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The Lead

Fast, low-cost DNA sequencing technology one step closer to reality

November 26, 2014 8:19 am | by Joe Caspermeyer, Biodesign Institute | News | Comments

A team of scientists from Arizona State Univ.’s Biodesign Institute and IBM’s T.J. Watson Research Center have developed a prototype DNA reader that could make whole genome profiling an everyday practice in medicine. Such technology could help usher in the age of personalized medicine, where information from an individual’s complete DNA and protein profiles could be used to design treatments specific to their individual makeup.

Pain in a dish

November 25, 2014 9:11 am | by Harvard Stem Cell Institute | News | Comments

After more than six years of intensive effort, and repeated failures that made the quest at...

Wireless electronic implants stop staph

November 25, 2014 8:41 am | by Kim Thurier, Tufts Univ. | News | Comments

Researchers at Tufts Univ., in collaboration with a team at the Univ. of Illinois at Urbana-...

Device could make large biological circuits practical

November 25, 2014 7:59 am | by David L. Chandler, MIT News Office | News | Comments

Researchers have made great progress in recent years in the design and creation of biological...

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Chemical disguise transforms RNAi drug delivery

November 18, 2014 7:57 am | by Heather Buschman, Univ. of California, San Diego | News | Comments

Small pieces of synthetic RNA trigger a RNA interference (RNAi) response that holds great therapeutic potential to treat a number of diseases, especially cancer and pandemic viruses. The problem is delivery: It’s extremely difficult to get RNAi drugs inside the cells in which they are needed.

Artificial muscle can “remember” movements

November 17, 2014 11:07 am | by Univ. of Cambridge | News | Comments

Researchers from the Univ. of Cambridge have developed artificial muscles which can learn and recall specific movements, the first time that motion control and memory have been combined in a synthetic material. The muscles, made from smooth plastic, could eventually be used in a applications where mimicking the movement of natural muscle would be an advantage, such as robotics, aerospace, exoskeletons and biomedical applications.

Tiny needles offer potential new treatment for two major eye diseases

November 13, 2014 4:43 pm | by John Toon, Georgia Institute of Technology | News | Comments

Needles almost too small to be seen with the unaided eye could be the basis for new treatment options for two of the world’s leading eye diseases: glaucoma and corneal neovascularization. The microneedles, ranging in length from 400 to 700 microns, could provide a new way to deliver drugs to specific areas within the eye relevant to these diseases.

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Bacteria become genomic tape recorders

November 13, 2014 4:21 pm | by Anne Trafton, MIT News Office | News | Comments

Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) engineers have transformed the genome of the bacterium E. coli into a long-term storage device for memory. They envision that this stable, erasable and easy-to-retrieve memory will be well suited for applications such as sensors for environmental and medical monitoring.

Bio-inspired bleeding control

November 13, 2014 4:12 pm | by Sonia Fernandez, Univ. of California, Santa Barbara | News | Comments

Stanching the free flow of blood from an injury remains a holy grail of clinical medicine. Controlling blood flow is a primary concern and first line of defense for patients and medical staff in many situations, from traumatic injury to illness to surgery. If control is not established within the first few minutes of a hemorrhage, further treatment and healing are impossible.

Microtubes create cozy space for neurons to grow

November 11, 2014 2:25 pm | by Liz Ahlberg, Physical Sciences Editor, Univ. of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign | Videos | Comments

Tiny, thin microtubes could provide a scaffold for neuron cultures to grow so that researchers can study neural networks, their growth and repair, yielding insights into treatment for degenerative neurological conditions or restoring nerve connections after injury. Researchers created the microtube platform to study neuron growth.

Study shows direct brain interface between humans

November 6, 2014 10:20 am | by Michelle Ma, Univ. of Washington | News | Comments

Univ. of Washington researchers have successfully replicated a direct brain-to-brain connection between pairs of people as part of a scientific study following the team’s initial demonstration a year ago.              

High-speed “label-free” imaging could reveal dangerous plaques

November 4, 2014 1:21 pm | by Emil Venere, Purdue Univ. | News | Comments

Researchers are close to commercializing a new type of medical imaging technology that could diagnose cardiovascular disease by measuring ultrasound signals from molecules exposed to a fast-pulsing laser. The system takes precise 3-D images of plaques lining arteries and identifies deposits that are likely to rupture and cause heart attacks.

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Cell division, minus the cells

October 31, 2014 12:42 pm | by Elizabeth Cooney, Harvard Univ. | News | Comments

The process of cell division is central to life. The last stage, cytokinesis, when two daughter cells split from each other, has fascinated scientists but has been notoriously difficult to study. Now Harvard Medical School systems biologists report that they have reconstituted cytokinesis, complete with signals that direct molecular traffic, without the cell.

Heart-therapy researchers develop nanobullet drug delivery system

October 31, 2014 9:52 am | News | Comments

Stanford Univ. School of Medicine researchers have developed a new formula for delivering the therapeutic peptide apelin to heart tissue for treatment of hypertrophy, a hereditary disease commonly attributed to sudden death in athletes. The nanoscale delivery system, which dramatically increases the peptide’s stability, shows promise for treating heart disease in humans, the researchers said.

Making lab-grown tissues stronger

October 31, 2014 8:54 am | by Andy Fell, UC Davis News Service | News | Comments

Lab-grown tissues could one day provide new treatments for injuries and damage to the joints, including articular cartilage, tendons and ligaments. Cartilage, for example, is a hard material that caps the ends of bones and allows joints to work smoothly. Univ. of California, Davis biomedical engineers, exploring ways to toughen up engineered cartilage and keep natural tissues strong outside the body, report new developments.

