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Neural circuits that control REM sleep in mice identified

October 4, 2013

(credit:

Scientists have controlled the duration of REM (rapid eye movements, associated with dreaming) sleep in mice by activating melanin-concentrating hormone (MCH)-expressing neurons in the lateral hypothalamus, using optogenetics (controlling neuronal activity with light).

“These research findings could help us better grasp how the brain controls sleep and better understand the role of sleep in humans. These results could also lead to new therapeutic strategies to treat sleep disorders along with… read more

Seeing cells through silicon microfluidic devices

October 3, 2013

Schematic of the lab-on-chip system for the study of<br />
mechanical, chemical and electric perturbation of different types of cells<br />
on silicon-based microfluidic and multi-electrode array platform.<br />
Quantitative phase image of a human embryonic kidney cell, and RBC<br />
imaged through silicon is shown on the top

Scientists at MIT and the University of Texas at Arlington (UTA) have developed a new type of microscopy that can image cells through a silicon wafer, allowing them to precisely measure the size and mechanical behavior of cells behind the wafer.

The new technology, which relies on near-infrared light, could help scientists learn more about diseased or infected cells as they flow through silicon microfluidic… read more

The secret of longevity for the world’s longest-living rodent: better protein creation

October 3, 2013

Naked mole rats are small, hairless, subterranean rodents native to eastern Africa (credit: Adam Fenster/University of Rochester)

Better-constructed proteins could explain why naked mole rats live long lives — about 30 years — and stay healthy until the very end, resisting cancer, say University of Rochester biologists Vera Gorbunova and Andrei Seluanov.

Their work focuses on naked mole rat ribosomes, which assemble amino acids into proteins. Ribosomes are composed of ribosomal RNA (rRNA) molecules and proteins.

When… read more

’4D printing’ adaptive materials

October 3, 2013

Photo-morphing of initially flat gel sample into various shapes by illumination (credit: University of Pittsburgh)

Researchers from three universities are proposing to add a dimension to 3D printing by developing “4D” materials that can exhibit behavior that changes over time.

Imagine an automobile coating that changes its structure to adapt to a humid environment or a salt-covered road, better protecting the car from corrosion. Or consider a soldier’s uniform that could alter its camouflage or more effectively protect against poison gas or… read more

Is ‘massive open online research’ (MOOR) the next frontier for education?

"The goal of this class is to make you fall in love with bioinformatics" --- Prof. Pavel Pevzner
October 3, 2013

Prof. Pavel Pevzner

UC San Diego is launching the first major online course that prominently features “massive open online research” (MOOR).

In “Bioinformatics Algorithms — Part 1,” UC San Diego computer science and engineering professor Pavel Pevzner and his graduate students are offering a course on Coursera that combines research with a MOOC (massive open online course) for the first time.

“All students… read more

Why don’t we have fusion yet?

October 2, 2013

800px-Preamplifier_at_the_National_Ignition_Facility

The dream of igniting a self-sustained fusion reaction with high yields of energy, a feat likened to creating a miniature star on Earth, is getting closer to becoming reality, according the authors of a new review article in the journal Physics of Plasmas.

Researchers at the National Ignition Facility (NIF) report that while there is at least one significant obstacle to overcome before achieving the highly stable precisely… read more

Why glial cells should be included in the BRAIN initative

October 2, 2013

23 week fetal brain culture astrocyte, a type of glial cell (credit: Wikimedia Commons)

Glia, the non-neuronal cells that make up most of the brain, must not be left out of the Brain Research through Advancing Innovative Neurotechnologies (BRAIN) Initiative, says R. Douglas Fields, chief of the Nervous System Development and Plasticity Section at NIH, in Nature News.

