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Scientists find powerful tool for genetic engineering

November 22, 2013 10:54 am | News | Comments

Viruses can not only cause illnesses in humans, they also infect bacteria. Bacteria protect themselves with a kind of immune system that detects and “chops up” foreign DNA. Scientists have now shown that the dual-RNA guided enzyme Cas9 which is involved in the process has developed independently in various strains of bacteria. This enhances the potential of exploiting the bacterial immune system for genome engineering.

Study: Hybrid nanomaterials could replace human tissue, today’s pills

November 22, 2013 8:12 am | News | Comments

A team of researchers has uncovered critical information that could help scientists understand how protein polymers interact with other self-assembling biopolymers. The research helps explain naturally occurring nanomaterial within cells and could one day lead to engineered bio-composites for drug delivery, artificial tissue, bio-sensing, or cancer diagnosis.

Researchers in Germany build bio-based solar cell

November 21, 2013 12:46 pm | News | Comments

In leaves, two proteins are responsible for photosynthesis, and they perform the conversion of carbon dioxide into oxygen and biomass very efficiently. Scientists have now harnessed this capability by embedding these proteins into complex molecules developed in the laboratory. Their bio-based solar cell creates electron current instead of biomass.

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Microbiologists reveal unexpected properties of methane-producing microbe

November 19, 2013 7:18 am | News | Comments

For 40 years, scientists thought they understood how certain bacteria work together to anaerobically digest biomass to produce methane gas. But now microbiologists have shown for the first time that one of the most abundant methane-producing microorganisms on Earth makes direct electrical connections with another species to produce the gas in a completely unexpected way.

Graphene nanoribbons "read" DNA

November 18, 2013 1:31 pm | News | Comments

One of the methods used for examining the molecules in a liquid consists in passing the fluid through a nano-sized hole so as to detect their passage. Researchers in Switzerland have found a way to improve this technique by using a material with unique properties: graphene.

A bio patch that can regrow bone

November 7, 2013 12:06 pm | News | Comments

Researchers at the University of Iowa have created a bio patch to regenerate missing or damaged bone by putting DNA into a nano-sized particle that delivers bone-producing instructions directly into cells. The bone-regeneration kit relies on a collagen platform seeded with particles containing the genes needed for producing bone. 

Computer-aided image analysis may offer second opinion in breast tumor diagnosis

November 4, 2013 2:19 pm | News | Comments

Researchers at the Univ. of Chicago are developing computer-aided diagnosis and quantitative image analysis methods for mammograms, ultrasounds and magnetic resonance images to identify specific tumor characteristics, including size, shape and sharpness

Synaptic transistor learns while it computes

November 4, 2013 2:07 pm | News | Comments

Our brains have upwards of 86 billion neurons, connected by synapses that not only complete myriad logic circuits; they continuously adapt to stimuli, strengthening some connections while weakening others. Materials scientists have now created a new type of transistor that mimics the behavior of a synapse. The novel device simultaneously modulates the flow of information in a circuit and physically adapts to changing signals.

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Super-thin membranes clear the way for chip-sized pumps

October 29, 2013 8:17 am | News | Comments

The ability to shrink laboratory-scale processes to automated chip-sized systems would revolutionize biotechnology and medicine. One of the challenges of lab-on-a-chip technology is the need for miniaturized pumps to move solutions through microchannels. A super-thin silicon membrane developed at the Univ. of Rochester could now make it possible to shrink the power source, paving the way for diagnostic devices the size of a credit card.

Startup creates drug toxicity app

October 29, 2013 7:47 am | Videos | Comments

Accurate and rapid testing for drug toxicity just became easier, thanks to a half-dozen Rice Univ. student interns working at Houston-based startup Nano3D Biosciences (n3D). The bioengineering and nanoscale physics students just wrapped up a year-long effort to aid the company in developing a new method for conducting high-throughput, in vitro cytotoxicity assays.

Imaging breast cancer with light

October 24, 2013 2:51 pm | News | Comments

Researchers in The Netherlands have recently unveiled their “photoacoustic mammoscope,” a new device that could someday be used for routine breast cancer screenings. Instead of x-rays, which are used in traditional mammography, the photoacoustic breast mammoscope uses a combination of infrared light and ultrasound to create a 3-D map of the breast.

Power of the crowd advances comparative genomics

October 24, 2013 12:24 pm | News | Comments

Over the past three years, 300,000 gamers have helped scientists with genomic research by playing Phylo, an online puzzle game. Now, the McGill Univ. researchers who developed the game are making this crowd of players available to scientists around the globe. The idea is to put human talent to work to improve on what is already being done by computers in the field of comparative genomics.

London uses van with x-ray machine to find TB

October 23, 2013 7:41 pm | by Maria Cheng, AP Medical Writer | News | Comments

Famed for its historic sites, its double-decker buses and its West End shows, London now has a more dubious distinction: Britain's public health agency says it has become the tuberculosis capital of Western Europe. In response, health officials are taking to the streets in an effort to stop the spread of the infectious lung disease.

