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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

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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

A ‘smart’ patch that automatically delivers insulin when needed

Replaces finger-pricking and insulin shots
January 20, 2017

Tiny, painless microneedles on a patch can deliver insulin in response to rising glucose levels. (credit: American Chemical Society)

A team of scientists has invented a replacement for daily glucose-level finger-pricking and insulin shots: a painless “smart” patch that monitors blood glucose and releases insulin when levels climb too high.

The report on the device, which has only been tested on mice so far, appears in the journal ACS Nano.

People with Type 1 diabetes don’t make insulin — a hormone that regulates blood glucose (sugar). Those with… read more

Woman dies from antibiotic-resistant bacteria when no antibiotics worked

Deadly “CRE” family of superbug bacteria spreading more widely and stealthily, Harvard study finds
January 18, 2017

CRE bacteria

The death of a hospitalized patient in Reno Nevada for whom no available antibiotics worked highlights what World Health Organization and other public-health experts have been warning: antibiotic resistance is a serious threat and has gone global.

The patient — a female in her 70s — was admitted in for an infection and died in September 2016 from septic shock the CDC announced on Jan.… read more

Wearable sensors can alert you when you are getting sick, Stanford study shows

January 18, 2017

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Fitness monitors and other wearable biosensors can tell when your heart rate, activity, skin temperature, and other measures are abnormal, suggesting possible illness, including the onset of infection, inflammation, and even insulin resistance, according to a study by researchers at the Stanford University School of Medicine.

The team collected nearly 2 billion measurements from 60 people, including continuous data from each participant’s wearable biosensor devices* and periodic data… read more

Compact new microscope chemically identifies micrometer-sized particles

Low-cost, ten-times-higher-resolution spectroscopy technique could allow for detection of microscopic amounts of chemicals for applications in security, law enforcement, and research
January 13, 2017

Multiple species of micron-sized particles are simultaneously illuminated by an infrared laser and a green laser beam. Absorption of the infrared laser light by the particles increases their temperatures, causing them to expand and slightly altering their optical properties. These changes are unique to the material composition of each particle and can be measured by examining the modulation of scattered green light from each particle. (credit: Ryan Sullenberger, MIT Lincoln Laboratory)

MIT researchers have developed a radical design for a low-cost, miniaturized microscope that can chemically identify individual micrometer-sized particles. It could one day be used in airports or other high-security venues as a highly sensitive and low-cost way to rapidly screen people for microscopic amounts of potentially dangerous materials. It could also be used for scientific analysis of very small samples or for measuring the optical properties of materials.… read more

Synthetic stem cells offer benefits of natural stem cells without the risks

Can be applied to multiple stem cell types and to repair of various organ systems
January 13, 2017

Synthetic cardiac stem cells could offer therapeutic benefits without associated risks. (credit: Alice Harvey, NC State University)

Scientists have created the first synthetic version of a cardiac stem cell, offering therapeutic benefits comparable to those from natural stem cells — but without the risks and limitations, according to researchers from North Carolina State University, the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, and First Affiliated Hospital of Zhengzhou University in China.

The newly created “synthetic stem cells” (not actual stem cells —… read more

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