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How to transform bone marrow stem cells directly into brain cells

April 24, 2013

Scientists at The Scripps Research Institute have found a simple way to turn bone marrow stem cells directly into brain precursor cells, such as those shown here (credit: Lerner lab, The Scripps Research Institute.)

Scientists at The Scripps Research Institute (TSRI) have found a way to turn bone marrow stem cells directly into brain cells.

Current techniques for turning patients’ marrow cells into cells of some other desired type are relatively cumbersome, risky and effectively confined to the lab dish.

The new finding points to the possibility of simpler and safer techniques.

Cell therapies derived from patients’… read more

How to create a glowing plant

Natural lighting with no electricity or CO2 (or radioactive elements)
April 24, 2013

glowing plant

Now you can your own glowing plant at home, using synthetic biology and computer software.

All backers from the USA who back this Kickstarter project with $40 or more will receive seeds to grow a glowing plant at home.

From the Kickstarter page:

Once we have the plant, it is just a matter of breeding enough offspring to grow seeds for all backers. You can… read more

NASA’s Kepler discovers its smallest ‘habitable zone’ planets to date

April 23, 2013

The artist's concept depicts Kepler-69c, a super-Earth-size planet in the habitable zone of a star like our sun.<br />
Image credit: NASA Ames/JPL-Caltech

NASA‘s Kepler mission has discovered two new planetary systems that include three super-Earth-size planets in the “habitable zone,” the range of distance from a star where the surface temperature of an orbiting planet might be suitable for liquid water.

Two of the newly discovered planets orbit a star smaller and cooler than the sun. Kepler-62f is only 40 percent larger than Earth, making… read more

An instant path to an online army

April 23, 2013


VizWiz, a free iPhone app, gives real-time help to blind users, The New York Times reports.

VizWiz users take a photograph as best as they can — it may take several tries before the desired object is properly framed — and then record one question about it (“What is on the label of the can?”).

Besides needing help identifying food labels, they may want… read more

New algorithm helps evaluate, rank scientific literature

April 23, 2013


Keeping up with current scientific literature is a daunting task, considering that hundreds to thousands of papers are published each day. Now researchers from North Carolina State University have developed a computer program to help them evaluate and rank scientific articles in their field.

The researchers use a text-mining algorithm to prioritize research papers to read and include in their Comparative Toxicogenomics Databaseread more

Nano compartments may aid drug delivery, catalyst design

April 23, 2013

This false-color image (left) depicts the core lattice in blue, where drugs can be placed in compartment pores for targeting in the body. In the hexagon-shaped cylinder branches, other types of drugs may be place for delivery. Simultaneous delivery of pharmaceuticals can thus be optimized for each drug separately. The accompanying illustration (right) offers a clear vision of the left image. (Credit:

Cornell researchers have created spongelike nanoparticles with separate compartments that could deliver two or more different drugs to the same location, with precise control over the amounts,  avoiding unpleasant side effects.

The technology might also be applied to catalysts used to enhance chemical reactions, which are sometimes formed into porous nanoparticles to expose more surface area. Compartmented particles could allow two or more catalysts to… read more

Breakdowns in DNA copying process lead to cancer, other diseases

April 23, 2013

(credit: University of York)

The cell protein machines that copy DNA in a model organism pause frequently during this copying process, creating the potential for dangerous mutations to develop that can contribute to cancer and other diseases., University of York researchers have discovered.

The project focused on a bacterium called Escherichia coli, a powerful model for studying the DNA copying process.

“We have analyzed what causes most of… read more

A frog-like robot that crawls inside your abdomen

April 22, 2013

intra-abdominal robot on steel plate-1

Researchers at the University of Leeds are using the feet of tree frogs as a model for a tiny robot designed to crawl inside patients’ bodies during keyhole surgery.

It is designed to move across the internal abdominal wall of a patient, allowing surgeons to see what they are doing on a real-time video feed.

The tree frog’s feet provide a solution to the… read more

Smaller thermal cameras with smaller pixels for warfighters

Compact five-micron-pixel LWIR camera demonstrated
April 22, 2013

(credit: DARPA)

DARPA researchers have demonstrated a new five-micron-pixel long-wave infrared (LWIR) camera that could make this class of camera smaller and less expensive. (A micron is a millionth of a meter.)

The military uses LWIR (also know as “far IR”) cameras as thermal imagers to detect humans at night. These cameras are usually mounted on vehicles as they are too large to be carried by a… read more

Nanosponges soak up toxins released by bacterial infections and venom

April 22, 2013

From left, nanosponge cross section and Transmission Electron Microscopy (TEM) (credit: UC San Diego)

Engineers at the University of California, San Diego have invented a “nanosponge” capable of safely removing a broad class of dangerous toxins from the bloodstream — including toxins produced by MRSA, E. coli, poisonous snakes and bees.

These nanosponges, thus far studied in mice, can neutralize “pore-forming toxins,” which destroy cells by poking holes in their cell membranes. Unlike other anti-toxin platforms that need to… read more

Securely storing and interpreting the genome

Avoiding the Gattaca scenario
April 22, 2013


At a time when sequencing the genome is becoming democratized, questions have arisen about the interpretation of these data and their secure storage. Sophia Genetics, an EPFL Science Park start-up, specializes in this area.

Complete sequencing of the genome will soon enable personalized treatments. Moreover, new prescription drugs based on genetic markers are coming on the market. Given the drastic reduction in the… read more

New private rocket launches into orbit on maiden voyage

April 22, 2013


A new commercial U.S. rocket soared into the Virginia sky Sunday  (April 21) on a debut flight that paves the way for eventual cargo flights to the International Space Station for NASA, reports.

The private Antares rocket, built by Orbital Sciences, is a two-stage booster designed to launch tons of supplies to the International Space Station aboard a new unmanned cargo ship called Cygnus.… read more

Cancer centers racing to map patients’ genes

April 22, 2013

Human genome sequence

Major academic medical centers in New York and around the country are spending and recruiting heavily in what has become an arms race within the war on cancer.

The investments are based on the belief that the medical establishment is moving toward the routine sequencing of every patient’s genome in the quest for “precision medicine,” a course for prevention and treatment based on the special, even unique characteristics of… read more

Making text more readable on wearable displays

April 22, 2013


Osaka University researchers have developed a text-display algorithm that places the current message on the darkest region in view at any given moment and in a readable color, making wearable displays like Google Glass more usable, New Scientist reports.

This is done using the headset’s camera, which plots a constantly changing heat map of viable on-screen reading locations. The algorithm can also split up a message into two… read more

Bigelow Aerospace and NASA look at private exploration

April 22, 2013


Bigelow Aerospace and NASA say they’ve agreed to look at ways for private ventures to contribute to human exploration missions, perhaps including construction of a moon base, but not asteroids and Mars, NBC News Cosmic Log reports.

The Moon ranks high among the targets that Bigelow Aerospace has in mind. The Nevada-based company has been working on moonbase concepts for years, including a… read more

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