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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

Scientists use stem cells to grow new human hair in the lab

Next step: transplant stem-cell-derived human dermal papilla cells back into human subjects (any volunteers?)
January 28, 2015

Sanford-Burnham scientists grew human dermal papillae cells from stem cells. (credit: Sanford-Burnham Medical Research Institute)

A method for initiating human hair growth — using human pluripotent stem cells to create new cells — has been developed by Sanford-Burnham Medical Research Institute (Sanford-Burnham) researchers.

Their idea is to coax human pluripotent stem cells to become dermal papilla cells — a unique population of cells that regulate hair-follicle formation and growth cycle. (Human dermal papilla cells on their own are… read more

Higher dementia risk linked to more use of common drugs

January 27, 2015

(Credit: iStock)

A large study links a significantly increased risk for developing dementia, including Alzheimer’s disease, to taking commonly used medications with anticholinergic effects at higher doses or for a longer time.

Many older people take these medications, which include nonprescription diphenhydramine (Benadryl) and related drugs.

JAMA Internal Medicine published the report, called “Cumulative Use of Strong Anticholinergic Medications and Incident Dementia.”

It’s… read more

Mastering math through movement using Kinect for Windows

January 27, 2015

Carmen Petrick Smith, assistant professor of mathematics education (center), works with undergraduate education majors (left to right) Tegan Garon, Sam Scrivani and Kiersten Barr on movements that are used to help elementary school children learn geometry. (credit: Andy Duback)

University of Vermont assistant professor of mathematics education Carmen Petrick Smith has found in a study that elementary school students who interacted with a Kinect for Windows mathematics program while learning geometry showed significant gains in the understanding of angles and angle measurements.

The Kinect is a motion sensor input device that allows people to interact with computers based on their natural movements. Hmm, imagine what… read more

Giant space telescope could image objects at far higher resolution than Hubble

Could image space objects like black hole “event horizons” or view rabbit-size objects on Earth
January 27, 2015

A new orbiting telescope concept developed at CU-Boulder could allow scientists to image objects in space or on Earth at hundreds of times the resolution of the Hubble Space Telescope. (credit: NASA)

University of Colorado Boulder researchers plan to update NASA officials this week on a revolutionary space telescope concept selected by the agency for study last June that could provide images up to 1,000 times sharper than the Hubble Space Telescope.

CU-Boulder Professor Webster Cash said the instrument package would consist of an orbiting space telescope with an opaque disk in front… read more

Targeting specific astrocyte brain-cell receptors found to boost memory in mice

A drug that targets those receptors could improve memory in Alzheimer's disease
January 27, 2015

Astrocytes are stained in red, the A2A receptors in green, the overlap between the two shows as yellow, and the cell nuclei are in blue. (credit: Anna Orr/Gladstone Institutes)

Gladstone Institutes researchers have uncovered a new memory regulator in the brain that may offer a potential treatment to improve memory in Alzheimer’s disease using a drug that targets those receptors.

They found in their research* that decreasing the number of A2A adenosine receptors in astrocyte brain cells improved memory in healthy mice. It also prevented memory impairments in a mouse model of… read more

Carbon nanotubes found to create blood clots in medical devices

January 26, 2015

Scanning electron micrographs of multiwall-carbon-nanotube-modified PVC prior to (top) and after (bottom) perfusion, showing platelet aggregation (credit: Alan M. Gaffney et al./Nanomedicine)

Scientists in the School of Pharmacy and Pharmaceutical Sciences in Trinity College Dublin, have discovered that using carbon nanotubes as biomaterials that come into contact with blood generates blood clots.

The reason: When blood comes into contact with foreign surfaces, the blood’s protective platelets are activated, creating blood clots.

This can be catastrophic in clinical settings where extracorporeal circulation technologies are used, such as during… read more

Scientists extend telomeres to slow cell aging

A modified RNA that encodes a telomere-extending protein to cultured human cell yielded large numbers of cells for study
January 26, 2015

Human chromosomes (gray) capped by telomeres (white) (credit: Wikimedia Commons)

Scientists at the Stanford University School of Medicine have developed a new procedure that uses modified messenger RNA to quickly and efficiently increase the length of human telomeres, the protective caps on the ends of chromosomes that are associated with aging and disease.

Treated cells behave as if they are much younger than untreated cells, multiplying with abandon in the laboratory dish rather than stagnating… read more

Ripping graphene nanoribbon edges converts the material from conductive to semiconducting

January 26, 2015

Graphene nanoribbons can be enticed to form favorable “reconstructed” edges by pulling them apart with the right force and at the right temperature, according to researchers at Rice University. The illustration shows the crack at the edge that begins the formation of five- and seven-atom pair under the right conditions. (credit: ZiAng Zhang/Rice University)

Theoretical physicists at Rice University have figured out how to custom-design graphene nanoribbons by controlling the conditions under which the nanoribbons are pulled apart to get the edges they need for specific mechanical and electrical properties, such as metallic (for chip interconnects, for example) or semiconducting (for chips).

The new research by Rice physicist Boris Yakobson and his colleagues appeared this month in the… read more

Genome-wide search reveals >750 worm genes involved in long-term memory

January 25, 2015

Long-term memory training in worms (left) led to induction of the transcription factor CREB in AIM neurons (shown by arrows in right). CREB-induced genes were shown to be involved in forming long-term memories in worm neurons. (credit: Murphy lab)

A new Princeton University study has identified more than 750 genes involved in long-term memory in the worm — part of research aimed at finding ways to retain cognitive abilities during aging, including compounds.

The study takes a different approach than the recent ENIGMA study, which  identified genetic mutations in humans related to brain aging.

The new study, published in the journal Neuron,… read more

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