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Nanoparticle ‘cluster bombs’ destroy cancer cells

New delivery method directly penetrates tumor cells, avoiding toxic side effects of cisplatin chemotherapy drug
March 30, 2016

nanoparticle cluster bomb_ft

Scientists have devised a triple-stage stealth “cluster bomb” system for delivering the anti-cancer chemotherapy drug cisplatin, using nanoparticles designed to break up when they reach a tumor:

  1. The nanoparticles start out relatively large  — 100 nanometers wide — so that they can move through the bloodstream and smoothly transport into the tumor through leaky blood vessels.
  2. As they detect acidic conditions close to tumors, the nanoparticles discharge

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On/off button for passing along epigenetic ‘memories’ to our children discovered

March 29, 2016

Transgenerational Small RNA Inheritance-ft

According to epigenetics — the study of inheritable changes in gene expression not directly coded in our DNA — our life experiences may be passed on to our children and our children’s children. Studies on survivors of traumatic events have suggested that exposure to stress may indeed have lasting effects on subsequent generations.

But exactly how are these genetic “memories” passed on?

A new Tel Aviv University (… read more

A biosensor that’s 1 million times more sensitive

Aims at detecting cancers earlier, improving treatment and outcomes
March 29, 2016

miniaturized GC-HMM sensor devic-ft

An optical sensor that’s 1 million times more sensitive than the current best available has been developed by Case Western Reserve University researchers. Based on nanostructured metamaterials, it can identify a single lightweight molecule in a highly dilute solution.

The research goal is to provide oncologists a way to detect a single molecule of an enzyme produced by circulating cancer cells. That could allow doctors to diagnose and monitor… read more

Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory and IBM build brain-inspired supercomputer

Focusing on cognitive tasks such as pattern recognition and sensory processing, chip-architecture breakthrough may accelerate path to exascale computing
March 29, 2016

Lawrence Livermore's new supercomputer system composed of 16 IBM TrueNorth chips developed by IBM Research (credit: IBM Research)

Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory (LLNL) has purchased IBM Research’s supercomputing platform for deep-learning inference, based on 16 IBM TrueNorth neurosynaptic computer chips, to explore deep learning algorithms.

IBM says the scalable platform processing power is the equivalent of 16 million artificial “neurons” and 4 billion “synapses.” The brain-like neural-network design of the IBM Neuromorphic System can process complex cognitive tasks such as pattern recognition and integrated sensory processing far… read more

Nature-inspired precisely assembled nanotubes

A new design principle for building nanostructures for filtration and desalination
March 28, 2016

Precision meets nano-construction, as seen in this illustration. Berkeley Lab scientists discovered a peptoid composed of two chemically distinct blocks (shown in orange and blue) that assembles itself into nanotubes with uniform diameters. (credit: Berkeley Lab)

Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory (Berkeley Lab) researchers have discovered a new family of nature-inspired polymers that, when placed in water, spontaneously assemble into hollow crystalline nanotubes up to 100 nanometers long with the same diameter.

“Creating uniform structures in high yield is a goal in nanotechnology,” says Ron Zuckermann, who directs the Biological Nanostructures Facility in Berkeley Lab’s Molecular Foundry, where much of this research was conducted. “For example,… read more

Researchers use optogenetic light to block tumor development

Uses light-triggered bioelectric current
March 28, 2016

Optogenetics modulation of membrane voltage to control induced tumor-like structures. (Top) Tumor induced in tadpole embryo. (Bottom left) Control embryo not injected with light-sensitive protein is highly fluorescent, indicating relative depolarization. (Bottom right) Embryo injected with light-sensitive protein, causing hyperpolarization and significantly lowering the incidence of tumor formation. Scale bar = 150 micrometers. (credit: Brook T. Chernet et al./Oncotarget)


Tufts University biologists have demonstrated (using a frog model*) for the first time that it is possible to prevent tumors from forming (and to normalize tumors after they have formed) by using optogenetics (light) to control bioelectrical signalling among cells.

Light/bioelectric control of tumors

Virtually all healthy cells maintain a more negative voltage in the cell interior compared with the cell… read more

Craig Venter’s team designs, builds first minimal synthetic bacterial cell

New record for the least number of genes needed for independent cell growth
March 28, 2016

A cluster of JCVI-syn3.0 cells, showing spherical structures of varying sizes (scale bar, 200 nm) (credit: Clyde A. Hutchison III et al./Science)

Just 473 genes were needed to create life in a new synthesized species of bacteria created by synthetic biologists from the J. Craig Venter Institute (JCVI) and Synthetic Genomics, Inc.

Knowing the minimum number of genes to create life would answer a fundamental question in biology.

