Public Release: 

Media invited: Biophysical Society Annual Meeting

Meeting to highlight innovations in medicine, environmental science, physics, interdisciplinary work, and more

American Institute of Physics

Protein assassins; the biophysics of red tide blooms; how so-called "bath salts" produce a high; and a link between cigarettes and atherosclerosis are just some of the intriguing topics that will be presented at the 56th Annual Meeting of the Biophysical Society (BPS).

The conference will take place Feb. 25 - Feb. 29, 2012, at the San Diego Convention Center in San Diego, Calif. With more than 4,000 poster presentations, 200 exhibits, 20 symposia, and 6,000 research scientists in attendance each year, the Annual Meeting is the largest meeting of biophysicists in the world.

Credentialed journalists, freelance reporters working on assignment, and public information officers may attend the meeting free of charge. For more information on press registration, see below.



Microbes Help Lock Away Carbon Dioxide: As carbonate minerals form, they pull carbon dioxide out of the atmosphere, which could be an important mechanism in climate change mitigation. New research reveals the important role that microbes play in the rate of formation of carbonate minerals.
"Tuning microbial surfaces to control carbonate mineralization."

Cigarettes and Atherosclerosis: A missing link: Smoking is a significant risk factor for atherosclerosis, but the exact mechanism connecting the two is unresolved. Research hints that nicotine may trigger a remodeling of the scaffolding of cells comprising blood vessel walls, leading to plaque buildup.
"Cigarette smoke and nicotine-induced remodeling of actin cytoskeleton and extracellular matrix by vascular smooth muscle cells."

Molding the Business End of Neurotoxins: For venomous animals, the active section of a neurotoxin is the area most likely to undergo rapid evolution in response to environmental constraints, scientists find. Understanding these evolutionary forces can help researchers predict which part of unstudied toxins will do damage.
"Molding the business end of neurotoxins by diversifying evolution."

A New Approach to HIV Vaccine Design: The human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) has eluded vaccine-makers, in part due to the virus' ability to mutate rapidly. Researchers have identified collectively evolving sections of HIV that mutate in tandem, suggesting a new strategy for vaccine development.
"Analysis of collective coevolution in HIV proteins suggests strategies for rational vaccine design."

Building Complex Cell Membranes with New Layer-by-layer Technique: A new method of constructing arbitrarily complex - and hitherto impossible-to-reproduce - cell membranes in the lab may expand the types of cell behavior scientists can study using synthetic models.
"Layer-by-layer assembly of complex membranous cellular structures."


Crimson Tide: Mechanics of a toxin: Toxic algal blooms known as "red tides" can harm coastal bathers and marine sea life. Researchers are learning how Karenia brevis, an organism responsible for certain types of red tides, stores and releases its harmful neurotoxins.
"Exocytic mechanisms of storage and release of brevotoxin in the dinoflagellate Karenia brevis."

Synthetic Drug Known as "Bath Salts" Packs a Double Punch: New drugs that mimic illegal narcotics pose challenges for law enforcement agents attempting to combat an ever-changing target. Researchers are also attempting to keep pace by studying how these emerging compounds affect the human brain. New studies on the drug known as "bath salts" reveal that it mimics both methamphetamine and cocaine.
"Bath salts: A synthetic cathinone whose two major components act similar to methamphetamine and cocaine on the human dopamine transporter."

Texas Coral Snake's Painful Bite Decoded: The bite of the Texas coral snake produces excruciating pain in its victims, and researchers have identified how: a novel neurotoxin activates a subset of pain-sensitive nerves that normally respond to capsaicin and acid.
"A novel toxin that targets acid-sensing ion channels to produce pain."


Proteins Behaving Badly: Researchers have developed a new way to predict which protein regions are prone to misfolding in different cellular environments. The theory may guide the design of treatments to block misfolding pathways and could help predict the progression of degenerative diseases such as ALS.
"Template-directed protein misfolding in silico and in the cell."

Alcohol Damages Heart Cells' Energy Factories: Mitochondria inside heart cells are one of the victims of alcoholism, becoming dysfunctional from excessive ethanol exposure. Scientists searching for the cause of these mitochondrial impairments studied the possibility that calcium-ion overload in the muscles of ethanol-fed rats are to blame.
"SR-Mitochondrial ultrastructure in the heart of normal and ethanol-fed rats."

Vitamins Gang up on Cancer Cells: Liver cancer is among the most vexing forms of cancer. Laboratory mouse studies reveal that combining vitamins C and K3 creates a much more toxic environment for liver cancer cells than either vitamin alone.
"On the mechanism of synergistic cytotoxicity of vitamins C and K3: Experiments in vitro and quantum-chemical analysis."


Protein Assassin: Scientists find that the unfolded end of a protein can kill selectively, binding to receptor proteins found only in E. coli-like bacteria and causing the bacteria's inner membranes to spring lethal leaks.
"Targeted killing of Escherichia coli by an unfolded protein."

Potential Target for Alzheimer's Therapy: Microglia, the major inflammatory cells of the brain, play a pivotal role in the initiation and progression of Alzheimer's disease. Researchers propose that microglia may present a novel pharmacological target for curbing the harmful effects of amyloid-beta.
"Microglial KV1.3 channels as a potential target for Alzheimer's disease."

Fighting Fat: The chemical compound ShK-186 may be able to alter muscle metabolism in mice, hinting at potential therapeutic uses in the fight against obesity.
"Anti-obesity effect of SHK-186, a K+ channel blocker."

Fatigue Failure at the Molecular Level: Scientists strive to develop a theory that explains why repeated forces cause materials to fail on the molecular level. The work could help inform the design of molecule-sized machines.
"Fatigue at the molecular scale."

Building a Biological Pacemaker: By adding a protein that helps control gene expression, researchers coaxed mouse embryonic stem cells to preferentially grow into cardiac pacemaker cells. The results may lay the groundwork for future development of biological pacemakers.
"Enhanced embryonic stem cell differentiation to cardiac pacemaker cells by transduction with a single transcription factor."


Each year, the Biophysical Society Annual Meeting brings together over 6,000 research scientists in the multidisciplinary fields representing biophysics. With more than 4,000 poster presentations, over 200 exhibits, and more than 20 symposia, the Annual Meeting is the largest meeting of biophysicists in the world. Despite its size, the meeting retains its small-meeting flavor through its subgroup meetings, platform sessions, social activities, and committee programs.

The 56th Annual meeting will be held at the San Diego Convention Center (111 W. Harbor Drive, San Diego, CA 92101), located 3 miles from the San Diego International Airport and less than one mile from the Amtrak Station. The San Diego Trolley has two stops directly in front of the Center at Harbor Drive/First Avenue and Harbor Drive/Fifth Avenue.



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The Biophysical Society invites credentialed journalists, freelance reporters working on assignment, and public information officers to attend its Annual Meeting free of charge. For more information on registering as a member of the press, contact BPS Director of Public Affairs and Communications Ellen Weiss at or 240-290-5606, or visit


The Biophysical Society (BPS), founded in 1956, is a professional scientific society established to encourage development and dissemination of knowledge in biophysics. The Society promotes growth in this expanding field through its annual meeting, monthly journal, and committee and outreach activities. Its 9000 members are located throughout the U.S. and the world, where they teach and conduct research in colleges, universities, laboratories, government agencies, and industry. For more information on the Society or the 2012 Annual Meeting, visit

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