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Non-surgical electrical/drug stimulation helps patients with paralysis to voluntarily move their legs — a first

July 30, 2015

Range of voluntary movement prior to receiving stimulation compared to movement after receiving stimulation, physical conditioning, and buspirone. The subject’s legs are supported so that they can move without resistance from gravity. The electrodes on the legs are used for recording muscle activity. (credit: Edgerton Lab/UCLA)

In a study conducted at UCLA, five men who had been completely paralyzed were able to move their legs in a rhythmic motion thanks to a new, noninvasive neuromodulation and pharmacological procedure that stimulates the spinal cord.

The researchers believe this to be the first time voluntary leg movements have ever been relearned in completely paralyzed patients without surgery. The results are reported in an… read more

Scientists successfully edit human immune-system T cells

New CRISPR research has implications for autoimmune diseases, AIDS, and cancer
July 29, 2015

Cas9 edit

In a project led by investigators at UC San Francisco , scientists have devised a new strategy to precisely modify human immune-system T cells, using the popular genome-editing system known as CRISPR/Cas9. T cells play important roles in a wide range of diseases, from diabetes to AIDS to cancer, so this achievement provides a path toward CRISPR/Cas9-based therapies for many serious health problems, the scientists say.… read more

Sri Lanka to be first country in the world with universal Internet access

July 29, 2015

(credit: Google)

Sri Lanka may soon become the first country in the world to have universal Internet access. On July 28, the government of Sri Lanka signed a Memorandum of Understanding with Google to launch Project Loon, according to Sri Lanka Internet newspaper ColumboPage.

Google is providing high-altitude balloons, using the standard telco high-speed 4G LTE protocol, according to Project Loon project lead Mike Cassidy, in a… read more

A simulated robot with bacterial brain

Models how bacteria might affect the mind (bacteria that act like tigers?); applications may include treating mental and physical illnesses, agriculture, and remediating oil spills
July 28, 2015

computational simulation ft

Virginia Tech scientist Warren Ruder, an assistant professor of biological systems engineering, has created an in silico (computer-simulated) model of a biomimetic robot controlled by a bacterial brain.

The study was inspired by real-world experiments where the mating behavior of fruit flies was manipulated using bacteria, and in which mice exhibited signs of lower stress when implanted with probiotics (“healthy” bacteria).

A math modelread more

The brain’s got rhythm

First in-depth study to show how rhythms control communication between brain regions
July 28, 2015

The anterior (blue) and posterior (orange) regions of the prefrontal cortex sync up to communicate cognitive goals to one another. (credit: Bradley Voytek)

Like a jazz combo, the human brain improvises while its rhythm section keeps up a steady beat. But when it comes to taking on intellectually challenging tasks, groups of neurons tune in to one another for a fraction of a second and harmonize, then go back to improvising, according to new research led by UC Berkeley.

These findings, reported Monday (July 27) in the journal Nature Neuroscience, could pave… read more

How hybrid solar-cell materials may capture more solar energy

July 27, 2015

Chemists at the University of California, Riverside have found an ingenious way to make solar energy conversion more efficient. (credit: David Monniaux)

Innovative techniques for reducing solar-cell installation costs by capturing more solar energy per unit area by using hybrid materials have recently been announced by two universities.

Capturing more of the spectrum

The University of California, Riverside strategy for making solar cells more efficient is to use the near-infrared region of the sun’s spectrum, which is not absorbed by current solar cells.

The researchers… read more

AI and robotics researchers call for global ban on autonomous weapons

"If any major military power pushes ahead with AI weapon development, a global arms race is virtually inevitable"
July 27, 2015

FLI

More than 1,000 leading artificial intelligence (AI) and robotics researchers and others, including Stephen Hawking and Elon Musk, just signed and published an open letter from the Future of Life Institute (FLI) today calling for a ban on offensive autonomous weapons.

FLI defines “autonomous weapons” as those that select and engage targets without human intervention, such as armed quadcopters that can search for and eliminate… read more

Super-elastic conducting fibers for artificial muscles, sensors, capacitors

Could lead to super-elastic electronic circuits, robots and exoskeletons with great reach, morphing aircraft, giant-range strain sensors, and failure-free pacemaker leads
July 24, 2015

UT Dallas scientists have constructed novel fibers by wrapping sheets of tiny carbon nanotubes to form a sheath around a long rubber core. This illustration shows complex two-dimensional buckling, shown in yellow, of the carbon nanotube sheath/rubber-core fiber. The buckling results in a conductive fiber with super elasticity and novel electronic properties. (credit: UT Dallas Alan G. MacDiarmid Nanotech Institute)

An international research team based at The University of Texas at Dallas has made electrically conducting fibers that can be reversibly stretched to more than 14 times their initial length and whose electrical conductivity increases 200-fold when stretched.

