Natural Science

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Media Contact:Katherine Unger Baillie | kbaillie@upenn.edu | 215-898-9194August 4, 2015

For Penn’s Timothy Linksvayer, Ants Are a Model of Complex Societies

blurb: 
Timothy Linksvayer is expanding his research into how genetics and behavior allow complex societies, like those of his lab’s pharaoh ants, to survive and thrive. What he finds may shed light on the mechanisms that other organisms, humans included, have evolved to live in large, orderly social groups.

In small plastic tubs lining the shelves of a basement laboratory at the University of Pennsylvania, a million organisms live in complex societies.

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Media Contact:Katherine Unger Baillie | kbaillie@upenn.edu | 215-898-9194July 28, 2015

Penn Vet Study Shows Immune Cells in the Skin Remember and Defend Against Parasites

blurb: 
Now, research led by a team from the University of Pennsylvania School of Veterinary Medicine shows that resident memory T cells form in response to parasite infection. The new study found that, after infection with the parasitic disease leishmaniasis, a population of T cells with a memory for the parasite remained in the skin.

Just as the brain forms memories of familiar faces, the immune system remembers pathogens it has encountered in the past. T cells with these memories circulate in the blood stream looking for sites of new infection.

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Media Contact:Evan Lerner | elerner@upenn.edu | 215-573-6604July 23, 2015

Penn Researchers Discover New Chiral Property of Silicon, With Photonic Applications

By encoding information in photons via their spin, “photonic” computers could be orders of magnitude faster and efficient than their current-day counterparts. Likewise, encoding information in the spin of electrons, rather than just their quantity, could make “spintronic” computers with similar advantages.   

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Media Contact:Katherine Unger Baillie | kbaillie@upenn.edu | 215-898-9194July 15, 2015

Penn Vet Team Shows a Protein Modification Determines Enzyme’s Fate

blurb: 
For the first time, researchers from the University of Pennsylvania School of Veterinary Medicine show how an amino acid tag on a protein has the power to greatly influence the function of an enzyme called PRPS2, which is required for human life and can become hyperactive in cancer.

The human genome encodes roughly 20,000 genes, only a few thousand more than fruit flies. The complexity of the human body, therefore, comes from far more than just the sequence of nucleotides that comprise our DNA, it arises from modifications that occur at the level of gene, RNA and protein.

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Media Contact:Evan Lerner | elerner@upenn.edu | 215-573-6604July 17, 2015

Researchers at Penn Develop Scar-like Culture Systems to Understand and Treat Fibrosis

A scar might be a reminder of an accident or surgery, but the fibrous tissue that makes up a scar also forms after a heart attack and arises in solid tumors as well as in chronic diseases such as liver cirrhosis and muscular dystrophy. Implanted medical devices and materials are similarly surrounded by fibrous capsules that impede their function.  

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Media Contact:Evan Lerner | elerner@upenn.edu | 215-573-6604July 13, 2015

Imagination Institute at Penn Awards Nearly $3M to Develop ‘Imagination Quotient’

The Imagination Institute, based at the University of Pennsylvania’s Positive Psychology Center, has announced nearly $3 million worth of grants to researchers at 16 institutions. The grants are aimed at the development of better ways of assessing and promoting imagination and creativity.

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Media Contact:Katherine Unger Baillie | kbaillie@upenn.edu | 215-898-9194July 8, 2015

Disrupting Cells’ ‘Powerhouses’ Can Lead to Tumor Growth, Penn Study Finds

blurb: 
A study by University of Pennsylvania researchers implicates defects in mitochondria, the energy-production centers of cells, as playing a key role in the transition from normal to cancerous.

Cancer cells defy the rules by which normal cells abide. They can divide without cease, invade distant tissues and consume glucose at abnormal rates.

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Media Contact:Evan Lerner | elerner@upenn.edu | 215-573-6604July 6, 2015

Penn Researchers Answer Question about Nematode Behavior: Nature, Nurture, or Physics?

blurb: 
Nature versus nurture is an age-old question in biology, centering on whether a given trait is determined by an organism’s genes or by its environment. Most times the answer is “both,” but research at the University of Pennsylvania has found one trait in particular that is not easily described by either.

By Sarah Welsh

Nature versus nurture is an age-old question in biology, centering on whether a given trait is determined by an organism’s genes or by its environment. Most times the answer is “both,” but research at the University of Pennsylvania has found one trait in particular that is not easily described by either.

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Media Contact:Katherine Unger Baillie | kbaillie@upenn.edu | 215-898-9194July 6, 2015

Blacklegged Tick Populations Have Expanded Via Migration, Penn Biologists Show

blurb: 
In a new study, biologists from the University of Pennsylvania found that blacklegged ticks moved into new areas of the Northeast from established populations, mainly through short-distance, local moves. The results shed light on patterns of disease spread and could have implications for strategies to control ticks in order to reduce disease.

Lyme disease cases are on the rise, with diagnoses occurring in areas that were historically Lyme-free. Scientists attribute the spread to the fact that populations of blacklegged ticks, which carry the bacteria that causes the disease, now flourish in areas once thought to be devoid of ticks.

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Media Contact:Katherine Unger Baillie | kbaillie@upenn.edu | 215-898-9194 July 1, 2015

Penn Team Identifies Gene Responsible for Some Cases of Male Infertility

blurb: 
Oftentimes men with a type of infertility called azoospermia don’t know the underlying cause of their condition. But new research led by University of Pennsylvania scientists suggests that mutations in an X chromosome gene called TEX11 are responsible for a significant number of cases of infertility — an estimated 1 percent of cases of non-obstructive azoospermia.

In the most severe form of male infertility, men do not make any measurable levels of sperm. This condition, called azoospermia, affects approximately 1 percent of the male population and is responsible for about a sixth of cases of male infertility.