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New Graphene-Based System Could Help Us ‘See’ Electrical Signaling in Heart and Nerve Cells

Image - This diagram shows the setup for an imaging method that mapped electrical signals using a sheet of graphene and an infrared laser. The laser was fired through a prism (lower left) onto a sheet of graphene. An electrode was used to send tiny electrical signals into a liquid solution (in cylinder atop the graphene), and a camera (lower right) was used to capture images mapping out these electrical signals. (Credit: Halleh Balch and Jason Horng/Berkeley Lab and UC Berkeley)

Scientists have enlisted the exotic properties of graphene to function like the film of an incredibly sensitive camera system in visually mapping tiny electric fields. They hope to enlist the new method to image electrical signaling networks in our hearts and brains.

3-D Imaging Technique Maps Migration of DNA-carrying Material at the Center of Cells

Image - This image shows the skeletonized structure of heterochromatin (red represents a thin region while white represents a thick region), a tightly packed form of DNA, surrounding another form of DNA-carrying material known as euchromatin (dark blue represents a thin region and yellow represent the thickest) in a mouse’s mature nerve cell. (Credit: Berkeley Lab, UCSF)

Scientists have produced detailed 3-D visualizations that show an unexpected connectivity in the genetic material at the center of cells, providing a new understanding of a cell’s evolving architecture.

Gatekeeping Proteins to Aberrant RNA: You Shall Not Pass

Schematic of a gateway in the nuclear membrane, known as the nuclear pore complex (NPC), and the proteins (shown as spheres) involved in transport and quality control of mRNAs (shown in red). A combination of a multitude of protein-protein interactions enables the cell to distinguish and keep aberrant mRNAs from exiting the nucleus. (Credit: Mohammad Soheilypour/Berkeley Lab)

Berkeley Lab researchers found that aberrant strands of genetic code have telltale signs that enable gateway proteins to recognize and block them from exiting the nucleus. Their findings shed light on a complex system of cell regulation that acts as a form of quality control for the transport of genetic information. A more complete picture of how genetic information gets expressed in cells is important in disease research.

New Form of Electron-beam Imaging Can See Elements that are ‘Invisible’ to Common Methods

At right, this colorized image produced by a Berkeley Lab-developed electron imaging technique called STEM shows details of nanoscale gold particles and also a carbon film (blue). At left, an colorized image from a more conventional electron-based technique called ADF-STEM is mostly blind to the carbon material. (Colin Ophus/Berkeley Lab)

A new Berkeley Lab-developed electron-beam imaging technique, tested on samples of nanoscale gold and carbon, greatly improves images of light elements. The technique can reveal structural details for materials that would be overlooked by some traditional methods.

Scientists Take Key Step Toward Custom-made Nanoscale Chemical Factories

The shell of a bacterial microcompartment (or BMC) is mainly composed of hexagonal proteins, with pentagonal proteins capping the vertices, similar to a soccer ball (left). Scientists have engineered one of these hexagonal proteins, normally devoid of any metal center, to bind an iron-sulfur cluster (orange and yellow sticks, upper right). This cluster can serve as an electron relay to transfer electrons across the shell. Introducing this new functionality in the shell of a BMC greatly expands their possibilities as custom-made bio-nanoreactors. (Credit: Clément Aussignargues/MSU, Cheryl Kerfeld and Markus Sutter/Berkeley Lab)

Scientists have for the first time reengineered a building block of a geometric nanocompartment that occurs naturally in bacteria. The new design provides an entirely new functionality that greatly expands the potential for these compartments to serve as custom-made chemical factories.

New Weapon in the Fight Against Breast Cancer

184AA3, a xenograft model of ER+ breast adenocarcinoma, is the first clinically-relevant mouse model to generate tumors that bear a striking resemblance to the class of tumors found in the vast majority of women with breast cancer.

Berkeley Lab researchers have developed the first clinically-relevant mouse model of human breast cancer to successfully express functional estrogen receptor positive adenocarcinomas.
This model should be a powerful tool for testing therapies for aggressive ER+ breast cancers and for studying luminal cancers — the most prevalent and deadliest forms of breast cancer.

Nanocarriers May Carry New Hope for Brain Cancer Therapy:

3HM nanocarriers for brain cancer therapy

Berkeley Lab researchers have developed a new family of nanocarriers, called “3HM,” that meets all the size and stability requirements for effectively delivering therapeutic drugs to the brain for the treatment of a deadly form of cancer known as glioblastoma multiforme.

CinderBio Harnesses Extreme Microbes for Greener Industry

(from left) Steve Yannone, Jill Fuss and Adam Barnebey (Photo: Roy Kaltschmidt/Berkeley Lab)

It’s no secret that extremophiles, or microbes that live in places like polar glaciers and toxic waste pools, may hold treasures worth billions. Now basic biology research has led to the formation of CinderBio, a startup co-founded by Berkeley Lab scientists Steve Yannone and Jill Fuss that produces heat- and acid-stable enzymes.

It Takes a Thief

The overall architecture of Cas1–Cas2 bound to protospacer DNA with line segments that indicate DNA lengths spanning a total of 33 nucleotides.

The discovery by Berkeley Lab researchers of the structural basis by which bacteria are able to capture genetic information from viruses and other foreign invaders for use in their own immunological system holds promise for studying or correcting problems in human genomes.

Cellular Contamination Pathway for Plutonium, Other Heavy Elements, Identified

From left to right, Rebecca Abergel, Stacey Gauny, Manuel Struzbecher-Hoehne, and Dahlia An. (Photo by Roy Kaltschmidt/Berkeley Lab)

Scientists at Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory have reported a major advance in understanding the biological chemistry of radioactive metals, opening up new avenues of research into strategies for remedial action in the event of possible human exposure to nuclear contaminants.