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Under the skin, a tiny blood-testing laboratory

March 20, 2013

(credit: EPFL)

EPFL scientists have developed a tiny, portable personal blood testing laboratory: a minuscule device implanted just under the skin provides an immediate analysis of substances in the body, and a radio module transmits the results to a doctor over the cellular phone network.

This feat of miniaturization has many potential applications, including monitoring patients undergoing chemotherapy.

Humans are veritable chemical factories — we manufacture… read more

DARPA seeks more robust military wireless networks

March 20, 2013

Enduring Freedom

DARPA has created the Wireless Network Defense program, which aims to develop new protocols that enable military wireless networks to remain operational despite inadvertent misconfigurations or malicious compromise of individual nodes.

“Current security efforts focus on individual radios or nodes, rather than the network, so a single misconfigured or compromised radio could debilitate an entire network,” said Wayne Phoel, DARPA program… read more

Bringing a virtual brain to life

March 20, 2013

(Credit: Ecole Polytechnique Fédérale de Lausanne)

In 2009, Dr. Henry Markram conceived of the Human Brain Project, a sprawling and controversial initiative of more than 150 institutions around the world that he hopes will bring scientists together to realize his dream, as The New York Times notes.

In January, the European Union raised the stakes by awarding the project a 10-year grant of up to $1.3 billion — an unheard-of sum… read more

Can control theory make software better?

March 20, 2013


Researchers from MIT’s Laboratory for Information and Decision Systems (LIDS) and a colleague at Georgia Tech have developed a method for applying principles from control theory — which analyzes dynamical systems ranging from robots to power grids — to formal verification,  a set of methods for mathematically proving that a computer program does what it’s supposed to do.

The result could help computer scientists expand… read more

A 3D-printed Moon base baked from lunar dust

March 20, 2013


Space architects have unveiled a concept for a 3D-printed Moon base called SinterHab near the lunar south pole. Modules would be constructed from lunar dust by microwave sintering and contour crafting, built by a large NASA spider robot.

Unlike an earlier, more bulky concept using a mobile printing array of nozzles on a 6 meter frame to spray a binding solution (glue) onto… read more

New system would let you take a drug by just pressing your skin

March 20, 2013

Controlled release of drug by hand pressure (

An implantable gel material that can release drugs in response to pressure applied by a patient has been developed by researchers at the National Institute for Materials Science (NIMS) in Japan.

Oral administration of drugs may be difficult for patients experiencing nausea during cancer chemotherapy, for diabetics (to release insulin), and for other conditions.

The idea is for this controlled-release system is for a doctor… read more

Whole brain cellular-level activity mapping once a second

March 19, 2013


Neuroscientists at Howard Hughes Medical Institute have mapped the activity of nearly all the neurons in a vertebrate brain at cellular resolution, with signficant implications for neuroscience research and projects like the proposed Brain Activity Map (BAM).

The researchers used high-speed light sheet microscopy to image the activity of 80% of the neurons in the brain (which is composed of ~100,000 neurons) of a fish… read more

Seeing a chemical reaction in real time

March 19, 2013

New experiments at the Linac Coherent Light Source took an unprecedented look at the way carbon monoxide molecules react with the surface of a catalyst in real time. (credit: Greg Stewart/SLAC National Accelerator Laboratory)

The ultrafast, ultrabright X-ray pulses of the Linac Coherent Light Source (LCLS) have enabled unprecedented views of a catalyst in action, an important step in the effort to develop cleaner and more efficient energy sources.

Scientists at the U.S. Department of Energy’s (DOE) SLAC National Accelerator Laboratory used LCLS, together with computerized simulations, to reveal surprising details of a short-lived early state in a chemical reaction occurring at the… read more

DNA tool kit goes live online

Standard control sequences aim to make genetic engineering more predictable
March 19, 2013


BIOFAB, based in Emery­ville, California, which calls itself  “the world’s first biological design-build facility,” has announced availability of DNA sequences that allow precise control of gene activity in the bacterium Escherichia coli, Nature News reports.

Launched in 2009 with a US$1.4-million grant from the National Science Foundation, BIOFAB aims to advance synthetic biology by creating standard biological ‘parts’ in the form of DNA… read more

Scientists transplant neural stem cells from a monkey’s skin into its brain

Proof-of-principle study raises hope for personalized regenerative medicine, possible future Parkinson's treatment
March 19, 2013

University of Wisconsin-Madison scientists have transplanted neural cells derived from stem cells from a monkey’s skin into its brain and watched the cells develop into several types of mature brain cells.

After six months, the cells looked entirely normal, and were only detectable because they initially were tagged with a fluorescent protein.

The transplanted cells came from induced pluripotent stem cells (iPS cells), which can, like embryonic stem… read more

Engineered artificial human livers for drug testing and discovery

March 18, 2013


Institute of Bioengineering and Nanotechnology (IBN) researchers have engineered an artificial human liver that mimics the natural tissue environment closely.

The development makes it possible for companies to predict the toxicity of new drugs earlier, potentially speeding up the drug development process and reducing the cost of manufacturing.

The liver is an important target organ for drug testing because all drugs pass through it… read more

Boyden to share prestigious brain prize

March 18, 2013


Ed Boyden, a faculty member in the MIT Media Lab and the McGovern Institute for Brain Research, was named a recipient of the 2013 Grete Lundbeck European Brain Research Prize. The 1 million Euro prize is awarded for the development of optogenetics, a technology that makesread more

Hey, at least you can be virtually immortal

March 18, 2013

ellis island

Where their grandparents may have left behind a few grainy photos, a death certificate or a record from Ellis Island, retirees today have the ability to leave a cradle-to-grave record of their lives, The New York Times reports.

Two major forces are driving virtual immortality. The first and most obvious: inexpensive video cameras and editing programs, personal computers and social media sites like Facebook, Twitter and YouTube.… read more

A cancer gene therapy activated by a pill

March 18, 2013


A unique new cancer treatment uses gene therapy to induce a cancer-fighting immune response whose intensity can then be controlled with a pill. The combination could help tailor treatment to a patient’s individual response, MIT Technology Review reports.

The treatment uses the body’s own cells or tumor cells to produce extra copies of a naturally occurring hormone-like molecule called IL-12, which regulates anticancer immune responses. Last week,… read more

Paramount acquires science-fiction novel ‘Nexus’

March 18, 2013


Paramount Pictures has acquired screen rights to Nexus, the science fiction novel by Ramez Naam, to be produced by Mary Parent of Disruption for Darren Aronofsky’s Protozoa.

The author, former CEO of Apex Nanotechnology, is the author of the nonfiction book More Than Human: Embracing The Promise Of Biological Enhancement.

Here’s the plot from Amazon:

In the near future,… read more

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