Inspired by tiny particles that carry cholesterol through the body, Massachusetts Institute of Technology chemical engineers have designed nanoparticles that can deliver snippets of genetic material that turn off disease-causing genes. This approach, known as RNA interference, holds great promise for treating cancer and other diseases. However, delivering enough RNA to treat the diseased tissue has proven difficult.
Scientists have thought that the first stars in the universe burst with tremendous energy, spewing out the first heavy elements, such as carbon, iron, and oxygen. But according to new research from Massachusetts Institute of Technology, not all of these first stars may have been forceful exploders.
Optogenetics allows scientists to control neurons’ electrical activity with light by engineering them to express light-sensitive proteins, called opsins. Most opsins respond to light in the blue-green range. Now, a team has discovered an opsin that is sensitive to red light, which allows researchers to independently control the activity of two populations of neurons at once, enabling much more complex studies of brain function.
Topological insulators have been of great interest to physicists in recent years because of unusual properties that may provide insights into quantum physics. But most analysis of such materials has had to rely on highly simplified models. Now, a team of researchers at Massachusetts Institute of Technology has performed a more detailed analysis that hints at the existence of six new kinds of topological insulators.
Nearly 70% of patients with advanced breast cancer experience skeletal metastasis, in which cancer cells migrate from a primary tumor into bone. While scientists are attempting to better understand metastasis in general, not much is known about how and why certain cancers spread to specific organs. Now researchers have developed a 3-D microfluidic platform that mimics the spread of breast cancer cells into a bone-like environment.
Designing nanomedicine to combat diseases is a hot area of scientific research, primarily for treating cancer, but very little is known in the context of atherosclerotic disease. Scientists have engineered a microchip coated with blood vessel cells to learn more about the conditions under which nanoparticles accumulate in the plaque-filled arteries of patients with atherosclerosis, the underlying cause of myocardial infarction and stroke.
Trying to find new materials, to improve the performance of anything from microchips to car bodies, has always been a process of trial and error. Massachusetts Institute of Technology materials scientist Gerbrand Ceder likens it to setting out from Boston for California, with neither a map nor a navigation system—and on foot.
In the early 1990s, MIT researcher Shuguang Zhang, then an MIT postdoctoral researcher, stumbled upon peptides that could self-assemble into nanostructures, creating 3-D environments for cell culturing. It was, at the time, a breakthrough discovery. But it wouldn’t be until a decade later, in a last-ditch effort to bring this discovery to the public, that these peptides would find commercial application through 3-D Matrix.
Cancer drugs that recruit antibodies from the body’s own immune system to help kill tumors have shown much promise in treating several types of cancer. However, after initial success, the tumors often return. A new study from Massachusetts Institute of Technology reveals a way to combat these recurrent tumors with a drug that makes them more vulnerable to the antibody treatment.
For "big data" to be useful it must first be analyzed, meaning it needs to be stored in such a way that it can be accessed quickly when required. Hard disk storage is slow, and dynamic random access memory cannot be used with today’s large datasets. Researchers have now developed a flash-based storage system for big-data analytics that can dramatically speed up the time it takes to access information.
To get an idea of how the early solar system may have formed, scientists often look to asteroids. These relics of rock and dust represent what today’s planets may have been before they differentiated into bodies of core, mantle and crust. In the 1980s, scientists’ view of the solar system’s asteroids was essentially static. But in the last decade, astronomers have detected asteroids with compositions unexpected for their locations in space.
Every time you open your eyes, visual information flows into your brain, which interprets what you’re seeing. Now, for the first time, Massachusetts Institute of Technology neuroscientists have noninvasively mapped this flow of information in the human brain with unique accuracy, using a novel brain-scanning technique.
Do scientific papers written by well-known scholars get more attention than they otherwise would receive because of their authors’ high profiles? A new study co-authored by an Massachusetts Institute of Technology economist reports that high-status authorship does increase how frequently papers are cited in the life sciences—but finds some subtle twists in how this happens.
Suppose you heard the sound of skidding tires, followed by a car crash. The next time you heard such a skid, you might cringe in fear, expecting a crash to follow—suggesting that somehow, your brain had linked those two memories so that a fairly innocuous sound provokes dread. Neuroscientists have now discovered how two neural circuits in the brain work together to control the formation of such time-linked memories.
Flexible, layered materials textured with nanoscale wrinkles could provide a new way of controlling the wavelengths and distribution of waves, whether of sound or light. The new method could eventually find applications from nondestructive testing of materials to sound suppression, and could also provide new insights into soft biological systems and possibly lead to new diagnostic tools.
Diamonds may be a girl’s best friend, but they could also one day help us understand how the brain processes information, thanks to a new sensing technique developed at Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT). A team in MIT’s Quantum Engineering Group has developed a new method to control nanoscale diamond sensors, which are capable of measuring even very weak magnetic fields.
You’ve probably seen it in your kitchen cookware, or inside old plumbing pipes: scaly deposits left over time by hard, mineral-laden water. It happens not only in pipes and cooking pots in the home, but also in pipelines and valves that deliver oil and gas, and pipes that carry cooling water inside power plants. Scale, as these deposits are known, causes inefficiencies, downtime and maintenance issues.
Transparent displays have a variety of potential applications. A number of technologies have been developed for such displays, but all have limitations. Now, researchers have come up with a new approach that can have significant advantages over existing systems, at least for certain kinds of applications: a wide viewing angle, simplicity of manufacture and potentially low cost and scalability.
A new approach to harvesting solar energy, developed by Massachusetts Institute of Technology researchers, could improve efficiency by using sunlight to heat a high-temperature material whose infrared radiation would then be collected by a conventional photovoltaic cell. This technique could also make it easier to store the energy for later use, the researchers say.
Nearly 8 million Americans suffer from post traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), a condition marked by severe anxiety stemming from a traumatic event such as a battle or violent attack. Many patients undergo psychotherapy. However, Massachusetts Institute of Technology neuroscientists have now shown that they can extinguish well-established traumatic memories in mice by giving them a type of drug called an HDAC2 inhibitor.
Imagine seeing a dozen pictures flash by in a fraction of a second. You might think it would be impossible to identify any images you see for such a short time. However, a team of neuroscientists from Massachusetts Institute of Technology has found that the human brain can process entire images that the eye sees for as little as 13 msec—the first evidence of such rapid processing speed.
The parasites that cause malaria are exquisitely adapted to the various hosts they infect; so studying the disease in mice doesn’t necessarily reveal information that could lead to drugs effective against human disease. Now, a team of researchers has developed a strain of mice that mimics most features of the human immune system and can be infected with the most common human form of the malaria parasite, known as Plasmodium falciparum.
Massachusetts Institute of Technology engineers have devised a way to measure the mass of particles with a resolution better than an attogram. Weighing these tiny particles, including both synthetic nanoparticles and biological components of cells, could help researchers better understand their composition and function.
Marine cyanobacteria are primary engines of Earth’s biogeochemical and nutrient cycles. They nourish other organisms through the provision of oxygen and with their own body mass. Now, scientists have discovered another dimension of the outsized role played by these tiny cells: The cyanobacteria continually produce and release vesicles, spherical packages containing nutrients that can serve as food parcels for marine organisms.
Lithium batteries, with their exceptional ability to store power per a given weight, have been a major focus of research to enable use in everything from portable electronics to electric cars. Now researchers at Massachusetts Institute of Technology and Brookhaven National Laboratory have found a whole new avenue for such research: the use of disordered materials, which had generally been considered unsuitable for batteries.