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Plant scientist discovers basis of evolution in violins

October 9, 2014 11:34 am | News | Comments

What could the natural diversity and beauty of plant leaves have in common with the violin? Much more than you might imagine. Dan Chitwood of the Donald Danforth Plant Science Center in St. Louis is applying “morphometrics”, which statistically tests hypotheses about factors that affect shape, to changes in the shape of violins over time. His work revealed a strong degree of design transmission and imitation.

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Of bio-hairpins and polymer-spaghetti

October 9, 2014 11:02 am | News | Comments

When a sturdy material becomes soft and spongy, one usually suspects damage. But this is not always the case, especially in biological cells. By looking at microscopic biopolymer networks, researchers in Germany revealed that such materials soften by undergoing a transition from an entangled spaghetti of filaments to aligned layers of bow-shaped filaments that slide past each other. This finding may explain how other filaments flow.

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Researchers capture images of elusive protein HIV uses to infect cells

October 9, 2014 11:00 am | by Bill Hathaway, Yale Univ. | News | Comments

HIV is adept at eluding immune system responses because the protein it uses to infect cells is constantly changing. Now a team of researchers including scientists from Yale Univ. have stripped the cloak from this master of disguise, providing a high-resolution image of this surface spike protein and monitoring how it constantly changes its shape, information that suggests new ways to attack the virus through drugs and vaccines.

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Light frequencies sniff out deadly materials from a distance

October 9, 2014 10:56 am | News | Comments

Spectroscopic chemical sensing has great promise, but current technologies lack sensitivity and broad spectral coverage. DARPA’s Spectral Combs from UV to THz (SCOUT) program aims to overcome these limitations. The goal is to develop chip-sized, optical frequency combs that accurately identify even tiny traces of dangerous biological and chemical substances several football fields away, DARPA is now soliciting proposals for a solution.

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Nanoparticles get a magnetic handle

October 9, 2014 10:50 am | by David L. Chandler, MIT News Office | Videos | Comments

A long-sought goal of creating particles that can emit a colorful fluorescent glow in a biological environment, and that could be precisely manipulated into position within living cells, has been achieved by a team of researchers at Massachusetts Institute of Technology and several other institutions. The new technology could make it possible to track the position of the nanoparticles as they move within the body or inside a cell.

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“Cyberwar” against cancer gets boost from intelligent nanocarriers

October 9, 2014 10:48 am | News | Comments

New research involving scientists in the U.S. and Israel offers new insight into the lethal interaction between cancer cells and the immune system's communications network. The study authors devised a new computer program that models a specific channel of cell-to-cell communication involving exosomes that both cancer and immune cells harness to communicate with other cells. This “cyberwarfare” model reveals three distinct states of cancer.

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Electrically conductive plastics promising for batteries, solar cells

October 9, 2014 10:46 am | by Emil Venere, Purdue Univ. | News | Comments

An emerging class of electrically conductive plastics called "radical polymers” may bring low-cost, transparent solar cells, flexible and lightweight batteries, and ultrathin antistatic coatings for consumer electronics and aircraft. Researchers have established the solid-state electrical properties of one such polymer, called PTMA, which is about 10 times more electrically conductive than common semiconducting polymers.

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Autoclave Temperature Data Logger

October 9, 2014 10:41 am | Product Releases | Comments

Omega Engineering has introduced its new series of autoclave temperature data loggers. The OM-CP-HITEMP140 is a rugged, high-precision logger built for use in harsh environments. The stainless steel device is submersible and can withstand temperatures up 140 C (284 F).

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Software for Automated Liquid Handler Management

October 9, 2014 10:36 am | Artel | Product Releases | Comments

Artel has introduced ArtelWare v1.1, providing new functionality for the management of automated liquid handlers. The first in a series of upgrades now in development, ArtelWare v1.1 adds event tracking and management capabilities that give users more information about causes and effects relating to liquid handler performance.

Hybrid materials could smash the solar efficiency ceiling

October 9, 2014 8:57 am | News | Comments

Researchers have developed a new method for harvesting the energy carried by particles known as “dark” spin-triplet excitons with close to 100% efficiency, clearing the way for hybrid solar cells which could far surpass current efficiency limits. To date, this type of energy transfer had only been shown for “bright” spin-singlet excitons.

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New weapons against multi-drug resistance in tuberculosis

October 9, 2014 8:51 am | by Nik Papageorgiou, EPFL | News | Comments

Tuberculosis is caused by a bacterium that infects the lungs of an estimated 8.6 million people worldwide. The fight against the disease is hampered by the fact that treatment requires a long time and that the bacterium often develops multi-drug resistance. Scientists have used a sensitive screening assay to test new compounds that can be used against the bacterium, and have discovered two small molecules that show remarkable promise.

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New high-quality finishing technique eradicates harmful manufacturing impacts

October 9, 2014 8:43 am | News | Comments

Fiber-reinforced polymer matrix composites are employed in a vast array of industries, and are painted or sprayed onto products to provide a high-quality finish. But that finishing process releases the vapors of a volatile organic compound called styrene, found in polyesters and vinyl-esters. A new “closed mold” method of applying these finishes has been shown to reduce the harmful impact of styrene by more than 98%.

NIST quantum probe enhances electric field measurements

October 9, 2014 8:37 am | News | Comments

Researchers at NIST and the Univ. of Michigan have demonstrated a technique based on the quantum properties of atoms that directly links measurements of electric field strength to the International System of Units. The new method could improve the sensitivity, precision and ease of tests and calibrations of antennas, sensors, and biomedical and nano-electronic systems and facilitate the design of novel devices.

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New way to extract bone-making cells from fat tissue

October 9, 2014 8:23 am | by David Orenstein, Brown Univ. | News | Comments

Within our fat lives a variety of cells with the potential to become bone, cartilage or more fat if properly prompted. This makes adipose tissue, in theory, a readily available reservoir for regenerative therapies such as bone healing if doctors can get enough of those cells and compel them to produce bone. In a new study, scientists demonstrate a new method for extracting a wide variety of potential bone-producing cells from human fat.

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Researchers detect brightest pulsar ever recorded

October 9, 2014 8:09 am | by Jennifer Chu, MIT News Office | News | Comments

Astronomers have detected a pulsating dead star that appears to be burning with the energy of 10 million suns, making it the brightest pulsar ever detected. The pulsar—a rotating, magnetized neutron star—was found in the galaxy Messier 82 (M82), a relatively close galactic neighbor that’s 12 million light-years from Earth.

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