science + technology news

Booze boosts brainpower

January 21, 2005

Harvard School of Public Health epidemiologists have found that moderate alcohol consumption protects women from cognitive decline, with a study showing that older women who consume moderate amounts of alcohol score better on cognitive tests.

Although researchers know that moderate drinking benefits the heart, there haven’t been any significant studies of whether moderate alcohol intake has any effect on the brain. The epidemiologists say that previous findings about the… read more

Spleen may be source of versatile stem cells

January 20, 2005

Massachusetts General Hospital researchers have found further evidence that the spleen might be a source of adult stem cells.

Previously the researchers found evidence that splenic stem cells existed and could regenerate the insulin-producing islets of the pancreas. In a follow-up study, they now report that these potential adult stem cells produce a protein previously believed to be present only during the embryonic development of mammals. The finding both… read more

Nanoparticle antiviral technology inhibits RSV infection

January 20, 2005

University of South Florida College of Medicine researchers found that an antiviral treatment combining nanoparticle and gene silencing technologies thwarts attacks of respiratory syncytial virus (RSV) — a virus associated with severe bronchitis and asthma.

The researchers developed nose drops containing vectors capable of producing small fragments of RNA (siRNA). These fragments were encapsulated within chitosan nanoparticles — biodegradable particles that stick to mucous-producing cells lining the lungs. The… read more

Best-Kept Secrets: Quantum cryptography has marched from theory to laboratory to real products

January 20, 2005

Quantum-cryptographic systems are available from two small companies, and more products are on the way, representing the first major commercial implementation for quantum information science.

The products on the market can send keys over individual optical-fiber links for multiple tens of kilometers, with a product cost of $70,000 to $100,000.

Mystery compound in beer fights cancer

January 20, 2005

Okayama University researchers have found that DNA damage to mice given heterocyclic amines — cancer causing agents — was reduced by up to 85% if the mice drank non-alcoholic beer instead of water.

The lead researcher Arimoto-Kobayashi thinks as-yet unidentified compounds in lager and stout prevent the amines binding to and damaging DNA. If these compounds can be identified, brewers might be able to produce beers particularly rich in… read more

National Intelligence Council Releases 2020 Project Report

January 19, 2005

The National Intelligence Council (NIC) has released “Mapping the Global Future,” a report that provides a view of how world developments could evolve by 2020.

The latest report follows “Global Trends 2010″ and “Global Trends 2015.” The NIC 2020 process lasted about a year and involved more than a thousand people.

National Intelligence Council website

Skin and bones ‘made to measure’

January 19, 2005

University of Manchester scientists are developing an inkjet printer that can create “made to measure” skin and bones to treat people with severe burns or disfigurements.

Human cells are suspended in a nutrient-rich liquid before being printed out in several thin layers. The printers create 3-D structures, known as tissue scaffolds.

“Bumpy” surfaces could lead to self-cleaning windows

January 19, 2005

Ohio State University engineers are designing surfaces with nanometer high bumps that could result in super-slick, water-repellent surfaces that mimic the texture of lotus leaves.

They could allow manufacturers to make self-cleaning windows or reduce friction between moving parts in micro or nano-machines that can’t be lubricated by normal means.

Ohio State University news release

One-third of human genome regulated by RNA: study

January 19, 2005

Whitehead Institute for Biomedical Research and MIT researchers have discovered that small RNA molecules called microRNAs regulate thousands of human genes– more than one third of the genome’s protein-coding regions.

These findings contribute to the recent interest in potential therapeutic uses of RNA. For example, using a technique known as RNA interference, or RNAi, researchers are shutting off genes by delivering artificial microRNA-like molecules (siRNAs) into cells. RNAi has… read more

Do You Want to Live Forever?

January 19, 2005

“Aubrey de Grey thinks he knows how to defeat aging. He’s brilliant, but is he nuts?” asks’s lead to Sherwin Nuland’s article on Aubrey de Grey. This article “has created quite a buzz, particularly in the Technology Review forums,” and Aubrey de Grey’s letter in response to the article is available on the website.

Aubrey de Grey Responds

Elsevier Announces First-ever Journal of Nanomedicine

January 18, 2005

Scientific and medical publisher Elsevier plans to launch in March the world’s first peer-reviewed journal devoted to nanomedicine.

Nanomedicine: Nanotechnology, Biology, and Medicine will be the official publication of the American Academy of Nanomedicine. The journal will publish the most important papers in basic and clinical nanomedicine, diagnostic advances and applications, pharmacologic nanomedicine, engineering and biotechnology for clinical applications, and more.

The first issue includes an essay by… read more

Artificial Spider Silk Could Be Used for Armor, More

January 18, 2005

Scientists have uncovered the genetic formula that spiders use to make silk from proteins and possibly improve on it.

Understanding how spiders do this could someday result in new stronger and lighter materials that could replace plastics. Other uses include extremely thin sutures for eye or nerve surgery, plasters and other wound covers, artificial ligaments and tendons, and textiles for parachutes.

Open-Source Biology Evolves

January 18, 2005

The Biological Innovation for Open Society, or BIOS, will soon launch an open-source platform that promises to free up rights to patented DNA sequences and the methods needed to manipulate biological material.

Just like open-source software, open-source biology users own the patents to their creations, but cannot hinder others from using the original shared information to develop similar products. Any improvements of the shared methods of BIOS, the Science… read more

Micromachine grows its own muscles

January 18, 2005

UCLA scientists ahve developed a micromachine that walks using muscles that it grows for itself. The device could lead to nanobots that clear away plaque from inside the walls of a human coronary artery or to muscle-based nerve stimulators that let paralyzed patients breathe without a ventilator.

They built the micromachine by etching the silicon structure using photolithography before coating the frame with a polymer and selectively depositing gold… read more

Patients Put on Thinking Caps

January 17, 2005

Brain-computer interface, or BCI, technology has ramped up considerably in the past five years. More than half of the scientific papers on the topic were published in just the past two years. Also, by connecting their patients’ brains directly to a computer, researchers have seen improvement in patients’ ability to control a cursor.

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