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Researchers write languages to design synthetic living systems

March 14, 2014 10:08 am | by Emily Kale, Virginia Tech | News | Comments

A computer-aided design tool has been used by researchers at Virginia Tech and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology to create genetic languages to guide the design of biological systems. Known as GenoCAD, the open-source software was developed to help synthetic biologists capture biological rules to engineer organisms that produce useful products or health-care solutions from inexpensive, renewable materials.

FDA approves electric headband to prevent migraine

March 11, 2014 5:19 pm | by The Associated Press | News | Comments

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration said Tuesday it approved a Belgium-made nerve-stimulating headband as the first medical device to prevent migraine headaches. Agency officials said the device provides a new option for patients who can't tolerate migraine medications. The Cefaly device is a battery-powered plastic band worn across the forehead.

Laboratory in Japan weighs retraction of stem cell paper

March 11, 2014 10:39 am | by Mari Yamaguchi, Associated Press | News | Comments

The Riken Center for Development Biology in Kobe, Japan, has been looking into questions raised over images and wording in a research paper describing a simple way of turning ordinary cells from mice into stem cells. Riken said Tuesday that it may retract the paper because of credibility and ethics issues, even though an investigation is continuing.

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Diagnosing diseases with smartphones

March 11, 2014 9:59 am | by Toby Weber, Univ. of Houston | News | Comments

Smartphones are capable of giving us directions when we’re lost, sending photos and videos to our friends in mere seconds and, perhaps very soon, diagnose our diseases in real time. Researchers in Texas are developing a disease diagnostic system made of a glass slide and a porous film of gold that offers results that could be read using only a smartphone and a $20 lens attachment.

Doctors often uncertain in ordering, interpreting lab tests

March 10, 2014 12:43 pm | by Sharon Parmet, Univ. of Illinois Chicago | News | Comments

Over the past 20 years, the number of laboratory tests available to primary care physicians has doubled, to more than 3,500 tests, and physicians are challenged by the quantity of tests available. A recent survey conducted by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention suggests they often face uncertainty in ordering and interpreting clinical laboratory tests, and would welcome better electronic clinical decision support tools.

Trends in Genomics Technology

March 10, 2014 8:54 am | by Barrett Bready and John Thompson, Nabsys | Articles | Comments

Ever since the study of individual genes and RNAs was first known to be important, there has been a drive to get as detailed and complete genomic information as possible. Early technologies like the hybridization-based Southern and Northern blotting methods were tremendous advances, but allowed only a handful of genomic targets to be studied at a time.

Biomolecular tweezers facilitate study of mechanical force effects on cells

March 10, 2014 8:07 am | by John Toon, Georgia Institute of Technology | News | Comments

A new type of biomolecular tweezers could help researchers study how mechanical forces affect the biochemical activity of cells and proteins. The devices use opposing magnetic and electrophoretic forces to precisely stretch the cells and molecules, holding them in position so that the activity of receptors and other biochemical activity can be studied.

Synthetic biologists shine light on genetic circuit analysis

March 10, 2014 7:56 am | Videos | Comments

In a significant advance for the growing field of synthetic biology, Rice Univ. bioengineers have created a toolkit of genes and hardware that uses colored lights and engineered bacteria to bring both mathematical predictability and cut-and-paste simplicity to the world of genetic circuit design.

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Bright pulses of light could make space veggies more nutritious

March 5, 2014 9:48 am | News | Comments

One of the concerns for astronauts during future extended spaceflights will be the onslaught of eye-damaging radiation, and plants that contain carotenoids would help mitigate that harm. According to a new study by researchers at the Univ. of Colorado Boulder, exposing leafy vegetables grown during spaceflight to a few bright pulses of light daily could increase the amount of eye-protecting nutrients produced by the plants.

A complete medical check-up on a chip

March 4, 2014 3:56 pm | News | Comments

About the size of a stapler, this new handheld device developed in Switzerland is able to test a large number of proteins in our body all at once. This optical “lab on a chip” is compact and inexpensive, and it could offer the possibility of quickly analyzing up to 170,000 different molecules in a blood sample.

Shaky hand, stable spoon: Study shows device helps essential tremor patients

March 3, 2014 12:05 pm | News | Comments

For people whose hands shake uncontrollably due to a medical condition, just eating can be a frustrating and embarrassing ordeal, enough to keep them from sharing a meal with others. But a small new study conducted at the Univ. of Michigan Health System suggests that a new handheld electronic device can help such patients overcome the hand shakes caused by essential tremor, the most common movement disorder.

Earlier Detection of Cancer

February 28, 2014 1:55 pm | by Muneesh Tewari, Univ. of Michigan, and George Karlin-Neumann, Director of Scientific Affairs, Bio-Rad's Digital Biology Center | Articles | Comments

Finding treatments for advanced stage cancer isn’t easy. Therefore, early detection methods are paramount in the fight against the disease. Motivated by the opportunity to intervene as early as possible in the course of cancer, Dr. Muneesh Tewari, a Univ. of Michigan researcher, has been studying the diagnostic potential of blood-based biomarkers.

