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Will we kill (or contaminate) microbial life on Mars?

“This has implications for plans for sample return from Mars and for future human missions.” --- NASA astrobiologist Chris McKay, PhD
October 20, 2016

These dark, narrow, 100 meter-long streaks called recurring slope lineae flowing downhill on Mars are inferred to have been formed by contemporary flowing water. Recently, planetary scientists detected hydrated salts on these slopes at Hale crater, corroborating their original hypothesis that the streaks are indeed formed by liquid water. The blue color seen upslope of the dark streaks are thought not to be related to their formation, but instead are from the presence of the mineral pyroxene. (credits: NASA/JPL/University of Arizona)

Recent evidence of water, complex organic molecules, and methane in the Martian environment, combined with findings from the 1976 Viking mission, have led to the conclusion that existing microbial life on Mars is a possibility that must be considered, according to the authors of a paper in the journal Astrobiology (open-access until November 15, 2016).

Coauthors Gilbert V. Levin, Arizona State University, Tempe, and Patricia Ann Straat, National Institutes of… read more

Bendable electronic color ‘paper’ invented

October 19, 2016

Researchers at Chalmers University of Technology have developed the basis for a new electronic 'paper.' Chalmers' logotype shows how the RGB pixels can reproduce color images. The magnification shows which pixels are activated to create the image. (credit: Kunli Xiong)

Chalmers University of Technology researchers have developed the basic technology for a new kind of reflective electronic “paper” that is micrometer-thin and bendable. It can display all colors displayed on an LED display, but with ten times less energy than a Kindle tablet.

The technology is based on electrically controllable optical absorption of a conducting polymer, which is used to modulate the reflected light… read more

Zapping deep tumors with microwave-heated photosensitizer nanoparticle

Inexpensive new nanoparticle generates toxic reactive oxygen species (ROS) for targeted attack of cancer cells
October 18, 2016

Figure Explaining the New Method ft

Physicists at The University of Texas at Arlington have invented a new photosensitizer  nanoparticle called copper-cysteamine (Cu-Cy) that when heated by microwave energy can precisely zap cancer cells deep in the body .

Photodynamic therapy kills cancer cells when a photosensitizer* nanoparticle introduced into tumor tissue is stimulated by (typically) near-infrared light, generating toxic reactive oxygen species (ROS), such as singlet oxygen, by photoexcitation. However, near-IR light cannot penetrate… read more

Engineers reveal fabrication process for revolutionary transparent graphene neural sensors

October 14, 2016

A blue light shines through a transparent. implantable medical sensor onto a brain. The invention may help neural researchers better view brain activity. (credit: Justin Williams research group)

In an open-access paper published Thursday (Oct. 13, 2016) in the journal Nature Protocols, University of Wisconsin–Madison engineers have published details of how to fabricate and use neural microelectrocorticography (μECoG) arrays made with transparent graphene in applications in electrophysiology, fluorescent microscopy, optical coherence tomography, and optogenetics.

Graphene is one of the most promising candidates for transparent neural electrodes, because the material has a UV to IR transparency of more… read more

Mars-bound astronauts face brain damage from galactic cosmic ray exposure, says NASA-funded study

May encounter Alzheimer's-like long-term memory deficits, anxiety, depression and impaired decision-making --- will they even remember the trip?
October 14, 2016

An (unshielded) view of Mars (credit: SpaceX)

A NASA-funded study of rodents exposed to highly energetic charged particles — similar to the galactic cosmic rays that will bombard astronauts during extended spaceflights — found that the rodents developed long-term memory deficits, anxiety, depression, and impaired decision-making (not to mention long-term cancer risk).

The study by University of California, Irvine (UCI) scientists* appeared Oct. 10 in Nature’s open-access Scientific Reports. It follows one last year… read more

Zapping undifferentiated stem cells with light to prevent tumors

Stain, shine, kill
October 14, 2016

A light-activated dye turns on reactive oxygen species (ROS)-mediated cell death in undifferentiated pluripotent stem cells, which could make stem cell therapies safer by preventing tumors. (credit: American Chemical Society)

Pluripotent stem cells (PSC) could be the key to a host of regeneration therapies because they can differentiate (develop) into basically any tissue type. But some PSCs in a culture dish can remain undifferentiated, and those could form teratomas — a type of tumor — if transplanted into patients.

Now a new light-based technology could remove this risk, Korean researchers report in an open-access paperread more

Berkeley Lab announces first transistor with a working 1-nanometer gate

Breaks through the 5-nanometer quantum tunneling threshold; may allow for Moore's law to continue
October 11, 2016

Schematic of a transistor with a molybdenum disulfide channel and 1 nanometer carbon nanotube gate. (credit: Sujay Desai/Berkeley Lab)

The first transistor with a working 1-nanometer (nm) gate* has been created by a team led by Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory (Berkeley Lab) scientists. Until now, a transistor gate size less than 5 nanometers has been considered impossible because of quantum tunneling effects. (One nanometer is the diameter of a glucose molecule.)

