TSRI scientists in La Jolla describe flu virus replication

Scientists at The Scripps Research Institute (TSRI) have made an advance in understanding how flu viruses replicate within infected cells. Using advanced molecular biology and electron-microscopy techniques researchers are now able to “see” one of influenza’s essential protein complexes in detail providing a much clearer picture of the flu virus replication machinery. This is welcomed news because studies in this area were previously stalled because of technical obstacles.

Lynne Friedmann

The work focuses on influenza’s ribonucleoprotein (RNP) that contains the virus’ genetic material, plus the special enzyme needs to make virus copies. RNPs are complex assemblies hard to produce in the lab.

The TSRI team developed an expression system that produces all of the protein and RNA components needed to make full-length flu RNPs. This makes possible electron microscope images that provide never-before-seen snapshots of flu RNP replication.  The study also highlights virus vulnerabilities that might prove valuable in designing better flu drugs.

The study appears in Science Express. News release at http://bit.ly/Uwrx89

Algae engineered to make anti-cancer drug

Biologists at UC San Diego have succeeded in genetically engineering algae to produce a complex and expensive human therapeutic drug to treat cancer. The method opens the door for making these and other “designer” proteins in larger quantities and much more cheaply than those produced in bacteria or mammalian cells.

The advance is the culmination of seven years of work to demonstrate that Chlamydomonas reinhardtii, a green alga used widely in biology laboratories as a genetic model organism, can produce a wide range of human therapeutic proteins.

The genetically engineered algae produces a complex, three-dimensional protein with two “domains” — one containing an antibody, which can hone-in and attach to a cancer cell, and another domain containing a toxin that kills the bound cancer cells.

The cost-effective, algae-produced protein is identical to one currently under development by pharmaceutical companies with an estimated cost exceeding $100,000.
Findings appear in The Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. News release at http://bit.ly/X5VTyb

Biomarking time
People age at different rates. Some in their 70s look like they’re in their 50s, while others in their 50s look like they’re in their 70s. However, identifying markers and precisely quantifying the actual rate of aging in individuals has been challenging.

In a new study, researchers at the University of California, San Diego School of Medicine, with colleagues elsewhere, describe markers and a model that quantify how aging occurs at the level of genes and molecules, providing not just a more precise way to determine how old someone is, but also perhaps anticipate or treat ailments and diseases that come with the passage of time.

The study focuses on DNA methylation, a fundamental, life-long process in which a methyl group is added or removed from the cytosine molecule in DNA to promote or suppress gene activity and expression. The researchers measured more than 485,000 methylation markers in blood samples of 656 persons ranging in age from 19 to 101.

Scientists found that an individual’s “methylome” – the entire set of human methylation markers and changes across a whole genome – predictably varies over time, providing a way to determine a person’s actual biological age from just a blood sample.

Findings are published in the journal Molecular Cell. News release at http://bit.ly/Wyg6Rr

—Lynne Friedmann is a science writer based in Solana Beach.

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Posted by Staff on Jan 17, 2013. Filed under Columns, Editorial Columns, Health & Science, News, Research Report. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0. You can skip to the end and leave a response. Pinging is currently not allowed.

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