Mechanism for cholera’s deadly effects revealed

UC San Diego biologists have identified an underlying biochemical mechanism that helps make cholera toxin so deadly, often resulting in life-threatening diarrhea that causes people to lose as much as half of their body fluids in a single day.

Two groups of scientists, working on fruit flies, mice and cultured human intestinal cells, discovered the cholera toxin exerts some of its devastating effects by reducing the delivery of proteins to molecular junctions that normally act like Velcro to hold intestinal cells together like a tight sheet in the outer lining of the gut. A consequence of these weakened cell junctions is that sodium ions and water can escape between cells and empty into the gut.

The scientists also showed that many of the effects of the cholera toxin on the gut could be reversed by genetic manipulations that bolster the delivery of proteins to these junctions. This could guide the development of new therapies against the deadly disease, which threatens millions of people world wide who live in areas with poor sanitation, with water supplies frequently contaminated by the cholera bacterium.

—Findings are published in the journal Cell Host & Microbe. News release at

Touch goes digital

Researchers at the UC San Diego’s Jacobs School of Engineering and Qualcomm Institute have developed technology that could pave the way for digital systems to record, store, edit, and replay information related to touch.

Except for touch-screen displays, touch was bypassed by the digital revolution because it seemed too difficult to replicate what human touch can produce. One of the critical challenges in developing touch systems is that the sensation is not one thing. It can involve the feeling of physical contact, force or pressure, hot and cold, texture and deformation, moisture or dryness, and pain or itching.

Researchers reported the electronic recording of touch contact and pressure using a pressure sensor array made of transparent zinc-oxide, thin-film transistors. A companion tactile feedback display achieved the desired force and level of displacement to replicate the recorded touch.

In addition to enhancing communication, touch signals could have far-reaching implications for uses in health and medicine, education, social networking, e-commerce, robotics, gaming, and military applications.

—The new technology is detailed in Scientific Reports (Nature Publishing Group).  News release at

Study to track San Diego’s top trophy fish

Researchers with Scripps Institution of Oceanography (SIO) at UC San Diego are starting a study on one of the most popular trophy fish off San Diego, the California yellowtail – so-named for its distinctive yellow tail – with the goal of better fisheries management.  Tagging and tracking of the species is aimed at learning how far these animals travel along the coast, whether there is a resident year-round population in San Diego waters, the amount of mixing between different populations, and do these fish successfully spawn locally.

There has been little basic research on the species’ life history characteristics off California since 1960, when the last comprehensive peer-reviewed study was published.

This is a collaborative project between scientists and the local sport-fishing industry. In addition to researchers going out with anglers on charter boats to tag fish, month-long tag-and-release tournaments – one this winter and one in the summer of 2014 – will be held to engage the community in research and to encourage fisherman to report recaptured tags on caught fish.

California Sea Grant at SIO is administering this research project on behalf of Collaborative Fisheries Research West, which provided the grant funding.

—More information at

Lynne Friedmann is a science writer based in Solana Beach.

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Posted by Staff on Sep 19, 2013. Filed under Columns, Editorial Columns, 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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