science + technology news

Resveratrol, found in red grapes, may help prevent memory loss in the elderly

February 5, 2015

(Credit: Wikimedia Commons)

Resveratrol, touted for its potential to prevent heart disease, may also help prevent age-related decline in memory, according to new research from Texas A&M Health Science Center College of Medicine.

Ashok K. Shetty, Ph.D., a professor in the Department of Molecular and Cellular Medicine and Director of Neurosciences at the Institute for Regenerative Medicine, has been studying the potential benefit of resveratrol, an antioxidant found in the skin of… read more

Fluorescent dyes ‘light up’ brain cancer cells

February 4, 2015

tumor fluorescence ft

Two new fluorescent dyes attracted to cancer cells differentiate brain tumors from normal brain tissue in mice, and may help neurosurgeons more accurately localize and completely resect (remove) brain tumors, suggests an open-access study in the February issue of Neurosurgery.

The two “tumor-selective” fluorescent agents — called CLR1501 and CLR1502 — were molecularly altered to carry fluorescent dyes that glow under lights with specific wavelengths —… read more

Penta-graphene, a new structural variant of carbon, discovered

Discovery inspired by pentagonal tile pattern found in the streets of Cairo; has semiconductor, other new properties
February 4, 2015

The pentagon pattern of penta-graphene (credit: VCU)

Researchers at Virginia Commonwealth University (VCU) and universities in China and Japan have discovered a new structural variant of carbon called “penta-graphene”— a fourth form of carbon, joining fullerene, the nanotube and graphene.

Penta-graphene is a very thin sheet of pure carbon that has a unique structure inspired by a pentagonal (five-sided) pattern of tiles and that appears to be dynamically,… read more

‘Robot scientist’ Eve could speed up search for new drugs

February 4, 2015

Eve, the Robot Scientist (credit: University of Manchester)

British scientists have developed Eve, an artificially intelligent “robot scientist” that could make drug discovery faster and cheaper.

Based at the University of Manchester, Eve has already discovered that a compound shown to have anti-cancer properties might also be used in the fight against malaria.

Eve was developed by researchers at the Universities of Aberystwyth and Cambridge. In 2009, they announced Adam, the first machine toread more

Improved artificial blood vessels

February 3, 2015

SEM micrograph of chitosan-PVA nanofibers in three-layered composite graft (credit: Yuanyuan Liu et al./AIP Advances)

By combining micro-imprinting and electro-spinning techniques, researchers at Shanghai University’s Rapid Manufacturing Engineering Center have developed a vascular graft (blood-vessel bypass) composed of three layers for the first time.

This tri-layered composite allowed researchers to combine separate materials to provide mechanical strength and also promote new cell growth, not possible with existing vascular grafts, which are limited to a single or double… read more

Researchers determine how the brain controls robotic grasping tools

Could lead to advancements in assistive technologies benefiting the disabled
February 3, 2015

Planning and execution phase responses in the MT. Significant results were mapped to a 3-D brain using CARET’s Population-Average, Landmark- and Surface-based atlas using the Average Fiducial Mapping algorithm. (A) Relative to resting baseline, both types of action planning were associated with significant increases in occipital cortex, extending dorsally into the medial superior parietal lobule, left premotor cortex, bilateral TPJ, and cMTG. (B) During movement execution, grasp-related increases in activity were found near the intersection of the IPS and postcentral sulcus contralateral to the hand involved. (Credit: Scott H. Frey et al./ Journal of Cognitive Neuroscience)

University of Missouriresearchers have found evidence that the cerebellum portion of the brain may play a critical role in the complex network of brain functions involved in grasping. Their findings could lead to advancements in assistive technologies benefiting the disabled.

“For those with disabilities, assistive technologies, such as robotic arms or sensors inserted in the brain, make it possible to accomplish actions like grasping with… read more

A pump inspired by flapping bird wings

February 3, 2015

When a fluid is squeezed and expanded repeatedly between two sawtooth-like boundaries, a net flow is generated to the right (credit: B. Thiria & J. Zhang)

Two New York University researchers have taken inspiration from avian locomotion strategies and created a pump that moves fluid using vibration instead of a rotor. Their results were published today (February 3) in the journal Applied Physics Letters.

“When we use a household pump, that pump is very likely a centrifugal pump. It uses a high-speed rotor… read more

How complex environments push brain evolution

February 2, 2015

A hypothetical animat "brain," comprising a logic-gate network with 2 sensors, 4 hidden Markov elements, and 2 motors (credit: Larissa Albantakis/PLoS Computational Biology)

A recent study by neuroscientists offers clues about how increasingly difficult tasks have evolved the brain.

