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Growing a business, from the lab

February 3, 2014 7:45 am | by Rob Matheson, MIT News Office | News | Comments

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.

Weapon fights drug-resistant tumors

January 31, 2014 9:16 am | by Anne Trafton, MIT News Office | News | Comments

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.

Storage system for “big data” dramatically speeds access to information

January 30, 2014 11:51 am | by Helen Knight, MIT News correspondent | News | Comments

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.

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“Rogue” asteroids may be the norm

January 30, 2014 7:33 am | by Jennifer Chu, MIT News Office | News | Comments

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.

Expanding our view of vision

January 28, 2014 8:24 am | by Anne Trafton, MIT News Office | News | Comments

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. 

How the “Matthew Effect” helps some scientific papers gain popularity

January 27, 2014 7:40 am | by Peter Dizikes, MIT News Office | News | Comments

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.

In the brain, timing is everything

January 24, 2014 10:37 am | by Anne Trafton, MIT News Office | News | Comments

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.

A new wrinkle in the control of waves

January 24, 2014 8:07 am | by David L. Chandler, MIT News Office | News | Comments

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.

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Researchers develop new method to control nanoscale diamond sensors

January 24, 2014 7:59 am | by Helen Knight, MIT News correspondent | News | Comments

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.

New surface treatment stops scale buildup

January 23, 2014 8:10 am | by David L. Chandler, MIT News Office | News | Comments

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 display system could provide heads-up data

January 22, 2014 7:32 am | by David L. Chandler, MIT News Office | News | Comments

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.

How to tap the sun’s energy through heat as well as light

January 20, 2014 7:43 am | by David L. Chandler, MIT News Office | Videos | Comments

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.

Erasing traumatic memories

January 17, 2014 7:49 am | by Anne Trafton, MIT News Office | News | Comments

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.

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In the blink of an eye

January 16, 2014 7:49 am | by Anne Trafton, MIT News Office | News | Comments

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.

How the immune system fights off malaria

January 14, 2014 7:47 am | by Anne Trafton, MIT News Office | News | Comments

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.

Weighing particles at the attogram scale

January 13, 2014 3:37 pm | by Anne Trafton, MIT News Office | News | Comments

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.

Ahoy! First ocean vesicles spotted

January 10, 2014 10:35 am | by Denise Brehm, Civil and Environmental Engineering MIT | News | Comments

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.

Disordered materials hold promise for better batteries

January 10, 2014 7:38 am | by David L. Chandler, MIT News Office | News | Comments

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.

The ocean’s hidden waves show their power

January 8, 2014 7:52 am | by David L. Chandler, MIT News Office | Videos | Comments

Their effect on the surface of the ocean is negligible, producing a rise of just inches that is virtually imperceptible on a turbulent sea. But internal waves, which are hidden entirely within the ocean, can tower hundreds of feet, with profound effects on the Earth’s climate and on ocean ecosystems.

New MIT technology allows 3-D image interaction

January 3, 2014 11:00 am | News | Comments

Researchers at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology have found a way to allow people in one place to interact with 3-D versions of people or objects in a different location. MIT's Tangible Media Group calls the technology inFORM, and it could one day be used by architects, urban planners, or even doctors who need to look at computed tomography scans.

Making silicon devices responsive to infrared light

January 2, 2014 7:59 am | by David L. Chandler, MIT News Office | News | Comments

Researchers have tried a variety of methods to develop detectors that are responsive to a broad range of infrared light, but these methods have all faced limitations. Now, a new system developed by researchers at five institutions could eliminate many of those limitations. The new system works at room temperature and provides a broad infrared response.

New approach to vertex connectivity could maximize networks’ bandwidth

December 30, 2013 1:21 pm | by Helen Knight, MIT News correspondent | News | Comments

A fundamental concept in graph theory is connectivity, which describes how many lines or nodes would have to be removed from a given graph to disconnect it. Progress has been made in “edge connectivity”, or the connections between nodes or vertices. But “vertex connectivity”, which looks at the nodes themselves, is less understood. It has been reexamined recently and the findings could help coax as much bandwidth as possible from networks.

Study faults a “runaway” mechanism in intermediate-depth earthquakes

December 26, 2013 11:10 am | by Jennifer Chu, MIT News Office | News | Comments

Nearly 25% of earthquakes occur more than 50 km below the Earth’s surface in a region called the lithosphere. But limited data and knowledge have prevented researchers from finding the cause of these intermediate and deep earthquakes. A team has recently found immense heating at high pressures at these depths, helping explain the “runaway” process propagates an earthquake in the lithosphere.

Graphene can host exotic new quantum electronic states at its edges

December 23, 2013 11:28 am | News | Comments

According to new research at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, graphene, under an extremely powerful magnetic field and at extremely low temperature, can effectively filter electrons according to the direction of their spin. This is something that cannot be done by any conventional electronic system and could render graphene suitable for exotic uses such as quantum computing.

Computer models, observations inside a cell reveal RNA’s interesting “machines”

December 19, 2013 7:26 pm | by Elizabeth Dougherty, Massachusetts Institute of Technology | News | Comments

New collaborative work from computational biologists in Massachusetts and California combines computational and experimental approaches to identify biologically meaningful RNA folds. The work could open the door to a better understanding of RNA machinery, which includes the ribosome, microRNAs and riboswitches, and long noncoding RNAs whose diverse functions are only beginning to be understood.

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