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The Lead

How mutant gene causes deafness

November 21, 2014 9:47 am | by The Scripps Research Institute | News | Comments

Scientists at The Scripps Research Institute (TSRI) have discovered how one gene is essential to hearing, uncovering a cause of deafness and suggesting new avenues for therapies. The new study, published in Neuron, shows how mutations in a gene called Tmie can cause deafness from birth. Underlining the critical nature of their findings, researchers were able to reintroduce the gene in mice and restore the process underpinning hearing.

What agricultural ecosystems on steroids are doing to the air

November 21, 2014 9:21 am | by Nicole Casal Moore, Univ. of Michigan | News | Comments

In a study that identifies a new, "direct fingerprint" of human activity on Earth, scientists...

2-D quantum materials for nanoelectronics

November 21, 2014 9:10 am | by David L. Chandler, MIT News Office | News | Comments

Researchers at Massachusetts Institute of Technology say they have carried out a theoretical...

Deep-Earth carbon offers clues about origin of life

November 21, 2014 7:53 am | by Jill Rosen, Johns Hopkins Univ. | News | Comments

New findings by a Johns Hopkins Univ.-led team reveal long unknown details about carbon deep...

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Novel polarizing filter transits more light

November 20, 2014 9:29 am | by Univ. of Utah | News | Comments

Univ. of Utah engineers have developed a polarizing filter that allows in more light, leading the way for mobile device displays that last much longer on a single battery charge and cameras that can shoot in dim light. Polarizers are indispensable in digital photography and LCD displays, but they block enormous amounts of light, wasting energy and making it more difficult to photograph in low light.

Spiraling light, nanoparticles and insights into life’s structure

November 20, 2014 8:12 am | by Nicole Casal Moore, Univ. of Michigan | News | Comments

As hands come in left and right versions that are mirror images of each other, so do the amino acids and sugars within us. But unlike hands, only the left-oriented amino acids and the right-oriented sugars ever make into life as we know it. Scientists know the other varieties exist because when they synthesize these amino acids and sugars in a laboratory, roughly equal numbers of left- and right-facing arrangements form.

Biochemists build largest synthetic molecular “cage” ever

November 19, 2014 10:26 am | by Stuart Wolpert, Univ. of California, Los Angeles | News | Comments

Univ. of California, Los Angeles biochemists have created the largest-ever protein that self-assembles into a molecular “cage.” The research could lead to synthetic vaccines that protect people from the flu, HIV and other diseases. At a size hundreds of times smaller than a human cell, it also could lead to new methods of delivering pharmaceuticals inside of cells, or to the creation of new nanoscale materials.

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Research advances understanding of atomically thin crystal growth

November 19, 2014 9:24 am | by David Goddard, UT Knoxville | News | Comments

Univ. of Tennessee, Knoxville’s College of Engineering has made recent headlines for discoveries that, while atomically small, could impact our modern world. The team focused on the role of epilayer-substrate interactions in determining orientational relations in van der Waals epitaxy.

Hormone points to potential treatment for metabolic disorders

November 19, 2014 8:13 am | by Laura Williams, Univ. of Michigan | News | Comments

Researchers at the Univ. of Michigan have discovered how a previously unknown hormone serves as a messenger from fat cells to the liver and are investigating the potential of developing a new treatment for metabolic disorders. Jiandie Lin of the Life Sciences Institute described how in mice the hormone, NRG4, is secreted by so-called brown fat cells and communicates with the liver to regulate the conversion of sugar into fat.

Running the color gamut

November 19, 2014 8:01 am | by Rob Matheson, MIT News Office | News | Comments

If LCD TVs get more colorful in the next few years, it will probably be thanks to QD Vision, a pioneer of quantum-dot television displays. Quantum dots are light-emitting semiconductor nanocrystals that can be tuned to emit all colors across the visible spectrum. By tuning these dots to red and green, and using a blue backlight to energize them, QD Vision has developed an optical component that can boost the color gamut for LCD televisions.

