Study revealing the secret behind a key cellular process refutes biology textbooks

A hairpin loop from a pre-mRNA. Highlighted are the nucleobases (green) and the ribose-phosphate backbone (blue). Note that this is a single strand of RNA that folds back upon itself. Credit: Vossman/ Wikipedia

New research has identified and described a cellular process that, despite what textbooks say, has remained elusive to scientists until now—precisely how the copying of genetic material that, once started, is properly turned off.

The finding concerns a key process essential to life: the transcription phase of gene expression, which enables cells to live and do their jobs.

During transcription, an enzyme called RNA polymerase wraps itself around the double helix of DNA, using one strand to match nucleotides to make a copy of genetic material—resulting in a newly synthesized strand of RNA that breaks off when transcription is complete. That RNA enables production of proteins, which are essential to all life and perform most of the

Read More

16-year-old cosmic mystery solved, revealing stellar missing link — ScienceDaily

In 2004, scientists with NASA’s space-based Galaxy Evolution Explorer (GALEX) spotted an object unlike any they’d seen before in our Milky Way galaxy: a large, faint blob of gas with a star at its center. Though it doesn’t actually emit light visible to the human eye, GALEX captured the blob in ultraviolet (UV) light and thus appeared blue in the images; subsequent observations also revealed a thick ring structure within it. So the team nicknamed it the Blue Ring Nebula. Over the next 16 years, they studied it with multiple Earth- and space-based telescopes, including W. M. Keck Observatory on Maunakea in Hawaii, but the more they learned, the more mysterious it seemed.

A new study published online on Nov. 18 in the journal Nature may have cracked the case. By applying cutting-edge theoretical models to the slew of data that has been collected on this object, the authors posit

Read More

The Pandemic Is Revealing a New Form of National Power

When the coronavirus arrived, as the historian Sulmaan Khan has observed, it “didn’t care how many aircraft carriers you had or how many Confucius Institutes you could stick up around the world or what size your economy was. The virus asked simply how your least wealthy people would be treated in times of illness. How effectively you could trace the contacts of those it afflicted. How swiftly your medical system could cope with unexpected demands. It wouldn’t spare you completely, of course, but if you could meet it with a dull, technocratic honesty, it would be easier to survive.”

The need for governments and societies to be resilient in order to thrive is not new. The political scientist Joseph Nye, who coined the term soft power, pointed, for example, to how the United States overcame the ravages of the Great Depression

Read More

Researchers light-up mouse brain, revealing previously hidden areas susceptible to opioids — ScienceDaily

Winding and twisting like a labyrinth, the brain consists of an elaborate network of passages through which information flows at high speeds, rapidly generating thoughts, emotions, and physical responses. Much of this information is relayed by chemical messengers, or neurotransmitters — like dopamine and serotonin.

Although fine-tuned and evolved for complex processing, the brain and its neurotransmitters are vulnerable to hijacking by chemical substances, including opioid drugs such as oxycodone, psychostimulants such as cocaine, and alcohol. Chronic use of any of these substances enhances the activity of a molecule known as the kappa opioid receptor (KOR), which is active in the brain’s reward circuitry. KOR activation produces dysphoria and an inability to feel pleasure. Its enhanced activity following chronic drug or alcohol use plays a crucial role in substance abuse.

KORs have been known to exist in certain brain regions, particularly those involved in pain processing, reward, and stress responses,

Read More

How AI technology is revealing the hidden world of bats

bat-flying.Hugh Clark/Bat Conservation Trust/PA

How do you monitor more than a million bats in England? – these conservationists have found the answer!

Forestry England and the Bat Conservation Trust have been using artificial intelligence (AI) to help them identify more than 1.7 million bat calls last summer.

They used something called an “Audiomoth” sensor, which they say has been a game changer for their research, as its high-tech skills and low cost meant that large numbers of them could be left in the woods to record bat calls all night.

The conservationists say the technology has helped them to monitor rare woodland bat numbers in England, and now they can protect them in the future.

bat-sitting-on-a-log.Hugh Clark/Bat Conservation Trust/PA

The AI technology was developed by researchers at University College London, who analysed data from the sensors to help them identify 1.7 million bat calls, belonging to eight different species: the

Read More