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Microfluidics technique recovers DNA for identification

September 18, 2013 2:13 pm | News | Comments

A team of researchers at NIST and Applied Research Associates, Inc. has demonstrated an improved microfluidic technique for recovering DNA from real-world, complex mixtures such as dirt. According to the researchers their technique delivers DNA from these crude samples with much less effort and in less time than conventional techniques and yields DNA concentrations optimal for human identification procedures.

Robohand uses 3-D printing to replace lost digits

September 11, 2013 10:50 am | by Carley Petesch, Associated Press | News | Comments

Richard Van As, a South African carpenter, lost four fingers from his right hand to a circular saw two years ago. He was unable to afford the tens of thousands of dollars to get a myoelectric hand, which detects a muscle's electric impulses to activate an artificial limb. He decided to build his own hand, made from cables, screws and thermoplastic, using only the Internet and a 3-D printer. He has since fitted 170 people with Robohands.

New center to better understand human intelligence, build smarter machines

September 11, 2013 10:44 am | News | Comments

Siri and Watson may seem brainy in certain situations, but to build truly smart, world-changing machines, researchers must understand how human intelligence emerges from brain activity. To help encourage progress in this field, the National Science Foundation (NSF) recently awarded $25 million to establish a Center for Brains, Minds and Machines at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT).

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Association between virus, bladder cancers detected

September 11, 2013 7:59 am | News | Comments

A Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory-developed biological detection technology has been employed as part of an international collaboration that has detected a virus in bladder cancers. The research is believed to be the first study to demonstrate an association between Kaposi's sarcoma-associated herpesvirus (KSHV), also known as human herpesvirus 8, and bladder cancers.

DNA glue directs tiny gel “bricks” to self-assemble

September 9, 2013 11:39 am | by Dan Ferber, Wyss Institute Communications | News | Comments

A team of researchers at Harvard Univ. has found a way to self-assemble complex structures out of gel “bricks” smaller than a grain of salt. The new method could help solve one of the major challenges in tissue engineering: creating injectable components that self-assemble into intricately structured, biocompatible scaffolds at an injury site to help regrow human tissues.

Blue-green algae a five-tool player in converting waste to fuel

September 6, 2013 10:08 am | by Tony Fitzpatrick, WUSTL | News | Comments

In the parallel universe of the microbiological world, there is a current superstar species of blue-green algae that, through its powers of photosynthesis and carbon dioxide fixation, or uptake, can produce (count ’em) ethanol, hydrogen, butanol, isobutanol and potentially biodiesel. Called Synechocystis 6803, it also has the potential to make commodity chemicals and pharmaceuticals.

Pain-free microneedle influenza vaccine effective, long-lasting

September 5, 2013 8:26 am | News | Comments

Scientists have developed an influenza vaccine delivered via microneedle patch that provided 100% protection against a lethal influenza virus in mice more than one year after vaccination.  Instead of a liquid containing whole killed or attenuated virus, this vaccine uses dry virus-like particles which simply coat the needles in the presence of a simple stabilizing agent, reducing the need for refrigeration.

Study suggests robotic surgery complications are underreported

September 4, 2013 7:44 am | News | Comments

Despite widespread adoption by hospitals of surgical robot technology over the past decade, a “slapdash” system of reporting complications paints an unclear picture of its safety, according to Johns Hopkins researchers. When an adverse event or device malfunction occurs, hospitals are required to report these incidents. But this doesn’t always happen, the researchers say.

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Droplet digital PCR reproducibly quantifies microRNA biomarkers

September 3, 2013 8:30 am | News | Comments

MicroRNAs are abundant, small regulatory RNA molecules with diverse cellular functions. But their use as reliable blood-based biomarkers has been undermined by factors such as high interday variability. A new study, however, now shows that droplet digital polymerase chain reaction (ddPCR) technology can be used to precisely and reproducibly quantify microRNA in plasma and serum across different days.

Thermo Fisher joins Denmark institute on systems biology effort

September 3, 2013 7:56 am | News | Comments

The Department of Systems Biology at the Technical University of Denmark (DTU) have formed a collaboration with Thermo Fisher Scientific to pursue breakthroughs in the understanding of how cellular protein networks drive important diseases. Under the collaboration, Thermo Fisher will provide early access to new technology and designs, and DTU proteomics scientists will provide feedback and collaborate on new applications.

Single gene change increases mouse lifespan by 20%

August 29, 2013 4:50 pm | News | Comments

By lowering the expression of a single gene, researchers at the National Institutes of Health have extended the average lifespan of a group of mice by about 20%—the equivalent of raising the average human lifespan by 16 years. The research team targeted a gene called mTOR, which is involved in metabolism and energy balance, and may be connected with the increased lifespan associated with caloric restriction.

Material in dissolvable sutures could treat brain infections

August 29, 2013 2:59 pm | News | Comments

A plastic material already used in absorbable surgical sutures and other medical devices shows promise for continuous administration of antibiotics to patients with brain infections, scientists are reporting in a new study. Use of the material, placed directly on the brain’s surface, could reduce the need for weeks of costly hospital stays now required for such treatment.

Polymer knots with silicon hearts help drug delivery applications

August 29, 2013 9:55 am | News | Comments

Getting biomolecules past the body’s numerous defenses requires innovations such as drug-delivering nanoparticles. Polylactic acid (PLA) is a potential candidate because it is non-toxic, biodegradable, and spontaneously assembles into tiny structures under the right conditions. Researchers in Singapore have developed a robust method to synthesize PLA nanoparticles using copolymer technology and a rigid “nanocage” made from silicon.