This “minimal synthetic cell,” JCVI-syn3.0, was reported in an open-access paper published last week in the  journal Science. By… read more

New 2D material could upstage graphene

Can function as a conductor or semiconductor, is extremely stable, and uses light, inexpensive earth-abundant elements
March 25, 2016

Si2BN ft

A new one-atom-thick flat material made up of silicon, boron, and nitrogen can function as a conductor or semiconductor (unlike graphene) and could upstage graphene and advance digital technology, say scientists at the University of Kentucky, Daimler in Germany, and the Institute for Electronic Structure and Laser (IESL) in Greece.

Reported in Physical Review B, Rapid Communications, the new Si2BN material was discovered in theory (not yet made… read more

Nano-enhanced textiles clean themselves with light

Catalytic uses for industrial-scale chemical processes in agrochemicals, pharmaceuticals, and natural products also seen
March 25, 2016

Close-up of the nanostructures grown on cotton textiles by RMIT University researchers. Image magnified 150,000 times. (credit: RMIT University)

Researchers at at RMIT University in Australia have developed a cheap, efficient way to grow special copper- and silver-based nanostructures on textiles that can degrade organic matter when exposed to light.

Don’t throw out your washing machine yet, but the work paves the way toward nano-enhanced textiles that can spontaneously clean themselves of stains and grime simply by being put under a light or worn out in… read more

New type of molecular tag makes MRI 10,000 times more sensitive

Could detect biochemical processes in opaque tissue without requiring PET radiation or CT x-rays
March 25, 2016

Duke scientists have discovered a new class of inexpensive and long-lived molecular tags that enhance MRI signals by 10,000-fold. To activate the tags, the researchers mix them with a newly developed catalyst (center) and a special form of hydrogen (gray), converting them into long-lived magnetic resonance “lightbulbs” that might be used to track disease metabolism in real time. Credit: Thomas Theis, Duke University

Duke University researchers have discovered a new form of MRI that’s 10,000 times more sensitive and could record actual biochemical reactions, such as those involved in cancer and heart disease, and in real time.

Let’s review how MRI (magnetic resonance imaging) works: MRI takes advantage of a property called spin, which makes the nuclei in hydrogen atoms act like tiny magnets. By generating a strong… read more

Scientists time-reverse developed stem cells to make them ‘embryonic’ again

May help avoid ethically controversial use of human embryos for research and support other research goals
March 24, 2016


University of Michigan Medical School researchers have discovered a way to convert mouse stem cells (taken from an embryo) that have  become “primed” (reached the stage where they can  differentiate, or develop into every specialized cell in the body) to a “naïve” (unspecialized) state by simply adding a drug.

This breakthrough has the potential to one day allow researchers to avoid the ethically controversial use ofread more

How to kill bacteria in seconds using gold nanoparticles and light

Could treat bacterial infections without using antibiotics, which could help reduce the risk of spreading antibiotics resistance
March 24, 2016

zapping bacteria ft

Researchers at the University of Houston have developed a new technique for killing bacteria in 5 to 25 seconds using highly porous gold nanodisks and light, according to a study published today in Optical Materials Express. The method could one day help hospitals treat some common infections without using antibiotics, which could help reduce the risk of spreading antibiotics resistance.

Gold nanoparticles are used because they… read more

Automated lip-reading invented

It's the end of the (privacy) world as we know it...
March 24, 2016

HAL lip-reading

New lip-reading technology developed at the University of East Anglia could help in solving crimes and provide communication assistance for people with hearing and speech impairments.

The visual speech recognition technology, created by Helen L. Bear, PhD, and Prof Richard Harvey of UEA’s School of Computing Sciences, can be applied “any place where the audio isn’t good enough to determine what people are saying,” Bear said. Those… read more

A new nontoxic way to generate portable power

Got a match?
March 23, 2016

In this time-lapse series of photos, progressing from top to bottom, a coating of sucrose (ordinary sugar) over a wire made of carbon nanotubes is lit at the left end, and burns from one end to the other. As it heats the wire, it drives a wave of electrons along with it, thus converting the heat into electricity. (credit: MIT)

Here’s a new idea for a nontoxic battery: light fuel-coated carbon nanotubes on fire (like a fuse) to generate electricity.

Sounds crazy but it works, according to inventor Michael Strano, the Carbon P. Dubbs Professor in Chemical Engineering at MIT. Plus it avoids toxic materials such as lithium, which can be difficult to dispose of and that have limited global supplies),

The new approach is… read more

Exploring long-range communications in the brain

March 23, 2016

Red and green dots reveal a region in the brain that that is very dense with synapses. A special fluorescent protein allows Dr. Ofer Yizhar and his group to record the activity of the synapses. (credit: Weizmann Institute of Science)

Weizmann Institute of Science researchers have devised a new way to track long-distance communications between nerve cells in different areas of the brain. They used optogenetic techniques (using genetic engineering of neurons and laser light in thin optical fibers to temporarily silence long-range axons, effectively leading to a sustained “disconnect” between two distant brain nodes.

By observing what happens when crucial connections are disabled, the researchers could… read more

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