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Massive clash of black holes raises astronomers’ hopes of witnessing gravitational waves

What do the rhythmic flashes of light coming from quasar PG 1302-102 mean?
September 18, 2015

Artist’s conception of a converging supermassive black holes in the Virgo constellation (credit: P. Marenfeld/NOAO/AURA/NSF)

Circling like prizefighters in a ring, a pair of supermassive black holes is heading toward an epic collision. One so powerful it would send a burst of gravitational waves surging through and distorting the very fabric of space-time.

Already, the intensity of the encounter is causing mysterious rhythmic flashes of light coming from quasar PG 1302-102 — 3.5 billion light-years away in the Virgo constellation.

“This is the… read more

3D-printed silicone guide with chemical cues helps regenerate complex nerves after injury

Research could help more than 200,000 people annually who suffer from nerve injuries or disease
September 18, 2015

3D scans of a nerve are used to create a custom regeneration guide. (credit: University of Minnesota)

A national team of researchers used a combination of 3-D imaging and 3-D printing techniques to create a custom silicone guide implanted with biochemical cues to help nerve regeneration after an injury.

Nerve regeneration is a complex process, which is why regrowth of nerves after injury or disease is very rare and often permanent, according to the Mayo Clinic.

As a test, the researchers used a 3-D scanner… read more

A new process for studying proteins associated with diseases

Could pave the way for new drugs for a myriad of diseases, including cancer
September 17, 2015

phosphoprotein biosynthesis-ft

Researchers from Northwestern University and Yale University have developed a new technology to help scientists understand how proteins work and fix them when they are broken. Such knowledge could pave the way for new drugs for a myriad of diseases, including cancer.

The human body turns its proteins on and off (to alter their function and activity in cells) using “phosphorylation” — the… read more

A simulated quantum learning lab in Vienna that you can access virtually

September 17, 2015

Interference of complex molecules are pictured in the Kapitza-Dirac-Talbot-Lau interferometer. (credit: Copyright: Quantum Nanophysics group, University of Vienna; Image: Mathias Tomandl & Patrick Braun)

Ever feel like digging into quantum physics — and actually understanding it? Then you may enjoy a novel virtual hands-on remote learning environment developed by quantum physicists at the University of Vienna in collaboration with university and high-school students, and available free online.

The new teaching concept, called “Simulated Interactive Research Experiments” (SiReX), is described in an open-access paper in the journal Scientificread more

Ultrafast ‘electron camera’ visualizes atomic ripples in 2-D material

Understanding motions of atomic layers may help design solar cells, electronics and catalysts of the future
September 17, 2015

Researchers have used SLAC's experiment for ultrafast electron diffraction (UED), one of the world's fastest 'electron cameras' to take snapshots of a three-atom-thick layer of a promising material as it wrinkles in response to a laser pulse. Understanding these dynamic ripples could provide crucial clues for the development of next-generation solar cells, electronics and catalysts. (credit: SLAC National Accelerator Laboratory)

A new “electron camera” can capture images of individual moving atoms as they form wrinkles on a three-atom-thick material and in trillionths of a second — one of the world’s fastest. It has been developed by scientists from the Department of Energy’s SLAC National Accelerator Laboratory and Stanford University.

This unprecedented level of detail could guide researchers in developing more efficient solar cells, fast and flexible… read more

Tunable brain cells that morph on demand

Have implications for educational policies and new therapies for neurological disorders
September 16, 2015

PV+ interneuron (credit: Nathalie Dehorter et al./Science)

King’s College London researchers have developed a new molecular “switch” that controls the properties of certain neurons in response to changes in the activity of their neural network — suggesting that these circuits in our brain are tuneable and could have implications that go far beyond basic neuroscience.

The researchers, from the MRC Centre for Developmental Neurobiology (MRC CDN) at the Institute of Psychiatry, Psychology & Neuroscience (IoPPN),… read more

New optogenetics process could lead to neurological enhancements and treatments

Uses new light-sensitive, plant-human hybrid protein to modulate calcium ion channels more efficiently
September 16, 2015

Artist's representation of a Ca2+ channel affected by OptoSTIM1. (credit: Institute for Basic Science)

An advanced process for precision control of cellular calcium ion (Ca2+) channels in living organisms has been engineered by a research team at the Korea Advanced Institute of Science and Technology (KAIST) and the IBS Center for Cognition and Sociality.

