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The Lead

New views of enzyme structures offer insights into metabolism of cholesterol

March 3, 2015 7:39 am | by Ian Demsky, Univ. of Michigan | News | Comments

With the aid of x-ray crystallography, researchers at the Univ. of Michigan have revealed the structures of two closely related enzymes that play essential roles in the body's ability to metabolize excess lipids, including cholesterol. The findings are an important step toward understanding and being able to therapeutically target disorders and drug side effects that cause lipids, including cholesterol, to build up in the body.

Forbidden quantum leaps possible with high-res spectroscopy

March 2, 2015 11:27 am | by Nicole Casal Moore, Univ. of Michigan | News | Comments

A new twist on an old tool lets scientists use light to study and control matter with 1,000...

Scientists urge more research on climate intervention

February 10, 2015 2:47 pm | by Nicole Casal Moore, Univ. of Michigan | News | Comments

Deep cuts in greenhouse gas emissions, while necessary, may not happen soon enough to stave off...

A closer look at flawed studies behind policies used to promote “low-carbon” biofuels

February 6, 2015 8:56 am | by Jim Erickson, University of Michigan | News | Comments

Nearly all studies used to promote biofuels as climate-friendly alternatives to petroleum fuels...

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Spiky “hedgehog particles” for safer paints, fewer VOC emissions

January 29, 2015 8:28 am | by Gabe Cherry, Univ. of Michigan | News | Comments

A new process that can sprout microscopic spikes on nearly any type of particle may lead to more environmentally friendly paints and a variety of other innovations. Made by a team of Univ. of Michigan engineers, the "hedgehog particles" are named for their bushy appearance under the microscope.

“Bulletproof” battery

January 28, 2015 9:55 am | by Nicole Casal Moore, Univ. of Michigan | News | Comments

New battery technology from the Univ. of Michigan should be able to prevent the kind of fires that grounded Boeing 787 Dreamliners in 2013. The innovation is an advanced barrier between the electrodes in a lithium-ion battery. Made with nanofibers extracted from Kevlar, the tough material in bulletproof vests, the barrier stifles the growth of metal tendrils that can become unwanted pathways for electrical current.

Trust your gut

January 23, 2015 9:01 am | by Laura Bailey, Univ. of Michigan | News | Comments

E. coli usually brings to mind food poisoning and beach closures, but researchers recently discovered a protein in E. coli that inhibits the accumulation of potentially toxic amyloids, a hallmark of diseases such as Parkinson's. Amyloids are formed by proteins that misfold and group together, and when amyloids assemble at the wrong place or time, they can damage brain tissue and cause cell death.

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Self-driving cars: Lower-cost navigation system developed

January 14, 2015 11:31 am | by Gabe Cherry, Univ. of Michigan | News | Comments

A new software system developed at the Univ. of Michigan uses video game technology to help solve one of the most daunting hurdles facing self-driving and automated cars—the high cost of the laser scanners they use to determine their location. Ryan Wolcott, a U-M doctoral candidate in computer science and engineering, estimates that it could shave thousands of dollars from the cost of these vehicles.

Past global warming similar to today’s, but in two pulses

December 15, 2014 1:54 pm | by Jim Erickson, University of Michigan | News | Comments

The rate at which carbon emissions warmed Earth's climate almost 56 million years ago resembles modern, human-caused global warming much more than previously believed but involved two pulses of carbon to the atmosphere, researchers at the Univ. of Utah, the Univ. of Michigan and three other universities found.

Physics mystery shows path to quantum transistors

December 8, 2014 8:01 am | by Nicole Casal Moore, Univ. of Michigan | News | Comments

An odd, iridescent material that's puzzled physicists for decades turns out to be an exotic state of matter that could open a new path to next-generation electronics. Physicists at the Univ. of Michigan have discovered or confirmed several properties of the compound samarium hexaboride that raise hopes for finding the silicon of the quantum era. They say their results also close the case of how to classify the material.

Most of Earth’s carbon may be hidden in planet’s inner core

December 2, 2014 8:24 am | by Jim Erickson, University of Michigan | News | Comments

As much as two-thirds of Earth's carbon may be hidden in the inner core, making it the planet's largest carbon reservoir, according to a new model that even its backers acknowledge is "provocative and speculative." In a recent paper, Univ. of Michigan researchers and their colleagues suggest that iron carbide, Fe7C3, provides a good match for the density and sound velocities of Earth's inner core under the relevant conditions.

Researchers develop heat-conducting plastic

November 25, 2014 8:59 pm | by Nicole Casal Moore, Univ. of Michigan | News | Comments

The spaghetti-like internal structure of most plastics makes it hard for them to cast away heat, but a Univ. of Michigan research team has made a plastic blend that does so 10 times better than its conventional counterparts. Plastics are inexpensive, lightweight and flexible, but because they restrict the flow of heat, their use is limited in technologies like computers, smartphones, cars or airplanes.

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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 have found that agricultural crops play a big role in seasonal swings of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere. The new findings from Boston Univ., the Univ. of Michigan and other institutions reveal a nuance in the carbon cycle that could help scientists understand and predict how Earth's vegetation will react as the globe warms.

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.

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.

Microbot muscles: Chains of particles assemble and flex

November 11, 2014 7:57 am | by Nicole Casal Moore, Univ. of Michigan | News | Comments

In a step toward robots smaller than a grain of sand, Univ. of Michigan researchers have shown how chains of self-assembling particles could serve as electrically activated muscles in the tiny machines. So-called microbots would be handy in many areas. But several challenges lie between current technologies and science fiction possibilities. Two of the big ones are building the bots and making them mobile.

