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The case of the silent synapses: Why are only 20% of synapses active during neurotransmission?

Unknown information coding in the brain?
February 26, 2016

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Columbia University scientists recently tested a new optical technique to study how information is transmitted in the brains of mice and made a surprising discovery: When stimulated electrically to release dopamine (a neurotransmitter or chemical released by neurons, or nerve cells, to send signals to other nerve cells), only about 20 percent of synapses — the connections between cells that control brain activity —… read more

Rapidly building artificial arteries for testing drugs

Could also help research in creating replacement arteries for patients
February 26, 2016

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Duke University researchers have developed a rapid new technique for making small-scale artificial human arteries for use in a system for testing drugs — one that is more accurate and reliable than using animal models. That means promising drugs could be better tested before entering human trials.

The new technique produces the artificial arteries ten times faster than current methods and the arteries are functional.

The… read more

Regenerative medicine scientists ‘print’ replacement tissue

February 24, 2016

Completed ear and jaw bone structures printed with the Integrated Tissue-Organ Printing System (credit: Wake Forest Baptist Medical Center)

Using a sophisticated, custom-designed 3D printer, regenerative medicine scientists at Wake Forest Baptist Medical Center have proved that it is feasible to print living tissue structures to replace injured or diseased tissue in patients.

Reporting in Nature Biotechnology, the scientists said they printed ear, bone and muscle structures. When implanted in animals, the structures matured into functional tissue and developed a system of blood vessels. Most importantly,… read more

New electronic stethoscope and app diagnose lung conditions

February 24, 2016

Based on an analysis of the characteristics of respiratory sounds, the Respiratory Sounds Visualizer app generates this diagnostic chart. The total area in red represents the overall volume of sound, and the proportion of red around each line from the center to each vertex represents the proportion of the overall sound that each respiratory sound contributes. (credit: Shinichiro Ohshimo et al./Annals of Internal Medicine)

The traditional stethoscope has just been superseded by an electronic stethoscope and an app called Respiratory Sounds Visualizer, which can automatically classify lung sounds into five common diagnostic categories.* The system was developed by three physician researchers at Hiroshima University and Fukushima Medical University in collaboration with Pioneer Corporation.

The respiratory specialist doctors recorded and classified lung sounds of 878 patients, then turned these… read more

A ‘magic wand’ to simplify network setup and improve security

February 24, 2016

Dartmouth College Professor David Kotz demonstrates a commercial prototype of 'Wanda' imparting information such as the network name and password of a WiFi access point onto a blood pressure monitor. (credit: Dartmouth College)

Ever just want to wave a magic wand instead of dealing with a complex home network setup?

Well, Dartmouth College computer science professor David Kotz has figured out how to do just that. Called “Wanda,” it’s a small rod that makes it simple to link a new device (such as a blood-pressure meter or smartphone) to a WiFi network by just pointing the rod at the device.… read more

Cancer cells in 3D

What researchers miss on glass slides
February 22, 2016

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Cancer cells don’t live on glass slides. Yet the vast majority of images related to cancer biology come from the cells being photographed on flat, two-dimensional surfaces — images sometimes used to draw conclusions about the behavior of cells that normally reside in a more complex environment.

Now a new high-resolution microscope, presented (open access) February 22 in Developmental Cell, makes it possible to visualize cancer cells in 3D and… read more

Real or computer-generated: can you tell the difference?

Training helps humans tell them apart ... but soon, only computers will know what's real or not
February 22, 2016

A Dartmouth College study shows that people find it increasingly difficult to distinguish between computer-generated images and real photos, but that a small amount of training greatly improves their accuracy. (credit: Dartmouth College)

As computer-generated characters become increasingly photorealistic, people are finding it harder to distinguish between real and computer-generated, a Dartmouth College-led study has found.

This has introduced complex forensic and legal issues*, such as how to distinguish between computer-generated and photographic images of child pornography, says Hany Farid, a professor of computer science, pioneering researcher in digital forensics at Dartmouth, and senior author of a paper… read more

Could ‘smart skin’ made of recyclable materials transform medicine and robotics?

