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Tiny particles ‘threaten brain’

January 9, 2004

Microscopic pollutant particles given off by traffic and industry can enter the bloodstream and the brain after being inhaled, scientists have found.

The particles are known to cause lung damage in susceptible patients, and are implicated in cardiovascular disease. Experiments on rats and humans have now discovered they can penetrate further into the body, including the brain, with unknown results.

UK scientists are calling for vigilance over the… read more

Tiny pores in graphene could form a membrane

New membranes may filter water, separate biological samples, or deliver drugs
October 26, 2012


By assembling large membranes from single sheets of graphene grown by chemical vapor deposition, researchers from MIT, Oak Ridge National Laboratory (ORNL) and elsewhere have found that graphene has intrinsic defects, or holes, in its atom-sized armor.

In experiments, the researchers found that small molecules like salts passed easily through a graphene membrane’s tiny pores, while larger molecules were unable to penetrate.

The researchers found… read more

Tiny probe gives wide-angle view of your insides

November 8, 2007

An ultrasound probe about the size of a grain of rice that could offer panoramic views from inside the human body is being tested by New Mexico University researchers. They say it could be threaded through blood vessels in the brain or swallowed like a pill.

Tiny reader makes fast, cheap DNA sequencing feasible

March 28, 2012

The various levels of electrical signal from the sequence of a DNA strand pulled through a nanopore reader (top) corresponds to specific DNA nucleotides, thymine, adenine, cytosine and guanine (bottom) (credit: University of Washington)

Researchers have devised a nanoscale sensor to electronically read the sequence of a single DNA molecule, a technique that is fast and inexpensive and could make DNA sequencing widely available.

The technique could lead to affordable personalized medicine, potentially revealing predispositions for afflictions such as cancer, diabetes or addiction.

“There is a clear path to a workable, easily produced sequencing platform,” said Jens Gundlach, a… read more

Tiny RNA molecules fine-tune the brain’s synapses

January 19, 2006

MicroRNAs, tiny, recently discovered RNA molecules from non-coding regions of the genome that suppress gene expression, affect the development of synapses by regulating the size of dendritic spines.

The findings appear in the January 19th issue of Nature. “This paper provides the first evidence that microRNAs have a role at the synapse, allowing for a new level of regulation of gene expression,” says senior author Michael Greenberg, PhD, Director… read more

Tiny robotic hand has the gentlest touch

April 18, 2008
credit: Yu Sun

University of Toronto researchers have built robotic tweezers that can pick up and move individual cells without damaging them, guided by the tweezers’ sense of touch.

The grippers sense both their grip strength and when they touch a surface, allowing them to work reliably without human control when connected to a microscope and the right software.

The tweezers’ arms are about 3 millimeters long, with fine… read more

Tiny robots allow for minimally invasive heart surgery

More effective, easier to position than catheters
June 7, 2012


A set of robotic tools developed by researchers at Boston Children’s Hospital could eventually enable surgeons to operate on the heart through small incisions while the heart continues to beat.

The use of small incisions and the insertion of robotic tools are increasingly common in many types of surgery. Such minimally invasive surgery offers quicker recovery times than conventional surgery and reduced risk of infection, because the… read more

Tiny robots may monitor underground pipes for radioactive leaks

July 22, 2011

A spherical robot equipped with a camera can navigate the underground pipes of a nuclear reactor by propelling itself with an internal network of valves and pumps (credit: Harry Asada/MIT d'Arbeloff Laboratory)

Researchers at MIT are working on small, egg-sized robots designed to dive into nuclear reactors and swim through underground pipes, checking for signs of corrosion. The underwater patrollers, equipped with cameras, are able to withstand a reactor’s extreme, radioactive environment, transmitting images via wireless in real time.

They devised a special valve for switching the direction of a flow with a tiny change in pressure and embedded… read more

Tiny robots used in surgical procedures

January 13, 2009

Tiny robots that aid surgical procedures and medical checkups currently are the focus of intense research and study, and some already are in practical use.

Tiny ruler to measure macromolecular movement

June 17, 2011


Paul Alivisatos of the Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory and colleagues have designed a first-of-its-kind ruler capable of measuring the configuration and movement of macromolecules, such as DNA.

The researchers constructed an “H”-shaped device out of five gold nanorods, the length and position of each of which could be controlled. They then looked for changes in spectra associated with plasmon coupling — the tendency… read more

Tiny scales weigh virus

February 11, 2004

Purdue University scientists have developed a scale that can weigh a 10 femtograms virus.

It uses a laser beam to measure the variation of wobble of a 30 nanometer-thick silicom springboard from the virus. Coating the springboard with antibodies will allow onlyone particular type of virus to stick to the scales. Such detectors could one day be used to monitor air purity in hospital or to assist in security… read more

Tiny sensor detects a mouse heart’s magnetic pulse

November 2, 2007

An atomic magnetometer not much bigger than a grain of rice can detect magnetic fields as weak as 70 femtoteslas — about a billionth of the Earth’s magnetic field, using optical magnetometry.

The detectors are even sensitive enough to detect alpha waves from the human brain and generate magnetocardiograms that provide information similar to an electrocardiogram (ECG), without requiring electrodes on the patient’s body.

Tiny sensors to be implanted in hearts

January 24, 2002

Researchers at the Cleveland Clinic Foundation will begin implanting tiny, experimental microchip sensors into the hearts of patients, hoping the wireless, battery-less devices will provide early warnings of danger.

The device can give doctors daily reports on pressure in the heart chambers. A change in pressure is one of the first events that occurs when patients with congestive heart failure start the slide toward hospitalization.

The micro-electrical mechanical… read more

Tiny swimming ‘biobots’ propelled by heart cells or magnetic fields

January 21, 2014

Sperm attack

University of Illinois engineers have developed tiny “bio-bot” hybrid machines that swim like sperm, the first synthetic structures that can traverse the viscous fluids of biological environments on their own, according to the engineers.

The devices are modeled after single-celled creatures with long tails called flagella — for example, sperm. The researchers begin by creating the body of the bio-bot from a flexible polymer. Then they culture heart cells… read more

Tiny technology hasn’t hit the big time — yet

August 25, 2003

UC Berkeley and Intel researchers are developing TinyDB database technology to acquire information from a network of tiny wireless sensors.

Wireless sensor networks can be used to predict equipment malfunction, prompt users to take medication, and perform environment and habitat monitoring. In 10 years, they will be nanoscale devices.

Because of energy constraints, sensor motes have to deal with low bandwidth and possibly intermittent communication links; they must… read more

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