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Neuroscientists find cortical columns in brain not uniform, challenging large-scale simulation models

October 25, 2013

Cell type-specific 3D reconstruction of five neighboring barrel columns in rat vibrissal cortex (credit: Marcel Oberlaender et al.)

Despite a long-held scientific belief that cortex is built up by repeatedly occurring elementary units called cortical columns, a new study by neuroscientists has found that the structure of the brain’s cortical columns can largely deviate within individual animals, and even within a specific cortical area.

The study also found that these structural differences are not arbitrary, but reflect organizational and functional properties of the… read more

Technology mimics the brushstrokes of masters

October 24, 2013

New technology in 3-D printing has reached the art world. The race is on to produce high-quality 3-D reproductions of masterpieces by such artists as Rembrandt and Vincent van Gogh, The New York Times reports.

This year the Van Gogh Museum in Amsterdam teamed up with Fujifilm in Japan to produce the first fully color-corrected three-dimensional copies of some of van… read more

A billion-year storage medium that could outlive the human race

... and a holographic coding system using a graphene oxide substrate to protect data from physical damage
October 24, 2013

A QR code etched in tungsten (Credit: University of Twente)

Researcher Dr. Jeroen de Vries from the University of Twente MESA+ Institute for Nanotechnology suggests we could store data for one million to one billion years, using a new storage medium based on tungsten and graphene oxide.

He imagines two possible scenarios:

  • Disaster has devastated the earth and society must rebuild the world
  • We need to create a legacy for

read more

Most distant galaxy discovered: 30 billion light years away

October 24, 2013

Galaxy_Large_Tilvi

The most distant spectroscopically confirmed galaxy ever found — one created at about 700 million years after the Big Bang — has been detected by astronomers at Texas A&M University and the University of Texas at Austin

“It’s exciting to know we’re the first people in the world to see this,” said Vithal Tilvi, a Texas A&M postdoctoral research associate and… read more

Radical genome recoding

First-ever entirely genomically reprogrammed organism
October 24, 2013

ChurchRecodingEColi360

In two parallel projects by Harvard’s Wyss Institute, researchers have created new genomes inside the bacterium E. coli in ways that test the limits of genetic reprogramming and open new possibilities for increasing flexibility, productivity. and safety in biotechnology.

The work was led by Dr. George Church, Robert Winthrop Professor of Genetics at Harvard Medical School and founding core faculty member at the Wyss Institute for Biologically Inspired Engineering.… read more

Google entangles Minecraft with quantum physics

October 23, 2013

qcraft_google

Thanks to Google, Minecraft players can now toy with quantum teleportation and Einstein’s “spooky action at a distance,” MIT Technology Review reports.

One reason for the popularity of the video game Minecraft is the way its blocky universe faithfully adheres to the physics of the real one. Google has now released a software package that introduces quantum physics to the game, an area of… read more

Nanoparticles deliever ‘one-two punch’ to disable tumors’ defenses

October 23, 2013

nanoparticle with anticancer drug-featured

An aggressive form of breast cancer known as “triple negative” is very difficult to treat: Chemotherapy can shrink such tumors for a while, but in many patients they grow back and gain resistance to the original drugs.

MIT chemical engineers have designed nanoparticles that carry the cancer drug doxorubicin, as well as short strands of RNA that can shut off one of the genes that cancer cells… read more

Converting fat cells from liposection to liver cells in nine days — a regenerative medicine breakthrough

New method would replace costly, highly invasive liver transplantation, could be available for clinical testing in two to three years
October 23, 2013

Liver regeneration2

A fast, efficient way to turn cells extracted from routine liposuction into liver cells — a feat with huge potential for regenerative medicine — has been developed by Stanford University School of Medicine scientists

The scientists performed their experiments in mice, but the adipose (fat) stem cells they used came from human liposuction and actually became human, liver-like cells that flourished inside the mice’s bodies.… read more

Craig Venter’s ‘biological teleportation’ device

October 22, 2013

Craig_Venter

Craig Venter has built a prototype of a “Digital Biological Converter” (DBC) that would allow what he calls “biological teleportation”: receiving DNA sequences over the Internet to synthesize proteins, viruses and even living cells, The Guardian reports.

It could, for example, fill a prescription for insulin, provide flu vaccine during a pandemic or even produce phage viruses targeted… read more

Mix-and-match nanoparticles self-assemble into exotic multifunctional materials, guided by DNA

October 22, 2013

DNA linkers allow different kinds of nanoparticles to self-assemble and form relatively large-scale nanocomposite arrays. This approach allows for mixing and matching components for the design of multifunctional materials. (Credit: Brookhaven National Laboratory)

Scientists at the U.S. Department of Energy’s Brookhaven National Laboratory have developed a general approach for combining different types of nanoparticles, guided by synthetic DNA to self-assemble into large-scale composite materials.

The technique opens many opportunities for mixing and matching particles with different magnetic, optical, or chemical properties to form new, multifunctional materials or materials with enhanced performance for a wide range of potential applications.… read more

A super antioxidant based on material used in vehicle catalytic converters

Could help treat traumatic brain injury, cardiac arrest, and Alzheimer’s patients, guard against radiation-induced side effects suffered by cancer patients, perhaps even slow the effects of aging
October 22, 2013

rice_antioxidants

Scientists at Rice University are enhancing the natural antioxidant properties of cerium oxide, used in vehicle catalytic converters, to make it useful for medical applications.

Rice chemist Vicki Colvin led a team that created small, uniform spheres of cerium oxide and gave them a thin coating of fatty oleic acid to make them biocompatible.

The researchers say their discovery has… read more

Jellyfish energy efficiency to improve bio-inspired robotic designs for Navy

October 22, 2013

robotic_jellyfish

A team of researchers is designing life-like autonomous bio-inspired robotic jellyfish for the U.S Navy, based on the discovery of how jellyfish move with the lowest cost of transport of any animal.

Possible civilian applications include pollution monitoring, ecological studies, and cleaning oil in water.

Researchers have found that rather than moving continuously through water while swimming, jellyfish use a critical pause between the… read more

Shapley supercluster: most massive structure within a billion light-years

October 22, 2013

Shapley_Supercluster

While scanning the sky for the oldest cosmic light, ESA’s Planck satellite captured snapshots of some of the largest objects populating the Universe today: galaxy clusters and superclusters.

Several hundred galaxies and the huge amounts of gas that permeate them are depicted in this view of the core of the Shapley Supercluster, the largest cosmic structure in the local Universe.

The supercluster… read more

IBM Research unveils two new Watson-related projects from Cleveland Clinic collaboration

October 20, 2013

BarborakWatsonPaths

IBM Research has unveiled two new Watson-related cognitive technologies that are expected to help physicians make more informed and accurate decisions faster and to cull new insights from electronic medical records (EMR).

The “WatsonPaths” and “Watson EMR Assistant” projects are the result of a year-long research collaboration with faculty, physicians and students at Cleveland Clinic Lerner College of Medicine of Caseread more

Is a scientific definition of consciousness possible?

Consciousness arises from the mode in which billions of neurons communicate with one another, psychologists suggest
October 20, 2013

Parcellation of brain data into 194 cortical, subcortical and cerebellar ROIs.

UCLA psychologists have used brain-imaging techniques to study what happens to the human brain when it slips into unconsciousness.

Their research, published in the online open-access journal PLOS Computational Biology, is an initial step toward developing a scientific definition of consciousness, the researchers say.

“In terms of brain function, the difference between being conscious and unconscious is a bit like the difference between driving… read more

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