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Life Sciences Division Newsletter


July 2012

In this issue:


Scientific News


Costes Presents Two Prestigious Talks at ANS Annual Meeting

Sylvain Costes

Sylvain Costes (Photo by Roy Kaltschmidt, LBNL)

Life Sciences Sylvain Costes presented two prestigious invited talks at the 2012 American Nuclear Society (ANS) Annual Meeting "Nuclear Science and Technology: Managing the Global Impact of Economic and Natural Events," held in Chicago, IL on June 24-28. He presented on "DNA Repair Centers and the Linear no Threshold Model" in the opening plenary session entitled "Nuclear Science and Technology: Managing the Global Impact of Economic and Natural Events" on June 25 in which he described how the existence of DNA repair centers in human cells would lead to non-linear DNA response at high doses. Such discussion has a direct impact for the nuclear industry, which is under very stringent regulation due to the assumption that there are no safe levels of radiation.

Besides Costes, speakers at the opening plenary session, hosted by ANS President Loewen, General Conference Chair Amir Shahkarami and John W. Rowe (chairman and CEO, Exelon Corporation), included Congressman Michael K. Simpson (U.S. Congress, Idaho); Prof. Dr. Hans-Werner Sinn (President, Ifo Institute for Economic Research- Germany); and Commissioner Kristine L. Svinicki (U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission). When asked about this year’s opening plenary session, Loewen said, “I’m very gratified that these leaders in our nuclear community are participating in this important conference. Their wisdom and experience are vital sources of counsel for everyone attending the meeting.”

Costes also presented a keynote address in the special session "Evidence of DNA Repair Mechanism and New Take on Impacts of Low Dose Radiation" the evening prior. This one and a half hour session was dedicated to explaining to the nuclear industry community how DNA repair centers in human cells affect the linear no threshold model (LNT) used for regulating radiation exposure. To read more about Costes’ research presented, go to the Berkeley Lab news release of December 2011 here.

Costes, a biophysicist, specializes on various aspect of computational biology. Areas of expertise include radiation biology, modeling and radiation system biology, three-dimensional microscopy, high-content image analysis. Costes and his lab are located at Potter Street.

Established in 1954, ANS is a professional organization of engineers and scientists devoted to the peaceful applications of nuclear science and technology. Its 11,600 members come from diverse technical backgrounds covering the full range of engineering disciplines as well as the physical and biological sciences. They are advancing the application of these technologies to improve the lives of the world community through national and international enterprise within government, academia, research laboratories and private industry.


Bissell Gives ‘Talk of Her Life’ at TED Conference

Mina Bissell

Mina Bissell at TED Global 2012

Mina Bissell, distinguished scientist with the Life Sciences Division and a world authority on breast cancer, was among the featured speakers at TED Global 2012, which was held last week in Edinburgh, Scotland. The challenge for her and the other speakers was to “give the talk of their life in 18 minutes or less.” Bissell described her life-long effort to answer the question: What makes cancer become cancer? She summarized her philosophy thus: “Don’t be arrogant, because arrogance kills curiosity.” TED, which stands for “Technology, Entertainment and Design,” presents an annual pair of conferences sponsored by the Sapling Foundation to disseminate “ideas worth spreading.” More » 

To see the recording of Bissell's talk, go here (nearly 190,000 views on July 26).
Today at Berkeley Lab, July 5, 2012



Comolli Presents on Cryo-TEM in Saudi Arabia

Life Sciences Luis L. Comolli presented at the Division of Chemical and Life Sciences and Engineering Seminar at the King Abdullah University of Science and Technology (KAUST) in the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia on July 2. Comolli presented multidisciplinary work on environmental microbial systems in a seminar titled “Correlating Genomics and Function through 3D-TEM of Intact Cells.”

