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Puzzling bright spots on dwarf planet Ceres

February 27, 2015

(credit: NASA / JPL-Caltech / UCLA / MPS / DLR / IDA)

Cruising through the asteroid belt, NASA Dawn spacecraft is approaching dwarf planet Ceres, and some puzzling features are coming into focus, revealing craters and mysterious bright spots.

“We expected to be surprised by Ceres,” says Chris Russell, principal investigator of the Dawn mission, based at UCLA. “We did not expect to be this puzzled. … As Dawn has come closer to Ceres, the bright spots have become brighter and… read more

Controlling pain by optogenetic stimulation of the brain’s pain center

February 27, 2015

Pain-reduction experimental setup: (upper) optical fiber mounted via cannula in mouse brain; (lower) saline or Formalin injection in hind paw (credit: Ling Gu et al./PLoS ONE)

A small area of the brain called the anterior cingulate cortex (ACC) in the thalamus can be optically stimulated to control pain, University of Texas at Arlington scientists have found.

The researchers used optogenetic stimulation with a blue laser to control pain sensation in a mouse, created by a chemical irritant (formalin) and mechanical pain, such as that experienced following a pinprick or pinch.

“Our results… read more

A ‘breakthrough’ in rechargeable batteries for electronic devices and electric vehicles

February 26, 2015

nanoboxes

Researchers from Singapore’s Institute of Bioengineering and Nanotechnology (IBN) of A*STAR and Quebec’s IREQ (Hydro-Québec’s research institute) have synthesized a new material that they say could more than double the energy capacity of lithium-ion batteries, allowing for longer-lasting rechargeable batteries for electric vehicles and mobile devices.

The new material for battery cathodes (the + battery pole) in based on a “lithium orthosilicate-related” compound,  Li2MnSiO4, combining lithium, manganese, silicon and oxygen,… read more

Deep astronomy: automated 3D observations of the universe

February 26, 2015

The MUSE instrument on ESO’s Very Large Telescope reveals previously invisible galaxies (credit: ESO)

The MUSE instrument on ESO’s Very Large Telescope (VLT) in Chile recently gave astronomers the best-ever 3D view of the deep Universe.

After staring at the Hubble Deep Field South (HDF-S) region for just 27 hours, the new observations and automated analysis revealed details, distances, motions, spectra, compositions, and other properties of 189 galaxies, more than ten times the number of measurements of distance in this tiny piece of… read more

Graphene shown to neutralize cancer stem cells

February 26, 2015

Graphene oxide targeting cancer stem cells with differentiation-based nano-therapy (credit: Marco Fiorillo et al./Oncotarget)

University of Manchester scientists have used graphene oxide to target and neutralize cancer stem cells (CSCs) while not harming other cells.

This new development opens up the possibility of preventing or treating a broad range of cancers, using a non-toxic material.

In combination with existing treatments, this finding could eventually lead to tumor shrinkage as well as preventing the spread of cancer and its… read more

Cancer risk linked to DNA ‘wormholes’

February 25, 2015

dna spiral

Single-letter genetic variations within parts of the genome once dismissed as “junk DNA” can increase cancer risk through remote effects on far-off genes, new research by scientists at The Institute of Cancer Research, London shows.

The researchers found that DNA sequences within “gene deserts” — so called because they are completely devoid of genes — can regulate gene activity elsewhere by forming DNA loops across… read more

Magnetic nanoparticles could stop blood-clot-caused strokes and heart attacks

Could destroy blood clots 1000 times faster than a commonly used clot-busting technique
February 25, 2015

Schematic representation of clot-busting tissue plasminogen activator (tPA) drug (green) hidden in serum albumin camouflage (gray), surrounding a core of 20 nm magnetic iron-oxide nanoparticles (red) (credit: Eszter Voros et al./Advanced Functional Materials)

Houston Methodist researchers have developed magnetic nanoparticles that in tests delivered drugs to destroy blood clots up to 1000 times faster than a commonly used clot-busting technique.

If the drug delivery system performs similarly well in planned human clinical trials, it could mean a major step forward in the prevention of strokes, heart attacks, pulmonary embolisms, and other dire circumstances where clots — if not quickly busted… read more

European roadmap for graphene science and technology published

February 24, 2015

AFM lithography-graphene

In an open-access paper published today in the Royal Society of Chemistry journal Nanoscale, more than 60 academics and industrialists lay out a science and technology roadmap for graphene, related two-dimensional crystals, other 2d materials, and hybrid systems based on a combination of different 2d crystals and other nanomaterials.

