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The Lead

Smallest possible “diamonds” help form ultra-thin nanothreads

September 22, 2014 2:52 pm | Videos | Comments

For the first time, scientists led by John V. Badding, a professor of chemistry at Penn State Univ., have discovered how to produce ultra-thin "diamond nanothreads" that promise extraordinary properties, including strength and stiffness greater than that of today's strongest nanotubes and polymers. The core of the nanothreads is a long, thin strand of carbon atoms arranged just like the fundamental unit of a diamond's structure.

Program predicts placement of chemical tags that control gene activity

September 22, 2014 9:20 am | by Susan Brown, Univ. of California, San Diego | News | Comments

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Nuclear spins control current in plastic LED

September 19, 2014 10:42 am | by Lee J. Siegel, Science News Specialist, Univ. of Utah | News | Comments

Univ. of Utah physicists read the subatomic “spins” in the centers or nuclei of hydrogen...

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Math model designed to replace invasive kidney biopsy for lupus patients

September 19, 2014 8:34 am | by Emily Caldwell, Ohio State Univ. | News | Comments

Mathematics might be able to reduce the need for invasive biopsies in patients suffering kidney damage related to the autoimmune disease lupus. In a new study, researchers developed a math model that can predict the progression from nephritis, or kidney inflammation, to interstitial fibrosis, scarring in the kidney that current treatments cannot reverse. A kidney biopsy is the only existing way to reach a definitive diagnosis.

A new way to prevent the spread of devastating diseases

September 19, 2014 8:01 am | by Kimm Fesenmaier, Caltech | Videos | Comments

For decades, researchers have tried to develop broadly effective vaccines to prevent the spread of illnesses such as HIV, malaria and tuberculosis. While limited progress has been made along these lines, there are still no licensed vaccinations available that can protect most people from these devastating diseases. So what are immunologists to do when vaccines just aren't working?

Researchers study vital on/off switches of deadly bacteria

September 19, 2014 7:50 am | by David Tennebaum, Univ. of Wisconsin-Madison | News | Comments

No matter how many times it’s demonstrated, it’s still hard to envision bacteria as social, communicating creatures. But by using a signaling system called “quorum sensing,” these single-celled organisms radically alter their behavior to suit their population. In short, some bacteria “know” how many of them are present, and act accordingly.

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Fingertip sensor gives robot dexterity

September 19, 2014 7:42 am | by Larry Hardesty, MIT News Office | News | Comments

Researchers at Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) and Northeastern Univ. have equipped a robot with a novel tactile sensor that lets it grasp a USB cable draped freely over a hook and insert it into a USB port. The sensor is an adaptation of a technology called GelSight, which was developed at MIT, and first described in 2009.

Sensing neuronal activity with light

September 18, 2014 12:29 pm | by Jessica Stoller-Conrad, Caltech | News | Comments

For years, neuroscientists have been trying to develop tools that would allow them to clearly view the brain's circuitry in action. To get this complete picture, neuroscientists are working to develop a range of new tools to study the brain. Researchers at Caltech have developed one such tool that provides a new way of mapping neural networks in a living organism.

Chemists modify antibiotic to vanquish resistant bacteria

September 18, 2014 10:14 am | by The Scripps Research Institute | News | Comments

Scientists at The Scripps Research Institute have devised a new antibiotic based on vancomycin that is powerfully effective against vancomycin-resistant strains of MRSA and other disease-causing bacteria. The new vancomycin analog appears to have not one but two distinct mechanisms of anti-microbial action, against which bacteria probably cannot evolve resistance quickly.

Boosting global corn yields depends on improving nutrient balance

September 18, 2014 7:40 am | by Natalie van Hoose, Purdue Univ. | News | Comments

Ensuring that corn absorbs the right balance of nitrogen, phosphorus and potassium is crucial to increasing global yields, a Purdue and Kansas State Univ. study finds. A review of data from more than 150 studies from the U.S. and other regions showed that high yields were linked to production systems in which corn plants took up key nutrients at specific ratios.

