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New acoustic-tweezer design allows for 3D bioprinting

Makes possible 3D multicellular architectures for applications in biomanufacturing, tissue engineering, regenerative medicine, neuroscience, and cancer metastasis research
January 28, 2016

Illustration of a particle trapped by the 3-D trapping node created by two superimposed, orthogonal, standing surface acoustic waves and the induced acoustic streaming. (credit: Carnegie Mellon University)

A team of researchers at three universities has developed a way to use “acoustic tweezers” (which use ultrasonic surface acoustic waves, or SAWs, to trap and manipulate micrometer-scale particles and biological cells — see “Acoustic tweezers manipulate cellular-scale objects with ultrasound“) to non-invasively pick up and move single cells in three mutually orthogonal axes of motion (three dimensions).

The new 3D acoustic tweezers can pick up… read more

Mechanotherapy may replace drug and cellular therapies for injured muscle tissue

January 28, 2016


Engineers and biomedical scientists at the Wyss Institute for Biologically Inspired Engineering at Harvard University and the Harvard School of Engineering and Applied Sciences have developed a promising new approach for repairing severely damaged skeletal muscles: direct mechanical stimulation. It may be appropriate for major injuries commonly caused by motor vehicle accidents, other traumas, or nerve damage, which can lead to extensive scarring, fibrous tissue, and loss… read more

A new technique for super-resolution digital microscopy

Another advance in smaller, more-accessible, super-resolution microscopy devices
January 27, 2016

The image sensor of the wavelength scanning super-resolution apparatus collects a “stack” of images of the sample (credit: Ozcan Lab)

Researchers from the California NanoSystems Institute at UCLA have created a new technique using lens-free holograms that greatly enhances digital microscopy images, which are sometimes blurry and pixelated.

The new technique, called “wavelength scanning pixel super-resolution,” uses a device that captures a stack of digital images of the same specimen, each with a slightly different wavelength of light. Then, researchers apply a newly devised algorithm that divides the pixels… read more

How cancer cells form tumors by reaching out with ‘cables’ and grabbing cells

A cancer riddle solved; counters "cancer stem cell" explanation
January 27, 2016

cancer attack

University of Iowa | Cancer cells’ motion and accretion into tumors

Two University of Iowa studies have recorded the movements of cancerous human breast tissue cells in real time and in 3D — the first time cancer cells’ motion and accretion into tumors has been continuously tracked, the researchers believe.

The team discovered that cancerous cells, moving at move at 92 micrometers per hour (about twice the speed of healthy cells), actively recruit healthy cells into… read more

Google machine-learning system is first to defeat professional Go player

Deep-learning AlphaGo: 5; leading Go master Fan Hui: 0.
January 27, 2016

Go game

A deep-learning computer system called AlphaGo created by Google’s DeepMind team has defeated reigning three-time European Go champion Fan Hui 5 games to 0 — the first time a computer program has ever beaten a professional Go player, reports Google Research blog today (Jan. 27) — a feat previously thought to be at least a decade away.

“AlphaGo uses general machine-learning techniques to allow it to improve… read more

A flexible, transparent pressure sensor

A more sensitive way for doctors (or robots) to palpate tumors
January 26, 2016

The pressure sensors wrap around and conform to the shape of the fingers while still accurately measuring pressure distribution. (credit: 2016 Someya Laboratory)

Doctors may one day be able to physically screen for breast cancer using pressure-sensitive rubber gloves to detect tumors, thanks to a transparent, bendable, and sensitive pressure sensor newly developed by Japanese and American teams.

Conventional pressure sensors can’t measure pressure changes accurately once they are twisted or wrinkled, making them unsuitable for use on complex and moving surfaces, and they can’t be miniaturized below 100 micrometers (0.1 millimeters)… read more

A novel ’4D printing’ method inspired by plants

Shapeshifting architectures mimic the natural movements of plants
January 26, 2016


Harvard University scientists have evolved their microscale 3D printing technology to the fourth dimension, time. Inspired by natural structures like plants, which respond and change their form over time according to environmental stimuli, the team has designed 4D-printed hydrogel composite structures that change shape upon immersion in water.

The team is located at the Wyss Institute for Biologically Inspired Engineering at Harvard University and the… read more

How to make almost any shape out of a flat sheet of paper

Simple origami fold may hold the key to designing pop-up furniture, medical devices and scientific tools
January 26, 2016

Mahadevan and his team have characterized a fundamental origami fold, or tessellation, that could be used as a building block to create almost any three-dimensional shape, as seen above. (credit: Mahadevan Lab/Harvard SEAS)

Harvard scientist L. Mahadevan and his team have devised a way to make virtually any shape out of a flat sheet of paper, using a fundamental origami or tessellation fold.