Fool’s gold as a solar material?

November 19, 2014 7:47 am | by David Tennebaum, Univ. of Wisconsin-Madison | News | Comments

As the installation of photovoltaic solar cells continues to accelerate, scientists are looking for inexpensive materials beyond the traditional silicon that can efficiently convert sunlight into electricity. Theoretically, iron pyrite could do the job, but when it works at all, the conversion efficiency remains frustratingly low. Now, a Univ. of Wisconsin-Madison research team explains why that is.

Scientists reveal weak spots in Ebola’s defenses

November 18, 2014 9:27 am | by The Scripps Research Institute | News | Comments

Scientists at The Scripps Research Institute have identified weak spots on the surface of Ebola virus that are targeted by the antibodies in ZMapp, the experimental drug cocktail administered to several patients during the recent Ebola outbreak. The study provides a revealing 3-D picture of how the ZMapp antibodies bind to Ebola virus.

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Two sensors in one

November 18, 2014 8:10 am | by Anne Trafton, MIT News Office | News | Comments

Massachusetts Institute of Technology chemists have developed new nanoparticles that can simultaneously perform magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) and fluorescent imaging in living animals. Such particles could help scientists to track specific molecules produced in the body, monitor a tumor’s environment, or determine whether drugs have successfully reached their targets.

Chemical disguise transforms RNAi drug delivery

November 18, 2014 7:57 am | by Heather Buschman, Univ. of California, San Diego | News | Comments

Small pieces of synthetic RNA trigger a RNA interference (RNAi) response that holds great therapeutic potential to treat a number of diseases, especially cancer and pandemic viruses. The problem is delivery: It’s extremely difficult to get RNAi drugs inside the cells in which they are needed.

Mixing light at the nanoscale

November 17, 2014 3:46 pm | by Evan Lerner, Univ. of Pennsylvania | News | Comments

The race to make computer components smaller and faster and use less power is pushing the limits of the properties of electrons in a material. Photonic systems could eventually replace electronic ones, but the fundamentals of computation, mixing two inputs into a single output, currently require too much space and power when done with light.

New method for methanol processing could reduce carbon dioxide emissions

November 17, 2014 8:33 am | by Matthew Chin, Univ. of California, Los Angeles | News | Comments

Researchers at the Univ. of California, Los Angeles Henry Samueli School of Engineering and Applied Science have developed a more efficient way to turn methanol into useful chemicals, such as liquid fuels, and that would also reduce carbon dioxide emissions. Methanol, which is a product of natural gas, is well-known as a common “feedstock” chemical.

Motion-induced quicksand

November 17, 2014 7:45 am | by Jennifer Chu, MIT News Office | News | Comments

From a mechanical perspective, granular materials are stuck between a rock and a fluid place, with behavior resembling neither a solid nor a liquid. Think of sand through an hourglass: As grains funnel through, they appear to flow like water, but once deposited, they form a relatively stable mound, much like a solid.

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Plants have little wiggle room to survive drought

November 14, 2014 10:27 am | by Stuart Wolpert, Univ. of California, Los Angeles | News | Comments

Plants all over the world are more sensitive to drought than many experts realized, according to a new study by scientists at the Univ. of California, Los Angeles and China’s Xishuangbanna Tropical Botanical Garden. The research will improve predictions of which plant species will survive the increasingly intense droughts associated with global climate change.

Pulling together the early solar system

November 14, 2014 8:35 am | by Jennifer Chu, MIT News Office | News | Comments

While astronomers have observed the protoplanetary disk evolution throughout our galaxy, the mechanism by which planetary disks evolve at such a rapid rate has eluded scientists for decades. Now researchers have provided the first experimental evidence that our solar system’s protoplanetary disk was shaped by an intense magnetic field that drove a massive amount of gas into the sun within just a few million years.

