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Fracking flowback could pollute groundwater with heavy metals

June 25, 2014 2:53 pm | by Melissa Osgood, Cornell Univ. | News | Comments

The chemical makeup of wastewater generated by “hydrofracking” could cause the release of tiny particles in soils that often strongly bind heavy metals and pollutants, exacerbating the environmental risks during accidental spills, Cornell Univ. researchers have found.

Young researcher discovers source of disco clams’ light show

June 25, 2014 11:27 am | by Robert Sanders, UC Berkeley | Videos | Comments

Using high speed video, transmission electron microscopy, spectrometry, energy dispersive x-ray spectroscopy, and computer modeling, a Univ. of California, Berkeley graduate student has unraveled the mystery of the disco clams flashing “lips”. Most people assumed the glowing mantle was the result of bio-luminescence, but Lindsey Dougherty has found it is caused by something else entirely.

A new resource for advanced biofuels research

June 25, 2014 8:21 am | by Lynn Yarris, Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory | News | Comments

Researchers at the Joint BioEnergy Institute (JBEI) have unveiled the first glycosyltransferase clone collection specifically targeted for the study of the biosynthesis of plant cell walls. The idea behind “the JBEI GT Collection” is to provide a functional genomic resource for researchers seeking to extract the sugars in plant biomass and synthesize them into clean, green and renewable transportation fuels.

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Using femtosecond lasers to administer drugs

June 25, 2014 7:59 am | by Kathleen Estes, Okinawa Institute of Science and Technology | News | Comments

A team of scientists in Japan and New Zealand have combined lasers, nanotechnology, and neuroscience to develop a new, versatile drug delivery system. The precise timing of a femtosecond laser is used to release dopamine, a neurochemical, that is dysfunctional in Parkinson’s Disease in a controlled and repeatable manner that mimics the natural dynamic release mechanism.

Study shows puzzle games can improve mental flexibility

June 24, 2014 10:26 am | News | Comments

Executive functions in your brain are important for making decisions in everyday life when you have to deal with sudden changes in your environment. A recent study by scientists in Singapore showed that adults who played the physics-based puzzle video game Cut the Rope regularly, for as little as an hour a day, had improved executive functions. This marks the first time video games have been shown to deliver such broad improvements.

New particle-sorting method breaks speed records

June 24, 2014 8:52 am | by David L. Chandler, MIT News Office | Videos | Comments

Researchers compare the processing of biological fluid samples with searching for a needle in a haystack—only in this case, the haystack could be diagnostic samples, and the needle might be tumor cells present in just ppm concentrations. Now, a new way of processing these samples could make such detections possible in real time.

Growing unknown microbes one by one

June 24, 2014 8:26 am | by Jessica Stoller-Conrad, Caltech | News | Comments

Trillions of bacteria live in and on the human body; a few species can make us sick, but many others keep us healthy by boosting digestion and preventing inflammation. Although there's plenty of evidence that these microbes play a collective role in human health, we still know very little about most of the individual bacterial species that make up these communities.

MAD science: Understanding cellular signaling

June 24, 2014 7:50 am | News | Comments

A team of researchers in California has zeroed in on the important process of “attenuation,” the way cells guard against potentially harmful overreactions to the external cues that enable them to adapt to prevailing conditions. This bimolecular mutually assured destruction (MAD) mechanism of signaling attenuation broadens our understanding of the range of mechanisms nature has evolved to enact this critical function.

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Delivering drugs on cue

June 24, 2014 7:43 am | News | Comments

Current drug delivery systems used to administer chemotherapy to cancer patients typically release a constant dose of the drug over time, but a new study challenges this "slow and steady" approach and offers a novel way to locally deliver the drugs "on demand," as reported in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

Ferroelectric switching seen in biological tissues

June 24, 2014 7:32 am | by Michelle Ma, Univ. of Washington | News | Comments

Measurements taken at the molecular scale have, for the first time, confirmed a key property that could improve our knowledge of how the heart and lungs function. Univ. of Washington researchers have shown that a favorable electrical property is present in a type of protein found in organs that repeatedly stretch and retract, such as the lungs, heart and arteries.

Scientists use x-rays to look at how DNA protects itself from UV light

June 23, 2014 2:51 pm | News | Comments

The molecular building blocks that make up DNA absorb ultraviolet light so strongly that sunlight should deactivate them, yet it does not. Now, scientists at SLAC National Accelerator Laboratory have made detailed observations of a “relaxation response” that protects these molecules, and the genetic information they encode, from UV damage.

Biologists find “missing link” in production of protein factories in cells

June 23, 2014 8:02 am | News | Comments

Ribosomes are responsible for the production of the wide variety of proteins that include enzymes. But until now researchers had not uncovered all of the details of how the proteins that are used to construct ribosomes are themselves produced. Biologists in California now say they have found the “missing link” in the chemical system that allows ribosomal proteins to be synthesized.

New monkey model for AIDS offers promise for medical research

June 19, 2014 4:38 pm | by Zach Veilleux, The Rockefeller Univ. | News | Comments

HIV-1, the virus responsible for most cases of AIDS, is a very selective virus. It doesn’t readily infect species other than its usual hosts. While this would qualify as good news for most mammals, for humans this fact has made the search for effective treatments and vaccines for AIDS that much more difficult; without an accurate animal model of the disease, researchers have had few options for clinical studies of the virus.