They created a video game similar to the old video game Tetris, in which programmed artificial adaptive agents (“animats”) have to “catch” moving blocks of different sizes before the blocks reach the bottom (in a game for humans, that might be done by pressing right or left cursor keys).… read more

High-def radar images of near-Earth asteroid captured

February 2, 2015

Collage of radar images of asteroid 2004 BL86 made by the Green Bank Telescope from radar transmitted from NASA's Goldstone Deep Space Network antenna. (Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech; NRAO/AUI/NSF)

A team of astronomers using the Green Bank Telescope (GBT) in West Virginia and NASA’s Deep Space Network radar transmitter at Goldstone, California, has made the most detailed radar images yet of asteroid 2004 BL86.

The images, taken early in the morning on Jan. 27, 2015, reveal the asteroid’s surface features in unprecedented clarity. At the time of the observations, the asteroid was traveling away from the Earth, so… read more

Deep-brain imaging reveals which nearly identical neurons are associated with specific behaviors

More precise mapping of how individual neurons interact in the brain
January 30, 2015

Integration of the miniepifluorescence microscope with the microendoscope for deep-brain imaging of LH GABAergic neurons expressing GCaMP6m (credit: Joshua H. Jennings et al./Cell)

Researchers at the UNC School of Medicine have used new deep-brain imaging techniques to link the activity of individual, genetically similar neurons to particular behaviors of freely moving mice.

For the first time ever, scientists watched as one neuron was activated when a mouse searched for food while a nearly identical neuron next to it remained inactive; instead, the second neuron only became activated when the mouse began… read more

New fibers can deliver optogenetic signals and drugs directly into the brain while allowing simultaneous electrical readout

January 30, 2015

SEM image of a probe incorporating nine electrodes surrounding a hollow channel. The inset shows exposed electrodes after plasma etching of the cladding. (Credit: Andres Canales et al./Nature Biotechnology)

MIT scientists have developed a new method of coping with the complexity of studying the brain.

They created probes containing biocompatible multipurpose fibers about 85 micrometers in width (about the width of a human hair).

The new fibers can deliver optogenetic signals and drugs directly into the brain, while allowing simultaneous electrical readout to continuously monitor the effects of the various inputs from freely moving mice.… read more

Engineering tough, resistant self-assembling amyloid fibers

Could be used as scaffolding for tissue engineering or growing photovoltaics
January 29, 2015

Amyloid fibers self-assemble from smaller proteins. UC Davis researchers have engineered other proteins so they spontaneously form amyloid. These new proteins could be useful in nanotechnology. Here, the cap structure (red) was removed from spruce budworm antifreeze protein and other structures adjusted so that molecules could link up as fibrils (bottom). (credit: UC Davis)

Researchers at UC Davis and Rice University have developed methods to manipulate natural proteins so that they self-assemble into amyloid fibrils.*

“These are big proteins with lots of flat surfaces suitable for functionalization, for example to grow photovoltaics or to attach to other surfaces,” said Dan Cox, a physics professor at UC Davis and coauthor on the paper. The fibers could also be used… read more

Magnetic graphene created, making possible new spintronics data-storage devices

January 29, 2015

Graphene is a one-atom thick sheet of carbon atoms arranged in a hexagonal lattice. UC Riverside physicists have found a way to induce magnetism in graphene while also preserving graphene’s electronic properties. (credit: Shi Lab, UC Riverside)

A team of physicists at the University of California, Riverside has found an ingenious way to induce magnetism in graphene while also preserving graphene’s electronic properties (conducting electricity).

They accomplished this by bringing a graphene sheet very close to  yttrium iron garnet, a “magnetic insulator” (an electrical insulator with magnetic properties).*

Magnetic substances like iron tend to interfere with graphene’s electrical conduction. The researchers avoided those… read more

Probiotic treats diabetes in rats, could lead to human remedy

Lowers glucose levels by 30 percent; could be delivered as pill instead of injections
January 29, 2015

This image shows a rat cell re-programmed to express insulin (green). The nucleus is stained blue. (Credit: Reprinted with permission from the journal Diabetes)

Imagine a pill that helps people control diabetes with the body’s own insulin to lower blood glucose levels.

Cornell researchers have achieved this feat in rats by engineering human lactobacilli, a common gut bacteria, to secrete a protein that modifies intestinal cells to produce insulin.

A 2003 study led by Atsushi Suzuki of the University of Tsukuba, Japan, first demonstrated… read more

Stomach-acid-powered micromotors tested in living animal

January 28, 2015

Zinc stomach micromotors

Imagine a micromotor fueled by stomach acid that can take a bubble-powered ride inside a mouse — and that could one day be a safer, more efficient way to deliver drugs or diagnose tumors for humans.

That’s the goal of a team of researchers at the University of California, San Diego.

The experiment is the first to show that these micromotors can operate safely in… read more

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