The research team is using the new fibers to make artificial muscles, as well as capacitors with energy storage capacity that increases about tenfold when the fibers… read more

Novel DNA origami structures

New nanoscale design concepts by one day lead to methods for finding cancer cells in the body or act as robot assembly lines for the design of new drugs
July 24, 2015

The versatility of the 3D wireframe design technique created by Arizona State University Biodesign Institute researcher Hao Yan is demonstrated here with the construction of the snub cube, an Archimedean solid with 60 edges, 24 vertices and 38 faces including 6 squares and 32 equilateral triangles. (credit: TED-43/Wikimedia Commons)

Hao Yan, a researcher at Arizona State University’s Biodesign Institute, has extended DNA origami — which uses combinations of DNA base pairs to create new 2-D and 3-D nanoforms — into imaginative new forms that may one day lead to microelectronics and biomedical innovations.

“Earlier design methods [for DNA origami] used strategies including parallel arrangement of DNA helices to approximate arbitrary shapes, but precise… read more

An anti-inflammatory ‘smart drug’ that activates only in high-inflammation areas

Important solution for immunosuppressed patients, older patients, and those undergoing chemotherapy
July 24, 2015

Chimeric IL-1Ra protein combines the N-terminal peptide of IL-1beta (left) and IL-1Ra (right), resulting in inactive IL-1Ra (credit: Peleg Rider et al./Journal of Immunology)

Ben-Gurion University of the Negev (BGU) in Israel and University of Colorado researchers have developed a dynamic anti-inflammatory “smart” drug that can target specific sites in the body and could enhance the body’s natural ability to fight infection while reducing side effects.

This protein molecule, reported in the current issue of Journal of Immunology, has an exceptional property: when injected, it’s non-active. But upon reaching a… read more

NASA discovers first near-Earth-size planet in the habitable zone around a Sun-like star

July 23, 2015

This artist's concept compares Earth (left) to the new planet, called Kepler-452b, which is about 60 percent larger in diameter (credits: NASA/JPL-Caltech/T. Pyle)

NASA’s Kepler mission has discovered the first near-Earth-size planet in the “habitable zone” around a Sun-like star. This discovery joins 11 other new small habitable zone candidate planets, marking another milestone in the journey to find another “Earth.”

The newly discovered Kepler-452b, located 1,400 light-years away in the constellation Cygnus, is the smallest planet to date discovered orbiting in the habitable zone — the area around a star where liquid… read more

The CRISPR craze: genome editing technologies poised to revolutionize medicine and industry

July 22, 2015

Genome editing by engineered Cas9 systems (credit: Mary Ann Liebert, Inc., publishers)

CRISPR/Cas systems for genome editing have revolutionized biological research over the past three years, and their ability to make targeted changes in DNA sequences in living cells with relative ease and affordability is now being applied to clinical medicine and will have a significant impact on advances in drug and other therapies, agriculture, and food products.

The power and promise of this innovation are presented in the… read more

Phosphorene could lead to ultrathin solar cells

How to make it using simple sticky tape; peeling off layers changes its properties
July 22, 2015

peeling black phosphorus

Australian National University | Sticky tape the key to ultrathin solar cells

Scientists at Australian National University (ANU) have used simple transparent sticky (aka “Scotch”) tape to create single-atom-thick layers of phosphorene from “black phosphorus,” a black crystalline form of phosphorus similar to graphite (which is used to create graphene).

Unlike graphene, phosphorene is a natural semiconductor that can be switched… read more

3D-printing basic electronic components

Just hit “print” to create an electronic circuit or wireless sensor in the comfort of your own home
July 22, 2015

UC Berkeley engineers created a "smart cap" using 3-D-printed plastic with embedded electronics to wirelessly monitor the freshness of milk. (credit: Photo by Sung-Yueh Wu)

UC Berkeley engineers, in collaboration with colleagues at Taiwan’s National Chiao Tung University, have developed a 3D printing process for creating basic electronic components, such as resistors, inductors, capacitors, and integrated wireless electrical sensing systems.

As a test, they printed a wireless “smart cap” for a milk carton that detected signs of spoilage using embedded sensors.

The findings were published Monday, July 20, in… read more

Common chemicals may act together to increase cancer risk, international study finds

July 22, 2015

Disruptive potential ft

Common environmental chemicals assumed to be safe at low doses may act separately or together to disrupt human tissues in ways that eventually lead to cancer, according to a task force of almost 200 scientists from 28 countries.

In a nearly three-year investigation of the state of knowledge about environmentally influenced cancers, the scientists studied low-dose effects of 85 common chemicals not considered to be carcinogenic to humans.… read more

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