Topological insulators promising for spintronics, quantum computers

November 14, 2014 7:48 am | by Emil Venere, Purdue Univ. | News | Comments

Researches have uncovered "smoking-gun" evidence to confirm the workings of an emerging class of materials that could make possible "spintronic" devices and practical quantum computers far more powerful than today's technologies. The materials are called topological insulators.

Lightning expected to increase by 50% with global warming

November 13, 2014 4:56 pm | by Robert Sanders, Univ. of California, Berkeley Media Relations | Videos | Comments

Today’s climate models predict a 50% increase in lightning strikes across the U.S. during this century as a result of warming temperatures associated with climate change. Reporting in Science, a team of climate scientists look at predictions of precipitation and cloud buoyancy in 11 different climate models and conclude that their combined effect will generate more frequent electrical discharges to the ground.

Tiny needles offer potential new treatment for two major eye diseases

November 13, 2014 4:43 pm | by John Toon, Georgia Institute of Technology | News | Comments

Needles almost too small to be seen with the unaided eye could be the basis for new treatment options for two of the world’s leading eye diseases: glaucoma and corneal neovascularization. The microneedles, ranging in length from 400 to 700 microns, could provide a new way to deliver drugs to specific areas within the eye relevant to these diseases.

Bacteria become genomic tape recorders

November 13, 2014 4:21 pm | by Anne Trafton, MIT News Office | News | Comments

Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) engineers have transformed the genome of the bacterium E. coli into a long-term storage device for memory. They envision that this stable, erasable and easy-to-retrieve memory will be well suited for applications such as sensors for environmental and medical monitoring.

New process isolates promising material

November 13, 2014 11:11 am | by Amanda Morris, Northwestern Univ. | News | Comments

After graphene was first produced in the laboratory in 2004, thousands of laboratories began developing graphene products worldwide. Researchers were amazed by its lightweight and ultra-strong properties. Ten years later, scientists now search for other materials that have the same level of potential.

Moving cameras talk to each other to identify, track pedestrians

November 13, 2014 10:11 am | by Michelle Ma, Univ. of Washington | Videos | Comments

It’s not uncommon to see cameras mounted on store ceilings, propped up in public places or placed inside subways, buses and even on the dashboards of cars. Cameras record our world down to the second. This can be a powerful surveillance tool on the roads and in buildings, but it’s surprisingly hard to sift through vast amounts of visual data to find pertinent information, until now.

Primordial galaxy bursts with starry births

November 12, 2014 4:09 pm | by Vasyl Kacapyr, Cornell Univ. | News | Comments

Peering deep into time with one of the world’s newest, most sophisticated telescopes, astronomers have found a galaxy—AzTEC-3—that gives birth annually to 500 times the number of suns as the Milky Way galaxy, according to a new Cornell Univ.-led study published in the Astrophysical Journal.

Some plants regenerate by duplicating their DNA

November 12, 2014 10:29 am | by Diana Yates, Life Sciences Editor Univ. of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign | News | Comments

When munched by grazing animals (or mauled by scientists in the laboratory), some herbaceous plants overcompensate, producing more plant matter and becoming more fertile than they otherwise would. Scientists say they now know how these plants accomplish this feat of regeneration. They report their findings in Molecular Ecology.

Robotic ocean gliders aid study of melting polar ice

November 12, 2014 8:18 am | by Jessica Stoller-Conrad, Caltech | News | Comments

The rapidly melting ice sheets on the coast of West Antarctica are a potential major contributor to rising ocean levels worldwide. Although warm water near the coast is thought to be the main factor causing the ice to melt, the process by which this water ends up near the cold continent is not well understood. Using robotic ocean gliders, Caltech researchers now have a better understanding of the cause.

Versatile process efficiently converts biomass to liquid fuel

November 12, 2014 8:05 am | by Emil Venere, Purdue Univ. | News | Comments

Researchers have demonstrated a new process to convert all biomass into liquid fuel, and the method could make possible mobile processing plants. The researchers at Purdue Univ. filed a patent application on the concept in 2008 and have now demonstrated that it works in laboratory experiments.

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