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New type of molecular tag makes MRI 10,000 times more sensitive

Could detect biochemical processes in opaque tissue without requiring PET radiation or CT x-rays
March 25, 2016

Duke scientists have discovered a new class of inexpensive and long-lived molecular tags that enhance MRI signals by 10,000-fold. To activate the tags, the researchers mix them with a newly developed catalyst (center) and a special form of hydrogen (gray), converting them into long-lived magnetic resonance “lightbulbs” that might be used to track disease metabolism in real time. Credit: Thomas Theis, Duke University

Duke University researchers have discovered a new form of MRI that’s 10,000 times more sensitive and could record actual biochemical reactions, such as those involved in cancer and heart disease, and in real time.

Let’s review how MRI (magnetic resonance imaging) works: MRI takes advantage of a property called spin, which makes the nuclei in hydrogen atoms act like tiny magnets. By generating a strong… read more

Scientists time-reverse developed stem cells to make them ‘embryonic’ again

May help avoid ethically controversial use of human embryos for research and support other research goals
March 24, 2016

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University of Michigan Medical School researchers have discovered a way to convert mouse stem cells (taken from an embryo) that have  become “primed” (reached the stage where they can  differentiate, or develop into every specialized cell in the body) to a “naïve” (unspecialized) state by simply adding a drug.

This breakthrough has the potential to one day allow researchers to avoid the ethically controversial use ofread more

How to kill bacteria in seconds using gold nanoparticles and light

Could treat bacterial infections without using antibiotics, which could help reduce the risk of spreading antibiotics resistance
March 24, 2016

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Researchers at the University of Houston have developed a new technique for killing bacteria in 5 to 25 seconds using highly porous gold nanodisks and light, according to a study published today in Optical Materials Express. The method could one day help hospitals treat some common infections without using antibiotics, which could help reduce the risk of spreading antibiotics resistance.

Gold nanoparticles are used because they… read more

Automated lip-reading invented

It's the end of the (privacy) world as we know it...
March 24, 2016

HAL lip-reading

New lip-reading technology developed at the University of East Anglia could help in solving crimes and provide communication assistance for people with hearing and speech impairments.

The visual speech recognition technology, created by Helen L. Bear, PhD, and Prof Richard Harvey of UEA’s School of Computing Sciences, can be applied “any place where the audio isn’t good enough to determine what people are saying,” Bear said. Those… read more

A new nontoxic way to generate portable power

Got a match?
March 23, 2016

In this time-lapse series of photos, progressing from top to bottom, a coating of sucrose (ordinary sugar) over a wire made of carbon nanotubes is lit at the left end, and burns from one end to the other. As it heats the wire, it drives a wave of electrons along with it, thus converting the heat into electricity. (credit: MIT)

Here’s a new idea for a nontoxic battery: light fuel-coated carbon nanotubes on fire (like a fuse) to generate electricity.

Sounds crazy but it works, according to inventor Michael Strano, the Carbon P. Dubbs Professor in Chemical Engineering at MIT. Plus it avoids toxic materials such as lithium, which can be difficult to dispose of and that have limited global supplies),

The new approach is… read more

Exploring long-range communications in the brain

March 23, 2016

Red and green dots reveal a region in the brain that that is very dense with synapses. A special fluorescent protein allows Dr. Ofer Yizhar and his group to record the activity of the synapses. (credit: Weizmann Institute of Science)

Weizmann Institute of Science researchers have devised a new way to track long-distance communications between nerve cells in different areas of the brain. They used optogenetic techniques (using genetic engineering of neurons and laser light in thin optical fibers to temporarily silence long-range axons, effectively leading to a sustained “disconnect” between two distant brain nodes.

By observing what happens when crucial connections are disabled, the researchers could… read more

DARPA’s ‘Targeted Neuroplasticity Training’ program aims to accelerate learning ‘beyond normal levels’

The transhumanism-inspired goal: train superspy agents to rapidly master foreign languages and cryptography
March 23, 2016

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DARPA has announced a new program called Targeted Neuroplasticity Training (TNT) aimed at exploring how to use peripheral nerve stimulation and other methods to enhance learning.

DARPA already has research programs underway to use targeted stimulation of the peripheral nervous system as a substitute for drugs to treat diseases and accelerate healing*, to control advanced prosthetic limbs**, and to restore tactile sensation.

