When life on Earth was first getting started, simple molecules bonded together into the precursors of modern genetic material. A catalyst would’ve been needed, but enzymes had not yet evolved. One theory is that the catalytic minerals on a meteorite’s surface could have jump-started life’s first chemical reactions. But scientists need a way to directly analyze these rough, irregularly shaped surfaces.
The popular TV series “CSI” is fiction, but everyday, real-life investigators and forensic scientists collect and analyze evidence to determine what happened at crime scenes. In a recent study, scientists say they have developed a more rapid and accurate method based on infrared spectroscopy that could allow crime scene investigators to tell what kind of ammunition was shot from a gun based on the residue it left behind.
In order to track the movements of biological particles in a cell, scientists at Heidelberg Univ. and the German Cancer Research Center have developed a powerful analysis method for live cell microscopy images. This so-called probabilistic particle tracking method is automatic, computer-based and can be used for time-resolved 2-D and 3-D microscopy image data.
Nanotechnology is advancing tools likened to Star Trek's "tricorder" that perform on-the-spot chemical analysis for a range of applications including medical testing, explosives detection and food safety. Researchers found that when paper used to collect a sample was coated with carbon nanotubes, the voltage required was 1,000 times reduced, the signal was sharpened and the equipment was able to capture far more delicate molecules.
A new microfluidic method for evaluating drugs commonly used for preventing heart attacks has found that while aspirin can prevent dangerous blood clots in some at-risk patients, it may not be effective in all patients with narrowed arteries. The study, a first in the examination of heart attack prevention drugs, used a device that simulated blood flowing through narrowed coronary arteries to assess effects of anti-clotting drugs.
Geneticists at the Univ. of California, Davis have decoded the genome sequence for the loblolly pine. The accomplishment is a milestone for genetics because this pine’s genome is massive. Bloated with repetitive sequences, it is seven times larger than the human genome and easily big enough to overwhelm standard genome assembly methods.
A new app developed by researchers the U.K. accurately measures color-based, or colorimetric, tests for use in home, clinical or remote settings, and enables the transmission of medical data from patients directly to health professionals. Called Colorimetrix, the app helps transform any smartphone into a portable medical diagnostic device.
Biophysicists at Rice Univ. have used a miniscule machine, a protease called an FtsH-AAA hexameric peptidase, as a model to test calculations that combine genetic and structural data. Their goal is to solve one of the most compelling mysteries in biology: how proteins perform the regulatory mechanisms in cells upon which life depends.
If you’ve ever suffered the misery of food poisoning from a bacterium like Salmonella, then your cells have been on the receiving end of “nanoinjectors”, microscopic spikes made from proteins through which pathogens secrete effector proteins into human host cells, causing infection. Researchers are using advanced nuclear magnetic resonance spectrometry to unlock the structure of these injector, which are built from 20 different proteins.
Particle counters are used in a wide variety of industries. Researchers in North Carolina have developed a new thermal technique that counts and measures the size of particles, but is less expensive than light-based techniques. It can also be used on a wider array of materials than electricity-based techniques.
Incomplete or infrequent water quality data can give an inaccurate picture of what’s happening in water resources. Using UV-Vis spectrometers that can rapidly collect data, researchers have developed a new technique o allow researchers and natural resource managers to collect significantly more information on water quality to better inform policy decisions.
A pathway to more effective and efficient synthesis of pharmaceutical drugs and other flow reactor chemical products has been opened by a study in which, for the first time, the catalytic reactivity inside a microreactor was mapped in high resolution from start-to-finish. The results not only provided a better understanding of the chemistry behind the catalytic reactions, they also revealed opportunities for optimization.
The time and cost of sequencing an entire human genome has plummeted, but analyzing three billion base pairs from a single genome can take many months. However, a Univ. of Chicago-based team working with Beagle, one of the world's fastest supercomputers devoted to life sciences, reports that genome analysis can be radically accelerated. The Argonne National Laboratory computer is able to analyze 240 full genomes in about two days.
Researchers at NIST have developed a new method for accurately measuring a key process governing a wide variety of cellular functions that may become the basis for a health checkup for living cells. The NIST technique measures changes in a living cell's internal redox (reduction-oxidation) potential, a chemistry concept that expresses the favorability of reactions in which molecules or atoms either gain or lose electrons.
Optogenetics allows scientists to control neurons’ electrical activity with light by engineering them to express light-sensitive proteins, called opsins. Most opsins respond to light in the blue-green range. Now, a team has discovered an opsin that is sensitive to red light, which allows researchers to independently control the activity of two populations of neurons at once, enabling much more complex studies of brain function.
Stem cell research has been breaking ground in new application areas over the past few years, and it’s poised for even greater growth as more companies and organizations realize the potential. In the next decade, cell-based therapies will become increasingly common for cancer, immunological disorders, cardiac failure and other conditions.
Progress often requires change. For protein-based diagnostics, multiplexed assays and detection of protein isoforms will drive the adoption of a new strategy for diagnostic testing, called immuno-MS. Enzyme-linked immunosorbent assays (ELISA) have become the standard for antibody-based diagnostic tests in clinical settings. ELISAs provide specific detection of biomarkers through use of antibodies which target specific epitopes on antigens.
Medical laboratory test results provide physicians with vital information needed for accurate diagnosis, treatment and monitoring of patients. An estimated 60 to 70% of all decisions regarding a patient’s diagnosis and treatment, hospital admission and discharge are based on laboratory test results.
Laboratory automation techniques are commonplace, as they improve the accuracy and repeatability of laboratory operations, reduce human error in these operations and reduce cost of these operations. Defined as the use of technology to streamline or substitute manual manipulation of equipment and processes, laboratory automation offers solutions for enhancing workflows in various research laboratory environments.
As interest and investment in biopharmaceuticals grows, the pressure to innovate and rapidly deliver new therapies increases. While many avenues may be pursued, the high cost of developing biological molecules increases the need to advance only those therapies with the greatest likelihood of becoming manufacturable, efficacious, safe and profitable products.
Awareness of the benefits of gravimetric sample preparation has increased significantly over the past couple of years. Recognition of this state-of-the-art technology by industry organizations such as the United States Pharmacopeia (USP) has supported this trend. A recent revision to USP chapter 1251 “Weighing on an Analytical Balance” included a detailed description of the steps involved in gravimetric dosing for sample preparation.
The benefits of flow cytometry are well known. The popular technique allows researchers to explore data on a cell-by-cell basis, as opposed to other analysis methods which only offer population-based or averaged information. In addition, flow cytometry can give users absolute percentages of what each marker or dye is reporting.
A team of engineers from the Univ. of California, Los Angeles has developed a smartphone attachment and application to test water for the presence of mercury, a toxic heavy metal. The new platform could significantly reduce the time and cost of the testing, and it could be particularly useful in regions with limited technological resources.
An array of tiny diving boards can perform the Olympian feat of identifying many strains of salmonella at once. The novel biosensor developed by scientists at Rice Univ. in collaboration with colleagues in Thailand and Ireland may make the detection of pathogens much faster and easier for food-manufacturing plants.
An international research team led by Mount Sinai Heart at Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai, is testing its novel sugar-based tracer contrast agent to be used with positron emission tomography (PET) imaging to help in the hunt for dangerous inflammation and high-risk vulnerable atherosclerotic plaque inside vessel walls that causes acute heart attacks and strokes.