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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

Cancer patient receives 3D-printed ribs in world-first surgery

September 12, 2015

(Credit: CSIRO)

A Spanish cancer patient has received a 3D-printed titanium sternum and rib cage.

Suffering from a chest wall sarcoma (a type of cancerous tumor that grows, in this instance, around the rib cage), the 54 year old man needed his sternum and a portion of his rib cage replaced. This part of the chest is notoriously tricky to recreate with prosthetics, due to the complex geometry and design required… read more

How curly nanowires can absorb more light to power nanoscale electronic circuits

Twisting conventional nanowires into springs can boost their light absorption by more than 20 percent and in 50 percent less area
September 11, 2015

Nanosprings can absorb light more efficiently. (a) The scheme represents prototype of utilized device that is composed of bare nanospring photodetectors placed on a glass substrate and metal contacts in order to collect charges. Light incidents from top of the nanostructure. (credit: Tural Khudiyev et al./Applied Optics)

Researchers from Bilkent University, Ankara, Turkey, have shown that twisting straight nanowires into springs can increase the amount of light the wires absorb by up to 23 percent. Absorbing more light is important because one application of nanowires is turning light into electricity, for example, to power tiny sensors instead of requiring batteries.

If nanowires are made from a semiconductor like silicon, light striking the wire will dislodge… read more

‘Molecules’ made of light may be the basis of future computers

September 11, 2015

Researchers show that two photons, depicted in this artist's conception as waves (left and right), can be locked together at a short distance. Under certain conditions, the photons can form a state resembling a two-atom molecule, represented as the blue dumbbell shape at center. (credit: E. Edwards/JQI)

Photons could travel side by side a specific distance from each other — similar to how two hydrogen atoms sit next to each other in a hydrogen molecule — theoretical physicists from the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) and the University of Maryland (with other collaborators) have shown.

“It’s not a molecule per se, but you can imagine it as having a similar… read more

Magnetic-permeability technology may radically lower disk-drive storage limits

May also eliminate credit-card data deletion by magnetic fields
September 11, 2015

Scanning electron microscope image of 300 nm diameter bits created in magnetic-permeability-based storage material (credit: John Timmerwilke et al./Journal of Physics D)

A new magnetic-memory technology that is far less susceptible to corruption by magnetic fields, thermal exposure, or radiation effects than conventional ferromagnetic memory has been developed by a research team led by U.S. Army Research Laboratory physicist Alan Edelstein, PhD.

(Ferromagnetic materials are used to store data in hard drives and magnetic-stripe credit cards.)

The idea is to avoid corruption of data stored magnetically from heating (which limits… read more

Discovery of Homo naledi adds a new branch to the human family tree

September 11, 2015

Skeletal fossil of the hand of Homo naledi (photo credit: John Hawks, UW–Madison)

An international research team has discovered a new species of a human relative, Homo naledi, uncovered in a cave outside of Johannesburg, South Africa. The discovery in late 2013 may shed light on the diversity of our genus and possibly its origin.

The team’s findings, which are published in two papers in the open-access journal eLife, were announced by South Africa’s University of the Witwatersrand, the National… read more

The CRISPR controversy: faster, cheaper gene editing vs. bioethicists

September 10, 2015

Clustered regularly interspaced short palindromic repeats (CRISPRs) technology employs a guide RNA to direct the Cas9 enzyme (light blue) to a target DNA sequence. Once there, Cas9 will bind when it finds a protospacer-adjacent motif sequence (red) in the DNA and cut both strands, priming the gene sequence for editing. (credit: Adapted from OriGene Technologies)

Within the past few years, a new technology has made altering genes in plants and animals much easier than before. The tool, called CRISPR/Cas9 or just CRISPR, has spurred a flurry of research that could one day lead to hardier crops and livestock, as well as innovative biomedicines.

But along with potential benefits, it raises red flags, according to an open-access article in Chemical & Engineeringread more

Magnetic solitons may lead to more energy-efficient computing

September 10, 2015

Schematic of the x-ray microscopy measurements. The x-ray spot size at the sample was 35 nm and the transmitted x rays were detected by an avalanche photo diode. Images were recorded by raster scanning of the sample. (credit: R. Kukreja et al./Physics Review Letters)

A team of physicists has taken pictures of a theorized but previously undetected “magnetic soliton” that they believe could be an energy-efficient means to transfer data in future electronic devices.

The research, which appears in the journal Physical Review Letters, was conducted by scientists at New York University, Stanford University, and the SLAC National Accelerator Laboratory.

Harnessing solitons to transmit dataread more

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