Research Report: Temperature shifts prime immune responseBy Lynne Friedmann
Researchers at The Scripps Research Institute have found a temperature-sensing protein within immune cells that, when tripped, allows calcium to pour in and activate an immune response. This process can occur as temperature rises, such as during a fever, or when it falls — such as when immune cells are “called” from the body’s warm interior to a site of injury on cooler skin.
The study is the first to find such a sensor in immune cells. The protein, thought to be important in immune function, has now been revealed as a temperature sensor. Findings appear in Nature Chemical Biology. News release at bit.ly/jMpguD.
Biofuels research gets a boost
The California Energy Commission has awarded $2 million to UCSD for research on the use of a variety of new kinds of biofuels to supplement or replace petroleum-based transportation fuels. UCSD is one of the nation’s leaders in developing technologies to turn algae into biofuels. The award is just the latest in a string of multi-million awards secured by the university for algal biofuels research.
To accelerate the pace of biofuels development researchers will — for the first time — apply some of the automated genetic screening techniques used by the pharmaceutical and biomedical industry for drug development to finding strains of algae and other plants with traits that can eventually make economically-competitive biofuels. More information at bit.ly/lTfwnE.
Watching West Coast sea levels
Sea level has been steady on the West Coast of North America the past three decades, but there is evidence that a change in wind patterns may be occurring that could cause coastal sea-level rise to accelerate, according to researchers at Scripps Institution of Oceanography, UCSD.
Global sea level rose during the 20th century at a rate of about two millimeters (0.08 inches) per year. That rate increased by 50 percent during the 1990s to a global rate of three millimeters (0.12 inches) per year, an uptick frequently linked to global warming. Rising sea level has consequences for coastal development, beach erosion, and wetlands inundation when combined with high tides, storm surges, and extreme wave conditions. News release at bit.ly/iJnTvt.
Electrical oscillations and the brain
Biologists at UCSD have discovered that electrical oscillations in the brain, long thought to play a role in organizing cognitive functions such as memory, are critically important for the brain to store the information that allows us to navigate through our physical environment.
Three types of neurons provide an internal GPS system to the brain. One type, called “grid cells,” has been shown to provide grid-like patterns for the brain to store memories of physical dimensions of the external environment. The current study showed that grid cells require precisely timed electrical oscillations in order to function properly. The work has implications for understanding the underlying causes of neurological diseases such as Alzheimer’s disease and for restoring memory in areas of the brain that are necessary for orientation.
The study appears in the journal Science. News release at bit.ly/mmeIhz.
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