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Researchers discover signaling molecule that helps neurons find their way in the developing brain

November 20, 2015

This image shows a section of the spinal cord of a mouse embryo. Neurons appear green, and those that express the Robo3 receptor are labeled red. Commissural axons appear as long, u-shaped threads, and the bottom, yellow segment of the structure represents the midline. (credit: Laboratory of Brain Development and Repair at The Rockefeller University)

Rockefeller University researchers have discovered a molecule secreted by cells in the spinal cord that helps guide axons (neuron extensions) during a critical stage of central nervous system development in the embryo. The finding helps solve the mystery: how do the billions of neurons in the embryo nimbly reposition themselves within the brain and spinal cord, and connect branches to form neural circuits?

Working in mice, the… read more

This app lets autonomous video drones with facial recognition target persons

One small step for selfies, one giant leap for cheap deep-learning autonomous video-surveillance drones
November 19, 2015

selfie ft

Robotics company Neurala has combined facial-recognition and drone-control mobile software in an iOS/Android app called “Selfie Dronie” that enables low-cost Parrot Bebop and Bebop 2 drones to take hands-free videos and follow a subject autonomously.

To create a video, you simply select the person or object and you’re done. The drone then flies an arc around the subject to take a video selfie (it moves with the… read more

Growing functional vocal cords in the lab

November 19, 2015

Engineered vocal-cord tissue in lab (credit: Changying Ling et al./Tissue Engineering)

University of Wisconsin scientists have succeeded in growing functional vocal-cord tissue in the laboratory and bioengineering it to transmit sound, a major step toward restoring voice for people who have lost their vocal cords to cancer surgery or other injuries.

Dr. Nathan Welham, a speech-language pathologist and an associate professor of surgery in the UW School of Medicine and Public Health, and colleagues began with vocal-cord tissue… read more

Pigeons diagnose breast cancer on X-rays as well as radiologists

When "flock-sourcing," they do better, with 99 percent accuracy --- and they work for seeds
November 19, 2015

pigeon training environment

“Pigeons do just as well as humans in categorizing digitized slides and mammograms of benign and malignant human breast tissue,” said Richard Levenson, professor of pathology and laboratory medicine at UC Davis Health System and lead author of a new open-access study in PLoS One by researchers at the University of California, Davis and The University of Iowa.

“The pigeons were able to generalize what they had… read more

Exercise may protect against neurodegenerative diseases

November 19, 2015

(credit: iStock)

Exercise may protect aging brains against the neurodegenerative diseases resulting from energy-depleting stress caused by neurotoxins and other factors, according to researchers at the National Institute on Aging Intramural Research Program and Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine.

They found that running-wheel exercise increased the amount of SIRT3 in neurons of normal mice and protected them against degeneration.

However, mice models genetically modified to not produce SIRT3 became… read more

Modulating brain’s stress circuity might prevent Alzheimer’s disease

Drug significantly prevented onset of cognitive and cellular effects in mice
November 17, 2015

AD drug treatment ft

In a novel animal study design that mimicked human clinical trials, researchers at University of California, San Diego School of Medicine report that long-term treatment using a small-molecule drug that reduces activity of  the brain’s stress circuitry significantly reduces Alzheimer’s disease (AD) neuropathology and prevents onset of cognitive impairment in a mouse model of the neurodegenerative condition.

The findings are described in the current online issue of… read more

Allen Institute researchers decode patterns that make our brains human

Conserved gene patterning across human brains provide insights into health and disease
November 17, 2015

Percentage of known neuron-, astrocyte- and oligodendrocyte-enriched genes in 32 modules, ordered by proportion of neuron-enriched gene membership. (credit: Michael Hawrylycz et al./Nature Neuroscience)

Allen Institute researchers have identified a surprisingly small set of just 32 gene-expression patterns for all 20,000 genes across 132 functionally distinct human brain regions, and these patterns appear to be common to all individuals.

In research published this month in Nature Neuroscience, the researchers used data for six brains from the publicly available Allen Human Brain Atlas. They believe the study is important because… read more

50 corporations track third-party data from 88 percent of 1 million top websites

November 17, 2015

sites tracked ft

A survey of 1 million top websites finds that 88 percent share user data with third parties, according to Tim Libert, a doctoral student at the Annenberg School for Communication at the University of Pennsylvania. The study was published in an open-access paper in the International Journal of Communication.