Luis L. Comolli

Luis L. Comolli

For an abstract of his presentation read on here:  “Although cryo-TEM has been available for many years, it has rarely been applied to environmentally-relevant organisms, in part due to the difficulty in preparing cryogenic TEM samples from microorganisms that cannot be cultured. Cryo-TEM has already changed our view of microbial cell architecture, and instruments are becoming more widely available worldwide. Consequently, there is a potential interest in using this technology as an approach to study environmental microbial systems. These systems are challenging because they are often remote, not possible to culture, difficult to transport artifact-free and intact, and “dirty” of minerals and nanoparticles although such particles contribute to their interest. Here we demonstrate that these obstacles can be overcome.

Our results include unprecedented cryo-TEM image data on intact cells and small pieces of biofilm from environmental sites. This first successful application of cryo-TEM to microorganisms within the in-situ context of their mutual interactions and extracellular minerals opens the way to similar studies in many other relevant model and environmental systems in microbial ecology and geomicrobiology.”


Chronicle Profiles Life Scientist Who Studies Runners' Health

Paul Williams

Paul Williams (Photo by Megan Farmer, The Chronicle/SF)

Paul Williams of Berkeley Lab’s Life Sciences Division runs the world’s largest study of runners’ health, known as the National Runners’ Health Study. He has more than 100,000 participants, some of whom he’s been following more than 20 years. This year, several reports have come out suggesting that more is not better when it comes to how much running people should do to improve their health. But in his research, Williams has yet to find an upper limit to safe running distances — in fact, his runners continue to see increased health benefits all the way up to 100 miles a week of training. More » 
Today at Berkeley Lab, July 13, 2012




Nogales Talks about Her Approach to Science and about Being Fearless

Life Sciences biophysicist and structural biologist Eva Nogales, also a Howard Hughes Medical Institute (HMMI) investigator and a UC Berkeley professor, talks about her approach to science and why it's good to be fearless, in this inspiring HMMI video recording.
Today at Berkeley Lab, July 16, 2012


In the News

A review of Life Sciences researchers, staff, and students who have appeared in the news media. This is but a sampling of our coverage. Please note that some links may expire after time.

A June 21 story on the link between aging and breast cancer featured research by Life Sciences Mark LaBarge.

Numerous news outlets covered two studies that reviewed research by Felisa Wolfe-Simon before she arrived at the Lab that looked at the role of arsenic in bacteria. Stories mentioning her, or her Lab colleague John Tainer, appeared in the Associated Press, Washington Post, San Francisco Chronicle, Wall Street Journal, CBS News, ABC News, BBC News, Popular Science, National Geographic, Discover magazine and many more.


Recent Publications

What follows is a review of Life Sciences recent publications. It is not a complete list, but only a sampling.

Stricker NH, Dodge HH, Dowling NM, Han SD, Erosheva EA, Jagust WJ. CSF biomarker associations with change in hippocampal volume and precuneus thickness: implications for the Alzheimer’s Disease Neuroimaging InitiativeCSF biomarker associations with change in hippocampal volume and precuneus thickness: implications for the Alzheimer's pathological cascade. Brain Imaging and Behavior. 2012 May 22. [Epub ahead of print] Abstract » 

Dang LC, Donde A, Madison C, O'Neil JP, Jagust WJ. Striatal dopamine influences the default mode network to affect shifting between object features. Journal of Cognitive Neuroscience, 2012 May 29. [Epub ahead of print]  Abstract » 

Parra MK, Gallagher TL, Amacher SL, Mohandas N, Conboy JG. Deep intron elements mediate nested splicing events at consecutive AG dinucleotides to regulate alternative 3' splice site choice in vertebrate 4.1 genes. Journal of Molecular Cell Biology, 2012 Jun;32(11):2044-53. Abstract » 

Choi H, Kratz J, Pham P, Lee S, Ray R, Kwon YW, Mao JH, Kang HC, Jablons D, Kim IJ. Development of a rapid and practical mutation screening assay for human lung adenocarcinoma.  International Journal of Oncology, 2012 Jun;40(6):1900-6. doi: 10.3892/ijo.2012.1396. Abstract » 

