science + technology news

Molecular homing beacon redirects human antibodies to fight threat of multidrug-resistant bacterial pathogens

Nobel Laureate Kary Mullis invents the Alphamer, which attracts pre-existing antibodies to help immune system clear infection
May 7, 2015

Alphamers (purple) act as homing beacons, attracting pre-existing anti-alpha-Gal antibodies (green) to the bacterial surface. Watch the full animation at Credit: Altermune Technologies

Good news on the serious threat of multidrug-resistant bacterial pathogens, which are rampant in hospitals and elsewhere: the Alphamer, a “molecular homing beacon,” has been invented by Nobel Laureate Kary Mullis, PhD, who previously invented polymerase chain reaction (PCR), a widely used lab technique for diagnostic tests, sequencing DNA, and other applications.

This entirely novel approach tags bacteria with a molecular “homing beacon” that attracts… read more

How to read a monkey’s mind

Stanford experiment has implications for design of brain-controlled prostheses and for the "free will" debate
May 7, 2015

Decision-maze task-ft

Haven you ever wondered what goes on in a monkey’s mind when it’s making a decision? We haven’t either. But for Stanford University neuroscientists, doing exactly that could help design better prostheses (such as artificial arms) controlled by a user’s brain.

For example, when should the artificial arm move? Instantly, or only after the user is absolutely certain of a decision (as indicated by neural signals) to avoid a… read more

New type of stem cell could lead to breakthroughs in regenerative medicine

May 7, 2015

In this image, a novel type of human stem cell is shown in green integrating and developing into the surrounding cells of a nonviable mouse embryo. Red indicates cells of endoderm lineage. Endoderm cells can give rise to tissue that covers organs from the digestive and respiratory systems. The new stem cell, developed at the Salk Institute, holds promise for one day growing replacement functional cells and tissues. (Credit: Salk Institute for Biological Studies)

Scientists at the Salk Institute have discovered a novel type of pluripotent stem cell that develops into a tissue type that is based on the stem cell’s region, or location, in a developing embryo.

Pluripotent stem cells are cells that are capable of differentiating (developing) in the embryo into any of the three germ layers: endoderm (interior stomach lining, gastrointestinal tract, the lungs), mesoderm… read more

Real-world stereotypes continue to exist in virtual worlds

May 6, 2015


Stereotypes related to gender and appearance that burden women in the real world could follow them into virtual ones, according to Penn State researchers.

In a study of how people interacted with avatars in an online game, women received less help from fellow players than men when they operated an unattractive avatar and when they used a male avatar, said T. Franklin Waddell, a doctoral candidate in massread more

A consumer version of Oculus Rift VR headset coming in early 2016

May 6, 2015

A first look at the Oculus Rift for consumers (credit: Oculus VR)

Oculus VR announced today (May 6) that the Oculus Rift VR headset will be shipping to consumers in Q1 2016, with pre-orders later this year.

“The Rift delivers on the dream of consumer VR with compelling content, a full ecosystem, and a fully-integrated hardware/software tech stack designed specifically for virtual reality,” Oculus VR said in the blog post. “It’s a system designed by a team of extremely… read more

New centimeter-accurate GPS system could transform virtual reality and mobile devices

May 6, 2015


A centimeter-accurate GPS-based positioning system that could revolutionize geolocation on virtual reality headsets, cellphones, and other devices has been developed by researchers in the Cockrell School of Engineering at The University of Texas at Austin.

Applications could include drones that can deliver packages to a specific spot on a consumer’s porch, precise collision-avoidance systems on cars (via vehicle-to-vehicle communications), and a globally referenced… read more

A softer, gentler robot controlled by light

Synthetic gel changes shape and moves via its own internal energy
May 6, 2015

gel changes ft.

A bio-inspired prototype “soft robot” material with greater dexterity and mobility than conventional hard robots has been created by researchers at the University of Pittsburgh’s Swanson School of Engineering.

