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Researchers have developed a detailed picture of one of the complex molecular machines inside the nucleus of our cells.

A University of Wisconsin-Madison team of biochemists revealed the workings of a complex of five proteins called the spliceosome. This complex works together to edit out unneeded pieces of genetic code in RNA before it is used as a blueprint to produce proteins. 

To see how the spliceosome assembly works, they grew crystals of a part of it called U6. Among their findings is the complexity of the interactions between subunits of the complex, including one element that dives through a loop in another. 

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Analyzing Medical Records Links Early Traits To Future Disease

by Michael Keller

We’ve all been hearing for years about how a number of technologies are poised to change the nature of medicine. One of those with the biggest promise is centered on the study of genetics, which is revealing the blueprints behind some of our most intractable diseases.  Another, which proponents argue will be a disruptive force to advance preventative medicine, is Big Data—the analysis of massive amounts of information being collected on patients to find clues to detecting and treating disease.

This is not the first article to show that those years of dedication and work by scientists in a number of fields are starting to bear fruits. An article published late last month in the journal Science Translational Medicine reveals some of the latest findings. In it, a team used both genetics and Big Data to link patients’ seemingly unrelated traits with the onset of disease. Their work will one day point doctors to a developing disease before it could have been diagnosed in the past.

“Over the last 10 to 15 years, researchers have been doing lots of genetic studies,” says Dr. Atul Butte, a biomedical informatics researcher and Stanford professor. “These studies are indicating that certain diseases come from certain genes, but also that certain traits can predict a coming disease. Electronic medical records are feeding this, offering more data on patients along with their genome to see what spelling differences in DNA mean.”

Butte and scientists from Mount Sinai School of Medicine, Stanford and Columbia used previous gene research that linked a specific gene variant to a trait, like elevated levels of cholesterol or a certain enzyme, and a disease. They then analyzed electronic medical records to link the early appearance of that trait to a later disease diagnosis. Their effort uncovered five previously unknown associations after combing through as many as 610,000 anonymized patient records per linkage.

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BBC Knowledge and Learning explains the basics of genetics with style. Watch the whole video below.

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Txch This Week: Modeling The Future And DNA’s New Letters


by Norman Rozenberg

This week on Txchnologist, we investigated some of the newest innovations that could completely change the world around us. First, scientists have been able to push stem cells from mouse teeth and grow them into cells functionally similar to neurons. The new cells aren’t neurons yet, but the researchers believe such a technology could improve the prognosis and treatment of stroke.

Meanwhile, Carnegie Mellon University roboticists working in the macroworld developed a new robot dubbed CHIMP for a DARPA competition. CHIMP is being designed to respond to natural and man-made disasters and has highly sophisticated moving parts to perform many manual tasks.

Now for some food for thought. Chirality is a natural phenomenon found in everything from molecules to shells. Chirality is a form of asymmetry that displays “handedness,” like how your left and right hands don’t map to each other exactly. One mathematician has designed a first-of-its-kind spinning top that exhibits chirality.

Models are getting better and better at predicting everything from the Big Bang to weather patterns. Japanese atmospheric scientists have designed a new algorithmic model on a supercomputer which could help predict monsoons and cyclones up to a month in advance.

2051 is still far away but scientists have built a land-use forecast for what the United States will look like. Researchers from several universities and the World Wildlife Fund have put together a study outlining different aspects of 2051 to inform policymakers about decisions and future consequences.

Now we’re bringing you the news and trends we’ve been following this week in the world of science, technology and innovation.

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