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Improved artificial blood vessels

February 3, 2015

SEM micrograph of chitosan-PVA nanofibers in three-layered composite graft (credit: Yuanyuan Liu et al./AIP Advances)

By combining micro-imprinting and electro-spinning techniques, researchers at Shanghai University’s Rapid Manufacturing Engineering Center have developed a vascular graft (blood-vessel bypass) composed of three layers for the first time.

This tri-layered composite allowed researchers to combine separate materials to provide mechanical strength and also promote new cell growth, not possible with existing vascular grafts, which are limited to a single or double… read more

Researchers determine how the brain controls robotic grasping tools

Could lead to advancements in assistive technologies benefiting the disabled
February 3, 2015

Planning and execution phase responses in the MT. Significant results were mapped to a 3-D brain using CARET’s Population-Average, Landmark- and Surface-based atlas using the Average Fiducial Mapping algorithm. (A) Relative to resting baseline, both types of action planning were associated with significant increases in occipital cortex, extending dorsally into the medial superior parietal lobule, left premotor cortex, bilateral TPJ, and cMTG. (B) During movement execution, grasp-related increases in activity were found near the intersection of the IPS and postcentral sulcus contralateral to the hand involved. (Credit: Scott H. Frey et al./ Journal of Cognitive Neuroscience)

University of Missouriresearchers have found evidence that the cerebellum portion of the brain may play a critical role in the complex network of brain functions involved in grasping. Their findings could lead to advancements in assistive technologies benefiting the disabled.

“For those with disabilities, assistive technologies, such as robotic arms or sensors inserted in the brain, make it possible to accomplish actions like grasping with… read more

A pump inspired by flapping bird wings

February 3, 2015

When a fluid is squeezed and expanded repeatedly between two sawtooth-like boundaries, a net flow is generated to the right (credit: B. Thiria & J. Zhang)

Two New York University researchers have taken inspiration from avian locomotion strategies and created a pump that moves fluid using vibration instead of a rotor. Their results were published today (February 3) in the journal Applied Physics Letters.

“When we use a household pump, that pump is very likely a centrifugal pump. It uses a high-speed rotor… read more

How complex environments push brain evolution

February 2, 2015

A hypothetical animat "brain," comprising a logic-gate network with 2 sensors, 4 hidden Markov elements, and 2 motors (credit: Larissa Albantakis/PLoS Computational Biology)

A recent study by neuroscientists offers clues about how increasingly difficult tasks have evolved the brain.

They created a video game similar to the old video game Tetris, in which programmed artificial adaptive agents (“animats”) have to “catch” moving blocks of different sizes before the blocks reach the bottom (in a game for humans, that might be done by pressing right or left cursor keys).… read more

High-def radar images of near-Earth asteroid captured

February 2, 2015

Collage of radar images of asteroid 2004 BL86 made by the Green Bank Telescope from radar transmitted from NASA's Goldstone Deep Space Network antenna. (Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech; NRAO/AUI/NSF)

A team of astronomers using the Green Bank Telescope (GBT) in West Virginia and NASA’s Deep Space Network radar transmitter at Goldstone, California, has made the most detailed radar images yet of asteroid 2004 BL86.

The images, taken early in the morning on Jan. 27, 2015, reveal the asteroid’s surface features in unprecedented clarity. At the time of the observations, the asteroid was traveling away from the Earth, so… read more

Deep-brain imaging reveals which nearly identical neurons are associated with specific behaviors

More precise mapping of how individual neurons interact in the brain
January 30, 2015

Integration of the miniepifluorescence microscope with the microendoscope for deep-brain imaging of LH GABAergic neurons expressing GCaMP6m (credit: Joshua H. Jennings et al./Cell)

Researchers at the UNC School of Medicine have used new deep-brain imaging techniques to link the activity of individual, genetically similar neurons to particular behaviors of freely moving mice.

For the first time ever, scientists watched as one neuron was activated when a mouse searched for food while a nearly identical neuron next to it remained inactive; instead, the second neuron only became activated when the mouse began… read more

New fibers can deliver optogenetic signals and drugs directly into the brain while allowing simultaneous electrical readout

January 30, 2015

SEM image of a probe incorporating nine electrodes surrounding a hollow channel. The inset shows exposed electrodes after plasma etching of the cladding. (Credit: Andres Canales et al./Nature Biotechnology)

MIT scientists have developed a new method of coping with the complexity of studying the brain.

They created probes containing biocompatible multipurpose fibers about 85 micrometers in width (about the width of a human hair).

