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Discovery of abnormal GABA levels may lead to improvements in diagnosing, treating Alzheimer’s disease

Drugs focusing only on plaque buildup have failed; reducing GABA inhibition may also be needed
June 18, 2014

A new drug target to fight Alzheimer's disease has been discovered by a research team led by Gong Chen at Penn State that also has potential for development as a novel diagnostic tool for Alzheimer's disease. The research also suggests that an ultimate successful therapy may be a cocktail of compounds acting on several drug targets simultaneously. This image shows a microscopic view of the high concentration (red) of gamma-aminobutyric acid (GABA) in the reactive astrocytes (green) in the human brain with Alzheimer's disease. (credit: Gong Chen lab, Penn State University)

A new drug target to fight Alzheimer’s disease has been discovered by a Penn State research team.

The discovery also has potential for development as a novel diagnostic tool for Alzheimer’s disease, which is the most common form of dementia and one for which no cure has yet been found.

A scientific paper describing the discovery was published in Nature Communications on June 13.

The… read more

Algae can switch quantum coherence on and off

Could allow the energy to test every possible pathway simultaneously before traveling via the quickest route
June 18, 2014

Scanning electron microscope image of cryptophytes (credit: CSIRO)

Algae that survive in very low levels of light and are able to switch quantum coherence on and off have been discovered by a UNSW-led team of researchers.

The function for this effect, which occurs during photosynthesis, remains a mystery. But working out its role in a living organism could lead to technological advances, such as better organic solar cells and quantum-based electronic devices.

The research… read more

Single dose of sleeping-sickness drug reverses autism-like symptoms in mice

June 18, 2014

This image depicts the transmission electron micrograph of a cell mitochondrion (credit: Thomas Deerinck, NCMIR, UC San Diego)

An almost century-old drug approved for treating sleeping sickness also restores normal cellular signaling in a mouse model of autism, researchers at the University of California, San Diego School of Medicine report.

The mice were the human biological age equivalent of 30 years old.

The drug, Suramin, was first synthesized in 1916 and is used to treat trypanosomiasis or African sleeping sickness, a parasitic disease.… read more

How background electrical brain noise drives our decisions

Is "free will" an illusion? Implications for "pre-crime" detection?
June 17, 2014

Topographic map of alpha wave power in the left hemisphere of the brain in the 800 milliseconds before a decision significantly influences the decision (credit: Jesse J. Bengson et al./Journal of Cognitive Neuroscience)

Our ability to make choices — and sometimes mistakes — might arise from random fluctuations in the brain’s background electrical noise, according to a recent study from the Center for Mind and Brain at the University of California, Davis.

The brain has a normal level of “background noise,” Bengson said, as electrical activity patterns fluctuate across the brain. In the new study, decisions could be… read more

Synchronized brain waves enable rapid learning

Why brain-wave resonance may be the key to learning, not synapses
June 17, 2014

MIT neuroscientists found that brain waves originating from the striatum (red) and from the prefrontal cortex (blue) become synchronized when an animal learns to categorize different patterns of dots (credit: Jose-Luis Olivares/MIT)

MIT neuroscientists have found that as monkeys learn to categorize different patterns of dots, two brain areas involved in learning — the prefrontal cortex and the striatum — synchronize their brain waves to form new communication circuits.

“We’re seeing direct evidence for the interactions between these two systems during learning, which hasn’t been seen before,” says Earl Miller, the Picower Professor of Neuroscience at… read more

Leukemia drug found to stimulate immunity against many cancer types

June 17, 2014

A UCL research mouse (credit: David Bishop, UCL)

A class of drug called p110δ inhibitors, currently being used to treat leukemia, has the unexpected side-effect of boosting immune responses against many different cancers, reports a new study led by scientists at UCL (University College London) and the Babraham Institute, Cambridge.

The drugs have shown such remarkable efficacy against certain leukemias in recent clinical trials that patients on the placebo were switched to the real drug.… read more

A gene that stimulates growth of new brain cells in adults

Discovery could provide new strategy for treating neurodegenerative disease and memory loss
June 16, 2014

Increased length of the hippocampus dentate girus (DG) for TLX gene overexpressed (Tg or transgenic mice) vs control group (WT, or wild type) (credit: Kiyohito Mura et al./PNAS)

Over-expressing a specific gene could prompt growth in adults of new neurons in the hippocampus, where learning and memory are regulated, City of Hope researchers have found.

The study, which used an animal model, found that over-expression of the TLX gene resulted in smart, faster learners that retained information better and longer.