Calcium ions are a crucial part of diverse cellular functions such as contraction, excitation, growth, differentiation and death. Severe Ca2+ deficiency is linked to cardiac… read more

Changing behavior with synapse engineering

September 16, 2015

Injecting a transgenic nematode worm with tyramine induces it to switch from forward locomotion (dashed red line) to backward locomotion (dashed blue line) (credit: Jennifer K. Pirri et al./PLOS Biology)

In 1963, Yale professor of physiology and psychiatry Dr. Jose Delgado implanted an stimulating electrode in the caudate nucleus of a fighting bull, bravely jumped into the bullring, and stopped the animal in its tracks by remotely activating the electrode. Now UMass Medical School scientists have taken neural control precision down to the synapse level, reversing a C. elegans (nematode) worm’s head position or locomotion direction by simply switching… read more

Low vitamin D associated with faster decline in cognitive function

September 15, 2015

(Credit: iStock)

A research team has found that Vitamin D insufficiency was associated with faster decline in cognitive functions among a group of ethnically diverse older adults, according to an open-access paper published in JAMA Neurology.*

According to the researchers — Joshua W. Miller, Ph.D., of Rutgers University, New Brunswick, N.J., and coauthors from the University of California, Davis — Vitamin D may… read more

A breakthrough in creating transparent brains

Provides new insights into Alzheimer’s disease plaques and enables large-scale connectomic mapping and 3D neural circuit reconstruction
September 15, 2015

This is a 3-D visualization of Aβ plaques (green) and blood vessels (red) in a region of cerebral cortex from a 20-month-old AD model mouse. (credit: RIKEN)

Researchers at the RIKEN Brain Science Institute in Japan have created a new technique for converting brain tissue into transparent tissue to reveal 3D brain anatomy at very high resolution.

The researchers say they have used the new technique, called ScaleS, to provide new insights into Alzheimer’s disease plaques and for large-scale connectomic mapping and 3D neural circuit reconstruction.

Previous techniques, such as Stanford’s… read more

Controlling brain cells with ultrasound

Sonogenetics may be able to selectively activate brain, heart, muscle, and other cells using ultrasonic waves, similar to optogenetics
September 15, 2015

For the first time, sound waves are used to control brain cells. Salk scientists developed the new technique, dubbed sonogenetics, to selectively and noninvasively turn on groups of neurons in worms that could be a boon to science and medicine. (credit: Salk Institute)

Salk scientists have developed a new method, dubbed sonogenetics, to selectively activate brain, heart, muscle and other cells using ultrasonic waves (the same type of waves used in medical sonograms).

This new method may have advantages over the similar light-based approach known as optogenetics, particularly for human therapeutics. It is described today (Sept. 15, 2015) in the journal Nature Communications.

Sreekanth Chalasani,… read more

Cocoa flavanols lower blood pressure and increase blood-vessel function in healthy people

Poor diet and high blood pressure now number one risk factors for death
September 14, 2015

Cocoa pods (credit: Wikimedia Commons)

Two recently published studies in the journals Age and the British Journal of Nutrition (BJN) demonstrate that consuming cocoa flavanols improves cardiovascular function and lessens the burden on the heart that comes with the aging and stiffening of arteries, while reducing the risk of developing cardiovascular disease (CVD)

As we age, our blood vessels become less flexible and less able to expand to let blood flow and circulate normally, and… read more

Japanese paper art inspires new 3-D fabrication method that goes beyond 3-D printing limitations

Strategic ‘Kirigami cuts’ in advanced materials result in strength, not failure; could be useful in tissue engineering and microelectromechanical systems
September 14, 2015

A new assembly method based on an ancient Japanese paper art quickly transforms 2-D structures into complex 3-D shapes. The results, reported by a Northwestern University and University of Illinois research team, could be useful in tissue engineering and microelectromechanical systems. (credit: University of Illinois)

A research team has created complex 3-D micro- and nanostructures out of silicon and other materials used in advanced technologies by employing a new assembly method that uses a Japanese Kirigami paper-cutting method.

The method builds on the team’s “pop-up” fabrication technique — going from a 2-D material to 3-D in an instant, like a pop-up children’s book — reported in January this year onread more

‘Lab-on-a-Chip’ microfluidics technology may cut costs of lab tests for diseases and disorders

Requires 90 percent less sample fluid, allowing for
September 14, 2015

The Rutgers lab-on-a chip is three inches long and an inch wide -- the size of a glass microscope slide. (credit: Mehdi Ghodbane)

Rutgers engineers have developed a breakthrough microfluidics device that can significantly reduce the cost of sophisticated lab tests while using 90 percent less sample fluid than needed in conventional tests.

It uses miniaturized channels and valves to replace “benchtop” assays — tests that require large samples of blood or other fluids and expensive chemicals that lab technicians manually mix in trays of tubes or plastic platesread more

Lightweight solar cells track the sun, providing 40 percent more energy than fixed cells

Inspired by Japanese paper-cutting art, they replace heavy conventional Sun-tracking systems
September 14, 2015

By borrowing from kirigami, the ancient Japanese art of paper cutting, researchers at the University of Michigan have developed solar cells that can track the sun. A flat plastic sheet backing the solar cells splits into wavy, connected ribbons when stretched. The tilt of the cells depends on the stretching, a simple mechanism for tracking the sun across the sky. (credit: Aaron Lamoureux)

University of Michigan engineers have developed an innovative array of solar cells that can capture up to 40 percent more energy than conventional fixed solar cells. The trick: borrowing from kirigami (the ancient Japanese art of paper cutting), the solar cells are aimed at different angles, allowing for part of the array to be always perpendicular to the Sun’s rays.

“The design takes what a large tracking… read more

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