Monday, 19 August 2013 00:00

The Other PIP2 in Endocytosis

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Our bodies and our cells need specialized fats. Our cells eat through a process called endocytosis, which is critical for cells to take up nutrients from their environment. Embedded in the cell membrane, phosphoinositides are specialized lipids crucial during endocytosis and subsequent steps. They can be modified by protein kinases and phosphatases that alter their phosphorylation pattern in one of five places, indicated by the number(s) in the name. Thus was born the PIP family. PIP2, for example, is PtdIns(4,5)P2 phosphorylated in positions 4 and 5.

The NIH is building its portfolio in the emerging field of extracellular RNAs, known as exRNAs, with the announcement of $17 million in awards to support basic research aimed at understanding this newly discovered type of cell-to-cell interaction. NIH believes that exRNAs could play a role in numerous conditions, including cancer, heart disease, and Alzheimer's disease. The Extracellular RNA Collaborative is a trans-NIH initiative, linking the efforts of five NIH institutes in pushing basic research into exRNAs.

There are more legendary places in science—Newton's apple tree or the bathtub of Archimedes—but of the real ones, there could be few more famous or harder to find than Thomas Hunt Morgan's Fly Room at Columbia University. This is the room where in 1910 Morgan and his students discovered "white" or w, the first sex-linked mutation in Drosophila melanogaster. Here began the modern era of quantitative biology and genetics. For a limited time, you can visit an uncanny version of the Fly Room itself, but only if you hurry to Brooklyn, NY.

Ali Khademhosseini is a scientist in a hurry. Khademhosseini, now an associate professor at Harvard Medical School, earned his PhD from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology in just three years and eight months. He published 12 first-author papers during his graduate studies, working on engineering cellular microenvironments in Robert Langer's lab. Khademohesseini recommends making a plan of action before starting experiments. He told me, "I often wrote an outline of my project including the innovation and expected analysis methods to have a plan of what the paper would look like at the end. I then went about testing various hypotheses. It is important to design experiments in which even a failure results in new knowledge."

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