science + technology news

New machine-learning algorithms may revolutionize drug discovery — and our understanding of life

February 8, 2017

A new set of machine learning algorithms developed at U of T Scarborough that can generate 3-D structures of tiny protein molecules may revolutionize the development of drug therapies for a range of diseases. (credit: Structura Biotechnology Inc)

A new set of machine-learning algorithms developed by researchers at the University of Toronto Scarborough can generate 3D structures of nanoscale protein molecules that could not be achieved in the past. The algorithms may revolutionize the development of new drug therapies for a range of diseases and may even lead to better understand how life works at the atomic level, the researchers say.

Drugs work by binding to a… read more

First stable semisynthetic organism created

Scientists hope to "impart life with new forms and functions"
February 3, 2017

DNA --- now with a new base pair! (credit: Romesberg Lab)

Scientists at The Scripps Research Institute (TSRI) have developed the first stable semisynthetic organism — a bacterium with two new synthetic bases (called X and Y) added to the four natural bases (A, T, C, and G) that every living organism possesses. Adding two more letters to expand the genetic alphabet can be used to make novel proteins for new therapeutics, according to the researchers.

All life… read more

Beneficial AI conference develops ‘Asilomar AI principles’ to guide future AI research

February 3, 2017

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At the Beneficial AI 2017 conference, January 5–8 held at a conference center in Asilomar, California — a sequel to the 2015 AI Safety conference in Puerto Rico — the Future of Life Institute (FLI) brought together more 100 AI researchers from academia and industry and thought leaders in economics, law, ethics, and philosophy to… read more

Brain-computer interface enables completely locked-in patients to communicate for the first time

Reveal they are happy and want to live
February 2, 2017

NIRS/EEG brain computer interface system for sensing "yes" or "no" thoughts, shown on a model (credit: Wyss Center for Bio and Neuroengineering)

Four advanced ALS (amyotrophic lateral sclerosis) patients who were “completely locked in” (totally unable to communicate) for years have suddenly broken through in a lab at the Wyss Center for Bio and Neuroengineering in Geneva, Switzerland — communicating a “yes” or “no” by simply thinking the answers.

The brain–computer interface (BCI) system achieved this remarkable breakthrough by using functional near-infrared spectroscopy (fNIRS) to measure changes in blood… read more

Carnegie Mellon AI beats top poker pros — a first

Another major milestone in artificial intelligence
January 31, 2017

"Brains vs Artificial Intelligence" competition at the Rivers Casino in Pittsburgh (credit: Carnegie Mellon University)

Libratus, an AI developed by Carnegie Mellon University, has defeated four of the world’s best professional poker players in a marathon 120,000 hands of Heads-up, No-Limit Texas Hold’em poker played over 20 days, CMU announced today (Jan. 31) — joining Deep Blue (for chess), Watson, and Alpha Go as major milestones in AI.

Libratus led the pros by a collective $1,766,250 in chips.* The tournament was held… read more

Mayo Clinic researchers find mentally stimulating activities after age 70 associated with lower new cognitive-impairment risk

January 31, 2017

Mentally stimulating activities in late life found associated with decreased risk of mild cognitive impairment (credit: Mayo Clinic)

Mayo Clinic researchers have found that engaging in mentally stimulating activities, even after age 70, was associated with decreased risk of new-onset mild cognitive impairment (the intermediate stage between normal cognitive aging and dementia) over an average study period of 4 years.

The study discovered that for cognitively normal people 70 or older, the risk of new-onset mild cognitive impairment decreased by 30 percent with computer use,… read more

Soft robotic sleeve developed to aid failing hearts

Could be implanted to restore blood circulation
January 27, 2017

A soft robotic sleeve placed around the heart in a pig model of acute heart failure. The actuators embedded in the sleeve support heart function by mimicking the outer heart muscles that induce the heart to beat. (credit: Harvard SEAS)

An international team of scientists has developed a soft robotic sleeve that can be implanted on the external surface of the heart to restore blood circulation in pigs (and possibly humans in the future) whose hearts have stopped beating.

The device is a silicone-based system with two layers of actuators: one that squeezes circumferentially and one that squeezes diagonally, both designed to mimic the movement of healthy hearts when… read more

Scientists use stem cells to create human/pig chimera embryos

Research promises to test therapeutic drugs, possibly grow transplantable organs
January 27, 2017

This photograph shows injection of human iPS cells into a pig blastocyst. A laser beam (green circle with a red cross inside) was used to perforate an opening to the outer membrane (Zona Pellucida) of the pig blastocyst to allow easy access of an injection needle delivering human iPS cells. (credit: Courtesy of Juan Carlos Izpisua Belmonte)

In an open-access paper published online January 26, 2017 in the journal CellSalk Institute researchers report breakthroughs on multiple fronts in the race to integrate stem cells from one species into the early-stage development of another species (or chimeras**).