Understanding the link between this gene and the growth of new neurons — or… read more

Charging portable electronics will be super-fast, widely accessible

June 16, 2014

Powermat charge rings (credit: Starbucks)

Two innovations for on-the-go mobile-device users seeking a quick charge are in the works: Starbucks plans to install wireless charging devices in all of its stores; and a new battery design could enable rapid charging of lithium-ion batteries in ten minutes.

Starbucks stores will have “Powermat Spots” — designated areas on tables and counters where customers can place their compatible device and charge them wirelessly. The system uses… read more

Ultrasonic imaging at 1,000 times times higher resolution

June 13, 2014

Gold plasmonic nanostructures shaped like Swiss-crosses can convert laser light into ultrahigh frequency (10GHz) sound waves (credit: Berkeley Lab)

A next-generation ultrasonic imaging system that could provide 1,000 times higher resolution than today’s medical ultrasound systems has been demonstrated by Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory (Berkeley Lab) researchers.

The researchers used a combination of subpicosecond laser pulses and unique nanostructures to produce acoustic phonons — quasi-particles of vibrational energy that move through an atomic lattice as sound waves — at a frequency of 10 gigahertz (10 billion… read more

New search program aims to teach itself everything about any visual concept

June 13, 2014

LEVAN

Computer scientists from the University of Washington and the Allen Institute for Artificial Intelligence in Seattle have created an automated computer program that they claim “teaches everything there is to know about any visual concept.”

Called Learning Everything about Anything (LEVAN), the program searches millions of books and images on the Web to learn all possible variations of a concept, then displays the results… read more

First human climbing of glass wall, using gecko-inspired paddles

June 13, 2014

During testing, an operator climbed 25 feet vertically on a glass surface using no climbing equipment other than a pair of hand-held, gecko-inspired paddles (credit: : DARPA)

The first known human climbing of a glass wall using gecko-inspired climbing devices has been demonstrated by DARPA’s Z-Man program.

A 218-pound climber ascended and descended 25 feet of glass with no climbing equipment other than a pair of hand-held, gecko-inspired paddles (he also carried an additional 50-pound load in one trial).

A gecko is able to climb on glass by using… read more

Paralyzed person wearing brain-controlled exoskeleton to kick off the World Cup today

June 12, 2014

The first ceremonial kick of the World Cup game (Brazil 2014) may be made by a paralyzed teenager wearing a robotic body suit (credit: Walk Again Project)

A paralyzed person wearing a brain-controlled robotic exoskeleton is expected to make the first kick during the opening of the FIFA 2014 World Cup in Brazil on June 12.

The Walk Again Project is an international collaboration of more than 100 scientists, led by Prof. Miguel Nicolelis of Duke University and the International Institute for Neurosciences of Natal, Brazil.… read more

Terahertz detectors using carbon nanotubes may lead to major imaging improvements

Could allow a handheld detector to replace MRI machines
June 12, 2014

This illustration shows an array of parallel carbon nanotubes 300 micrometers long. Attached to electrodes, they display unique qualities as a photodetector (credit: Francois Leonard, Sandia National Laboratories)

Researchers at three institutions have teamed up to develop new terahertz detectors based on carbon nanotubes that could lead to significant improvements in medical imaging, airport passenger screening, food inspection, and other applications.

The research at Sandia National Laboratories, Rice University and the Tokyo Institute of Technology is described in a paper in Nano Letters journal. The technique uses carbon nanotubes to detect… read more

Researchers create miniature human retina in a dish

June 11, 2014

These are rod photoreceptors (in green) within a "mini retina" derived from human iPS cells in the lab (credit: Johns Hopkins Medicine)

Johns Hopkins researchers have created a miniature human retina in a dish that can sense light.

The work, reported online June 10 in the journal Nature Communications, “advances opportunities for vision-saving research and may ultimately lead to technologies that restore vision in people with retinal diseases,” says study leader M. Valeria Canto-Soler, Ph.D., an assistant professor of ophthalmology at the Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine.… read more

3D-bioprinting improved artificial blood vessels

The future: transplantable tissues customized to each patient's needs or be used outside the body to develop safe, effective drugs
June 11, 2014

Artificial blood vessels are created using hydrogel constructs that combine advances in 3-D bioprinting technology and biomaterials (credit: Khademhosseini Lab)

A Brigham and Women’s Hospital (BWH) team has created artificial blood vessels using a three-dimensional (3D) bioprinting technique.

The study is published online this month in Lab on a Chip.

“Engineers have made incredible strides in making complex artificial tissues such as those of the heart, liver and lungs,” said senior study author, Ali Khademhosseini, PhD, biomedical engineer, and director of the BWH Biomaterialsread more

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