The immune system not only responds to infections and other potentially problematic abnormalities in the body, it also contains a built-in brake in the form of regulatory T cells, or Tregs. Tregs ensure that inflammatory responses don’t get out of hand and do damage. In autoimmune diseases, sometimes these Treg cells don’t act as they should.
There is a theory that RNA, instead of DNA, is the original building block of all life. Yet many RNA molecules remain mysterious, their true nature and function little understood.
Big data sets are important tools of modern science. Mining for correlations between millions of pieces of information can reveal vital relationships or predict future outcomes, such as risk factors for a disease or structures of new chemical compounds.
At a rock outcropping in southern France, a jagged fracture runs along the granite. The surface in and around the crevice is discolored black, as if wet or covered in algae.
In small plastic tubs lining the shelves of a basement laboratory at the University of Pennsylvania, a million organisms live in complex societies.
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.
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.
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.
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.