Scientists are still struggling to coax stem cells growing in Petri dishes to become fully functional specialized adult cells, the researchers report. “The ultimate goal… read more

These may be the last glasses you will ever need to buy

January 27, 2017

Early prototype of 'smart glasses' with liquid-based lenses that can automatically adjust the focus on what a person is seeing, whether it is far away or close up. The lenses are placed in battery-powered frames that can automatically adjust the focal length of the lenses based on what the wearer is looking at. Researchers expect to have smaller, lighter frames with the technology in as early as three years. (credit: Dan Hixson/University of Utah College of Engineering)

Don’t throw away your bifocals or multiple glasses yet, but those days might soon be over. A team led by University of Utah engineers has created “smart glasses” with liquid-based lenses that can automatically adjust the focus on what you’re seeing, at any distance.

They’ve created eyeglass lenses made of glycerin, a thick colorless liquid, enclosed by flexible rubber-like membranes in the front and back. The rear… read more

Scientists discover precise DNA sequence code critical for turning genes on

Geneticists solve a decades-long puzzle about how genes are turned on to make cellular proteins
January 27, 2017

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Molecular biologists at the University of California, San Diego (UC San Diego) have discovered a short sequence of DNA that is essential for turning on (expressing proteins) more than half of all human genes — an achievement that should provide scientists with a better understanding of how human genes are regulated.

Knowing what turns on genes is important. Each human cell contains about six feet of DNA, a double-helical molecular… read more

A deep learning algorithm outperforms some board-certified dermatologists in diagnosis of skin cancer

January 25, 2017

A dermatologist uses a dermatoscope, a type of handheld microscope, to look at skin. Computer scientists at Stanford have created an artificially intelligent diagnosis algorithm for skin cancer that matched the performance of board-certified dermatologists. (Image credit: Matt Young)

Deep learning has been touted for its potential to enhance the diagnosis of diseases, and now a team of researchers at Stanford has developed a deep-learning algorithm that may make this vision a reality for skin cancer.*

The researchers, led by Dr. Sebastian Thrun, an adjunct professor at the Stanford Artificial Intelligence Laboratory, reported in the January 25 issue of Nature that their deep convolutional neural network (CNN) algorithm… read more

A 3D bioprinter that prints fully functional human skin

January 24, 2017

3d skin bioprinter ft

A prototype 3D bioprinter that can create totally functional human skin has been developed by scientists from Universidad Carlos III de Madrid (UC3M) and BioDan Group in Spain. The skin has been used to treat burns as well as traumatic and surgical wounds in a large number of patients in Spain, according to the scientists.

The system provides two processes.

Autologous skin (from… read more

AI system performs better than 75 percent of American adults on standard visual intelligence test

Could shrink the gap between computer and human cognition
January 20, 2017

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A Northwestern University team has developed a new visual problem-solving computational model that performs in the 75th percentile for American adults on a standard intelligence test.

The research is an important step toward making artificial-intelligence systems that see and understand the world as humans do, says Northwestern Engineering’s Ken Forbus, Walter P. Murphy Professor of Electrical Engineering and Computer Science at Northwestern’s McCormick School of… read more

Magnetic brain stimulation improves a precise type of memory

Non-invasive repetitive transcranial magnetic stimulation could help people with brain injuries or dementia
January 20, 2017

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Non-invasive magnetic brain stimulation can be used to precisely improve a specific type of memory — remembering highly precise contextual and spatial information — Northwestern Medicine scientists shown for the first time.

The new research could help in developing new treatments for people with brain injuries or dementia, said Joel Voss, assistant professor of medical social sciences at Northwestern University Feinberg School of Medicine, senior… read more

Microbiologists make big leap in developing ‘green’ electronics

January 20, 2017

An artist's rendition of Geobacter expressing electrically conductive nanowires. Microbiologists at UMass Amherst have discovered a new type of natural wire produced by bacteria that could greatly accelerate the development of sustainable "green" conducting materials for the electronics industry. (credit: UMass Amherst)

 

UMass Amherst research finds microbe yields better electronic material

Microbiologists at the University of Massachusetts Amherst report that they have discovered a new type of microbial nanowire produced by bacteria that could greatly accelerate the development of sustainable “green” conducting materials for the electronics industry.

The study by Derek Lovley and colleagues appears this week in an open-access paper in mBio, the… read more

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