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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

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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

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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

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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

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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

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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

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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

Ten extraordinary Pentagon mind experiments

March 15, 2013

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Duke University experiments in connecting the brains of two rats through implanted electrodes and the planned Brain Activity Map project reflect a growing Pentagon interest in neuroscience for applications that range from such far-off ideas as teleoperation of military devices (think mind-controlled drones), to more near-term and less controversial technology, like prosthetics controlled by the human brain, BBC Future reports.read more

Formation of carbon-based life leave little room for error

March 15, 2013

Light quark mass determines carbon and oxygen production and the viability of carbon-based life (credit: Dean Lee and NASA)

Life as we know it is based primarily on the elements carbon and oxygen.

Now a team of physicists, including one from North Carolina State University, is looking at the conditions necessary to the formation of those two elements in the universe.

They’ve found that when it comes to supporting life, the universe leaves very little margin for error.

Both carbon and oxygen… read more

Drug treatment corrects autism symptoms in mouse model

March 15, 2013

Cerebral abnormalities corrected by antipurinergic drug therapy. (C) Mouse given a viral infection, showing a malformed, growth-stunted post-synaptic density. (D) Treated mouse restoration of near-normal post-synaptic density (arrow) and reduction in abnormal accumulations of electron-dense matrix material. (Credit: Robert K. Naviaux et al., PLoS ONE)

Autism is thought to result from abnormal cell communication. Testing a new theory, researchers at the University of California, San Diego School of Medicine have used a newly discovered function of an old drug called suramin — used medically for the treatment of African sleeping sickness — to restore cell communications in a mouse model of autism, reversing symptoms of the devastating disorder.

The findings… read more

In the developing world, MOOCs start to get real

March 15, 2013

Some of the 19 Coursera courses on AI and robotics (credit: Coursera)

Students in countries like India and Brazil have been signing up in droves for these massive open online courses, or MOOCs, offered for free from top-tier universities, such as Stanford, MIT, and Harvard.

Yet in the world’s poorest regions, where even reliable high-speed Internet access capable of streaming course lecture videos is hard to come by, delivering a useful education to the masses is clearly not a straightforward operation,… read more

Events in the future seem closer than those in the past

We tend to feel closer to the future because we feel like we’re moving toward it
March 15, 2013

Screen capture of a virtual environment for testing time perception (credit: Caruso E M et al./Psychological Science)

We say that time flies, it marches on, it flows like a river — our descriptions of time are closely linked to our experiences of moving through space.

Now, new research suggests that the illusions that influence how we perceive movement through space also influence our perception of time. The findings provide evidence that our experiences of space and time have even more in common than previously… read more

Texting or some hands-free talking behind the wheel is as dangerous as being over the limit

March 15, 2013

Answering messages behind the wheel is as dangerous as being twice over the limit (credit: SINC)

Using a handsfree kit or sending text messages is the same as being above the legal alcohol limit, an experiment by Scientists from  Australian universities in collaboration with the University of Barcelona has demonstrated.

The Australian universities of Wollongong, Victoria, Swinburne of Technology, the Institute for Breathing and Sleep, and the University of Barcelona measured the reaction capacity behind the wheel of 12 healthy volunteers who participated… read more

Non-action video-game playing may enhance specific cognitive skills

Regular game play improves performance on tasks that use mental processes similar to those in those video games
March 15, 2013

(Credit: Big Fish Games)

Playing video games for an hour each day can improve subsequent performance on cognitive tasks that use mental processes similar to those involved in the game, according to research published March 13 in the open-access journal PLOS ONE.

Previous evidence points to a causal link between playing action video games and enhanced cognition and perception. But what about the benefits of playing other types of video games?… read more

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