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An incredible nanoscale 3-D voyage through a tiny part of the mouse brain

July 31, 2015

Synapses in contact with a dendrite (the large red object). The white dots are synaptic vesicles inside axons. (credit: N. Kasthuri et al./Cell)

Using an electron microscope, researchers have peered down inside the brain of an adult mouse at a scale previously unachievable, generating dramatic color images at 3-nm-pixel resolution. The research was published Thursday July 30 in an open-access paper in the journal Cell.

Focusing on a small area of the mouse brain that receives sensory information from mouse whiskers, the researchers built a system that automatically slices a subject… read more

Ebola vaccine found 100% effective in initial trial

July 31, 2015

The Ebola vaccine rVSV Zebov-GP is being prepared for injection (credit: WHO/S. Hawkey)

An Ebola vaccine known as VSV-EBOV, provided by Merck, Sharp & Dohme, has shown 100% efficacy in individuals, according to results from an interim analysis published (open access) today (July 31) in the British journal The Lancet.

“This is an extremely promising development,” said Margaret Chan, M.D., Director-General of the World Health Organization. “The credit goes to the Guinean Government, the people living in the communities and our… read more

How to tune graphene properties by introducing defects

July 30, 2015

Exfoliation setup. Inset: graphite electrode during exfoliation (credit: Mario Hofmann/Nanotechnology)

Taiwanese researchers reported today (July 30) in the journal Nanotechnology that they have developed a simple electrochemical approach that allows for defects to intentionally be created in graphene, altering its electrical and mechanical properties and making the material more useful for electronic devices and drug delivery, for example.

Current graphene synthesis techniques, such as chemical vapor deposition and reduction of graphene oxide, can only produce graphene with a narrow… read more

Memory problems? Go climb a tree.

Working memory capacity increase of 50 percent found in research
July 30, 2015

(credit: iStock)

Climbing a tree or balancing on a beam can dramatically improve cognitive skills, according to a study recently conducted by researchers in the Department of Psychology at the University of North Florida.

The study is the first to show that proprioceptively dynamic activities like climbing a tree, done over a short period of time, have dramatic working memory benefits.

Working memory (the… read more

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

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