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The Lead

Mars liquid water: Curiosity confirms favorable conditions

April 14, 2015 11:37 am | by Fernanda Pires, Univ. of Michigan | News | Comments

NASA's Curiosity rover, which is exploring the Gale crater on Mars, confirms that conditions for liquid water on the Red Planet are favorable. And in a detail that surprised researchers, the measurements were made in the tropical region of the planet: one of the driest regions.

Researchers find protein that may signal more aggressive prostate cancers

April 14, 2015 8:13 am | by Nicole Casal Moore, Univ. of Michigan | News | Comments

Univ. of Michigan researchers have discovered a biomarker that may be a potentially important...

Scientists help build next-generation dark energy probe

April 13, 2015 7:54 am | by Nicole Casal Moore, Univ. of Michigan | News | Comments

Univ. of Michigan scientists and students will build components of a giant camera that will map...

Facebook app encourages individuals to get in touch with their DNA

April 1, 2015 7:48 am | by Laurel Thomas Gnagey, Univ. of Michigan | News | Comments

Have you ever wondered if your dad's fight with prostate cancer means you could face the same...

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Do government technology investments pay off?

March 27, 2015 8:08 am | by Greta Guest, Univ. of Michigan | News | Comments

Studies confirm that IT investments in companies improve productivity and efficiency. Univ. of Michigan professor M.S. Krishnan wondered if the same was true for government. After all, IT spending could either lead to efficiency or create bureaucratic bloat.

Consistency: The key to success in bread baking, biology

March 16, 2015 4:08 pm | by Jim Erickson, Univ. of Michigan | News | Comments

Whether you're baking bread or building an organism, the key to success is consistently adding ingredients in the correct order and in the right amounts, according to a new genetic study by Univ. of Michigan researchers. Using the baker's yeast Saccharomyces cerevisiae, the team developed a novel way to disentangle the effects of random genetic mutations and natural selection on the evolution of gene expression.

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.

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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 times better resolution and precision than previously possible. Physicists at the Univ. of Michigan have demonstrated "ponderomotive spectroscopy," an advanced form of a technique that was born in the 17th century when Isaac Newton first showed that white light sent through a prism breaks into a rainbow.

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 climate catastrophe. So, in addition, the world may need to resort to so-called geoengineering approaches that aim to deliberately control the planet's climate. That's according to a National Research Council committee that released a pair of sweeping reports on climate intervention techniques.

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 are flawed and need to be redone, according to a Univ. of Michigan researcher. Once the erroneous methodology is corrected, the results will likely show that policies used to promote biofuels actually make matters worse when it comes to limiting net emissions of climate-warming carbon dioxide gas.

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.

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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.

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.

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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.

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.

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?

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