“In biology, directed movement involves some form of shape changes, such as the expansion and contraction of muscles,” said Anna C. Balazs, PhD, the Swanson School’s Distinguished Professor of Chemical and Petroleum… read more

How to create a seamless panorama video from multiple cameras

May 5, 2015

Credit: Disney Research

Non-professionals may someday be able to create high-quality video panoramas using multiple cameras with the help of an algorithm developed by a team of Disney researchers.

Their method smooths out the blurring, ghosting and other distortions that routinely occur when video feeds from unstructured camera arrays are combined to create a single panoramic video. The algorithm corrects for the apparent difference in position of an object caused… read more

New chip architecture may increase qubits in a future quantum computer

May 5, 2015

Credit: AIP

Researchers at the Georgia Tech Research Institute and Honeywell International have developed a new ion trap architecture (using ions trapped inside a vacuum chamber and manipulated with lasers) that could increase the density of qubits in future quantum computers.

The GTRI/Honeywell approach uses new microfabrication techniques that allow more electrodes to fit onto the chip. The design borrows ideas… read more

How to turn your smartphone into a microscope for 1 cent

May 5, 2015

Lens on iPhone 4S (credit: Yulu Sung)

University of Houston (UH) scientists have created an optical lens that  you can directly attach over an inexpensive smartphone camera lens to amplify images 120 times with an imaging resolution of 1 micrometer for just one cent (to create the lens in a lab), according to Wei-Chuan Shih, assistant professor of electrical and computer engineering at UH.

The new lens could also have clinical applications,… read more

Combination immunotherapy significantly more effective for patients with advanced melanoma

The power of the immune system if we can remove the “brakes”
May 4, 2015

A melanoma (credit: Wikimedia Commons)

Researchers from Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center (MSK) are reporting exciting results in the field of cancer immunology.

Positive results from a clinical trial published in The New England Journal of Medicine show that the combination of the immunotherapy drugs ipilimumab (Yervoy™) and nivolumab (Opdivo™) produced significantly better outcomes than ipilimumab alone in patients with advanced melanoma.

A second piece in the same… read more

Real-time noninvasive PET imaging to detect tumors

May 4, 2015

Non-invasive PET imaging-ft

Whitehead Institute scientists have developed a method to detect tumors by real-time imaging of the immune system using positron emission tomography (PET). The new method replaces blood draws and invasive biopsies. It’s a potential breakthrough in diagnostics and monitoring the efficacy of cancer therapies.

An example of such a therapy is a new way to get the entire immune system to attack cancer, which KurzweilAI recently reported.… read more

A DNA repair map of the entire human genome

Could lead to better or improved cancer drugs and to repair methods for radiation damage to DNA
May 4, 2015

Researchers in the lab of Aziz Sancar, MD, PhD, created this map of DNA repair for every human chromosome. (Credit: UNC)

A new experimental assay can help scientists find the precise locations of repair of DNA damage caused by radiation and common chemotherapies. The invention could lead to better cancer drugs or improvements in the potency of existing ones, and also to repair methods for radiation damage to DNA.

When the common chemotherapy drugs cisplatin or oxaliplatin hit cancer cells, they damage DNA so that the cells can’t replicate. But… read more

What happens to your brain on the way to Mars?

Long-term galactic cosmic ray exposure leads to dementia-like cognitive impairments
May 4, 2015

radiation effects

Exposure to highly energetic charged particles — much like those found in the galactic cosmic rays that bombard astronauts during extended spaceflights — causes significant damage to the central nervous system, resulting in cognitive impairments, according to a UC Irvine radiation oncology open-access study appearing in the May 1 edition of Science Advances.

“This is not positive news for astronauts deployed on a two- to three-year round… read more

Printing silicon on paper with lasers

May 1, 2015

silicon on paper

Researchers at Delft University of Technology in the Netherlands have pioneered a method that allows silicon, in the polycrystalline form used in circuitry, to be produced directly on a substrate from liquid silicon ink with a single laser pulse.

The capacity for printing silicon ink onto substrates has existed for some time, but necessitated a 350° C thermal annealing step — far too hot for paper and other common… read more

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