Collisson EA, Trejo CL, Silva JM, Gu S, Korkola JE, Heiser LM, Charles RP, Rabinovich BA, Hann B, Dankort D, Spellman PT, Phillips WA, Gray JW, McMahon M.  A central role for RAF->MEK->ERK signaling in the genesis of pancreatic ductal adenocarcinoma. Cancer Discovery, 2012 Jun 1. [Epub ahead of print] Abstract » 

Sridharan DM, Whalen MK, Almendrala D, Cucinotta FA, Kawahara M, Yannone SM, Pluth JM. Increased Artemis levels confer radioresistance to both high and low LET radiation exposures. Radiation Oncology, 2012 Jun 19;7(1):96. [Epub ahead of print]  Abstract » 

Murat D, Falahati V, Bertinetti L, Csencsits R, Körnig A, Downing K, Faivre D, Komeili A.
The magnetosome membrane protein, MmsF, is a major regulator of magnetite biomineralization in Magnetospirillum magneticum AMB-1. Molecular Microbiology, 2012 Jun 20. doi: 10.1111/j.1365-2958.2012.08132.x. [Epub ahead of print]  Abstract » 

Choong W-S, Holland SE. Back-side readout silicon photomultiplier. IEEE Transactions on Electron Devices. [Epub] June 20, 2012. Abstract » 

Zhang S, Wang Y, Mao JH, Hsieh D, Kim IJ, Hu LM, Xu Z, Long H, Jablons DM, You L. Inhibition of CK2a down-regulates Hedgehog/Gli signaling leading to a reduction of a stem-like side population in human lung cancer cells. PLoS One, 2012;7(6):e38996. [Epub] 2012 Jun 29. Abstract » 

Littlepage LE, Adler AS, Kouros-Mehr H, Huang G, Chou J, Krig SR, Griffith OL, Korkola JE, Qu K, Lawson DA, Xue Q, Sternlicht MD, Dijkgraaf GJ, Yaswen P, Rugo HS, Sweeney CA, Collins CC, Gray JW, Chang HY, Werb Z. The transcription factor ZNF217 is a prognostic biomarker and therapeutic target during breast cancer progression. Cancer Discovery, 2012 Jul;2(7):638-51.  Abstract » 

Kohwi-Shigematsu T, Poterlowicz K, Ordinario E, Han HJ, Botchkarev V, Kohwi Y. Genome organizing function of SATB1 in tumor progression. Seminars in Cancer Biology, 2012 Jul 3. [Epub ahead of print]  Abstract » 

Ounjai P, Kim KD, Lishko PV, Downing KH. Three-dimensional structure of the bovine sperm connecting piece revealed by electron cryotomography.  Biology of Reproduction, 2012 Jul 5. [Epub ahead of print] Abstract » 

Schwartz YB, Linder-Basso D, Kharchenko PV, Tolstorukov MY, Kim M, Li HB, Gorchakov AA, Minoda A, Shanower G, Alekseyenko AA, Riddle NC, Jung YL, Gu T, Plachetka A, Elgin SC, Kuroda MI, Park PJ, Savitsky M, Karpen GH, Pirrotta V. Nature and function of insulator protein binding sites in the Drosophila genome. Genome Research, 2012 Jul 5. [Epub ahead of print]  Abstract » 

Kohwi-Shigematsu T, Kohwi Y, Takahashi K, Richards HW, Ayers SD, Han HJ, Cai S. SATB1-mediated functional packaging of chromatin into loops. Methods, 2012 Jul 7. [Epub ahead of print]  Abstract » 

Dong H, Shu JY, Dube N, Ma Y, Tirrell MV, Downing KH, Xu T. 3-helix micelles stabilized by Polymer Springs. Journal of American Chemical Society, 2012 Jul 9. [Epub ahead of print]  Abstract » 