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Bioengineers invent way to speed up drug discovery

June 19, 2014 4:20 pm | by Tom Abate, Stanford Engineering | Videos | Comments

Think of the human body as an intricate machine whose working parts are proteins: molecules that change shape to enable our organs and tissues to perform tasks such as breathing, eating or thinking. Of the millions of proteins, 500 in the kinase family are particularly important to drug discovery. Kinases are messengers: They deliver signals that regulate and orchestrate the actions of other proteins.

Researchers develop genetic control mechanism for major livestock pest

June 19, 2014 1:04 pm | by Mick Kulikowski, North Carolina State Univ. News Services | News | Comments

Researchers from North Carolina State Univ. have developed a technique to control populations of the Australian sheep blowfly—a major livestock pest in Australia and New Zealand—by making female flies dependent upon a common antibiotic to survive.

Nature’s chem lab: How microorganisms manufacture drugs

June 19, 2014 8:25 am | by Jim Erickson, Univ. of Michigan | News | Comments

Researchers at the Univ. of Michigan have obtained the first 3-D snapshots of the "assembly line" within microorganisms that naturally produces antibiotics and other drugs. Understanding the complete structure and movement within the molecular factory gives investigators a solid blueprint for redesigning the microbial assembly line to produce novel drugs of high medicinal value.

Breathalyzer test may detect deadliest cancer

June 18, 2014 4:04 pm | News | Comments

Lung cancer causes more deaths in the U.S. than the next three most common cancers combined, and the main reason is poor detection methods. A new device developed by a team of Israeli, American and British cancer researchers may turn the tide by both accurately detecting lung cancer and identifying its stage of progression. The breathalyzer test is embedded with a "NaNose" nanotech chip to literally "sniff out" cancer tumors.

Collecting light with artificial moth eyes

June 18, 2014 4:00 pm | News | Comments

Researchers the world over are investigating solar cells which imitate plant photosynthesis, with the goal of using sunlight and water to create synthetic fuels such as hydrogen. Scientists in Switzerland have developed this type of photoelectrochemical cell, but this one recreates a moth’s eye to drastically increase its light collecting efficiency. The cell is made of cheap raw materials: iron and tungsten oxide.

Algae able to switch quantum coherence on and off

June 17, 2014 3:54 pm | News | Comments

Researchers in Australia have discovered how algae that survive in very low levels of light are able to switch on and off a weird quantum phenomenon that occurs during photosynthesis. The function in the algae of this quantum effect, known as coherence, remains a mystery, but it is thought it could help them harvest energy from the sun much more efficiently.

Dynamic spectroscopy duo

June 17, 2014 1:34 pm | by Lynn Yarris, Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory | News | Comments

From allowing our eyes to see, to enabling green plants to harvest energy from the sun, photochemical reactions are ubiquitous and critical to nature. Photochemical reactions also play essential roles in high technology. Using photochemical reactions to our best advantage requires a deep understanding of the interplay between the electrons and atomic nuclei within a molecular system after that system has been excited by light.

Nanoshell shields foreign enzymes used to starve cancer cells from immune system

June 17, 2014 11:24 am | News | Comments

Nanoengineers at UC San Diego have developed a nanoshell to protect foreign enzymes used to starve cancer cells as part of chemotherapy. Enzymes are naturally smart machines that are responsible for many complex functions and chemical reactions in biology. However, despite their huge potential, their use in medicine has been limited by the immune system, which is designed to attack foreign intruders.

Technology detects bacterial pathogens in soldiers’ combat wounds

June 17, 2014 8:40 am | by Stephen P Wampler, Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory | News | Comments

A biological detection technology developed by Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory scientists can detect bacterial pathogens in the wounds of U.S. soldiers that have previously been missed by other technologies. This advance may, in time, allow an improvement in how soldiers' wounds are treated.

Solar photons drive water off the moon

June 17, 2014 8:29 am | by Jason Maderer, Georgia Institute of Technology | News | Comments

Water is thought to be embedded in the moon’s rocks or, if cold enough, “stuck” on their surfaces. It’s predominantly found at the poles. But scientists probably won’t find it intact on the sunlit side. New research at indicates that ultraviolet photons emitted by the sun likely cause water molecules to either quickly desorb or break apart.

Many bodies prompt stem cells to change

June 16, 2014 4:45 pm | by Mike Williams, Rice Univ. | News | Comments

How does a stem cell decide what path to take? In a way, it’s up to the wisdom of the crowd. The DNA in a pluripotent stem cell is bombarded with waves of proteins whose ebb and flow nudge the cell toward becoming blood, bone, skin or organs. A new theory by scientists at Rice Univ. shows the cell’s journey is neither a simple step-by-step process nor all random.

A virus reveals the physics of nanopores

June 16, 2014 4:36 pm | by Kevin Stacey, Brown Univ. | News | Comments

Nanopores may one day lead a revolution in DNA sequencing. By sliding DNA molecules one at a time through tiny holes in a thin membrane, it may be possible to decode long stretches of DNA at lightning speeds. Scientists, however, haven’t quite figured out the physics of how polymer strands like DNA interact with nanopores.

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