Body

WALNUT CREEK, CA—Genomics is accelerating improvements for converting plant biomass into biofuel—as an alternative to fossil fuel for the nation's transportation needs, reports Eddy Rubin, Director of the U.S. Department of Energy Joint Genome Institute (DOE JGI), in the August 14 edition of the journal Nature. In "Genomics of cellulosic biofuels," Rubin lays out a path forward for how emerging genomic technologies will contribute to a substantially different biofuels future as compared to the present corn-based ethanol industry—and in part mitigate the food-versus-fuel debate.

Scientists at the National Institutes of Health (NIH) have found a mechanism in the immune systems of mice that can lead to the development of autoimmune disease when turned off. The findings shed light on the processes that lead to the development of autoimmunity and could also have implications for the development of drugs to increase the immune response in diseases such as cancer and HIV. The study paper appears online today in the journal Nature.

New Rochelle, NY, August 13, 2008 – A critical component of NASA's Mars exploration program involves bringing planetary samples back to Earth for in-depth analysis, plans for which are detailed in the latest issue of Astrobiology, a peer-reviewed journal published by Mary Ann Liebert, Inc. The report is available free online at www.liebertpub.com/ast

In the first statewide study of extensively drug-resistant tuberculosis (XDR TB) in the United States, California officials have identified 18 cases of the dangerous and difficult-to-treat disease between 1993 and 2006, and 77 cases that were one step away from XDR TB. The study appears in the August 15 issue of Clinical Infectious Diseases, now available online.

"Flesh-eating" or "Strep" bacteria are able to survive and spread in the body by degrading a key immune defense molecule, according to researchers at the University of California, San Diego, School of Medicine and Skaggs School of Pharmacy and Pharmaceutical Sciences. The finding, which could aid in development of new treatments for serious infections in human patients, will be reported in the August 14 issue of the journal Cell Host & Microbe.

The term "sky islands" sounds intriguing, but it may be more lyrical than useful when discussing mammal distributions, according to new research from Eric Waltari of the Sackler Institute of Comparative Genomics at the American Museum of Natural History and Robert Guralnick from the University of Colorado at Boulder. The team used an emerging technique, ecological niche modeling, to show that the populations of small mammals living on mountaintops in the Great Basin—on islands in the sky—are not as isolated as previously thought.

HOUSTON -- Aug. 13, 2008 -- Physicists from Rice and Rutgers universities have published a new theory that explains some of the complex electronic and magnetic properties of iron "pnictides." In a series of startling discoveries this spring, pnictides were shown to superconduct at relatively high temperatures. The surprising discoveries created a great deal of excitement in the condensed matter physics community, which has been scrambling to better understand and document the unexpected results.

SALT LAKE CITY – U.S. and Swiss scientists have made a breakthrough in understanding how a type of white blood cell called the eosinophil may help the body to fight bacterial infections in the digestive tract, according to research published online this week in Nature Medicine.

New research sheds light on the biological events by which stem cells in the bone marrow develop into the broad variety of cells that circulate in the blood. The findings may help improve the success of bone marrow transplants and may lead to better treatments for life-threatening blood diseases.

Water is no passive spectator of biological processes; it is an active participant. Protein folding is thus a self-organized process in which the actions of the solvent play a key role. So far, the emphasis in studies of protein folding processes has been on observation of the protein backbone and its side chains. Researchers led by Martin Gruebele and Martina Havenith have now been able to detect changes in the protein–water network during protein folding in real time.