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Paper-based device could bring medical testing to remote locales

October 23, 2013 9:48 am | News | Comments

In remote regions of the world where electricity is hard to come by and scientific instruments are even scarcer, conducting medical tests at a doctor’s office or medical laboratory is rarely an option. Scientists are now reporting progress toward an inexpensive point-of-care, paper-based device to fill that void with no electronics required.

How climate change affects microbial life below the seafloor

October 22, 2013 4:21 pm | News | Comments

For more a decade scientists have investigated microbial life under the seafloor off the coast of Peru. Traces of past microbial life in sediments reveal how these ecosystems have responded to climate change over hundreds of thousands of years. Little is known about how the “deep biosphere” developed over millennia and how microbial life influences the cycling of carbon in the oceans.

Optical technology helps surgeons see cancer tissue

October 22, 2013 8:21 am | News | Comments

OnTarget Laboratories LLC has teamed with partners in academia to test a novel optical imaging technology developed at Purdue Univ. that could help surgeons see cancer tissue during surgery. The technology is based on the over-expression of specific receptors on solid cancerous tumors and enables illumination of the tumor tissue during surgery.

Biological clock found that can measure age of most human tissues

October 21, 2013 8:10 am | News | Comments

Everyone grows older, but scientists don't really understand why. Now a Univ. of California, Los Angeles study has uncovered a biological clock embedded in our genomes that may shed light on why our bodies age and how we can slow the process.

Research grant seeks to reduce crops' fertilizer dependence

October 18, 2013 9:56 am | News | Comments

A research team including a Penn State chemical engineer was recently awarded a $3.9 million National Science Foundation grant to understand how blue-green algae convert nitrogen into oxygen. The objective is to learn how to "transplant" the nitrogen fixing capability of one species to another.

Radical recoding tests limits of genetic reprogramming

October 17, 2013 2:33 pm | News | Comments

In two parallel projects, researchers at the Wyss Institute for Biologically Inspired Engineering have created new genomes inside the bacterium E. coli in ways that could open new possibilities for increasing flexibility, productivity and safety in biotechnology. In the first project, researchers created a novel genome, the first-ever entirely genomically recoded organism. They then greatly expanded genetic changes in the second project.

Separating the good from the bad in bacteria

October 17, 2013 7:39 am | by Jennifer Chu, MIT News Office | News | Comments

Massachusetts Institute of Technology researchers have developed a new microfluidic device that could speed the monitoring of bacterial infections associated with cystic fibrosis and other diseases. The new microfluidic chip is etched with tiny channels, each resembling an elongated hourglass with a pinched midsection. Researchers injected bacteria through one end of each channel, and observed how cells travel from one end to the other.

Glowing neurons reveal networked link between brain, whiskers

October 16, 2013 11:04 am | News | Comments

Human fingertips have several types of sensory neurons that are responsible for relaying touch signals to the central nervous system. Scientists have long believed these neurons followed a linear path to the brain with a "labeled-lines" structure. But new research on mouse whiskers reveals a surprise: At the fine scale, the sensory system's wiring diagram doesn't have a set pattern.

Wyss Institute, AstraZeneca announce collaboration on organs-on-chips for drug safety testing

October 16, 2013 9:13 am | News | Comments

The Wyss Institute for Biologically Inspired Engineering at Harvard Univ. and AstraZeneca have announced a collaboration that will leverage the Institute's organs-on-chips technologies to better predict safety of drugs in humans. Human organs-on-chips are composed of a clear, flexible polymer about the size of a computer memory stick, and contain hollow microfluidic channels lined by living human cells.

U.S. research team wins $1 million prize in Israel

October 15, 2013 2:32 pm | News | Comments

An Israeli nonprofit group has awarded a $1 million prize to a U.S.-based research team that is developing technology that allows paralyzed people to move things with their thoughts. BrainGate is developing a brain implant that can read brain signals and allow the paralyzed to move robotic limbs or computer cursors.

Small bits of genetic material fight cancer's spread

October 15, 2013 2:08 pm | by Tara Thean, Princeton Univ. | News | Comments

Researchers at Princeton Univ. have found that microRNAs, which are small bits of genetic material capable of repressing the expression of certain genes, may serve as both therapeutic targets and predictors of metastasis, or a cancer’s spread from its initial site to other parts of the body.

Device speeds concentration step in food-pathogen detection

October 14, 2013 1:39 pm | by Emil Venere, Purdue Univ. | News | Comments

Researchers have developed a system that concentrates foodborne salmonella and other pathogens faster than conventional methods by using hollow thread-like fibers that filter out the cells. The machine, called a continuous cell concentration device, could make it possible to routinely analyze food or water samples to screen for pathogens within a single work shift at food processing plants.

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