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Five achievements that haven't won a Nobel Prize

October 7, 2013 2:33 am | by Malin Rising, Associated Press | News | Comments

The announcements of this year's Nobel Prize winners will start Monday with the medicine award and continue with physics, chemistry, literature, peace and economics. The secretive award committees never give away any hints in advance of who could win, but here's a look at five big scientific breakthroughs that haven't yet received a Nobel prize.

Stem cells help repair traumatic brain injury by building a “biobridge”

October 4, 2013 11:30 am | News | Comments

Univ. of South Florida researchers have suggested a new view of how stem cells may help repair the brain following trauma. In a series of preclinical experiments, they report that transplanted cells appear to build a “biobridge” that links an uninjured brain site where new neural stem cells are born with the damaged region of the brain.

Scientists discover new role for cell dark matter in genome integrity

October 4, 2013 11:26 am | News | Comments

Non-coding RNAs constitute the “dark matter of the genome”, as they are abundant but their function is largely unknown. Researchers in Canada have discovered how these RNA direct telomerase, a molecule essential for cancer development, toward structures on our genome called telomeres in order to maintain its integrity and in turn, the integrity of the genome.

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Researchers identify the neural circuits that modulate REM sleep

October 3, 2013 11:58 am | News | Comments

Previous studies had established an association between the activity of certain types of neurons and the phase of sleep known as rapid eye movement (REM). Scientists have now found the source of this causal relationship and have used optogenetics techniques to induce and modulate REM sleep in mice.

Mass producing pocket laboratories

October 2, 2013 9:24 am | News | Comments

There is certainly no shortage of lab-on-a-chip devices, but in most cases manufacturers have not yet found a cost-effective way to mass produce them. Scientists are now developing a platform for series production of these pocket laboratories. The first major step is moving away from the usual injection molding or wet chemical processing techniques in favor of roll-to-roll processing.

Scientists rig hospital-grade lightweight blood flow imager on the cheap

September 27, 2013 10:16 am | News | Comments

Tracking blood flow in the laboratory is an important tool for studying ailments and is usually measured in the clinic using professional imaging equipment and techniques like laser speckle contrast imaging. Now, developers have built a new biological imaging system 50 times less expensive than standard equipment, and suitable for imaging applications outside of the laboratory.

Scientists develop human-on-a-chip to research chemical warfare agent exposure

September 26, 2013 9:39 am | News | Comments

At the U.S. Army Edgewood Chemical Biological Center, experts have been conducting research of “organs” on microchips. Unlike the few other laboratories conducting these types of studies, the Army is specifically looking at potential scenarios that will affect warfighters, especially chemical agent exposure.

New study finds “microbial clock” may help determine time of death

September 25, 2013 9:04 am | News | Comments

An intriguing study led by the Univ. of Colorado Boulder may provide a powerful new tool in the quiver of forensic scientists attempting to determine the time of death in cases involving human corpses: a microbial clock. The clock is essentially the lock-step succession of bacterial changes that occur postmortem as bodies move through the decay process.

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Microfluidic platform gives a clear look at a crucial step in cancer metastasis

September 20, 2013 1:31 pm | by Jennifer Chu, MIT News Office | News | Comments

Cancer cells metastasize in several stages—first by invading surrounding tissue, then by infiltrating and spreading via the circulatory system. Some circulating cells work their way out of the vascular network, eventually forming a secondary tumor. Now researchers have developed a microfluidic device that mimics the flow of cancer cells through a system of blood vessels. High-resolution time-lapse imaging captures the moment of metastasis.

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).

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.

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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.

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.

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.

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