“A major stumbling block is the project’s failure to consider that although the human brain contains roughly 100 billion neurons, it… read more

Extending MRI to nanoscale resolution

October 2, 2013

Illustration of the experimental setup shows the two unique components of the teams novel MRI technique that was successful in producing a 2D MRI image with spatial resolution on the nanoscale

University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign and Northwestern University researchers have devised a novel nuclear magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) technique that delivers about 10­ nanometers spatial resolution.

This represents a significant advance in MRI sensitivity. Current MRI techniques commonly used in medical imaging yield spatial resolutions on the millimeter length scale, with the highest-resolution experimental instruments giving spatial resolution of a few micrometers.

“Our approach… read more

New programming language directs DNA to build custom-designed molecules

October 2, 2013

An example of a chemical program. Here, A, B and C are different chemical species. (Credit: Yan Liang, L2XY2.com)

A team led by the University of Washington has developed a programming language to help design chemical-reaction networks (equations that describes how mixtures of chemicals behave).

The objective is to control how DNA molecules build custom-designed molecules in a test tube or cell, which could serve as “smart” drug deliverers or disease detectors at the cellular level, for example.

“We start from an abstract… read more

A hidden genetic code for better designer genes

How rare "words" in bacterial genes boost protein production
October 1, 2013

Codon

Scientists routinely seek to reprogram bacteria to produce proteins for drugs, biofuels and more, but they have struggled to get those bacteria to follow orders.

A hidden feature of the genetic code, it turns out, could achieve that.  The feature controls how much of the desired protein bacteria produce, a team from the Wyss Institute for Biologically Inspired Engineering at Harvard University reported in… read more

NASA wants investigations for a Mars 2020 rover

October 1, 2013

mars_2020

NASA has announced an open competition for the planetary community to submit proposals for the science and exploration technology instruments that would be carried aboard the agency’s next Mars rover, scheduled for launch in July/August of 2020.

The Mars 2020 rover will explore and assess Mars as a potential habitat for life, search for signs of past life, collect carefully selected samples for possible future… read more

NASA space telescopes find patchy clouds on exotic world

October 1, 2013

kepler-7b

Astronomers using data from NASA’s Kepler and Spitzer space telescopes have created the first cloud map of a planet beyond our solar system: a sizzling, Jupiter-like world known as Kepler-7b.

The planet is marked by high clouds in the west and clear skies in the east. Previous studies from Spitzer have resulted in temperature maps of planets orbiting other stars, but this is the… read more

Human on a chip

October 1, 2013

ECBC_Logo

Army scientists at the Edgewood Chemical Biological Center (ECBC) and academic collaborators are conducting research on organoids (small swatches of human tissue) on microchips.

The “human on a chip” research focuses on in vitro human organ constructs (for the heart, liver, lung and the circulatory system) in communication with each other. The goal is to assess effectiveness and toxicity of drugs in a way that is… read more

How to make ceramics that bend without breaking

New materials developed at MIT could lead to actuators on a chip and self-deploying medical devices
October 1, 2013

When subjected to a load, the molecular structure of the ceramic material studied by the MIT-Singapore team deforms rather than cracking. When heated, it then returns to its original shape. Though they have the same chemical composition, the two molecular configurations correspond to different natural minerals, called austenite and martensite. GRAPHIC: LAI ET AL

Ceramics tend to crack under stress. But researchers from MIT and Nanyang Technological University in Singapore have developed a way of making minuscule flexible ceramic objects that also have a “memory” for shape (when bent and then heated, they return to their original shapes).

The surprising discovery is reported this week in the journal Science, in a paper by MIT graduate student Alan Lai, professor… read more

Can DARPA spark a DIY brain-scanning movement?

September 30, 2013

darpa-ct2ws-threat-detection-eeg-640x353

A working prototype of a low-cost electroencephalography device funded by the US Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) made its debut in New York this weekend, the first step in the agency’s effort to jumpstart a do-it-yourself revolution in neuroscience, The Verge reports.

Dr. Bill Casebeer, a DARPA program manager, is hoping to spark a neuroscience fad within the maker movement. His goal is to return to… read more

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