Identifying the source of stem cells

October 30, 2014 3:14 pm | News | Comments

When most animals begin life, cells immediately begin accepting assignments to become a head, tail or a vital organ. However, mammalian cells become the protective placenta or to commit to forming the baby. It’s during this critical first step that research from Michigan State Univ. has revealed key discoveries. The results provide insights into where stem cells come from, and could advance research in regenerative medicine.

Making lab-grown tissues stronger

October 30, 2014 3:09 pm | News | Comments

Cartilage, for example, is a hard material that caps the ends of bones and allows joints to work smoothly, but engineered replacement tissue is, mechanically, far from native tissue. Researchers in California report the use of an enzyme that has greatly improved engineering cartilage built from cultures. It promotes cross-linking and makes the material stronger.

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Heart’s own immune cells can help it heal

October 30, 2014 2:55 pm | by Julia Evangelou Strait, Washington Univ. in St. Louis | News | Comments

The heart holds its own pool of immune cells capable of helping it heal after injury, according to new research in mice at Washington University School of Medicine in St. Louis. When the heart is injured, beneficial immune cells are often supplanted by bone marrow cells, which cause damaging inflammation. In a mouse model, researchers showed that blocking the bone marrow’s macrophages protects the organ’s beneficial pool of macrophages.

Afingen uses precision method to enhance plants

October 30, 2014 8:17 am | by Julie Chao, Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory | News | Comments

Imagine being able to precisely control specific tissues of a plant to enhance desired traits without affecting the plant’s overall function. Thus a rubber tree could be manipulated to produce more natural latex. Trees grown for wood could be made with higher lignin content, making for stronger yet lighter-weight lumber.

Tiny nanopores make big impact

October 30, 2014 8:05 am | by Anne M. Stark, Lawrence Livermore National Laboraotry | News | Comments

A team led by the Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory scientists has created a new kind of ion channel consisting of short carbon nanotubes, which can be inserted into synthetic bilayers and live cell membranes to form tiny pores that transport water, protons, small ions and DNA. These carbon nanotube “porins” have significant implications for future health care and bioengineering applications.

ECG on the run: Continuous surveillance of marathon athletes is feasible

October 29, 2014 9:40 am | News | Comments

The condition of an athlete's heart has for the first time been accurately monitored throughout the duration of a marathon race. The real-time monitoring was achieved by continuous electrocardiogram (ECG) surveillance and data transfer over a public mobile phone network. The new development allows instantaneous diagnosis of potentially fatal rhythm disorders.

Researchers prove mathematical models can predict cellular processes

October 29, 2014 9:33 am | News | Comments

A team led by Virginia Tech researchers studied cells found in breast and other types of connective tissue and discovered new information about cell transitions that take place during wound healing and cancer. They developed mathematical models to predict the dynamics of cell transitions, and by comparison gained new understanding of how a substance known as transforming growth factor triggers cell transformations.

Scientists discover exact receptor for DEET that repels mosquitoes

October 29, 2014 9:24 am | News | Comments

DEET has been the gold standard of insect repellents for more than six decades, and now researchers led by a Univ. of California, Davis, scientist have discovered the exact odorant receptor that repels them. They also have identified a plant defensive compound that might mimic DEET, a discovery that could pave the way for better and more affordable insect repellents.

Self-assembled membranes hint at biomedical applications

October 28, 2014 11:36 am | by David Lindley, Argonne National Laboratory | News | Comments

Techniques for self-assembling of molecules have grown increasingly sophisticated, but biological structures remain a challenge. Recently, scientists have used self-assembly under controlled conditions to create a membrane consisting of layers with distinctly different structures. At the Advanced Photon Source, the team has studied the structures and how they form, paving the way for hierarchical structures with biomedical applications.

Molecular beacons shine light on how cells "crawl"

October 24, 2014 12:40 pm | by Carol Clark, EScience Commons | News | Comments

Adherent cells, the kind that form the architecture of all multicellular organisms, are engineered with precise forces that allow them to move around and stick to things. When these cells are put into a petri dish with a variety of substrates they can sense the differences in the surfaces and they will “crawl” toward the stiffest one. Chemists have devised a method using DNA-based tension probes to measure and map these phenomena.

Implantable device remotely releases therapeutic drugs, on Earth or in orbit

October 24, 2014 10:28 am | News | Comments

Houston Methodist Research Institute scientists will receive about $1.25 million from the Center for the Advancement of Science in Space to develop an implantable, nanochannel device that delivers therapeutic drugs at a rate guided by remote control. The device's effectiveness will be tested aboard the International Space Station and on Earth's surface.

Scientists to use tiny particles to fight big diseases

October 23, 2014 12:49 pm | Videos | Comments

A group of scientists in Florida have combined medicine and advanced nanotechnological engineering to create a smarter, more targeted therapy that could overcome the most lethal gynecologic cancer. The technology involves combining Taxol, a chemotherapy drug, with magneto-electric nanoparticles that can penetrate the blood-brain barrier.

Precise and programmable biological circuits

October 23, 2014 9:37 am | by Fabio Bergamin, ETH Zurich | News | Comments

Bio-engineers are working on the development of biological computers: biological material that can be integrated into cells to change their functions. Researchers in Europe have now developed a biological circuit that controls the activity of individual sensor components using internal "timer". This circuit prevents a sensor from being active when not required by the system; when required, it can be activated via a control signal.

Microscopic “walkers” find their way across cell surfaces

October 23, 2014 8:14 am | by David L. Chandler, MIT News Office | News | Comments

Nature has developed a wide variety of methods for guiding particular cells, enzymes and molecules to specific structures inside the body: White blood cells can find their way to the site of an infection, while scar-forming cells migrate to the site of a wound. But finding ways of guiding artificial materials within the body has proven more difficult.

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