Archive for September 5th, 2011

September 5, 2011

Alien Life More Likely on ‘Dune’ Planets

Alien Life More Likely on ‘Dune’ Planets – Astrobiology Magazine

Desert planets strikingly like the world depicted in the science fiction classic “Dune” might be the more common type of habitable planet in the galaxy, rather than watery planets such as Earth, researchers suggest.

Their findings also hint that Venus might have been a habitable desert world as recently as 1 billion years ago.

Nearly everywhere there is water on Earth, there is life. As such, the search for life elsewhere in the universe has largely focused on “aqua planets” with a lot of liquid water on their surfaces — either terrestrial planets largely covered with oceans, such as Earth, or theoretical “ocean planets” completely covered by a layer of water hundreds of miles deep, somewhat like thawed versions of Jupiter’s moon Ganymede.

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September 5, 2011

New roles emerge for non-coding RNAs in directing embryonic development

Traditionally, the roles of only a few types of RNA have been understood for the significant part they play in cell biology. The short list includes messenger RNA, transfer RNA, and ribosomal RNA. More recently, other types have been added: mircroRNA, small interfering RNA, and antisense RNA.

But that hardly exhausts the list. A more recently discovered type of RNA is large, intergenic non-coding RNA (lincRNA), a particular subtype of long non-coding RNA. LincRNA are so-named because they are not derived from gene-coding DNA, but instead from stretches of DNA lying between genes. New research suggests that an important function of some lincRNAs is to regulate the development of embryonic stem cells in the earliest stages of embryo develpment.

New roles emerge for non-coding RNAs in directing embryonic development – Broad Institute of MIT and Harvard

Scientists at the Broad Institute of MIT and Harvard have discovered that a mysterious class of large RNAs plays a central role in embryonic development, contrary to the dogma that proteins alone are the master regulators of this process. The research, published online August 28 in the journal Nature, reveals that these RNAs orchestrate the fate of embryonic stem (ES) cells by keeping them in their fledgling state or directing them along the path to cell specialization.

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September 5, 2011

New Map Shows Where Tastes are Coded in the Brain: How Does the Brain Know What the Tongue Knows?

New Map Shows Where Tastes are Coded in the Brain: How Does the Brain Know What the Tongue Knows? – HHMI News

Each taste, from sweet to salty, is sensed by a unique set of neurons in the brains of mice, new research reveals. The findings demonstrate that neurons that respond to specific tastes are arranged discretely in what the scientists call a “gustotopic map.” This is the first map that shows how taste is represented in the mammalian brain.