How to create sophisticated sensors in your kitchen with aluminum foil, scotch tape, sticky-notes, napkins, and sponges and a $25 computer
February 19, 2016

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Here’s a challenge: using only low-cost materials available in your house (such as aluminum foil, pencil, scotch tape, sticky-notes, napkins, and sponges), build sensitive sensors (“smart skin”) for detecting temperature, humidity, pH, pressure, touch, flow, motion, and proximity (at a distance of 13 cm). Your sensors must show reliable and consistent results and be capable of connecting to low-cost, tiny computers such as Arduino and Raspberry Pi devices.

The… read more

Physical rehab and athlete training in VR

February 19, 2016

ICSPACE exercise feedback display (credit: ICSPACE)

A virtual “intelligent coaching space” (ICSPACE) developed by Cluster of Excellence Cognitive Interaction Technology (CITEC) at Bielefeld University in Germany is assisting patients with physical rehabilitation and helping athletes improve their performance with sports exercises.

The user is 3D-scanned in advance and used to create an avatar. Participants wear 3D stereoscopic glasses, which create the impression of working out in a gym with a coach. Reflective markers… read more

New method enables discovery of 3D structures for molecules important to medicine

February 19, 2016

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Researchers have overcome a long-standing technical barrier to imaging 3D structures of thousands of molecules important to medicine and biology.

The 3D structures of many protein molecules have been discovered using a technique called X-ray crystallography, but the method relies on scientists being able to produce highly ordered crystals containing the protein molecules in a regular arrangement. When X-rays are shone on highly ordered crystals, the X-rays scatter… read more

First detection of super-Earth atmosphere

February 17, 2016

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ESA/Hubble, M. Kornmesser  | Transit of 55 Cancri e

Astronomers have analyzed the atmosphere of a “super-Earth” exoplanet for the first time, according to The Hubble Space Telescope project, an international cooperation between ESA and NASA. Result: it’s mostly hydrogen and helium.

The data gathered with the NASA/ESA Hubble Space Telescope and new analysis techniques also revealed that exoplanet 55 Cancri e has a dry atmosphere… read more

IBM Watson AI XPRIZE announced at TED

February 17, 2016

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The IBM Watson AI XPRIZE, a Cognitive Computing Competition was announced on the TED Stage today (Feb 17) by XPRIZE Foundation chairman Peter Diamandis and IBM Watson general manager David Kenny.

It’s a $5 million competition challenging teams from around the world to develop and demonstrate how humans can collaborate with powerful cognitive technologies to tackle some of the world’s grand challenges.

According to IBM, “the… read more

‘Eternal 5D’ data storage could reliably record the history of humankind

Digital documents stored in nanostructured dots in fused quartz crystal for billions of years could survive the end of the human race
February 16, 2016

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Scientists at the University of Southampton Optoelectronics Research Centre (ORC) have developed the first digital data storage system capable of creating archives that can survive for billions of years.

Using nanostructured glass, the system has 360 TB per disc capacity, thermal stability up to 1,000°C, and virtually unlimited lifetime at room temperature (or 13.8 billion years at 190°C ).

As a “highly stable and safe form… read more

Less-distracting haptic feedback could make car navigation safer than GPS audio and displays

Do you find your GPS voice and display distracting? Does your driving sometimes suffer?
February 15, 2016

Prototype vibrotactile actuators (credit: Joseph Szczerba et al./Proceedings of the Human Factors and Ergonomics Society)

Human factors/ergonomics researchers at General Motors and an affiliate have performed a study using a new turn-by-turn automotive navigation system that uses haptic cues (vibrations) to the temples to communicate information to drivers on coming turns (which direction and when to turn), instead of distracting voice prompts or video displays.

They modified a prototype smart-glasses device with motors in two actuators (on the right and left side of the… read more

3D-printing a new lifelike liver tissue for drug screening

Could let pharmaceutical companies quickly do pilot studies on new drugs
February 15, 2016

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University of California, San Diego researchers have 3D-printed a tissue that closely mimics the human liver’s sophisticated structure and function. The new model could be used for patient-specific drug screening and disease modeling and could help pharmaceutical companies save time and money when developing new drugs, according to the researchers.

The liver plays a critical role in how the body metabolizes drugs and produces key proteins, so liver… read more

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