Shrink-wrapping spacesuits

September 18, 2014 7:32 am | by Jennifer Chu, MIT News Office | News | Comments

For future astronauts, the process of suiting up may go something like this: Instead of climbing into a conventional, bulky, gas-pressurized suit, an astronaut may don a lightweight, stretchy garment, lined with tiny, muscle-like coils. She would then plug in to a spacecraft’s power supply, triggering the coils to contract and essentially shrink-wrap the garment around her body.

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New algorithms lets owners swap, recharge battery modules in electric cars

September 17, 2014 1:51 pm | News | Comments

Imagine being able to switch out the batteries in electric cars just like you switch out batteries in a photo camera or flashlight. Engineers in California are trying to accomplish just that, in partnership with a local San Diego engineering company. Rather than swapping out the whole battery, which is cumbersome and requires large, heavy equipment, engineers plan to swap out and recharge smaller units within the battery, known as modules.

Designing more successful synthetic molecules

September 17, 2014 11:08 am | by Bjorn Carey, Stanford News Service | News | Comments

Ever since Robert Hooke first described cells in 1665, scientists have been trying to figure out what goes on inside. One of the most exciting modern techniques involves injecting cells with synthetic genetic molecules that can passively report on the cell's behavior. A new computer model could not only improve the sensitivity and success of these synthetic molecules, but also make them easier to design in the first place.

Toward optical chips

September 17, 2014 9:42 am | by Larry Hardesty, MIT News Office | News | Comments

Chips that use light, rather than electricity, to move data would consume much less power. Of the three chief components of optical circuits—light emitters, modulators and detectors—emitters are the toughest to build. One promising light source for optical chips is molybdenum disulfide (MoS2), which has excellent optical properties when deposited as a single, atom-thick layer.

How to hide like an octopus

September 17, 2014 7:33 am | by David L. Chandler, MIT News Office | News | Comments

Cephalopods are among nature’s most skillful camouflage artists, able to change both the color and texture of their skin within seconds to blend into their surroundings. Engineers have long struggled to duplicate this in synthetic materials. Now a team of researchers has come closer than ever to achieving that goal, creating a flexible material that can change its color or fluorescence and its texture at the same time.

Bound for robotic glory

September 16, 2014 7:56 am | by Jennifer Chu, MIT News Office | Videos | Comments

The fastest land animal on Earth, the cheetah, is able to accelerate to 60 mph in just a few seconds. As it ramps up to top speed, a cheetah pumps its legs in tandem, bounding until it reaches a full gallop. Now, researchers have developed an algorithm for bounding that they’ve successfully implemented in a fully functional robotic cheetah.

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Muscular dystrophy: Repair the muscles, not the genetic defect

September 16, 2014 7:52 am | by Laura Bailey, Univ. of Michigan | News | Comments

A potential way to treat muscular dystrophy directly targets muscle repair instead of the underlying genetic defect that usually leads to the disease. Muscular dystrophies are a group of muscle diseases characterized by skeletal muscle wasting and weakness. Mutations in certain proteins, most commonly the protein dystrophin, cause muscular dystrophy in humans and also in mice.

New glaucoma cause discovered

September 15, 2014 10:57 am | by Marla Paul, Northwestern Univ. | News | Comments

Northwestern Medicine scientists have discovered a novel cause of glaucoma in an animal model, and related to their findings, are now developing an eye drop aimed at curing the disease. They believe their findings will be important to human glaucoma. A cure for glaucoma, a leading cause of blindness in the U.S., has been elusive because the basis of the disease is poorly understood.

Researchers find neural compensation in people with Alzheimer’s-related protein

September 15, 2014 10:43 am | by Sarah Yang, Media Relations, UC Berkeley | News | Comments

The human brain is capable of a neural workaround that compensates for the buildup of beta-amyloid, a destructive protein associated with Alzheimer’s disease, according to a new study led by Univ. of California, Berkeley researchers. The findings could help explain how some older adults with beta-amyloid deposits in their brain retain normal cognitive function while others develop dementia.

