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Replicating an Eel’s Nerve Circuitry May Aid Paralyzed

December 3, 2004

Researchers at Johns Hopkins and the University of Maryland are unraveling the circuitry in an eel’s spinal cord to help develop a microchip implant that may someday help paralyzed people walk again.

The goal: a device that mimics signals sent by the brain and coaxes these nerve centers into sending “walking” instructions to muscles in a patient’s legs.

Johns Hopkins University news release

Human eggs divide without sperm

December 3, 2004

Researchers have developed a method to make human eggs divide as if they have been fertilized, creating a potential source of embryonic stem cells that sidesteps ethical objections to existing techniques.

The University of Wales researchers made the eggs devide by injecting phospholipase C-zeta (PLC-zeta), an enzyme produced by sperm. The eggs divided for four or five days until they reached 50 to 100 cells — the blastocyst stage.… read more

Designing new metals

December 3, 2004

The Office of Naval Research and Northwestern University researchers are exploring new approaches to designing metals for effective blast shielding by identifying the desired characteristics of the steel, then looking at elementary molecular-level composition of materials to determine the optimal mix of metallic ingredients needed.

The new BlastAlloy-160 is intended for use in fabrication of a folded-plate truss, a blast-resistant steel structure that could be used in construction of… read more

Data ‘Repair Kit’ for Quantum Computers Demonstrated

December 2, 2004

Physicists at the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) have developed a practical method for automatically correcting data-handling errors in quantum computers.

The NIST error correction process could be incorporated into the programs executed by quantum computers. In principle, the approach could be used to maintain the fragile quantum states of ions or atoms by repeated error correction during data processing, an essential step toward scalable, reliable quantum… read more

Smart dust gets magnetic

December 2, 2004

University of California at San Diego researchers have demonstrated a method to control and mix tiny amounts of liquids by encasing the chemicals in smart dust — silicon particles and magnetic nanoparticles.

A chemical coating causes the silicon particles to surround water droplets, and the dust changes color depending on the chemicals it is in contact with. This allows researchers to identify chemicals encased by the smart dust. The… read more

Stem cells rebuild bladder control

December 1, 2004

University Hospital, Innsbruck researchers used patients’ own stem cells to rebuild feeble bladder-control muscles.

The researchers removed a cube of muscle tissue from the women’s biceps. Stem cells from the tissue were extracted and then grown in culture for six weeks, producing about 50 million myoblasts – the precursors of muscle fibers. The myoblasts were then injected into the urethra wall and bladder sphincter, using real-time ultrasound to make… read more

Bacteria Enlisted for New Trials on Dental Health

December 1, 2004

The FDA has approved the first clinical trial in which genetically modified bacteria will be put into people’s mouths to test if the bacteria prevent tooth decay.

The new bacteria, which are genetically neutered so they do not make the acid that eats away at teeth, would replace the acid-producing bacteria already present in most mouths.

Oxygen-platinum bonding to improve fuel cells

December 1, 2004

Emory University researchers have created stable multiple chemical bonds between oxygen and platinum — once thought impossible because oxygen is extremely unstable when combined with certain metals.

Until this work, attempts to create metal-oxo species with elements such as gold, platinum, silver, iridium and rhodium have been unsuccessful. The breakthrough holds the potential for numerous applications in fuel cells, catalytic converters and emerging “green” chemistry.

Emoryread more

Improved molecular switch could serve as sensor

December 1, 2004

Johns Hopkins University researchers have found a new way to join two unrelated proteins to create a molecular switch where which one biochemical partner controls the activity of the other.

“Last year, we reported that we’d used protein engineering techniques to make a molecular switch, putting together two proteins that normally had nothing to do with one another, but the switching properties of that version were insufficient for many… read more

Chromosomes aged 10 years by stress

November 30, 2004

Psychological stress may be enough to age a woman’s chromosomes by 10 years, a new study suggests.

Women who reported the most stress also had the shortest telomeres. And the effect was so large that it represented nine to 17 years’ worth of cell aging.

Surgical chip shows patient info

November 30, 2004

A surgeon has invented a chip for patients designed to help prevent hospital errors.

SurgiChip is a one-inch-square RFID chip with embedded information that can be read by computers and hand-held devices so that hospital workers know that they have the right patient and the right procedure.

The information on the operation is placed in the computer. The patient sees it on a monitor and verifies that it’s… read more

Scientists track footprints of thoughts

November 30, 2004

Australian scientists have discovered a way to track the electronic footpath of a single thought travelling through the human brain.

The system uses functional MRI to track responses in the brain from particular movements and thoughts in real time.

Magnetic field benefits bacteria

November 29, 2004

Scientists have isolated a biochemical reaction responsible for the effect of a magnetic field on bacteria.

They demonstrated that a weak magnetic field can affect production of a certain molecule found in a photosynthetic bacterium.

The team used a mutant strain of the bacterium Rhodobacter sphaeroides called R-26 that lacks a protective chemical known as a carotenoid that normally soaks up damaging radicals.

They found that a… read more

Sprawling systems teeter on IT chaos

November 29, 2004

The UK government is spearheading a 10 million pound program aimed at finding ways to avert catastrophic failures in large IT networks.

Hidden flaws could lead to crashes in critical networks like healthcare, banking systems, and power grids.

Now all government departments, health services and education systems across the 25 countries of the European Union are being linked to the internet. But there is a real danger that… read more

Microgenerator powers electronic devices

November 29, 2004

A tiny microgenerator developed at Georgia Tech can produce 1.1 watts of power, enough to power a small electronic device like a cell phone, and may soon be able to power a laptop.

The microgenerator is about 10 millimeters wide. When coupled with a similarly sized gas-fueled microturbine (or jet) engine, the system, called a microengine, has the potential to deliver more energy and last 10 times longer than… read more

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