The breakthrough was achieved by creating a 2D (flat) semiconductor field-effect transistor using… read more

First human clinical trial for nicotinamide riboside

Vitamin safely boosts levels of important cell metabolite NAD+, which is critical for cellular energy production and protection against stress and DNA damage
October 11, 2016

(credit: iStock)

In the first controlled clinical trial of nicotinamide riboside (NR), a newly discovered form of Vitamin B3, researchers have shown that the compound is safe for humans and increases levels of a cell metabolite called NAD+ that is critical for cellular energy production and protection against stress and DNA damage.

Levels of NAD+ (first discovered by biochemists in 1906) diminish with age, and it has… read more

Coming soon: a 3-D computer model of a cell

Heralds a new era for biological research, medical science, and health
October 7, 2016

The image from co-author Arthur Olson's lab at the Scripps Research Institute shows a preliminary model of mycoplasma mycoides. Modeling by Ludovic Autin and David Goodsell, rendering by Adam Gardner. (credit: The Scripps Research Institute)

Advances in molecular biology and computer science may soon lead to a three-dimensional computer model of a cell, heralding a new era for biological research, medical science, and human and animal health, according to the authors of a paper recently published in the Journal of Molecular Biology.

“Cells are the foundation of life,” said Ilya Vakser, professor of computational biology and molecular biosciences and director of… read more

A carbon-nanotube trap for ultra-sensitive virus detection and identification

Could improve detection of viruses and speed the process of identifying newly emerging viruses to head off unpredictable outbreaks
October 7, 2016

Scanning electron microscope image (scale bar, 200 nm) of the H5N2 avian influenza virus (purple) trapped inside the aligned carbon nanotubes. (credit: Penn State University)

Penn State researchers have developed a new portable microdevice that uses a forest-like array of vertically aligned carbon nanotubes to selectively trap and concentrate viruses by their size. It could improve detection of viruses and speed the process of identifying newly emerging viruses.

The research, by an interdisciplinary team of scientists at Penn State, was published in an open-access paper in the October 7, 2016 edition of the… read more

“ANA AVATAR” selected as a top-prize concept at XPRIZE Visioneers 2016 Summit

October 6, 2016

(credit: ANA)

A concept for remote-controlled “avatar” humanoid robots, presented by ANA, Japan’s largest airline, was named one of the three “top prize concept” finalists at XPRIZE’s recent inaugural Visioneers event.

The ANA AVATAR Team, led by scientist Harry Kloor, PhD, presented an ambitious vision of a future in which human pilots would hear, see, talk, touch, and feel as if a humanoid robotic body were their own —… read more

Nobel Prize in Chemistry 2016 awarded to three pioneers of molecular machines

October 5, 2016

Ben Feringa’s four-wheel drive nanocar, with a molecular chassis and four motors that functioned as wheels (credit: The Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences)

The Nobel Prize in Chemistry 2016 was awarded today to Jean-Pierre Sauvage, PhD, Sir J. Fraser Stoddart,PhD, and Bernard L. Feringa, PhD, for their design and production of molecular machines. They have developed molecules with controllable movements, which can perform a task when energy is added.

The first step towards a molecular machine was taken by Jean-Pierre Sauvage in 1983, when he succeeded in linking two ring-shaped molecules together… read more

New catheter lets doctors see inside arteries for first time

October 5, 2016

Image-guided catheter with a camera the size of a grain of salt (credit: UC San Diego Health)

A new safer catheter design that allows cardiologists to see inside arteries for the first time and remove plaque from only diseased tissue has been used by interventional cardiologists at UC San Diego Health.

The new image-guided device, Avinger’s Pantheris, allows doctors to see and remove plaque simultaneously during an atherectomy — a minimally invasive procedure that involves cutting plaque away from the artery and… read more

Genetically engineered peptides on 2D nanosheets form bio-nano interfaces

A first step towards future self-assembled solid-state biomedical and electro-optical nanodevices
October 4, 2016

This is a top view of GrBP5 nanowires on a 2-D surface of graphene. (credit: Mehmet Sarikaya/Scientific Reports)

Engineers at the University of Washington have created genetically engineered peptides that self-assemble into arrays of nanowires on two-dimensional nanosheets (single-layer graphene and molybdenum disulfide) to relay information across a bio-nano interface — a first step towards fully self-assembled future biomedical and electro-optical bionanoelectronic devices.

Arrays of peptides could provide organized scaffolds for functional biomolecules, enabling nanoscale bioelectronics interfaces. And designed peptides could be incorporated with metal… read more

Synapse-like memristor-based electronic device detects brain spikes in real time

Could lead to future autonomous, fully implantable neuroprosthetic devices
September 30, 2016

Memristor chip (credit: University of Southampton)

A bio-inspired electronic device called a memristor could allow for real-time processing of neuronal signals (spiking events), new research led by the University of Southampton has demonstrated.

The research could lead to using multi-electrode array implants for detecting spikes in the brain’s electrical signals from more than 1,000 recording channels to help treat neurological conditions, without requiring expensive, high-bandwidth, bulky systems for processing data. The research… read more

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