For the past 10 years, scientists have been fascinated by a type of “electric bacteria” that shoots out long tendrils like electric wires, using them to power themselves and transfer electricity to a variety of solid surfaces. A team led by scientists has now turned the study of these bacterial nanowires on its head, discovering that the key features in question are not pili as previously believed.
Rice Univ. scientists have won a race to find the crystal structure of the first virus known to infect the most abundant animal on Earth. The Rice laboratories of structural biologist Yizhi Jane Tao and geneticist Weiwei Zhong, with help from researchers at Baylor College of Medicine and Washington Univ., analyzed the Orsay virus that naturally infects a certain type of nematode, the worms that make up 80% of the living animal population.
Massachusetts Institute of Technology chemical engineers have devised a new implantable tissue scaffold coated with bone growth factors that are released slowly over a few weeks. When applied to bone injuries or defects, this coated scaffold induces the body to rapidly form new bone that looks and behaves just like the original tissue.
While the powerful solvents known as ionic liquids show great promise for liberating fermentable sugars from lignocellulose and improving the economics of advanced biofuels, an even more promising candidate is on the horizon—bionic liquids. Researchers at the Joint BioEnergy Institute have developed “bionic liquids” from lignin and hemicellulose, two by-products of biofuel production from biorefineries.
As climate change alters habitats for birds and bees and everything in between, so too does the way humans decide to use land. Researchers have, for the first time, found a way to determine the potential combined impacts of both climate and land-use change on plants, animals and ecosystems across the country.
Using a microengineered device that acts as an obstacle course for cells, researchers have shed new light on a cellular metamorphosis thought to play a role in tumor cell invasion throughout the body. The epithelial-mesenchymal transition (EMT) is a process in which epithelial cells, which tend to stick together within a tissue, change into mesenchymal cells, which can disperse and migrate individually.
Imitation, they say, is the sincerest form of flattery, but mimicking the intricate networks and dynamic interactions that are inherent to living cells is difficult to achieve outside the cell. Now, as published in Science, Weizmann Institute scientists have created an artificial, network-like cell system that is capable of reproducing the dynamic behavior of protein synthesis.
The human brain harbors far more copper, iron and zinc than anywhere else in the body. Abnormally high levels of these metals can lead to disorders such as Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s diseases. Chris Chang, a faculty chemist with Berkeley Lab’s Chemical Sciences Div., has spent the past several years developing new probes and techniques for imaging the molecular activity of these metals in the brain.
Amid a neuroscience debate about how people and animals focus on distinct objects within cluttered scenes, some of the newest and best evidence comes from the way bats “see” with their ears, according to a new paper. In fact, the perception process in question could improve sonar and radar technology. Bats demonstrate remarkable skill in tracking targets such as bugs through the trees in the dark of night.
Disabilities among U.S. children have increased slightly, with a bigger rise in mental and developmental problems in those from wealthier families, a 10-year analysis found. Disadvantaged kids still bear a disproportionate burden. The increases may partly reflect more awareness and recognition that conditions, including autism, require a specific diagnosis to receive special services, the researchers said.
A scary problem lurks beyond the frenzied efforts to keep people from spreading Ebola: No one knows exactly where the virus comes from or how to stop it from seeding new outbreaks. Ebola has caused two dozen outbreaks in Africa since it first emerged in 1976. It is coming from somewhere—probably bats—but experts agree they need to pinpoint its origins in nature.
An international team of scientists has shown that an antibody against the protein EphA3, found in the micro-environment of solid cancers, has anti-tumor effects. As EphA3 is present in normal organs only during embryonic development but is expressed in blood cancers and in solid tumors, this antibody-based approach may be a suitable candidate treatment for solid tumors.
The physical properties of the ultra-white scales on certain species of beetle could be used to make whiter paper, plastics and paints, while using far less material than is used in current manufacturing methods. Current technology is not able to produce a coating as white as these beetles can in such a thin layer, and spectroscopic analyses are revealing how this colorization is achieved through a dense complex network of chitin.
