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What happens when drones and people sync their vision?

The future of drone air traffic control?
April 5, 2016

Multiple recon drones in the sky all suddenly aim their cameras at a person of interest on the ground, synced to what persons on the ground see …

That could be a reality soon, thanks to an agreement just announced by the mysterious SICdrone, an unmanned aircraft system manufacturer, and CrowdOptic, an “interactive streaming platform that connects the world through smart devices.”… read more

Hacking life: how to program new functions for living bacteria and yeast

Engineering bacteria to aid digestion or yeast to produce custom beer
April 4, 2016

MIT-Program-Bacteria-ft

MIT biological engineers have created a programming language for bacteria. It allows anyone to rapidly design complex, DNA-encoded circuits that add new functions to living cells — no genetic engineering knowledge required.

For example: design bacterial cells that can produce a cancer drug when they detect a tumor or create yeast cells that can halt their own fermentation process if too many toxic byproducts build up.… read more

3D-printing a structure with active chemistry

Forget labs --- now you can simply print objects in your kitchen that create cool chemical reactions (attention: CIA and Homeland Security)
April 4, 2016

Flashforge Creator ft

Researchers at American University have demonstrated the first use of commercial 3D printers to create a structure with active chemistry — in this case, a structure that acts to mitigate pollution.

The researchers added titanium dioxide nanoparticles to standard ABS filament material (used in 3D printers) and extruded a filament that they then used to print a small, sponge-like plastic object on a low-cost Flashforge Creator… read more

Largest network of cortical neurons mapped from ~100 terabytes data set

"Functional connectomics" research bridges gap between function and wiring in the brain --- a major step in an IARPA project to create a roadmap for reverse-engineering the brain
April 1, 2016

A network of cortical neurons whose connections were traced from a multi-terabyte 3D data set. The data were created by an electron microscope designed and built at Harvard Medical School to collect millions of images in nanoscopic detail, so that every one of the “wires” could be seen, along with the connections between them. Some of the neurons are color-coded according to their activity patterns in the living brain. This is the newest example of functional connectomics, which combines high-throughput functional imaging, at single-cell resolution, with terascale anatomy of the very same neurons. (credit: Clay Reid, Allen Institute; Wei-Chung Lee, Harvard Medical School; Sam Ingersoll, graphic artist)

The largest network of the connections between neurons in the cortex to date has been published by an international team of researchers from the Allen Institute for Brain Science, Harvard Medical School, and Neuro-Electronics Research Flanders (NERF).

In the process of their study*, the researchers developed new tools that will be useful for “reverse engineering the brain by discovering relationships between circuit wiring… read more

Creating custom drugs on a portable refrigerator-size device

A breakthrough for responding quickly to disease outbreak and producing small quantities of custom drugs needed for clinical trials, treating rare diseases, or use as personalized "orphan drugs"
April 1, 2016

custom drugs ft

MIT researchers have developed a compact, portable pharmaceutical manufacturing system that can be reconfigured to produce a variety of drugs on demand — if you have the right chemicals.

The device could be rapidly deployed to produce drugs needed to handle an unexpected disease outbreak, to prevent a drug shortage caused by a manufacturing plant shutdown, or produce small quantities of drugs needed for clinical trials or… read more

How to use laser cloaking to hide Earth from remote detection by aliens

NASA's Kepler telescope detects habitable exoplanets by watching for tiny dips in the light from stars. What if aliens have the same idea when observing our Sun?
April 1, 2016

laser for Very Large Telescope-ft

We could use lasers to conceal the Earth from observation by an advanced extraterrestrial civilization by shining massive  laser beams aimed at a specific star where aliens might be located — thus masking our planet during its transit of the Sun, suggest two astronomers at Columbia University in an open-access paper in Monthly Notices of the Royal Astronomical Society.

The idea comes from the NASAread more

An astounding nanoscale magnified view of bacterial ‘motors’

The molecular secrets of the strongest motor known in nature revealed
March 30, 2016

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Caltech researchers have used a state-of-the-art imaging technique to capture detailed 3D views of the complex mobile nanomachinery in bacteria for the first time.

Grant Jensen, a professor of biophysics and biology at Caltech and an investigator with the Howard Hughes Medical Institute (HHMI), and his colleagues used a technique called electron cryotomography to capture 3D images of intact cells with a resolution… read more

Nanoparticle ‘cluster bombs’ destroy cancer cells

New delivery method directly penetrates tumor cells, avoiding toxic side effects of cisplatin chemotherapy drug
March 30, 2016

nanoparticle cluster bomb_ft

Scientists have devised a triple-stage stealth “cluster bomb” system for delivering the anti-cancer chemotherapy drug cisplatin, using nanoparticles designed to break up when they reach a tumor:

  1. The nanoparticles start out relatively large  — 100 nanometers wide — so that they can move through the bloodstream and smoothly transport into the tumor through leaky blood vessels.
  2. As they detect acidic conditions close to tumors, the nanoparticles discharge

read more

On/off button for passing along epigenetic ‘memories’ to our children discovered

March 29, 2016

Transgenerational Small RNA Inheritance-ft

According to epigenetics — the study of inheritable changes in gene expression not directly coded in our DNA — our life experiences may be passed on to our children and our children’s children. Studies on survivors of traumatic events have suggested that exposure to stress may indeed have lasting effects on subsequent generations.