These websites, listed on Alexa, contact an average of nine external domains, indicating that… read more

How to control information leaks from smartphone apps

November 17, 2015

location tracking

A Northeastern University research team has found “exten­sive” leakage of users’ information — device and user iden­ti­fiers, loca­tions, and passwords — into net­work traffic from apps on mobile devices, including iOS, Android, and Win­dows phones. The researchers have also devised a way to stop the flow.

David Choffnes, an assis­tant pro­fessor in the Col­lege of Com­puter and Infor­ma­tion Sci­ence, and his col­leagues devel­oped a simple, effi­cient cloud-based system called … read more

Can humans empathize with robots? The knife test.

November 16, 2015

robot pain

Researchers at Toyohashi University of Technology and Kyoto University have found the first neurophysiological evidence of humans’ ability to empathize with robots in perceived pain — at least when it comes to losing a finger.

They monitored event-related electroencephalography (EEG) signals from 15 healthy adults who were observing pictures of either a human or robotic hand in painful or non-painful situations, such as a finger… read more

A molecular light-driven nanosubmarine

Potential medical and other uses
November 16, 2015

Rice University scientists have created light-driven, single-molecule submersibles that contain just 244 atoms (credit: Loïc Samuel/Rice University)

The Rice University lab of chemist James Tour has created single-molecule, 244-atom submersibles with motors powered by ultraviolet light, as they reported this month in the American Chemical Society journal Nano Letters.

With each full revolution, the motor’s tail-like propeller moves the sub forward 18 nanometers, but with the motors running at more than a million RPM, that translates into almost 1 inch per second —… read more

‘Super natural killer cells’ destroy cancer in lymph nodes to halt metastasis

November 16, 2015

Nanoscale liposomes (orange) with TRAIL protein (green) attach to the surface of white blood cells and bump into cancer cells (brown) and program them to die (credit: Cornell University)

Cornell biomedical engineers have developed specialized white blood cells they call “super natural killer cells” that seek out cancer cells in lymph nodes with only one purpose: to destroy them, halting the onset of cancer tumor cell metastasis.

“We want to see lymph-node metastasis become a thing of the past,” said Michael R. King, the Daljit S. and Elaine Sarkaria Professor of Biomedical Engineering and senior author of a… read more

Reprogramming neurons and rewiring the brain

A new way to fix defective neural communication in psychiatric and neurodevelopmental diseases, such as schizophrenia and autism
November 16, 2015

Projection neurons of the cerebral cortex targeted for reprogramming are displayed in green. (credit: Caroline Rouaux/Arlotta Lab)

In previous research, Harvard Stem Cell Institute researchers disproved neurobiology dogma by “reprogramming” neurons — turning one form of neuron into another — in the brains of living animals. Now they’ve taken it a step further, showing that networks of communication among reprogrammed neurons and their neighbors can also be changed, or “rewired.”

The finding, by Paola Arlotta, a professor of stem cell and regenerative biology, in close collaboration… read more

Beyond telomerase: another enzyme discovered critical to maintaining telomere length

New discovery expected to speed understanding of short-telomere-related diseases and cancer
November 13, 2015

Telomeres glow at the ends of chromosomes (credit: Hesed Padilla-Nash and Thomas Ried of the NIH)

Johns Hopkins researchers report they have uncovered the role of an another enzyme crucial to telomere length in addition to the enzyme telomerase, discovered in 1984.

The researchers say the new test they used to find the enzyme should speed discovery of other proteins and processes that determine telomere length. Shortened telomeres have been implicated in aging and in diseases as diverse as lung and… read more

‘Porous liquid’ invention could lead to improved carbon capture

November 13, 2015

Researchers at Queen's University Belfast, Northern Ireland, have invented the world's first 'porous liquid' (credit: Queen's University Belfast)

Scientists at Queen’s University Belfast, Northern Ireland, and partners have invented a “porous liquid” that can dissolve unusually large amounts of gas, with the potential for a wide range of new uses, including carbon capture.

They designed the new liquid from the bottom up, designing the shapes of the “cage molecules” to form empty holes. The researchers say the concentration of unoccupied cages can be around 500… read more

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