X-rays unlock a protein’s SWEET side

September 15, 2014 8:41 am | by Justin Breaux, Argonne National Laboratory | News | Comments

Sugar is a vital source of energy. Understanding just how sugar makes its way into the cell could lead to the design of better drugs for diabetes patients and an increase in the amount of fruits and vegetables farmers are able to grow. Stanford Univ. researchers have recently uncovered one of these "pathways” into the cell by piecing together proteins slightly wider than the diameter of a strand of spider silk.

Slimy fish and the origins of brain development

September 15, 2014 8:09 am | by Jessica Stoller-Conrad, Caltech | News | Comments

Lamprey—slimy, eel-like parasitic fish with tooth-riddled, jawless sucking mouths—are rather disgusting to look at, but thanks to their important position on the vertebrate family tree, they can offer important insights about the evolutionary history of our own brain development, a recent study suggests.

Fluid mechanics suggests alternative to quantum orthodoxy

September 15, 2014 7:46 am | by Larry Hardesty, MIT News Office | News | Comments

The central mystery of quantum mechanics is that small chunks of matter sometimes seem to behave like particles, sometimes like waves. For most of the past century, the prevailing explanation of this conundrum has been what’s called the “Copenhagen interpretation”—which holds that, in some sense, a single particle really is a wave, smeared out across the universe, that collapses into a determinate location only when observed.

Study sheds new light on why batteries go bad

September 15, 2014 7:34 am | by Andrew Gordon, SLAC National Accelerator Laboratory | Videos | Comments

A comprehensive look at how tiny particles in a lithium-ion battery electrode behave shows that rapid-charging the battery and using it to do high-power, rapidly draining work may not be as damaging as researchers had thought—and that the benefits of slow draining and charging may have been overestimated.

Fluid mechanics suggests alternative to quantum orthodoxy

September 12, 2014 1:48 pm | by Larry Hardesty, MIT | News | Comments

The central mystery of quantum mechanics is that small chunks of matter sometimes seem to behave like particles, sometimes like waves. The traditional view holds that a single particle really is a wave that collapses only when observed. But John Bush, of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, believes that another explanation, the pilot-wave theory, deserves a second look.

Evolutionary biology key to tackling diverse global problems

September 12, 2014 10:14 am | by Pat Bailey, UC Davis News Service | News | Comments

Evolutionary biology techniques can and must be used to help solve global challenges in agriculture, medicine and environmental sciences, advises a nine-member global team led by an evolutionary ecologist from Univ. of California, Davis.

Engineers describe key mechanism in energy and information storage

September 12, 2014 8:48 am | by Bjorn Carey, Stanford News Service | News | Comments

The ideal energy or information storage system is one that can charge and discharge quickly, has a high capacity and can last forever. Nanomaterials are promising to achieve these criteria, but scientists are just beginning to understand their challenging mechanisms. Now, a team from Stanford Univ. has provided new insight into the storage mechanism of nanomaterials that could facilitate development of improved batteries and memory devices.

Rapid point-of-care anemia test shows promise

September 12, 2014 8:22 am | by John Toon, Georgia Institute of Technology | News | Comments

A simple point-of-care testing device for anemia could provide more rapid diagnosis of the common blood disorder and allow inexpensive at-home self-monitoring of persons with chronic forms of the disease. The disposable self-testing device analyzes a single droplet of blood using a chemical reagent that produces visible color changes corresponding to different levels of anemia.

Faster image processing for low-radiation CT scans

September 12, 2014 8:08 am | by Kate McAlpine, Univ. of Michigan | Videos | Comments

A new $1.9 million study at the Univ. of Michigan seeks to make low-dose computed tomography scans a viable screening technique by speeding up the image reconstruction from half an hour or more to just five minutes. The advance could be particularly important for fighting lung cancers, as symptoms often appear too late for effective treatment.

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