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The Lead

DNA used as a lightswitch

July 21, 2014 | Comments

Using two thin, tiny gold nanorods 10,000 times thinner than a human hair, researchers from the U.S. and Germany have succeeded in creating an adjustable filter for so-called circularly polarized light. This switch for nano-optics is made from two tiny gold rods that reversibly change their optical properties when specific DNA molecules are added.

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HIV pills show more promise to prevent infection

July 22, 2014 3:23 am | by The Associated Press | Comments

There is more good news about HIV treatment pills used to prevent infection in people at high risk of getting the AIDS virus: Follow-up from a landmark study that proved the drug works now shows that it does not encourage risky sex and is effective even if people skip some doses.

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Chemists eye improved thin films with metal substitution

July 21, 2014 1:46 pm | Comments

The yield so far is small, but chemists at the Univ. of Oregon have developed a low-energy, solution-based mineral substitution process to make a precursor to transparent thin films. The inorganic process is a new approach to transmetalation, in which individual atoms of one metal complex are individually substituted in water. The innovation could find use in electronics and alternative energy devices.

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Carbyne morphs when stretched

July 21, 2014 10:45 am | by Mike Williams, Rice Univ. | Comments

Applying just the right amount of tension to a chain of carbon atoms can turn it from a metallic conductor to an insulator, according to Rice Univ. scientists. Stretching the material known as carbyne by just 3% can begin to change its properties in ways that engineers might find useful for mechanically activated nanoscale electronics and optics.

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Reconstructing an animal’s development cell by cell

July 21, 2014 9:36 am | Comments

Janelia Research Campus experts have built a new computational method that can essentially automate much of the time-consuming process of reconstructing an animal's developmental building plan cell by cell. Using image data obtaining using a sophisticated form of light sheet microscopy, the tool can track the movement of cells in an animal’s body in 3-D.

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Scientists map one of the most important proteins in life—and cancer

July 21, 2014 9:26 am | Comments

In the U.K., researchers have revealed the structure of one of the most important and complicated proteins in cell division, the anaphase-promoting complex. Electron microscopy and software has produced images of the gigantic protein in unprecedented detail and could transform scientists' understanding of exactly how cells copy their chromosomes and divide. It could also reveal binding sites for future cancer drugs.

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New method for extracting radioactive elements from air, water

July 21, 2014 8:21 am | by Univ. of Liverpool Univ. News | Comments

Scientists have successfully tested a material that can extract atoms of rare or dangerous elements such as radon from the air. Gases such as radon, xenon and krypton all occur naturally in the air but in minute quantities—typically less than one part per million. As a result they are expensive to extract for use in industries such as lighting or medicine and, in the case of radon, the gas can accumulate in buildings.

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All HIV not created equal: Scientists can identify which viruses cause infection

July 21, 2014 8:07 am | by Laura Bailey, Univ. of Michigan | Comments

HIV-infected people carry many different HIV viruses and all have distinct personalities—some much more vengeful and infectious than others. Yet, despite the breadth of infectivity, roughly 76% of HIV infections arise from a single virus. Now, scientists believe they can identify the culprit with very specific measurements of the quantities of a key protein in the HIV virus.

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HIV diagnosis rate fell by third in U.S. over decade

July 19, 2014 11:17 am | by Mike Stobbe - AP Medical Writer - Associated Press | Comments

The rate of HIV infections diagnosed in the U.S. each year fell by one-third over the past decade, a government study finds. Experts celebrated it as hopeful news that the AIDS epidemic may be slowing in the U.S. The reasons for the drop aren't clear. It might mean fewer new infections are occurring. Or that most infected people already have been diagnosed so more testing won't necessarily find many more cases.

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Medical marijuana researcher fired by university

July 18, 2014 9:21 pm | by Astrid Galvan - Associated Press - Associated Press | Comments

Veterans, medical marijuana activists and scientists welcomed the first federally approved research into pot as a treatment for post-traumatic stress disorder. But their hopes for the research were dashed when the Univ. of Arizona fired researcher Suzanne Sisley, who undertook the study after clearing four years of bureaucratic hurdles.

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Scientists enlist big data to guide conservation efforts

July 18, 2014 12:37 pm | by Robert Sanders, UC Berkeley | Comments

“Big data” has yet to make a mark on conservation efforts to preserve the planet’s biodiversity. But that may soon change with a new model developed by Univ. of California, Berkeley, biologist Brent Mishler and his colleagues in Australia. This effort  leverages the growing mass of data to take into account not only the number of species throughout an area, but also the variation among species and their geographic rarity, or endemism.

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Researchers create new method to draw molecules from live cells

July 18, 2014 12:30 pm | by Jeannie Kever, Univ. of Houston | Comments

Most current methods of identifying intracellular information result in the death of the individual cells, making it impossible to continue to gain information and assess change over time. Using magnetized carbon nanotubes, scientists in Texas have devised a new method for extracting molecules from live cells without disrupting cell development.

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Nature’s strongest glue comes unstuck

July 18, 2014 11:23 am | Comments

Barnacle glue, or cement, sticks to any surface, under any conditions. And it’s still far better than anything we have been able to develop synthetically. Now, over 150 years since it was first described by Charles Darwin, scientists are finally uncovering the secrets behind the super strength of barnacle glue.

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Mats made from shrimp chitin attract uranium like a magnet

July 18, 2014 11:16 am | Comments

A Univ. of Alabama start-up company, 525 Solutions, has received about $1.5 million from the federal government to refine an invention to extract uranium from the ocean for use as fuel. It is an adsorbent, biodegradable material made from the compound chitin, which is found in crustaceans and insects. The researchers have developed transparent sheets, or mats, comprised of tiny chitin fibers, which pull uranium from the water.

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Researchers uncover new cancer cell vulnerability

July 18, 2014 9:59 am | Comments

Yale School of Medicine and Yale Cancer Center researchers have uncovered a genetic vulnerability of cancer cells that express telomerase and showed that telomerase-expressing cells depend upon a gene named p21 for their survival. Authors found that simultaneous inhibition of both telomerase and p21 inhibited tumor growth in mice.

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Lipoic acid helps restore, synchronize the “biological clock”

July 18, 2014 9:03 am | by David Stauth, Oregon State Univ. | Comments

Researchers have discovered a possible explanation for the surprisingly large range of biological effects that are linked to a micronutrient called lipoic acid: It appears to reset and synchronize circadian rhythms, or the “biological clock” found in most life forms. The ability of lipoic acid to help restore a more normal circadian rhythm to aging animals could explain its apparent value in so many important biological functions.

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