The folding pattern, known as the Miura-ori, is a periodic way to tile the plane using the simplest mountain-valley fold in origami. It was used as a decorative item in clothing at least… read more

New handheld miniature microscope could ID cancer cells in doctor’s offices and operating rooms

January 25, 2016

University of Washington mechanical engineers and collaborators have developed a handheld microscope to help doctors and dentists distinguish between healthy and cancerous cells in an office setting or operating room. (credit: Dennis Wise/University of Washington)

A miniature handheld microscope being developed by University of Washington mechanical engineers could allow neurosurgeons to differentiate cancerous from normal brain tissue at cellular level in real time in the operating room and determine where to stop cutting.

The new technology is intended to solve a critical problem in brain surgery: to definitively distinguish between cancerous and normal brain cells, during an operation, neurosurgeons would have stop the… read more

Planet Nine from outer space

Right now, a giant invisible planet with a mass 10 times greater than Earth is tracing a bizarre, highly elongated orbit in the outer solar system beyond Neptune — or so claim Caltech astronomers. Finally: a planet to replace Pluto?
January 22, 2016

Planet 9 ft

Caltech researchers have found evidence of a giant planet tracing a bizarre, highly elongated orbit in the outer solar system that the researchers have nicknamed Planet Nine.

It has a mass about ten times that of Earth and orbits about 20 times farther from the sun on average than does Neptune (which orbits the sun at an average distance of 2.8 billion miles). In fact, it would take this… read more

Detecting heartbeats remotely with millimeter-wave radar

May replace electrocardiograph devices, allowing for freedom of movement and use by patients
January 22, 2016

Japanese researchers have come up with a way to measure heartbeats remotely, in real time, and under controlled conditions with as much accuracy as electrocardiographs. The technology utilizes spread-spectrum radar to catch signals from the body and an algorithm that distinguishes heartbeats from other signals. (credit: Kyoto University)

A radar system that measures heartbeats remotely in real time and with as much accuracy as electrocardiographs has been developed by researchers at the Kyoto University Center of Innovation and Panasonic Corporation,

The results were published in an open-access paper in the journal IEEE Transactions on Biomedical Engineering.

The researchers say this new approach will allow for developing long-term monitoring and “casual… read more

Fermi paradox resolved: near-universal early extinction?

The aliens are silent because they’re dead
January 22, 2016


The famous Fermi paradox raises the question: why haven’t we detected signs of alien life, despite high estimates of probability, such as observations of planets in the “habitable zone” around a Sun-like star by the Kepler telescope and calculations of hundreds of billions of Earth-like planets in our galaxy that might support life.

Now astrobiologists from Australian National University (ANU) Researchread more

Researchers pinpoint ‘limbo’ noisy place where cancer cells may emerge

January 21, 2016

fly's eye ft

In a study involving the fruit fly equivalent of an oncogene implicated in many human leukemias, Northwestern University researchers have gained insight into how developing cells normally switch to a restricted, or specialized, state and how that process might go wrong in cancer.

The fruit fly’s eye is an intricate pattern of many different specialized cells, such as light-sensing neurons and cone cells. Because flies share with humans many… read more

How to rewire the brain with artificial axons to replace damaged pathways

Research promises to one day restore functionality for patients with damaged axons resulting from brain injury or disease
January 21, 2016

axon extensions ft

Penn State scientists have grown improved artificial transplantable artificial axons (brain pathways) in the lab. The new “micro-tissue engineered neural networks” (micro-TENNS) replace broken axon pathways when implanted in the brains of rats.

(Neurons are connected by long fibrous projections known as axons. When these connections are damaged, they have very limited capacity to regenerate — unlike many other cells in the body — thus permanently disrupting the body’s… read more

Memory capacity of brain is 10 times more than previously thought

The brain’s memory capacity is in the petabyte range, as much as the entire Web, data from the Salk Institute show; may lead to more energy-efficient computers
January 20, 2016

Salk scientists computationally reconstructed brain tissue in the hippocampus to study the sizes of connections (synapses). The larger the synapse, the more likely the neuron will send a signal to a neighboring neuron. The team found that there are actually 26 discrete sizes that can change over a span of a few minutes, meaning that the brain has a far great capacity at storing information than previously thought. Pictured here is a synapse between an axon (green) and dendrite (yellow). (credit: Salk Institute)

Salk researchers and collaborators have achieved critical insight into the size of neural connections, putting the memory capacity of the brain far higher than common estimates. The new work also answers a longstanding question as to how the brain is so energy efficient, and could help engineers build computers that are incredibly powerful but also conserve energy.

“This is a real bombshell in the field of neuroscience,” says … read more

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