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Scientists develop model of “near-optimal” genetic code

August 28, 2013 2:54 pm | News | Comments

Since the genetic code’s discovery in the 1960s, researchers have wondered: How is it that a near-optimal code became so universal? To address this question, the researchers created a model of genetic code evolution in which multiple “translating” RNAs and “genomic” RNAs competed for survival. The approach revealed phenomena that offers new insights into how RNA signaling likely developed into the modern genetic code.

Researchers aim to use light to restore healthy heartbeats

August 28, 2013 2:48 pm | News | Comments

When a beating heart slips into an irregular, life-threatening rhythm, the treatment is well known: deliver a burst of electric current from a pacemaker or defibrillator. But because the electricity itself can cause pain, tissue damage and other serious side-effects, a Johns Hopkins-led research team wants to use laboratory data and an intricate computer model replace these jolts with a kinder, gentler remedy: light.

Team "spikes" stem cells to generate myelin

August 28, 2013 2:16 pm | News | Comments

Stem cell technology has long offered the hope of regenerating tissue to repair broken or damaged neural tissue. Findings from a team of Univ. of California, Davis investigators have brought this dream a step closer by developing a method to generate functioning brain cells that produce myelin, the fatty, insulating sheath essential to normal neural conduction.

Researcher controls colleague’s motions in first human brain-to-brain interface

August 27, 2013 2:50 pm | by Doree Armstrong and Michelle Ma, Univ. of Washington | News | Comments

Univ. of Washington researchers have performed what they believe is the first noninvasive human-to-human brain interface, with one researcher able to send a brain signal via the Internet to control the hand motions of a fellow researcher. Using electrical brain recordings and a form of magnetic stimulation, Rajesh Rao sent a brain signal to Andrea Stocco on the other side of campus, causing Stocco’s finger to move on a keyboard.

Small chip to advance the art of drug testing

August 27, 2013 2:43 pm | by Kurt Pfitzer, Lehigh Univ. | News | Comments

Standard drug-testing methods have shortcomings. Animal testing is expensive and unreliable, and the static environment of cells and cultures don’t mimic the behavior of the entire organism. An interdisciplinary research team at Lehigh Univ. is using microscopy and optical tweezers to develop a new finger-sized chip that can study the activities of cells at the nanoscale, possibly offering an alternative to traditional drug testing.

Test-tube babies: A simpler, cheaper technique?

August 22, 2013 9:45 am | by Maria Cheng, AP Medical Writer | News | Comments

Since the first test-tube baby was born more than three decades ago, in vitro fertilization has evolved into a highly sophisticated lab procedure. Now, scientists are going back to basics and testing a simpler method that could cost as little as $265 and use basic laboratory equipment that could fit inside a shoebox.

Scientists find way to predict and control gene expression

August 20, 2013 5:20 pm | News | Comments

Researchers in Switzerland have developed a “guide” that can be used to precisely predict the number of proteins a given gene will produce under varying conditions. Each gene has a segment of DNA at its beginning called a promoter, and the researchers generated more than 200 of them, integrated them into a yeast genome, and conducted comparative analysis that generated a model. This work will help biologists to engineer cells.

A durable, bacteria-killing surface for hospitals

August 20, 2013 12:13 pm | News | Comments

Scientists at Switzerland have developed a new method for making antimicrobial surfaces that can eliminate bacteria under a minute. The breakthrough relies on a new sputtering technique that uses a highly ionized plasma to, for the first time, deposit antibacterial titanium oxide and copper films on 3-D polyester surfaces. This promotes the production of free radicals, which are powerful natural bactericides.

An organized approach to 3-D tissue engineering

August 20, 2013 7:43 am | News | Comments

Tissues designed with pre-formed vascular networks are known to promote rapid vascular integration with the host. Generally, prevascularization has been achieved by seeding or encapsulating endothelial cells, but these methods are slow. Hydrogels have also been tried, but a new technique developed in Singapore uses hydrogels with a new patterning process to quickly incorporate different cell types separately into different fibers.

New tool peeks into brain to measure consciousness

August 15, 2013 2:23 pm | by Lauran Neergaard, AP Medical Writer | News | Comments

When people have a brain injury so severe that they can't squeeze a loved one's hand or otherwise respond, there are few good ways to tell if they have any lingering awareness or are in a vegetative state. Now researchers have created a technique using a magnetic coil and an electroencephalogram to allow them to peek inside the brain and measure varying levels of consciousness.

British cat DNA database helps convict killer

August 15, 2013 7:41 am | by Raphael Satter, Associated Press | News | Comments

Fingerprints are not the only thing that killers can leave behind—add cat hair to that list. A British university said Wednesday that its DNA database of British felines helped convict a man of manslaughter, illustrating how the genetic material of pets can be used by crime scene investigators.

Wyss Institute’s “Organ-on-a-Chip” to test radiation exposure therapies

August 14, 2013 6:02 pm | News | Comments

The Wyss Institute for Biologically Inspired Engineering at Harvard Univ. has received a $5.6 million grant award from the U.S. Food and Drug Administration to use its Organs-on-Chips technology to test human physiological responses to radiation. The project will investigate if the microfluidic devices lined by living human cells can be used instead of animals to evaluate the efficacy and safety of medical treatments for radiation sickness.

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