But exactly how are these genetic “memories” passed on?

A new Tel Aviv University (… read more

A biosensor that’s 1 million times more sensitive

Aims at detecting cancers earlier, improving treatment and outcomes
March 29, 2016

miniaturized GC-HMM sensor devic-ft

An optical sensor that’s 1 million times more sensitive than the current best available has been developed by Case Western Reserve University researchers. Based on nanostructured metamaterials, it can identify a single lightweight molecule in a highly dilute solution.

The research goal is to provide oncologists a way to detect a single molecule of an enzyme produced by circulating cancer cells. That could allow doctors to diagnose and monitor… read more

Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory and IBM build brain-inspired supercomputer

Focusing on cognitive tasks such as pattern recognition and sensory processing, chip-architecture breakthrough may accelerate path to exascale computing
March 29, 2016

Lawrence Livermore's new supercomputer system composed of 16 IBM TrueNorth chips developed by IBM Research (credit: IBM Research)

Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory (LLNL) has purchased IBM Research’s supercomputing platform for deep-learning inference, based on 16 IBM TrueNorth neurosynaptic computer chips, to explore deep learning algorithms.

IBM says the scalable platform processing power is the equivalent of 16 million artificial “neurons” and 4 billion “synapses.” The brain-like neural-network design of the IBM Neuromorphic System can process complex cognitive tasks such as pattern recognition and integrated sensory processing far… read more

Nature-inspired precisely assembled nanotubes

A new design principle for building nanostructures for filtration and desalination
March 28, 2016

Precision meets nano-construction, as seen in this illustration. Berkeley Lab scientists discovered a peptoid composed of two chemically distinct blocks (shown in orange and blue) that assembles itself into nanotubes with uniform diameters. (credit: Berkeley Lab)

Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory (Berkeley Lab) researchers have discovered a new family of nature-inspired polymers that, when placed in water, spontaneously assemble into hollow crystalline nanotubes up to 100 nanometers long with the same diameter.

“Creating uniform structures in high yield is a goal in nanotechnology,” says Ron Zuckermann, who directs the Biological Nanostructures Facility in Berkeley Lab’s Molecular Foundry, where much of this research was conducted. “For example,… read more

Researchers use optogenetic light to block tumor development

Uses light-triggered bioelectric current
March 28, 2016

Optogenetics modulation of membrane voltage to control induced tumor-like structures. (Top) Tumor induced in tadpole embryo. (Bottom left) Control embryo not injected with light-sensitive protein is highly fluorescent, indicating relative depolarization. (Bottom right) Embryo injected with light-sensitive protein, causing hyperpolarization and significantly lowering the incidence of tumor formation. Scale bar = 150 micrometers. (credit: Brook T. Chernet et al./Oncotarget)

 

Tufts University biologists have demonstrated (using a frog model*) for the first time that it is possible to prevent tumors from forming (and to normalize tumors after they have formed) by using optogenetics (light) to control bioelectrical signalling among cells.

Light/bioelectric control of tumors

Virtually all healthy cells maintain a more negative voltage in the cell interior compared with the cell… read more

Craig Venter’s team designs, builds first minimal synthetic bacterial cell

New record for the least number of genes needed for independent cell growth
March 28, 2016

A cluster of JCVI-syn3.0 cells, showing spherical structures of varying sizes (scale bar, 200 nm) (credit: Clyde A. Hutchison III et al./Science)

Just 473 genes were needed to create life in a new synthesized species of bacteria created by synthetic biologists from the J. Craig Venter Institute (JCVI) and Synthetic Genomics, Inc.

Knowing the minimum number of genes to create life would answer a fundamental question in biology.

This “minimal synthetic cell,” JCVI-syn3.0, was reported in an open-access paper published last week in the  journal Science. By… read more

New 2D material could upstage graphene

Can function as a conductor or semiconductor, is extremely stable, and uses light, inexpensive earth-abundant elements
March 25, 2016

Si2BN ft

A new one-atom-thick flat material made up of silicon, boron, and nitrogen can function as a conductor or semiconductor (unlike graphene) and could upstage graphene and advance digital technology, say scientists at the University of Kentucky, Daimler in Germany, and the Institute for Electronic Structure and Laser (IESL) in Greece.

Reported in Physical Review B, Rapid Communications, the new Si2BN material was discovered in theory (not yet made… read more

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