Leaks from the Lab: Sept. 3

Yale researchers link estrogen to improved memory capacity

Scientists from the Yale School of Medicine recently discovered a molecular mechanism by which estrogen improves memory for women. While other recent studies have shown that hormone therapy has little or no benefit in preventing memory loss or dementia among older women, the Yale report uncovers a mechanism in the brain by which estrogen enhances memory in mice. If the findings hold true for people, it could lead to advanced therapies that benefit memory for aging women.

Tiny cilia in mammal brain cells stimulate neurogenesis

The tiny cellular antennae found on brain cells of mammals, previously thought to be remnants of a distant evolutionary past, have been discovered as important structures in the creation of neurons in the area of the brain responsible for mood, learning and memory. The findings were published last month in the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Science.

Yale professor wins award for computer science research

Daniel Spielman, professor of applied mathematics and computer science at Yale, received the Gödel Prize for developing a technique, known as Smoothed Analysis, that helps predict the success of problem-solving with real data and computers. The award, which included a $5,000 honorarium, recognizes outstanding papers in theoretical computer science.

Research helps shed light on cellular mystery

Two Yale researchers used X-ray crystallography to capture

images of vesicles — tiny membrane-bound compartments within human cells that deliver biomolecules from place to place. These vesicles remain a major mystery in cellular biology for scientists, who do not as of yet understand how they form, move or fuse together to perform their shepherding function. The X-rays allow Yale scientists to visualize a key step in this process.

“Cosmic ghost” discovered by volunteer Galaxy Zoo astronomer

Under the supervision of Yale astrophysicist Kevin Schawinski, a volunteer astronomer in the Galaxy Zoo project accidentally discovered a strange, gaseous object with a hole in the center which some scientists are calling a “cosmic ghost.” This “ghost” is now believed to be part of a completely new class of astronomical object.

Undergrad scientists uncover diversity in Amazon

A group of Yale undergraduates from the Rain Forest Expedition and Laboratory course discovered a number of potentially beneficial microorgranisms within plants they collected in the Amazon rainforest. The students analyzed 135 endophytes — fungal and bacterial microorganisms living within the inner tissue of plants — and discovered several so distinct that they may be the first members of new taxonomical genera.

Researchers discover ancient RNA remnants

In a recent study describing how bacteria change form without initial DNA involvement, Yale researchers illustrated what the earliest forms of life on Earth may have looked like. While proteins carry out most of life’s cellular functions, the study proves that—as was true about 4 billion years ago—proteins are not always necessary to stimulate fundamental cellular changes.