"Stanford Team Develops Enzymes for Improved In Vivo Proximity Labeling"

September 5, 2018

Article Published on GenomeWeb

Related to:
Branon TC, Bosch JA, Sanchez AD, Udeshi ND, Svinkina T, Carr SA, et al. Efficient proximity labeling in living cells and organisms with TurboID. Nat Biotechnol. 2018;

NEW YORK (GenomeWeb) – A team led by researchers at Stanford University has developed two enzymes that could help improve proximity labeling of proteins in living organisms.

Described in a study published last month in Nature Biotechnology, the enzymes, called TurboID and miniTurbo, allow for rapid proximity labeling without the use of toxic reagents like hydrogen peroxide. Those reagents have limited the use of some proximity labeling approaches in living samples, said Tess Branon, first author on the paper and a graduate student in the lab of Stanford researcher Alice Ting, the study's senior author and an expert in the development of proximity labeling approaches.... Read more about "Stanford Team Develops Enzymes for Improved In Vivo Proximity Labeling"


"Consider the Fruit Fly"

February 27, 2018

Article published in The Atlantic

Modern genetics would not be possible without the humble fruit fly.

In college, I worked briefly in a fruit-fly lab, where I spent most of my time just keeping different fly strains alive. It was not difficult—as anyone with a fruit-fly infestation can tell you—but the repetitive work imprinted itself on my brain. Even today, the way my slightly chubby white cat scrunches when he walks resembles nothing more to me than a third instar fly larva, swollen and ready to metamorphose.

This is to say that I came to First in Fly, a new book about fruit-fly research, with perhaps some special interest. In fact, a popular appreciation of fruit flies has seemed long overdue to me. No single animal has contributed as much to the field of genetics as the ordinary and ubiquitous Drosophila melanogaster

These tiny, winged, exoskeleton-ed creatures—so different from us in appearance—have led to research illuminating a surprising amount about the human body: The genes that tell a fruit fly where to sprout its legs are quite similar to the ones that tell our bodies where to sprout limbs. As are the genes that form the pattern of fine hairs on a fly’s wing and the ones that orientate the tiny hairs in our ears. As are the genes that govern a fruit fly’s circadian rhythm and the ones that give us jet lag. And so on. Research into Drosophila has resulted in at least five Nobel Prizes.

First in Fly by Stephanie Elizabeth Mohr is a thorough chronicle of the contributions of these creatures to science over the past century. Mohr herself is a fly scientist at Harvard Medical School, and she knows intimately the life of a “fly pusher.” (The name comes from the act of pushing flies around under a microscope.) She can at times drift too far into molecular biology for a lay reader, but her book is at its best when it conveys both the ingenuity and sheer labor necessary to coax biological secrets out of Drosophila. If you’ve ever looked at a fly and wondered what it could possibly tell you about the workings of the human body, well, it’s not easy for scientists either.... Read more about "Consider the Fruit Fly"


"A gut feeling for cellular fate"

February 7, 2018

Article published on

A population of progenitor cells in the midgut of fruit flies undergoes differentiation in response to mechanical force. This finding marks the first time that such a phenomenon has been reported in vivo

Over the past decade, advances in bioengineering have led to a new-found appreciation of the effects of mechanical force on stem cells. Micrometre-scale culture systems that can subject cells to highly specific physical deformations have allowed researchers to demonstrate that force can modulate stem-cell behaviours, and even prime stem cells for therapeutic transplantation1,2. However, even the most advanced culture systems merely approximate the complex and dynamic forces that stem cells experience in their native tissues. In a paper in Nature, He et al.3 combine sophisticated genetic approaches and innovative physical manipulations to investigate the role of force on stem cells in vivo. They make the striking discovery that mechanical force drives the differentiation of a specialized population of progenitor cells in the midgut of adult fruit flies (Drosophila melanogaster).... Read more about "A gut feeling for cellular fate"


"Fruit fly study IDs missing links in fat-signaling system"

October 9, 2017

Hormone alerts brain to fat-storage status, but its packaging system goes awry in obesity.

If you’re one of the millions of Americans who’s ever tried to lose weight, you’ve probably heard the old dieting chestnut, “calories in, calories out.”

Calorie restriction does, on the whole, lead to weight loss. But nutrition and energy researchers might rephrase that axiom to more accurately read: “Calories in (a bunch of stuff happens in the body and the brain that influences) calories out.”

new study published Monday in the journal Developmental Cell uncovers several steps of that complex internal communication system — in fruit flies. 

Yes, fruit flies have fat too. Just not very much.

There’s reason to believe these newly discovered molecular pieces of the obesity puzzle could be important in humans, said Dr. Akhila Rajan, a basic scientist at Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center and lead author of the study.

In a previous study conducted at Harvard Medical School, where she completed her postdoctoral fellowship, Rajan and colleagues found that a hormone — leptin — which travels from fat to brain exists in both humans and fruit flies. In fact, the human version of leptin can sub in for the insect version of the hormone in genetically engineered flies.

In obese people, something goes awry with leptin, which acts as a readout of the body’s fat-storage levels. The hormone’s packaging system changes, but it’s not clear exactly where that dysfunction arises. If those details were worked out, it’s possible that fixing leptin’s packaging could be a new therapeutic avenue to battle obesity, Rajan said.

The other pieces of the signaling chain that the researchers identified in their latest study are also largely the same in fruit flies and people. These new pieces include a protein that shuttles the fly leptin across the border of fat cells. Rajan, Harvard developmental biologist Dr. Norbert Perrimon and their colleagues also found that high levels of calcium, triggered during starvation, block leptin’s migration.... Read more about "Fruit fly study IDs missing links in fat-signaling system"


"Compiling big data in a human-centric way"

May 11, 2017

Article from EurekAlert!.com

HOUSTON - (May 11, 2017) - When a group of researchers in the Undiagnosed Disease Network at Baylor College of Medicine realized they were spending days combing through databases searching for information regarding gene variants, they decided to do something about it. By creating MARRVEL (Model organism Aggregated Resources for Rare Variant ExpLoration) they are now able to help not only their own lab but also researchers everywhere search databases all at once and in a matter of minutes.

This collaborative effort among Baylor, the Jan and Dan Duncan Neurological Research Institute at Texas Children's Hospital and Harvard Medical School is described in the latest online edition of the American Journal of Human Genetics.... Read more about "Compiling big data in a human-centric way"


"The Yin to Insulin’s Yang"

March 3, 2017 ancient Chinese philosophy of Taoism emphasizes a harmony of opposing forces. Light counterbalances darkness. Action counterbalances inaction.

Similarly, blood-sugar raising hormones such as glucagon counterbalance the blood- sugar lowering hormone insulin. Disrupting this delicate equilibrium can lead to diabetes, a disease that affects about 29 million people in the U.S. and costs an estimated $245 billion each year.

Focused mainly on insulin, diabetes researchers haven’t yet fully explored the contributions of its opposing hormones, says Wei Roc Song, a postdoctoral researcher at Harvard Medical School, and that may leave out a significant part of the picture.... Read more about "The Yin to Insulin’s Yang"