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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Graphene, a two-dimensional array of carbon atoms, has shown great promise for a variety of applications, but for many suggested uses the material requires treatments that can be expensive and difficult to apply predictably. Now, a team of researchers has found a simple, inexpensive treatment that may help to unleash the material’s potential.
Coral reefs, the most biodiverse ecosystems in the world’s oceans, provide safe harbor for fish and organisms of many sizes that make homes among the branches, nooks and crannies of the tree-like coral. But reefs are declining because of disease and bleaching, conditions exacerbated by rising ocean temperatures.
Since the completion of the Human Genome Project, which identified nearly 20,000 protein-coding genes, scientists have been trying to decipher the roles of those genes. A new approach, called CRISPR, should speed up the process by allowing researchers to study the entire genome at once. The new system allows researchers to permanently and selectively delete genes from a cell’s DNA.
Gaming could become much more realistic with new technology developed at the MIT Computer Science and Artificial Intelligence Lab (CSAIL) that permits highly accurate, 3-D motion tracking. The new system, dubbed “WiTrack”, uses radio signals to track a person through walls and obstructions, pinpointing her 3-D location to within 10 to 20 cm, about the width of an adult hand.
For some microbes, the motto for growth is not so much “every cell for itself,” but rather, “all for one and one for all.” Researchers have found that cells in a bacterial colony grow in a way that benefits the community as a whole. That is, while an individual cell may divide in the presence of plentiful resources to benefit itself, when a cell is a member of a larger colony, it may choose instead to grow in a more cooperative fashion.
To learn new motor skills, the brain must be plastic: able to rapidly change the strengths of connections between neurons, forming new patterns that accomplish a particular task. However, if the brain were too plastic, previously learned skills would be lost too easily. A new computational model explains how the brain maintains the balance between plasticity and stability, and how it can learn similar tasks without interference.
Zinc is found in every tissue in the body. The vast majority of the metal ion is tightly bound to proteins, helping them to perform biological reactions. Tiny amounts of zinc, however, are only loosely bound, and may be critical for proper function in some organs. Yet the exact roles the ion plays in biological systems are unknown. A new optical sensor tracks zinc within cells and should help researchers learn more about its functions.
X-rays transformed medicine a century ago by providing a noninvasive way to detect internal structures in the body. Still, they have limitations: X-rays cannot image the body’s soft tissues, except with the use of contrast-enhancing agents that must be swallowed or injected, and their resolution is limited. But a newly developed approach could dramatically change that.
Drugs delivered by nanoparticles hold promise for targeted treatment of many diseases, including cancer. However, the particles have to be injected into patients, which has limited their usefulness so far. Now, researchers have developed a new type of nanoparticle that can be delivered orally and absorbed through the digestive tract, allowing patients to simply take a pill instead of receiving injections.
Lidar rangefinders gauge depth by emitting short bursts of laser light and measuring the time it takes for reflected photons to arrive back and be detected. In Science, researchers from Massachusetts Institute of Technology’s Research Laboratory of Electronics describe a new lidar-like system that can gauge depth when only a single photon is detected from each location.
A $500 “nanocamera” that can operate at the speed of light has been developed by researchers in the Massachusetts Institute of Technology Media Lab. The 3-D camera could be used in medical imaging and collision-avoidance detectors for cars, and to improve the accuracy of motion tracking and gesture-recognition devices used in interactive gaming.
Rain as acidic as undiluted lemon juice may have played a part in killing off plants and organisms around the world during the most severe mass extinction in Earth’s history. About 252 million years ago, the end of the Permian period brought about a worldwide collapse known as the Great Dying, during which a vast majority of species went extinct. The cause of such a massive extinction is a matter of scientific debate.
Massachusetts Institute of Technology chemical engineers have developed a novel way to generate nanoparticles that can recognize specific molecules, opening up a new approach to building durable sensors for many different compounds, among other applications. To create these “synthetic antibodies,” the researchers used carbon nanotubes.
After working at a software company for four years, Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) alumnus Andrew Dougherty was itching to do something entrepreneurial in the energy industry. Browsing the Website of MIT’s $50K (now $100K) Entrepreneurship Competition, he found an exact match for his interests: an invention by MIT postdoctoral researcher Javier García-Martínez that used nanotechnology to improve the efficiency of oil refining.