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Filtering light based on direction

Potential uses include solar photovoltaics, telescopes, microscopes, and privacy filters for display screens
March 31, 2014

angular-selective-sample

MIT researchers have developed a system that allows light of any color to pass through only if it is coming from one specific angle; the technique reflects all light coming from other directions.

This new approach could ultimately lead to advances in solar photovoltaics, detectors for telescopes and microscopes, and privacy filters for display screens.

The work is described in a paper appearing in the journal… read more

MIT’s fast synthesis system could boost peptide-drug development

Peptide drugs are expected to become a $25 billion market by 2018, but current archaic manufacturing methods are too slow
March 28, 2014

mit_peptides

Small protein fragments, also called peptides, are promising as drugs because they can be designed for very specific functions inside living cells, but manufacturing the peptides takes several weeks, making it difficult to obtain large quantities, and to rapidly test their effectiveness.

A team of MIT chemists and chemical engineers has designed a way to manufacture peptides in mere hours. The new system, described in… read more

First comprehensive atlas of human gene activity released

March 28, 2014

Samples profiled in FANTOM5 (credit: Alistair R. R. Forrest et al./Nature)

A large international consortium of researchers has produced the first comprehensive, detailed map of the way genes work across the major cells and tissues of the human body. The findings describe the complex networks that govern gene activity, and the new information could play a crucial role in identifying the genes involved with disease.

“Now, for the first time, we are able to pinpoint the… read more

Bio-printing tissues for cheaper, faster drug testing

3D-printing technology specifically tailored to printing biological materials, not repurposed
March 28, 2014

3d_printed_tube

Bio-printed tissues can help better predict and test whether a drug will be effective on people and at less cost, researchers at the University of British Columbia Department of Electrical and Computer Engineering and spinoff Aspect Biosystems hope to prove.

Ultimately, this work could also lead to growing organs for human transplant.

Developing a new drug costs upward of $4 billion, a fee that gets passed… read more

The bioretrosynthesis solution: shifting evolution into reverse to make cheaper drugs

March 27, 2014

bioretrosynthesis_R7hires

Reversing the conventional process of creating new drugs, Vanderbilt University researchers have used an alternative approach called bioretrosynthesis to produce the expensive HIV drug didanosine.

“These days synthetic chemists can make almost any molecule imaginable in an academic laboratory setting,” said Vanderbilt associate professor of chemistry Brian Bachmann, who first proposed bioretrosynthesis four years ago. “But they can’t always make them cheaply or in large quantities. Using… read more

Simulated human liver achieved in ‘benchtop human’ project

March 27, 2014

The ATHENA organ project combines heart, liver, kidney, and lung features in a desktop toxicity testing platform (credit: Los Alamos National Laboratory)

Significant progress toward creating “homo minutus” — a benchtop human — was reported at the Society of Toxicology meeting on Mar. 26 in Phoenix.

The advance — successful development and analysis of a liver human organ construct that responds to exposure to a toxic chemical much like a real liver — was described in a presentation by John Wikswo, the Gordon A. Cain University Professor… read more

Facebook acquires Oculus VR

March 26, 2014

Oculus VR logo

“We started Oculus VR with a vision of delivering incredible, affordable, and ubiquitous consumer virtual reality to the world,” said Oculus VR in a public statement.

“We’ve come a long way in the last 18 months: from foam core prototypes built in a garage to an incredible community of active and talented developers with more than 75,000 development kits ordered.

“In the process, we’ve… read more

A better way to make muscle cells from human stem cells

No required genetic modifications, which would prohibit future clinical applications
March 26, 2014

suzuki_muscle_cellESC

University of Wisconsin-Madison researchers have discovered a new way to make large concentrations of skeletal muscle cells and muscle progenitors from human stem cells.

The new method, described in the journal Stem Cells Translational Medicine, could be used to generate large numbers of muscle cells and muscle progenitors directly from human pluripotent stem cells. (Pluripotent stem cells, such as embryonic (ES) or induced pluripotent stem (iPS) cells,… read more

MRI technique reveals genes’ roles in learning and memory

Viewing brain activity at the molecule level
March 26, 2014

mri_contrast_protein

MIT bioengineers have adapted MRI to visualize gene activity inside the brains of living animals.

Tracking these genes with MRI would enable scientists to learn more about how the genes control processes such as forming memories and learning new skills, says Alan Jasanoff, an MIT associate professor of biological engineering and leader of the research team.

“The dream of molecular imaging is to provide… read more

Multi-party quantum communication now possible, physicists demonstrate

March 26, 2014

u_waterloo_quantum_nonlocality

Physicists at the Institute for Quantum Computing (IQC) at the University of Waterloo have demonstrated the distribution of three entangled photons at three different locations (Alice, Bob, and Charlie) several hundreds of meters apart for the first time, proving quantum nonlocality for more than two entangled photons.

The findings of the experiment, Experimental Three-Particle Quantum Nonlocality under Strict Locality Conditions, are published in… read more

MIT engineers design hybrid living/nonliving materials

March 26, 2014

mit_living_materials

MIT engineers have coaxed bacterial cells to produce biofilms that can incorporate nonliving materials, such as gold nanoparticles and quantum dots.

These “living materials” combine the advantages of live cells — which respond to their environment, produce complex biological molecules, and span multiple length scales — with the benefits of nonliving materials, which add functions such as conducting electricity or emitting light.

This approach could one… read more

A zoomable 360-degree view of our galaxy

March 25, 2014

Milky-Way---featured

NASA’s new zoomable, 360-degree mosaic,  presented Thursday at the TED 2014 Conference in Vancouver, allows for exploring the Milky Way interactively.

The panorama of our galaxy is constructed from more than 2 million infrared snapshots taken over the past 10 years by NASA’s Spitzer Space Telescope.

The 20-gigapixel mosaic uses Microsoft’s WorldWide Telescope visualization platform. It captures about three percent of our sky, but because it… read more

Humans can distinguish at least one trillion different odors

March 25, 2014

Discriminable sensory qualities

 

Howard Hughes Medical Institute (HHMI) scientists  have tested the olfactory capacity of human volunteers and found that humans are capable of discriminating at least one trillion different odors — not just 10,000 different odors, a  number first proposed decades ago and not backed by data.

HHMI investigator Leslie Vosshall, who studies olfaction at the Rockefeller University, and Andreas Keller, a senior… read more

Holographic imaging for rapidly sorting stem cells, cancer cells

New microscopy technique captures 3-D images of cells as they flow through a microfluidic channel
March 25, 2014

3d_images_living_cells

MIT scientists have developed a way to image cells (without fluorescent markers or other labels) as they flow through a tiny microfluidic channel for sorting.

This is an important step toward cell-sorting systems that could help scientists separate stem cells at varying stages of development, or to distinguish healthy cells from cancerous cells, the scientists say.

Other cell-sorting methods require adding a fluorescent molecule that highlights… read more

Electric ‘thinking cap’ can help you learn faster, better

March 25, 2014

vanderbilt_thinking_cap

In a new study published in the Journal of NeuroscienceVanderbilt psychologists  show that it is possible to learn through the application of a mild electrical current to the brain, and that this effect can be enhanced or depressed depending on the direction of the current.

The medial-frontal cortex is believed to be the part of the brain responsible for the instinctive “Oops!” response we have when we… read more

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