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The Lead

Scientists find new point of attack on HIV for vaccine development

April 24, 2014 12:45 pm | News | Comments

A team led by scientists at The Scripps Research Institute working with the International AIDS Vaccine Initiative has discovered a new vulnerable site on the HIV virus. The newly identified site can be attacked by human antibodies in a way that neutralizes the infectivity of a wide variety of HIV strains.

Chameleon crystals could make active camouflage possible

April 24, 2014 8:04 am | by Kate McAlpine, Univ. of Michigan | News | Comments

The ability to control crystals with light and chemistry could lead to chameleon-style color-...

Gold nanoparticles help target, quantify breast cancer gene segments in a living cell

April 23, 2014 8:59 am | by Natalie van Hoose, Purdue Univ. | News | Comments

A team at Purdue Univ. has used gold nanoparticles...

Like a hall of mirrors, nanostructures trap photons inside ultra-thin solar cells

April 23, 2014 8:13 am | by Tom Abate, Stanford Engineering | News | Comments

In the quest to make sun power more competitive, researchers are designing ultra-thin solar...

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Study identifies enzymes that help fix cancer-causing DNA defects

April 23, 2014 7:47 am | by Natalie van Hoose, Purdue Univ. | News | Comments

Purdue Univ. researchers have identified an important enzyme pathway that helps prevent new cells from receiving too many or too few chromosomes, a condition that has been directly linked to cancer and other diseases. The team found that near the end of cell division, the enzyme Cdc14 activates Yen1, an enzyme that ensures any breaks in DNA are fully repaired before the parent cell distributes copies of the genome to daughter cells.

Fast way to measure DNA repair

April 22, 2014 8:55 am | by Anne Trafton, MIT News Office | News | Comments

Our DNA is under constant attack from many sources. Fortunately, cells have several major DNA repair systems that can fix this damage, which may lead to diseases if not mended. A team of researchers has developed a test that can rapidly assess several DNA repair systems, which could help determine individuals’ risk of developing cancer and help doctors predict how a given patient will respond to chemotherapy drugs.

“Upside-down planet” reveals new method for studying binary star systems

April 22, 2014 8:12 am | by Peter Kelley, News and Information, Univ. of Washington | News | Comments

What looked at first like an upside-down planet has instead revealed a new method for studying binary star systems, discovered by a Univ. of Washington (UW) student astronomer. Working with UW astronomer Eric Agol, doctoral student Ethan Kruse has confirmed the first “self-lensing” binary star system: one in which the mass of the closer star can be measured by how powerfully it magnifies light from its more distant companion star.

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Tracking oxygen in the body

April 22, 2014 7:34 am | by Anne Trafton, MIT News Office | News | Comments

Unlike healthy cells, cancer cells thrive when deprived of oxygen. Tumors in low-oxygen environments tend to be more resistant to therapy and spread more aggressively to other parts of the body. Measuring tumors’ oxygen levels could help doctors make decisions about treatments, but there’s currently no way to make such measurements. However, a new sensor developed at Massachusetts Institute of Technology could change that.

Under some LED bulbs whites aren’t “whiter than white”

April 21, 2014 12:03 pm | by A'ndrea Elyse Messer, Penn State Univ. | News | Comments

For years, companies have been adding whiteners to laundry detergent, paints, plastics, paper and fabrics to make whites look "whiter than white," but now, with a switch away from incandescent and fluorescent lighting, different degrees of whites may all look the same, according to experts in lighting.

Unlocking a mystery of human disease in space

April 21, 2014 7:45 am | by Jessica Stoller-Conrad, Caltech | News | Comments

Huntington's disease is a grim diagnosis. A hereditary disorder with debilitating physical and cognitive symptoms, the disease usually robs adult patients of their ability to walk, balance and speak. More than 15 years ago, researchers revealed the disorder's likely cause—an abnormal version of the protein huntingtin; however, the mutant protein's mechanism is poorly understood, and the disease remains untreatable.