The roadmap covers the next 10 years and beyond, intended to guide the research community and… read more

Brain makes decisions with same method used to break WW2 Enigma code

February 24, 2015

An Enigma machine at the Walker Library of the History of Human Imagination (credit: Michael Shadlen)

When making simple decisions, neurons in the brain apply the same statistical trick used by Alan Turing to help break Germany’s Enigma code during World War II, according to a new study in animals by researchers at Columbia University’s Mortimer B. Zuckerman Mind Brain Behavior Institute and Department of Neuroscience.

Results of the study were published Feb. 5 in Neuron.

As depicted in… read more

A quick color-coded test for Ebola

Simple paper strip can diagnose Ebola and other fevers within 10 minutes
February 24, 2015

A new paper diagnostic device can detect Ebola as well as other viral hemorrhagic fevers in about 10 minutes. The device has silver nanoparticles of different colors that indicate different diseases. On the left is the unused device, opened to reveal the contents inside. On the right, the device has been used for diagnosis; the colored bands show positive tests. (credit: Jose Gomez-Marquez, Helena de Puig, and Chun-Wan Yen)

A new test for Ebola from MIT researchers uses a simple paper strip similar to a pregnancy test that can rapidly diagnose Ebola, as well as other viral hemorrhagic fevers such as yellow fever and dengue fever.

The new device is described in the journal Lab on a Chip.

Color-coded test

Currently, the only way to diagnose Ebola is to send patient… read more

Building customized DNA nanotubes step by step

Potential applications include optoelectronics, drug delivery
February 24, 2015

Schematic illustration of the molecular details for the imaging experiment; the bottom-up self-assembly materials are shown, together with a foundation rung (FR) labeled with two fluorophores (red and green) (credit: Amani A. Hariri et al./Nature Chemistry)

McGill University researchers have developed a new low-cost method to build DNA nanotubes block by block. It could help pave the way for scaffolds made from DNA strands for applications such as optical and electronic devices or smart drug-delivery systems.

The current method of constructing DNA nanotubes is based on spontaneous assembly of DNA in solution, which is vulnerable to structural flaws.

The new… read more

A wearable, 3D-printable temperature sensor

February 23, 2015

Fever Alarm Armband2

University of Tokyo researchers have developed a “fever alarm armband,” a flexible, self-powered wearable device that sounds an alarm in case of high body temperature.

The flexible organic components developed for this device are well-suited to wearable devices that continuously monitor vital signs including temperature and heart rate for applications in healthcare settings.

The new device combines a flexible amorphous silicon solar panel, piezoelectric speaker, temperature… read more

Discovery could lead to more powerful graphene-based organic electronic devices

February 23, 2015

A material made of semiconducting polymer placed on top of graphene conducts electric charge extremely well and may enable new electronic devices. This work was featured on the cover of the journal Advanced Functional Materials. (Credit: David Barbero)

In a landmark experiment that may lead to more efficient organic electronic devices, researchers at the Department of Energy’s SLAC National Accelerator Laboratory discovered that applying a thin film of semiconducting polymer material to a single layer of graphene allowed for transporting electric charge better than when placed on a thin layer of silicon.

“Our results are among the first to measure the charge transport in these… read more

23andMe granted authorization by FDA to market first direct-to-consumer genetic test

Limited to Bloom Syndrome and autosomal recessive disorders
February 23, 2015

(credit: 23andMe)

23andMe, Inc., a personal genetics company formerly forced by the FDA to halt sales of its direct-to-consumer Personal Genome Service, has now been granted authority by the FDA to market the first direct-to-consumer genetic test under a regulatory classification for novel devices.

The new permission is limited to Bloom Syndrome and autosomal recessive disorders.

The approval came in… read more

Injected into the body, self-healing nanogel acts as customized long-term drug supply

February 23, 2015

MIT-Self-Healing-Gels

MIT chemical engineers have designed a new type of self-healing hydrogel that can be injected through a syringe to supply one or two different drugs at a time.

In theory, gels could be useful for delivering drugs for treating cancer, macular degeneration, or heart disease because they can be molded into specific shapes and designed to release their payload in a specific location over a… read more

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