The harmful environmental effects of livestock production are becoming increasingly serious at all levels—local, regional, national and global—and urgently need to be addressed, according to researchers from Stanford University, the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) and other organizations. The researchers, representing five countries, will present their findings on Feb.

Everyone hopes that one day stem cell-based regenerative medicine will help repair diseased tissue. Before then, it may be necessary to decipher the epigenetic signals that give stem cells their unique ability to self-renew and transform them into different cell types.

The hype over epigenetic research is because it opens up the possibility of reprograming cells. By manipulating epigenetic marks, cells can be transformed into other cell types without changing their DNA. It is simply a question of adding or removing the chemical tags involved.

There is an urgent reason to study stem cells: stem cells are at the heart of some, if not all, cancers. Mounting evidence implicates a clutch of rogue stem cells brandishing ‘epigenetic’ marks as the main culprits in cancer. Wiping out tumours for good, some biologists believe, depends on uprooting these wayward stem cells.

Three years ago Mark Kay, MD, PhD, published the first results showing that a biological phenomenon called RNA interference could be an effective gene therapy technique. Since then he has used RNAi gene therapy to effectively shut down the viruses that cause hepatitis and HIV in mice.

When cells become cancerous, they also become 100 times more likely to genetically mutate than regular cells, researchers have found. The findings may explain why cells in a tumor have so many genetic mutations, but could also be bad news for cancer treatments that target a particular gene controlling cancer malignancy.

A mathematical model of disease cycles developed at the University of Michigan shows promise for predicting cholera outbreaks.

Speaking in a symposium titled "New Vistas in the Mathematics of Ecology and Evolution" at the annual meeting of the American Association for the Advancement of Science in San Francisco, theoretical ecologist Mercedes Pascual will discuss how models that she and coworkers have developed can aid short-term forecasting of infectious diseases, such as cholera, and inform decisions about vaccination and other disease-prevention strategies.

Give college students less instruction and more freedom to think for themselves in laboratory classes, and the result may be a four-fold increase in their test scores.

So says Steve Rissing, a professor of evolution, ecology and organismal biology at Ohio State University. Rissing played a major role in revamping the way the university teaches its introductory-level biology courses.

It's the most common bacteria-related sexually transmitted disease in the United States, so researchers at The University of Texas at San Antonio's South Texas Center for Emerging Infectious Diseases (STCEID) and The University of Texas at San Antonio Health Science Center have partnered to discover a vaccine that will prevent Chlamydia.

As evidence mounts that the body's normally protective inflammation response can drive some precancerous tissues to become fully malignant, UCSF scientists report discovering an apparent trigger to this potentially deadly process.

Typically, the "innate" immune system's Pac-Man-like white blood cells, or leukocytes, engulf and destroy invading microbes when receptors on their surface receive a signal from serum in the blood -- often an antibody produced by a B cell in the separately evolved "acquired" immune system.

Hunting for traces of life on Mars calls for two radically different strategies, says Arizona State University professor Jack Farmer. Of the two, he says, with today’s exploration technology we can most easily look for evidence for past life, preserved as fossil "biosignatures" in old rocks.

Farmer is a professor of geological sciences in ASU’s School of Earth and Space Exploration, where he heads the astrobiology program. He is reporting on his work today (Feb. 16) at the annual meeting of the American Association for the Advancement of Science in San Francisco.