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Precisely controllable acoustic levitation

Opens the door for some cool new levitation gadgets and toys
January 7, 2015

levitation

University of São Paulo researchers have developed a new levitation device that can hover a tiny object with more control than was previously possible.

Featured on this week’s cover of the journal Applied Physics Letters in an open-access paper, the device can levitate polystyrene particles by reflecting sound waves from a source off a concave reflector below.

Changing the orientation of the reflector also allows… read more

Largest Hubble Space Telescope image ever assembled offers awesome view of a portion of the Andromeda galaxy

Captures individual stars 2 million light-years away
January 6, 2015

Andromeda-ft

NASA announced Monday the largest NASA Hubble Space Telescope image ever assembled — a sweeping bird’s-eye view of a portion of the Andromeda galaxy (M31) and the sharpest large composite image ever taken of our nearest galaxy. The galaxy is over 2 million light-years away, but the Hubble Space Telescope is powerful enough to resolve individual stars in a 61,000-light-year-long stretch of the galaxy’s pancake-shaped disk. This is the first… read more

‘Imaginary meal’ tricks the body into losing weight

January 5, 2015

Ronald Evans, director of Salk’s Gene Expression Laboratory, has developed a compound called fexaramine that acts like an imaginary meal. Fexaramine, which tricks the body into reacting as if it has consumed calories, could lead to an effective obesity and diabetes treatment in humans. (credit: Courtesy of the Salk Institute for Biological Studies)

Salk researchers have developed an entirely new type of pill that tricks the body into thinking it has consumed calories, causing it to burn fat.

The compound effectively stopped weight gain, lowered cholesterol, controlled blood sugar, and minimized inflammation in mice, making it an excellent candidate for a rapid transition into human clinical trials.

Unlike most diet pills on the market, this new pill, called fexaramine,… read more

‘Glowing’ nanotech guides cancer surgery, kills remaining cancer cells

“If it glows, cut it out.”
January 5, 2015

A “dendrimer” nanoparticle carries a drug into cancer cells for improved surgery and phototherapy (credit: Oregon State University)

Oregon State University researchers have developed a new way to selectively  insert compounds into cancer cells — a system that will help surgeons identify malignant tissues and then, in combination with phototherapy, kill any remaining cancer cells after a tumor is removed.

The method should allow more accurate surgical removal of solid tumors at the same time it eradicates any remaining cancer cells. In laboratory tests, it… read more

Astronomers simulate the universe with realistic galaxies

January 4, 2015

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An international team of astronomers has developed a simulation of the universe in which realistic galaxies are created — their mass, size, and age are similar to those of observed galaxies.

Previous computer simulations had limited success because their simulations were too old, too spherical, and either too massive or too small.

In the new study, by astronomers based at Durham University and Leidenread more

Robot learns to use tools by ‘watching’ YouTube videos

January 2, 2015

"Hmmm, I can do that." Robot watches videos to detect objects and how to grasp them (credit: Yezhou Yang et al.)

Imagine a self-learning robot that can enrich its knowledge about fine-grained manipulation actions (such as preparing food) simply by “watching” demo videos. That’s the idea behind a new robot-training system based on recent developments of “deep neural networks” in computer vision, developed by researchers at the University of Maryland and NICTA in Australia.

The objective of the system is to improve performance, improving on previous automated robot-training systems such… read more

Protein partially assembles another protein without genetic instructions

January 2, 2015

Protein adds amino acids to a new protein without genetic instructions. The Rqc2 protein (yellow) binds transfer RNAs (dark blue, teal), which add amino acids (bright spot in middle) to a partially made protein (green). The complex binds the ribosome (white). (Credit: anet Iwasa, Ph.D., University of Utah)

Defying textbook science, amino acids (the building blocks of a protein) can be assembled by another protein and without genetic instructions, according to a study published today (Jan. 2) in Science.

It happens just before an incomplete protein is recycled due to an assembly failure: a protein called Rqc2 prompts ribosomes (which assemble proteins) to add just two amino acids (of 20 total) — alanine and threonine — over… read more

Lack of daily physical activity linked to vascular dysfunction

December 31, 2014

(Credit: iStock)

University of Missouri School of Medicine researchers have found that reducing daily physical activity for even a few days leads to decreases in the function of the inner lining of blood vessels in the legs of young, healthy subjects, causing vascular dysfunction that can have prolonged effects.