Researchers in Texas have successfully used a new gene editing method to correct a mutation that leads to Duchenne muscular dystrophy (DMD) in a mouse model of the condition. The technique is called CRISPR/Cas9-mediated genome editing, and can precisely remove a mutation in DNA, allowing the body’s DNA repair mechanisms to replace it with a normal copy of the gene.
A new technique has demonstrated for the first time that the size of molecules penetrating the blood-brain barrier can be controlled using acoustic pressure. The innovative ultrasound approach uses acoustic pressure to let molecules through, and may help treatment for central nervous system diseases like Parkinson’s and Alzheimer’s.
Conventional wisdom holds that the cytoplasm of mammalian cells is a viscous fluid, with organelles and proteins suspended within it, jiggling against one another and drifting at random. However, a new biophysical study led by researchers at Harvard Univ. challenges this model and reveals that those drifting objects are subject to a very different type of environment.
Scientists at Yale Univ. have developed a novel cancer immunotherapy that rapidly grows and enhances a patient’s immune cells outside the body using carbon nanotube-polymer composites; the immune cells can then be injected back into a patient’s blood to boost the immune response or fight cancer.
Scientists at the Salk Institute for Biological Studies have identified a gene that regulates sleep and wake rhythms. The discovery of the role of this gene, called Lhx1, provides scientists with a potential therapeutic target to help night-shift workers or jet lagged travelers adjust to time differences more quickly. The results, published in eLife, can point to treatment strategies for sleep problems caused by a variety of disorders.
Gene-based personalized medicine has many possibilities for diagnosis and targeted therapy, but one big bottleneck: the expensive and time-consuming DNA sequencing process. Now, researchers at the Univ. of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign have found that nanopores in the material molybdenum disulfide (MoS2) could sequence DNA more accurately, quickly and inexpensively than anything yet available.
Researchers at Oregon State Univ. have developed a model that explains how geckos, as well as spiders and some insects, can run up and down walls, cling to ceilings and seemingly defy gravity with such effortless grace. This ability is a remarkable mechanism in the toes of geckos that uses tiny, branched hairs called “seta” that can instantly turn their stickiness on and off, and even “unstick” their feet without using any energy.
North Carolina State Univ. is part of a project team that is researching and developing new catalyst technology to produce the commercially important chemicals ethylene and propylene from natural gas. The project lead, Bio2Electric, LLC, dba EcoCatalytic Technologies, is collaborating with North Carolina State Univ., among other industry partners, to develop the new catalyst technologies.
A Rice Univ. laboratory has provided proof that foam may be the right stuff to maximize enhanced oil recovery (EOR). In tests, foam pumped into an experimental rig that mimicked the flow paths deep underground proved better at removing oil from formations with low permeability than common techniques involving water, gas, surfactants or combinations of the three.
Scientists have known for decades that cancer can be caused by genetic mutations, but more recently they have discovered that chemical modifications of a gene can also contribute to cancer. These alterations, known as epigenetic modifications, control whether a gene is turned on or off. Analyzing these modifications can provide important clues to the type of tumor a patient has, and how it will respond to different drugs.
The Univ. of California, San Diego’s Nanofabrication Cleanroom Facility (Nano3) is the first institution to obtain a new FEI Scios dual-beam microscope, with an adaptation for use at cryogenic temperatures. The new microscope allows biologists to nanomachine cells to reduce them to the thickness required for electron microscopy without creating any sample distortions and while maintaining cryogenic temperatures.
R&D Magazine introduced its annual Scientist of the Year Award winner, Dr. Karl Deisseroth, and its Innovator of the Year Award winner, Dr. Hugh Herr. As R&D Magazine's 49th Scientist of the Year Award winner, Dr. Deisseroth is one of the United States’ leading researchers in the rapidly growing field of optogenetics, having invented several new technologies in support of efforts to understand neural functions in the human brain.