Faster anthrax detection could speed bioterror response

February 27, 2014 12:47 pm | News | Comments

Shortly following the 9/11 terror attack in 2001, letters containing anthrax spores were mailed to news outlets and government buildings killing five people and infecting 17 others. According to a 2012 report, the bioterrorism event cost $3.2 million in cleanup and decontamination. At the time, no testing system was in place that officials could use to screen the letters.

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FDA weighs unknowns of 3-person embryo technique

February 26, 2014 10:42 am | by Matthew Perrone, AP Health Writer | News | Comments

At a recent two-day meeting, the Food and Drug Administration heard from supporters and opponents of a provocative new technique meant to prevent children from inheriting debilitating diseases. The method creates babies from the DNA of three people, and the agency is considering whether to greenlight testing in women who have defective genes.

3-D printer creates transformative device for heart treatment

February 26, 2014 9:54 am | by Beth Miller, Washington Univ., St. Louis | News | Comments

Using an inexpensive 3-D printer, biomedical engineers have developed a custom-fitted, implantable device with embedded sensors that could transform treatment and prediction of cardiac disorders. An international team has created a 3-D elastic membrane made of a soft, flexible, silicon material that is precisely shaped to match the heart’s epicardium, or the outer layer of the wall of the heart.

New technology detects cellular memory

February 24, 2014 11:10 am | News | Comments

Cells in our body are constantly dividing to maintain our body functions. At each division, our DNA code and a whole machinery of supporting components has to be faithfully duplicated to maintain the cell’s memory of its own identity. Researchers in Denmark have developed a new technology that reveal the dynamic events of this duplication process and the secrets of cellular memory.

Researchers use light to quickly, easily measure blood clotting

February 24, 2014 10:38 am | News | Comments

Defective blood coagulation is one of the leading causes of preventable death in patients who have suffered trauma or undergone surgery. To provide caregivers with timely information about the clotting properties of a patient’s blood, researchers have developed an optical device that requires only a few drops of blood and a few minutes to measure the key coagulation parameters that can guide medical decisions.

New biological scaffold is “home, sweet home” for stem cells

February 24, 2014 10:34 am | News | Comments

Typically, researchers construct cell-building scaffolds from synthetic materials or natural animal or human substances. Until now, however, no scaffolds grown in a Petri dish have been able to mimic the highly organized structure of the matrix made by living things. Researchers in Michigan have used a nano-grate to persuade fibroblasts to grow a scaffold with fibers just 80 nm, similar to to fibers in a natural matrix.

Tissue-penetrating light release chemotherapy inside cancer cells

February 24, 2014 9:26 am | News | Comments

A light-activated drug delivery system for treating cancer is particularly promising to traditional chemotherapy methods because it can accomplish spatial and temporal control of drug release. To this end, scientists have developed a new type of nanoparticle that can absorb energy from tissue-penetrating light that releases drugs in cancer cells.

Sun powers complex cancer test for remote regions

February 21, 2014 8:19 am | by Blaine Friedlander, Cornell Univ. | News | Comments

From the sun, a solution: Cornell Univ. and Weill Cornell Medical College researchers have remodeled an energy-intensive medical test, designed to detect a deadly skin cancer related to HIV infections, to create a quick diagnostic assay perfect for remote regions of the world. By harnessing the sun’s power and employing a smartphone application, medical technicians may now handily administer reliable assays for Kaposi’s sarcoma.

A changing view of bone marrow cells

February 21, 2014 7:55 am | by Kimm Fesenmaier, Caltech | News | Comments

In the battle against infection, immune cells are the body's offense and defense. It has long been known that a population of blood stem cells that resides in the bone marrow generates all of these immune cells. But most scientists have believed that blood stem cells participate in battles against infection in a delayed way, replenishing immune cells on the front line only after they become depleted.

Whole genome analysis, stat

February 19, 2014 11:19 pm | News | Comments

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.

Team develops multi-scale simulation software for chemistry research

February 19, 2014 11:00 pm | News | Comments

Researchers at the San Diego Supercomputer Center have developed software that greatly expands the types of multi-scale QM/MM (mixed quantum and molecular mechanical) simulations of complex chemical systems that scientists can use to design new drugs, better chemicals or improved enzymes for biofuels production.

Single chip devices to provide real-time 3-D imaging from inside heart

February 19, 2014 11:17 am | by John Toon, Georgia Institute of Technology | News | Comments

Researchers have developed the technology for a catheter-based device that would provide forward-looking, real-time, 3-D imaging from inside the heart, coronary arteries and peripheral blood vessels. With its volumetric imaging, the new device could better guide surgeons working in the heart, and potentially allow more of patients’ clogged arteries to be cleared without major surgery.

An essential step toward printing living tissues

February 19, 2014 9:29 am | News | Comments

A new bioprinting method developed at the Wyss Institute for Biologically Inspired Engineering at Harvard Univ. creates intricately patterned 3-D tissue constructs with multiple types of cells and tiny blood vessels. The work represents a major step toward a longstanding goal of tissue engineers: creating human tissue constructs realistic enough to test drug safety and effectiveness.

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