“Exotic” material is like a switch when super thin

April 18, 2014 3:05 pm | by Anne Ju, Cornell Univ. | News | Comments

Ever-shrinking electronic devices could get down to atomic dimensions with the help of transition metal oxides. Researchers from Cornell Univ. and Brookhaven National Laboratory have shown how to switch a particular transition metal oxide, a lanthanum nickelate (LaNiO3), from a metal to an insulator by making the material less than a nanometer thick.

Researchers predict signs of black holes swallowing stars

April 18, 2014 8:19 am | by Aaron Dubrow, National Science Foundation | News | Comments

Somewhere out in the cosmos an ordinary galaxy spins, seemingly at slumber. Then all of a sudden, WHAM! A flash of light explodes from the galaxy's center. A star orbiting too close to the event horizon of the galaxy's central supermassive black hole has been torn apart by the force of gravity, heating up its gas and sending out a beacon to the far reaches of the universe.

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High-temperature plasmonics eyed for solar, computer innovation

April 18, 2014 8:09 am | by Emil Venere, Purdue Univ. | News | Comments

New plasmonic metamaterials that operate at high temperatures could radically improve solar cell performance and bring advanced computer data storage technology that uses heat to record information on a magnetic disk. The materials could make it possible to harness clouds of electrons called surface plasmons to manipulate and control light.

Surprising material could play role in saving energy

April 18, 2014 7:56 am | by Megan Fellman, Northwestern Univ. | News | Comments

One strategy for addressing the world’s energy crisis is to stop wasting so much energy when producing and using it, which can happen in coal-fired power plants or transportation. Nearly two-thirds of energy input is lost as waste heat. Now Northwestern Univ. scientists have discovered a surprising material that is the best in the world at converting waste heat to useful electricity.

Multi-target TB drug could treat other disease, evade resistance

April 18, 2014 7:47 am | by Liz Ahlberg, Physical Sciences Editor, Univ. of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign | News | Comments

A drug under clinical trials to treat tuberculosis could be the basis for a class of broad-spectrum drugs that act against various bacteria, fungal infections and parasites, yet evade resistance, according to a study by Univ. of Illinois chemists and collaborators. The team determined the different ways the drug SQ109 attacks the tuberculosis bacterium and how the drug can be tweaked to target other pathogens from yeast to malaria.

Astronomers spot most Earth-like planet yet

April 17, 2014 2:56 pm | by Alicia Chang, AP Science Writer | News | Comments

Detected by NASA's orbiting Kepler telescope, a newly found planet is the most Earth-like planet yet detected. Astronomers say the distant, rocky world is similar in size to our own and exists in the Goldilocks zone where it's not too hot and not too cold for life. The find, announced Thursday, excited planet hunters who have been scouring the Milky Way galaxy for years for potentially habitable places outside our solar system.

For cells, internal stress leads to unique shapes

April 17, 2014 11:54 am | by Jessica Stoller-Conrad, Caltech | News | Comments

From far away, the top of a leaf looks like one seamless surface; however, up close, that smooth exterior is actually made up of a patchwork of cells in a variety of shapes and sizes. Interested in how these cells individually take on their own unique forms, a Caltech team sought to pinpoint the shape-controlling factors in pavement cells, which are puzzle-piece-shaped epithelial cells found on the leaves of flowering plants.

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Neuromorphic computing “roadmap” envisions analog path to simulating human brain

April 17, 2014 11:46 am | by Rick Robinson, Georgia Institute of Technology | News | Comments

In the field of neuromorphic engineering, researchers study computing techniques that could someday mimic human cognition. Electrical engineers at the Georgia Institute of Technology recently published a "roadmap" that details innovative analog-based techniques that could make it possible to build a practical neuromorphic computer.

Making new materials an atomic layer at a time

April 17, 2014 9:36 am | News | Comments

Researchers in Pennsylvania and Texas have shown the ability to grow high quality, single-layer materials one on top of the other using chemical vapor deposition. This highly scalable technique, often used in the semiconductor industry, can produce materials with unique properties that could be applied to solar cells, ultracapacitors for energy storage, or advanced transistors for energy efficient electronics, among many other applications.

