maturation and to severe immunodeficiency in animal models. The study will be published in the journal Science.

“This study changes how we think about the T cell receptor signaling process and a well established general signaling mechanism, protein recruitment to membranes through PH domains,” said Karsten Sauer, a Scripps Research scientist who led the study. “For the first time, we have clearly established a new way through which the PH domain can be positively regulated in vivo-IP4 augments the binding of PIP3 to these domains. In fact, it resembles PIP3. Until our study, the widely accepted idea was that recruitment of PIP3 binding PH domains to the membrane was primarily regulated by the supply and turnover of PIP3. The second completely new finding is that PH domain proteins can form aggregates through their PH domains. PH domain aggregation may enhance the membrane binding process.”

Sauer suggests models for how IP4 might augment the binding of PIP3. In one, IP4 binds to a PH domain, changing its structure to one with a high affinity for IP4 and PIP3, a process commonly known as the “induced fit” model. In the second model, the PH domain pre-exists as an aggregate; IP4 binding to one subunit forces changes in the other subunit(s) so that they bind PIP3 with greater ease. This process is commonly known as an allosteric or cooperative mechanism.

Source: EurekAlert