But now… read more

Printing nanomaterials with plasma on flexible surfaces and 3D objects

March 22, 2016

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Researchers at NASA Ames and Stanford Linear Accelerator Center have developed a new method that uses plasma to print nanomaterials onto a 3-D object or flexible surface, such as paper or cloth.

The technique could make it easier and cheaper to build devices like wearable chemical and biological sensors, integrated circuits, and flexible memory devices and batteries.

Some nanomaterials can be printed currently using aerosol printing techniques, but… read more

A morphing metal for soft robots and other machines

Imagine an aircraft that could alter its wing shape in midflight and, like a pelican, dive into the water before morphing into a submarine.
March 22, 2016

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Cornell University engineering professor Rob Shepherd and his group have developed a hybrid material combining a stiff metal called Field’s metal and a soft, porous silicone foam. Think T-1000 Terminator.

The material combines the best properties of both — stiffness when it’s called for, and elasticity when a change of shape is required. The material also has the ability to self-heal following damage.

“Sometimes you want a robot, or… read more

A wearable graphene-based biomedical device to monitor and treat diabetes

March 22, 2016

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A  wearable graphene-based patch that allows for accurate non-invasive blood-sugar diabetes monitoring and painless drug delivery has been developed by researchers at The Institute for Basic Science (IBS) Center for Nanoparticle Research in South Korea.

The device uses a hybrid of gold-doped graphene and a serpentine-shape gold mesh to measure pH (blood acidity level) and temperature by measuring the amount of glucose in sweat. If abnormally high levels… read more

Transdermal implant releases antibodies to trigger immune system to clear Alzheimer’s plaques

Test with mice over 39 weeks showed dramatic reduction of amyloid beta plaque load in the brain and reduced phosphorylation of the protein tau, two signs of Alzheimer's
March 21, 2016

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EPFL scientists have developed an implantable capsule containing genetically engineered cells that can recruit a patient’s immune system to combat Alzheimer’s disease.

Placed under the skin, the capsule releases antibody proteins that make their way to the brain and “tag” amyloid beta proteins, signalling the patient’s own immune system to attack and clear the amyloid beta proteins, which are toxic to neurons.

To be most effective,… read more

How to detect radioactive material remotely

March 21, 2016

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University of Maryland researchers have proposed a new technique to remotely detect the radioactive materials* in dirty bombs or other sources from up to a few hundred meters away based on ion density. The technique might be used to screen vehicles, suspicious packages, or cargo.

The researchers calculate that a low-power laser aimed near the radioactive material could free electrons from the oxygen ions. A second, high-power… read more

Neurons involved in working memory fire in bursts, not continuously

How we are able to keep several things simultaneously in working memory
March 21, 2016

Pictured is an artist’s interpretation of neurons firing in sporadic, coordinated bursts. “By having these different bursts coming at different moments in time, you can keep different items in memory separate from one another,” Earl Miller says. (credit: Jose-Luis Olivares/MIT)

Think of a sentence you just read. Like that one. You’re now using your working memory, a critical brain system that’s roughly analogous to RAM memory in a computer.

Neuroscientists have believed that as information is held in working memory, brain cells associated with that information must be firing continuously. Not so — they fire in sporadic, coordinated bursts, says Earl Miller, the Picower Professor in MIT’s… read more

We need to forget things to make space to learn new things, scientists discover

Mice study, if confirmed in people, might help forget traumatic experiences
March 21, 2016

The three routes into the hippocampus seem to be linked to different aspects of learning: forming memories (green), recalling them (yellow) and forgetting (red). (credit: John Wood)

While you’re reading this (and learning about this new study), your brain is actively trying to forget something.

We apologize, but that’s what scientists at the European Molecular Biology Laboratory (EMBL) and the University Pablo Olavide in Sevilla, Spain, found in a new study published Friday (March 18) in an open-access paper in Nature Communications.

“This is the first time that a pathway in the brain has… read more

TED releases Meta 2 augmented-reality presentation video

March 18, 2016

Gribetz @ TED

TED just released the full video of Meta CEO Meron Gribetz’s preview of Meta’s next-generation augmented reality (AR) technology at the TED 2016 conference on Feb. 17. It can be found online at metavision.com and TED.com.

The presentation, which Forbes said “dazzles TED crowd” and received a standing ovation from TED attendees, dramatically showcases the capabilities of the Meta 2 Development Kit.… read more

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