Bionic ankle “emulates nature”

April 17, 2014 7:41 am | by Rob Matheson, MIT News Office | News | Comments

These days, Hugh Herr, an assoc. prof. of media arts and sciences at Massachusetts Institute of Technology, gets about 100 emails daily from people across the world interested in his bionic limbs. Messages pour in from amputees seeking prostheses and from media outlets pursuing interviews. Then there are students looking to join Herr’s research group.

Floating nuclear plants could ride out tsunamis

April 16, 2014 11:08 am | by David L. Chandler, MIT News Office | Videos | Comments

When an earthquake and tsunami struck the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear plant complex in 2011, neither the quake nor the inundation caused the ensuing contamination. Rather, it was the aftereffects—specifically, the lack of cooling for the reactor cores, due to a shutdown of all power at the station—that caused most of the harm. A new design for nuclear plants built on floating platforms could help avoid such consequences in the future.

Fish from acidic ocean waters less able to smell predators

April 16, 2014 8:05 am | by Brett Israel, Georgia Institute of Technology | News | Comments

Fish living on coral reefs where carbon dioxide seeps from the ocean floor were less able to detect predator odor than fish from normal coral reefs, according to a new study. The study confirms laboratory experiments showing that the behavior of reef fishes can be seriously affected by increased carbon dioxide concentrations in the ocean.

Excitons observed in action

April 16, 2014 7:52 am | by David L. Chandler, MIT News Office | News | Comments

A quasiparticle called an exciton has been understood theoretically for decades. But exciton movement within materials has never been directly observed. Now scientists have achieved that feat, imaging excitons’ motions directly. This could enable research leading to significant advances in electronics, they say, as well as a better understanding of natural energy-transfer processes, such as photosynthesis.

Potent, puzzling and (now less) toxic: Team discovers how antifungal drug works

April 15, 2014 5:18 pm | by Diana Yates, Univ. of Illinois | News | Comments

Scientists have solved a decades-old medical mystery, and in the process have found a potentially less toxic way to fight invasive fungal infections, which kill about 1.5 million people a year. The researchers say they now understand the mechanism of action of amphotericin, an antifungal drug that has been in use for more than 50 years even though it is nearly as toxic to human cells as it is to the microbes it attacks.

Astronomers: ‘Tilt-a-worlds’ could harbor life

April 15, 2014 3:17 pm | by Peter Kelley, Univ. of Washington | News | Comments

A fluctuating tilt in a planet’s orbit does not preclude the possibility of life, according to new research by a team of astronomers. In fact, sometimes it helps because such “tilt-a-worlds,” as astronomers sometimes call them, are less likely than fixed-spin planets to freeze over, as heat from their host star is more evenly distributed.

Moth study suggests hidden climate change impacts

April 15, 2014 11:23 am | by Jim Erickson, Univ. of Michigan | News | Comments

A 32-year study of subarctic forest moths in Finnish Lapland suggests that scientists may be underestimating the impacts of climate change on animals and plants because much of the harm is hidden from view. The study analyzed populations of 80 moth species and found that 90% of them were either stable or increasing throughout the study period, from 1978 to 2009.

An Arctic ozone hole? Not quite

April 15, 2014 11:06 am | by Audrey Resutek, MIT | News | Comments

Since the discovery of the Antarctic ozone hole, scientists, policymakers and the public have wondered whether we might someday see a similarly extreme depletion of ozone over the Arctic. But a new Massachusetts Institute of Technology study finds some cause for optimism: Ozone levels in the Arctic haven’t yet sunk to the extreme lows seen in Antarctica, because international efforts to limit ozone-depleting chemicals have been successful.

Engineers develop new materials for hydrogen storage

April 15, 2014 9:43 am | News | Comments

Researchers in California have created, for the first time, compounds made from mixtures of calcium hexaboride, strontium and barium hexaboride. They also demonstrated that these ceramic materials could be manufactured using a simple, low-cost manufacturing method known as combustion synthesis.

A few “problem wells” source of greenhouse gas

April 15, 2014 7:48 am | by Elizabeth K. Gardner, Purdue Univ. | News | Comments

High levels of the greenhouse gas methane were found above shale gas wells at a production point not thought to be an important emissions source, according to a study jointly led by Purdue and Cornell universities. The findings could have implications for the evaluation of the environmental impacts from natural gas production.

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