First peek at how neurons multitask

November 10, 2014 8:01 am | by Laura Williams, Univ. of Michigan | News | Comments

Researchers at the Univ. of Michigan have shown how a single neuron can perform multiple functions in a model organism, illuminating for the first time this fundamental biological mechanism and shedding light on the human brain. Investigators found that a neuron in C. elegans regulates both the speed and direction in which the worm moves.

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Self-driving vehicles generate enthusiasm, concerns worldwide

October 31, 2014 8:22 am | by Bernie DeGroat, Univ. of Michigan | News | Comments

Despite safety concerns about equipment failure, a majority of drivers on three continents have high expectations for autonomous vehicles. Building on an earlier study on public opinion regarding self-driving vehicles in the U.S., Great Britain and Australia, a team from the Univ. of Michigan Transportation Research Institute expanded their survey to include more than 1,700 respondents in India, China and Japan.

A look back in time at key events in plant evolution

October 28, 2014 8:27 am | by Jim Erickson, University of Michigan | News | Comments

Scientists from North America, Europe and China published a paper that reveals important details about key transitions in the evolution of plant life on our planet. From strange and exotic algae, trees and flowers growing deep in steamy rainforests to the grains and vegetables we eat and the ornamental plants adorning our homes, all plant life on Earth shares over a billion years of history.

Starfish shell-mimicking crystals could advance 3-D printing pills

October 21, 2014 8:19 am | by Nicole Casal Moore, Univ. of Michigan | News | Comments

In a design that mimics a hard-to-duplicate texture of starfish shells, Univ. of Michigan engineers have made rounded crystals that have no facets. The team calls the crystals "nanolobes". The nanolobes' shape and the way they're made have promising applications. The geometry could potentially be useful to guide light in advanced LEDs, solar cells and non-reflective surfaces.

Gene mutation may lead to development of new cancer drugs

October 1, 2014 8:52 am | by Laura Bailey, Univ. of Michigan | News | Comments

The discovery of a gene mutation that causes a rare premature aging disease could lead to the development of drugs that block the rapid, unstoppable cell division that makes cancer so deadly. Scientists at the Univ. of Michigan recently discovered a protein mutation that causes the devastating disease dyskeratosis congenita, in which precious hematopoietic stem cells can't regenerate and make new blood.

New discovery approach accelerates identification of potential cancer treatments

September 30, 2014 9:50 am | by Laura Williams, Univ. of Michigan | News | Comments

Researchers at the Univ. of Michigan have described a new approach to discovering potential cancer treatments that requires a fraction of the time needed for more traditional methods. They used the platform to identify a novel antibody that is undergoing further investigation as a potential treatment for breast, ovarian and other cancers.

The water in your bottle might be older than the sun

September 26, 2014 8:13 am | by Nicole Casal Moore, Univ. of Michigan | News | Comments

Up to half of the water on Earth is likely older than the solar system itself, Univ. of Michigan astronomers theorize. The researchers' work helps to settle a debate about just how far back in galactic history our planet and our solar system's water formed. Were the molecules in comet ices and terrestrial oceans born with the system itself—in the planet-forming disk of dust and gas that circled the young sun 4.6 billion years ago?

Live long and phosphor: Blue LED breakthrough for efficient electronics

September 25, 2014 8:36 am | News | Comments

Blue organic light-emitting diodes (OLEDs) are one of a trio of colors used in OLED displays such as smartphone screens and high-end TVs. In a step that could lead to longer battery life in smartphones and lower power consumption for large-screen televisions, researchers at the Univ. of Michigan have extended the lifetime of blue organic light emitting diodes by a factor of 10.

Muscular dystrophy: Repair the muscles, not the genetic defect

September 16, 2014 7:52 am | by Laura Bailey, Univ. of Michigan | News | Comments

A potential way to treat muscular dystrophy directly targets muscle repair instead of the underlying genetic defect that usually leads to the disease. Muscular dystrophies are a group of muscle diseases characterized by skeletal muscle wasting and weakness. Mutations in certain proteins, most commonly the protein dystrophin, cause muscular dystrophy in humans and also in mice.

Faster image processing for low-radiation CT scans

September 12, 2014 8:08 am | by Kate McAlpine, Univ. of Michigan | Videos | Comments

A new $1.9 million study at the Univ. of Michigan seeks to make low-dose computed tomography scans a viable screening technique by speeding up the image reconstruction from half an hour or more to just five minutes. The advance could be particularly important for fighting lung cancers, as symptoms often appear too late for effective treatment.

Sunlight controls the fate of carbon released from thawing Arctic permafrost

August 22, 2014 9:20 am | by Bernie DeGroat, Univ. of Michigan | News | Comments

Just how much Arctic permafrost will thaw in the future and how fast heat-trapping carbon dioxide will be released from those warming soils is a topic of lively debate among climate scientists. To answer those questions, scientists need to understand the mechanisms that control the conversion of organic soil carbon into carbon dioxide gas. Until now, researchers believed that bacteria were largely responsible.

Nuclear reactor reliability: Fast test proves viable

August 21, 2014 8:12 am | by Kate McAlpine, Univ. of Michigan | News | Comments

A speedy way to mimic the aging of materials inside nuclear reactors has matched all aspects of the damage sustained by a real reactor component for the first time. The method could help the U.S. and other countries stay ahead of potential problems in reactors that run for 40 years or more and also test materials for building advanced reactors.

Many patients don’t understand electronic lab results

August 20, 2014 10:48 am | by Laurel Thomas Gnagey, Univ. of Michigan | News | Comments

While it's becoming commonplace for patients to see the results of laboratory work electronically, a new Univ. of Michigan study suggests that many people may not be able to understand what those numbers mean. The research found that people with low comprehension of numerical concepts—or numeracy—and low literacy skills were less than half as likely to understand whether a result was inside or outside the reference ranges.

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