Defilippis RA, Chang H, Dumont N, Rabban JT, Chen YY, Fontenay GV, Berman HK, Gauthier ML, Zhao J, Hu D, Marx JJ, Tjoe JA, Ziv E, Febbraio M, Kerlikowske K, Parvin B, Tlsty TD. CD36 repression activates a multicellular stromal program shared by high mammographic density and tumor tissues. Cancer Discovery, 2012 Jul 9. [Epub ahead of print]  Abstract » 

Dang LC, O'Neil JP, Jagust WJ. Dopamine supports coupling of attention-related networks. The Journal of Neuroscience, 2012 Jul 11;32(28):9582-7.  Abstract » 


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Awards & Grants Highlights


R&D 100 Award for Multinozzle Emitter Array (MEA) Technology Development by Wang, Mao, and Colleagues


Multinozzle Emitter Array (MEA)

One of the 2012 R&D 100 awards went to the Multinozzle Emitter Array (MEA) development team which included Life Sciences Daojing Wang and Pan Mao, Peidong Yang of Berkeley Lab’s Materials Sciences Division, and Hung-Ta Wang, who is now at the University of Alabama. The MEA has been called a “game changer” in the use of mass spectrometry to analyze biomolecules in microfluidic chips because it enables researchers to perform global analysis of nucleic acids, proteins and metabolites from a single cell.

The MEA overcomes the bottlenecks of previous electrospray ionization technology that slowed the pace and increased the cost of biomedical research by sequentially spraying up to 96 nanoscale samples onto a silicon wafer which can then be aligned with the intake port of a mass spectrometer. This provides a threefold boost in sensitivity over the electrospray technology, a huge advantage for systems biology studies in which researchers seek to determine how the functions of a biological system emerge from the complex interactions of its many constituents.

The MEA development was one of four teams either from, or in collaboration with, Berkeley Lab that won 2012 R&D 100 Awards. The awards are presented by R&D Magazine and recognize the year’s 100 most significant proven technological advances, also known as the “Oscars of Innovation.”  More » 
Adapted from Today at Berkeley Lab, June 21, 2012


Tang Wins NASA Poster Award

Jonathan (Jon) Tang, a postdoctoral fellow from the Costes Lab, has won a student poster award at the 23rd Annual NASA Space Radiation Investigators’ Workshop, held July 8-11, 2012 in Durham, NC. The purpose of this workshop is to provide an opportunity for active researchers in the NASA Space Radiation Program to share the results of their work and to explore new directions for research that may benefit the NASA program.

Jonathan Tang

Jonathan Tang

Tang’s winning poster, entitled “Systems Modeling of Stem/Progenitor Self-Renewal Promotion Following Ionizing Radiation,” described the multi-scale computational modeling work that Tang is doing to understand the cancer risk of astronauts exposed to space radiation during long-term space missions. The work is part of a collaborative project with Berkeley Lab, New York University and UC San Francisco and falls under NASA Specialized Center of Research (NSCOR) which was designed to advance knowledge in the biological and biomedical sciences and technology arenas. The ultimate application of this knowledge is to enable human space flight and long-term planetary missions.

Graduate students and post-doctoral fellows currently participating in NASA-supported space radiation research were invited to participate in the student poster contest. About 20 contestants presented two PowerPoint slides that briefly described their posters/research in two minutes during the student poster summaries; winners were announced at the closing ceremony.


Hejab Awarded Fellowship to Continue Research in France

Nisreen Hejab, a graduate student in the laboratory of Ken Downing, received a Chateaubriand Fellowship in May for her project entitled "Structural and functional analysis of the Tobacco mosaic virus movement protein: tubulin complex." Hejab was awarded the grant, offered by the Embassy of France in the United States, to conduct research in France on the tobacco mosaic virus movement protein and its interaction with microtubules; and she is provided with up to nine months of financial support to do so.

Nisreen Hejab

Nisreen Hejab (l) with with Eduardo Pena

Hejab, a secon