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Morality: Evolution’s Winning Gambit

The evolutionary and neurobiological investigations of morality are only just beginning, but they are already shedding light on the contexts that must have shaped our capacity and propensity for moral judgment and behavior, and on the circuitry that generates our sense of right and wrong and compels us to act accordingly. We are slowly building … Continue reading

Morality: A Sexually Dimorphic Domain?

Gender-based phenotypic differences are hotly debated in every domain in which they are proposed to exist, and perhaps in no context more so than the brain. Gender differences in moral processing has been a topic more of theoretical psychology than experimental, with little correlation between the findings of the few experiments conducted and the many … Continue reading

Article Review: Synthetic Genomics

In “Creation of a Bacterial Cell Controlled by a Chemically Synthesized Genome”, Venter et al. report the first successful design, synthesis, assembly, and transplantation of an artificial genome into a host cell. The bacterial host subsequently underwent phenotypic transformation, resulting in the first engineered species created from a synthetic genome. Continue reading

Novel murine model of regenerative capacity of in vitro-differentiated, iPSC-derived hepatocytes

The recent development of pluripotence induction in somatic cell lines raised the possibility of organ regeneration from a patient’s own cells. But until our lab’s research, it wasn’t known whether these induced pluripotent stem cells (iPSC) could fully restore vital organ function. We demonstrated that iPSC-derived differentiated hepatocytes possess the functional and proliferative capacities required for complete liver regeneration in a murine model of fumarylacetoacetate hydrolase (FAH) deficiency. However, because we transplanted fibroblast-derived iPSCs into strain-matched blastocysts, our model relied exclusively on iPSC differentiation in vivo during embryonic development, where exposure to developmental signaling may have contributed significantly to their functional capacities. Continue reading

TGF-β: A Survey of Signaling in Health and Disease

Transforming Growth Factor Beta (TGF-β) constitutes a superfamily of cytokines – a class of intercellular signaling molecules in some ways similar to hormones – deployed across the animal kingdom by most cell types to facilitate cellular communication. During the 1970s, in the midst of a broad attempt to identify proteins involved in tumorigenesis – what was at the time described as “transformation” and defined as in vitro anchorage-independent growth (1) – TGF-β was identified as one of two polypeptides, along with TGF-α, responsible for inducing rat kidney fibroblast culture growth in soft agar conditions (4). Continue reading

Proterometra Macrostoma Research

The furcocystocercous cercariae of the digenetic trematode, Proterometra macrostoma, possess a tail chamber into which its distome body withdraws prior to emergence from its snail intermediate host. The process of distome retraction and the conditions that trigger it in this species are not clear. The objectives of the present study were (1) to describe the retraction process in P. macrostoma; (2) to assess whether osmolality affects cercarial retraction; (3) to evaluate the effect of selected ions on retraction; and (4) to compare the swimming effectiveness of naturally (5 in vivo) retracted versus in vitro retracted cercariae. Retraction of the cercaria body into its tail chamber required only 2 min or less once initiated. Continue reading