The new fibers can deliver optogenetic signals and drugs directly into the brain, while allowing simultaneous electrical readout to continuously monitor the effects of the various inputs from freely moving mice.… read more

Engineering tough, resistant self-assembling amyloid fibers

Could be used as scaffolding for tissue engineering or growing photovoltaics
January 29, 2015

Amyloid fibers self-assemble from smaller proteins. UC Davis researchers have engineered other proteins so they spontaneously form amyloid. These new proteins could be useful in nanotechnology. Here, the cap structure (red) was removed from spruce budworm antifreeze protein and other structures adjusted so that molecules could link up as fibrils (bottom). (credit: UC Davis)

Researchers at UC Davis and Rice University have developed methods to manipulate natural proteins so that they self-assemble into amyloid fibrils.*

“These are big proteins with lots of flat surfaces suitable for functionalization, for example to grow photovoltaics or to attach to other surfaces,” said Dan Cox, a physics professor at UC Davis and coauthor on the paper. The fibers could also be used… read more

Magnetic graphene created, making possible new spintronics data-storage devices

January 29, 2015

Graphene is a one-atom thick sheet of carbon atoms arranged in a hexagonal lattice. UC Riverside physicists have found a way to induce magnetism in graphene while also preserving graphene’s electronic properties. (credit: Shi Lab, UC Riverside)

A team of physicists at the University of California, Riverside has found an ingenious way to induce magnetism in graphene while also preserving graphene’s electronic properties (conducting electricity).

They accomplished this by bringing a graphene sheet very close to  yttrium iron garnet, a “magnetic insulator” (an electrical insulator with magnetic properties).*

Magnetic substances like iron tend to interfere with graphene’s electrical conduction. The researchers avoided those… read more

Probiotic treats diabetes in rats, could lead to human remedy

Lowers glucose levels by 30 percent; could be delivered as pill instead of injections
January 29, 2015

This image shows a rat cell re-programmed to express insulin (green). The nucleus is stained blue. (Credit: Reprinted with permission from the journal Diabetes)

Imagine a pill that helps people control diabetes with the body’s own insulin to lower blood glucose levels.

Cornell researchers have achieved this feat in rats by engineering human lactobacilli, a common gut bacteria, to secrete a protein that modifies intestinal cells to produce insulin.

A 2003 study led by Atsushi Suzuki of the University of Tsukuba, Japan, first demonstrated… read more

Stomach-acid-powered micromotors tested in living animal

January 28, 2015

Zinc stomach micromotors

Imagine a micromotor fueled by stomach acid that can take a bubble-powered ride inside a mouse — and that could one day be a safer, more efficient way to deliver drugs or diagnose tumors for humans.

That’s the goal of a team of researchers at the University of California, San Diego.

The experiment is the first to show that these micromotors can operate safely in… read more

Scientists use stem cells to grow new human hair in the lab

Next step: transplant stem-cell-derived human dermal papilla cells back into human subjects (any volunteers?)
January 28, 2015

Sanford-Burnham scientists grew human dermal papillae cells from stem cells. (credit: Sanford-Burnham Medical Research Institute)

A method for initiating human hair growth — using human pluripotent stem cells to create new cells — has been developed by Sanford-Burnham Medical Research Institute (Sanford-Burnham) researchers.

Their idea is to coax human pluripotent stem cells to become dermal papilla cells — a unique population of cells that regulate hair-follicle formation and growth cycle. (Human dermal papilla cells on their own are… read more

Higher dementia risk linked to more use of common drugs

January 27, 2015

(Credit: iStock)

A large study links a significantly increased risk for developing dementia, including Alzheimer’s disease, to taking commonly used medications with anticholinergic effects at higher doses or for a longer time.

Many older people take these medications, which include nonprescription diphenhydramine (Benadryl) and related drugs.

JAMA Internal Medicine published the report, called “Cumulative Use of Strong Anticholinergic Medications and Incident Dementia.”

It’s… read more

Mastering math through movement using Kinect for Windows

January 27, 2015

Carmen Petrick Smith, assistant professor of mathematics education (center), works with undergraduate education majors (left to right) Tegan Garon, Sam Scrivani and Kiersten Barr on movements that are used to help elementary school children learn geometry. (credit: Andy Duback)

University of Vermont assistant professor of mathematics education Carmen Petrick Smith has found in a study that elementary school students who interacted with a Kinect for Windows mathematics program while learning geometry showed significant gains in the understanding of angles and angle measurements.

The Kinect is a motion sensor input device that allows people to interact with computers based on their natural movements. Hmm, imagine what… read more

Giant space telescope could image objects at far higher resolution than Hubble

Could image space objects like black hole “event horizons” or view rabbit-size objects on Earth
January 27, 2015

A new orbiting telescope concept developed at CU-Boulder could allow scientists to image objects in space or on Earth at hundreds of times the resolution of the Hubble Space Telescope. (credit: NASA)

University of Colorado Boulder researchers plan to update NASA officials this week on a revolutionary space telescope concept selected by the agency for study last June that could provide images up to 1,000 times sharper than the Hubble Space Telescope.

CU-Boulder Professor Webster Cash said the instrument package would consist of an orbiting space telescope with an opaque disk in front… read more

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