Paul Fadel, associate professor of medical pharmacology and physiology, and John Thyfault, associate professor of nutrition and exercise physiology, also found that… read more

Resveratrol found to activate ancient stress response and at 1,000 times lower doses

December 30, 2014

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Scientists at The Scripps Research Institute (TSRI) have found that a fundamental new mechanism for the known beneficial effects of resveratrol — the grapes and red-wine ingredient once touted as an elixir of youth: it powerfully activates an evolutionarily ancient stress response in human cells.

“This stress response represents a layer of biology that has been largely overlooked, and resveratrol turns out to activate it at much lower concentrations… read more

Yoga as a potential therapy for cardiovascular disease and metabolic syndrome

December 30, 2014

(Credit: iStock)

A systematic review of 37 randomized controlled trials showed promising evidence for the ability of yoga to improve cardiovascular and metabolic health, but found no significant difference in the effectiveness of yoga versus aerobic exercise.

Yoga showed significant improvement in body mass index, systolic blood pressure, low-density lipoprotein cholesterol, and high-density lipoprotein cholesterol; and significant changes in body weight, diastolic blood pressure, total cholesterol, triglycerides, and heart rate.… read more

A step toward a potential anti-aging drug

December 29, 2014

Everolimus, AKA RAD001 (credit: Fvasconcellos/public domain)

According to a new study published in Science Translational Medicine, researchers have tested a potential anti-aging drug called everolimus (AKA RAD001) — an analog (version) of the drug rapamycin (sirolimus)*.

In previous research, rapamycin extended the life span of mice by 9 to 14%, even when treatment was initiated late in life, and it improved a variety of aging-related conditions in old mice, including tendon stiffening, cardiac… read more

Optogenetics captures synaptic transmission in live mammalian brain for the first time

Could significantly expand our knowledge of connectivity between various types of neurons as a more realistic alternative to in vitro studies
December 26, 2014

A reconstruction of a pair of synaptically connected neurons (credit: Aurélie Pala/EPFL)

EPFL scientists Aurélie Pala and Carl Petersen have observed and measured synaptic transmission in a live animal for the first time, using optogenetics* to stimulate single neurons in the mouse barrel cortex (which processes sensory information from the mouse’s whiskers).

They shined blue light on the neurons containing a gene-based light-sensitive protein, activating the neurons to fire. Then using microelectrodes, they measured resulting electrical signals in neighboring interneuron cells.… read more

Crafting color coatings from nanometer-thick layers of gold and germanium

New technique works on rough or flexible materials from wearable fabrics to stretchable electronics
December 24, 2014

In 2012, Capasso's research team demonstrated interference effects in layers of gold and germanium deposited on silicon, pictured here. Their latest work takes it much further, demonstrating that the same effects can be achieved on rough surfaces. (Credit: Mikhail Kats, Romain Blanchard, and Patrice Genevet.)

Harvard scientists who developed a technique in 2012 that coats a gray metallic object with a semiconductor layer just a few nanometers thick to achieve a variety of vibrant hues have now applied the technique to almost any rough or flexible material, from wearable fabrics to stretchable electronics.

The coating exploits optical interference effects in the thin films. Researcher Mikhail Kats compares it to the iridescent rainbows that are visible… read more

Piezoelectricity in a 2D semiconductor

Could allow for extremely small force generation/sensing, low-power logic switches, and biological sensors sensitive to molecular mass limits
December 24, 2014

To measure in-plane piezoelectric stress, an MoS2 film was suspended on HSQ posts and clamped by two Au electrodes. When the film was indented with a scanning AFM probe, the induced stress changed the load on the cantilever, which was observed by the deflection of a laser beam. (Credit: Berkeley Lab)

Berkeley Lab scientists have discovered a way to use piezoelectricity — the conversion of mechanical force to electricity and vice versa — with a single layer of molybdenum disulfide (MoS2) semiconductor molecules, which could lead to nanotechnology devices, such as a scanning atomic force microscope (AFM), for extremely small force generation/sensing and other uses.

“Piezoelectricity is a well-known effect in bulk crystals, but this is the first… read more

Existing drug riluzole may prevent foggy ‘old age’ brain

December 24, 2014

When researchers looked at certain neurons (similar to the one shown on top) in rats treated with riluzole, they found an important change in one brain region, the hippocampus: more clusters of so-called spines, receiving connections that extend from the branches of a neuron (bottom). (Credit: Dr. John H. Morrison's lab, The Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai)

New experiments suggest that riluzole, a drug already on the market as a treatment for ALS (Lou Gehrig’s disease), may help prevent the fading memory and clouding judgment that comes with advancing age.

Researchers at The Rockefeller University and The Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai found they could stop normal, age-related memory loss in rats by treating them with riluzole. The treatment prompted changes known to improve… read more

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