Today, marine fish are largely surveyed using selective and invasive methods mostly limited to commercial species, and restricted to areas with favorable conditions. Researchers in Denmark, however, have shown that seawater contains DNA from animals such as fish and whales. They have successfully used this trace presence, using as little as half a liter of water, to establish a method for tracking species.
According to a recent study that used functional magnetic resonance imaging to measure brain activity, the strength of communication between the left and right hemispheres of the brain predicts performance on basic arithmetic problems. The findings shed light on the neural basis of human math abilities and suggest a possible route to aiding those who suffer from dyscalculia—an inability to understand and manipulate numbers.
A research university in Germany has recently won first place a competition between “unconventional” computing solutions with something called a MICREAgent lablet. The unusual invention is a self-assembling electronic device almost as small as a biological cell. At its heart is a 3D microchip, or lablet, that can produce desired chemicals or coatings when given electronic instructions.
Professional athletic field managers maintain trimmed turfgrass with great precision, carefully painting crisp lines and colorful logos on their grass before each game. While these fields appear to be in perfect health, some field managers have noted deteriorating turfgrass beneath repeated paint applications. New research into the relationship between photosynthesis and latex paint suggests why.
Microscale objects can be completed in a number of different ways. But tuning the chemical properties of that objects can be difficult. Using laser beams, researchers in Austria have shown that molecules can be fixed at exactly the right position in a 3D material. The new method can be used to grow biological tissue or to create micro-sensors.
During the next four years, research teams who have been the recipients of 15 innovation grants totalling $30 million from the National Science Foundation will pursue transformative, fundamental research in three emerging areas: flexible electronic systems that can interface with the body; self-folding materials and structures; and large-scale chemical production from photosynthesis.
Over six frightening months, a deadly germ untreatable by most antibiotics spread in the nation's leading research hospital. Scientists at the National Institutes of Health locked down patients, cleaned with bleach, even ripped out plumbing—and still the germ persisted. It took gene detectives teasing apart the bacteria's DNA to solve the germ's wily spread, a CSI-like saga with lessons for hospitals everywhere as they struggle to contain the growing threat of superbugs.
To control the 3D shape of engineered tissue, researchers grow cells on tiny, sponge-like scaffolds. These devices can be implanted into patients or used in the laboratory to study tissue responses to potential drugs. A team of researchers has now added a new element to tissue scaffolds: electronic sensors. These sensors could be used to monitor electrical activity in the tissue surrounding the scaffold, control drug release, or screen drug candidates for their effects on the beating of heart tissue.
Cancer metastasis, the escape and spread of primary tumor cells, is a common cause of cancer-related deaths. But metastasis remains poorly understood, and only recently have studies indicate that blood’s “stickiness” actually tears off tumor cells. Using a statistical technique employed by animators, scientists created a new computer simulation that reveals how cancer cells enter the bloodstream and the physical forces involved.
Like ravenous monsters, cancer tumors need plentiful supplies of cellular building blocks such as amino acids and nucleotides to keep growing at a rapid pace. This process has not been fully understood, but now chemists at the California Institute of Technology have shown for the first time that a specific sugar, known as GlcNAc ("glick-nack"), plays a key role in keeping the cancerous monsters "fed."
A nanoparticle developed at Rice University and tested in collaboration with Baylor College of Medicine may bring great benefits to the emergency treatment of brain-injury victims, even those with mild injuries. Combined polyethylene glycol-hydrophilic carbon clusters (PEG-HCC), already being tested to enhance cancer treatment, are also adept antioxidants. In animal studies, injections of PEG-HCC during initial treatment after an injury helped restore balance to the brain's vascular system.
Nanocellulose is a highly fibrillated material, composed of nanofibrils with diameters in the nanometer scale, with high aspect ratio and high specific surface area. Recently, the suitability of cellulose nanofibrils from wood for forming elastic cryogels has been demonstrated by scientists. These gels could improve wound healing if used in dressings.
Northwestern University scientists have connected 250 years of organic chemical knowledge into one giant computer network—a chemical Google on steroids. A decade in the making, the software optimizes syntheses of drug molecules and other important compounds and combines long (and expensive) syntheses of compounds into shorter and more economical routes.
Inspired by studies showing there are few options to treat soldiers in Afghanistan and Iraq who suffer internal injuries from the roadside bombs known as improvised explosive devices, researchers at Case Western Reserve University have made significant advances toward developing synthetic platelets that could be both portable and effective for stopping the life-threatening bleeding that occurs from these types of injuries.
Much like a sentry at a border crossing, the network of tiny blood vessels surrounding the brain only allows a few important molecules in or out. This is the blood-brain barrier, which shields the brain from potentially harmful substances. Researchers are hoping to better understand this little understood roadblock by creating an artificially engineered, or simulated, barrier.
Chemists at the University of California, Riverside have developed a laboratory test to examine how anticancer drugs and environmental chemical can lead to to aberrant transcription and ultimately a disruption in protein synthesis. The method, called "competitive transcription and adduct bypass", can quantitatively determine how a DNA modification affects transcription.
Researchers have created a new type of biosensor that can detect minute concentrations of glucose in saliva, tears, and urine, and might be manufactured at low cost because it does not require many processing steps to produce.
Researchers at the Stanford University School of Medicine and Intel Corp. have collaborated to synthesize and study a grid-like array of short pieces of a disease-associated protein on silicon chips normally used in computer microprocessors. Used recently to identify patients with a severe form of lupus, the new technology has the potential to improve diagnoses of a multitude of diseases.
Cancers release chemicals that confuse the immune system. Countering this effect, researchers led by Tarek Fahmy of Yale University have recently developed a system to simultaneously deliver a sustained dose of both an immune-system booster and a chemical to block the cancer's secretions. In mice this therapy has delayed tumor growth and even sent tumors into remission.
Princeton University researchers report that an area of our brain called the pulvinar regulates communication between clusters of brain cells as our brain focuses on the onslaught of stimuli from the outside world. Like a switchboard operator, the pulvinar makes sure that separate areas of the visual cortex—which processes visual information—are communicating about the same external information.
Using next-generation sequencing technology and a new strategy to encode 1,000 times the largest data size previously achieved in DNA, Harvard University geneticist George Church has encoded his book in life's language. While the volume of data is comparatively modest, the density of 5.5 petabits, or 1 million gigabits per cubic meter, is off the charts.
To cut down on postoperative problems, particularly those involving abdomenal surgery, Johns Hopkins undergraduates have invented a disposable suturing tool to guide the placement of stitches and guard against the accidental puncture of internal organs. Called FastStitch, it’s described a cross between a pliers and a hole-puncher.
Tissue implants made of cells grown on a sponge-like scaffold have been shown in clinical trials to help heal arteries scarred by atherosclerosis and other vascular diseases. However, it has been unclear why some implants work better than others. Massachusetts Institute of Technology researchers have now shown that implanted cells' therapeutic properties depend on their shape, which is determined by the type of scaffold on which they are grown.
For the first time, researchers have deciphered the retina's neural code for brain communication. It could allow scientists to create a more effective prosthetic retinal device for blindness, one that might be similar to the visor used on the television show Star Trek. The visor's camera will take in light and use a computer chip to turn it into a code that the brain can translate into an image.
Researchers the University of Texas, Dallas have found a way to monitor DNA looping, a natural biological mechanism involved in rearranging genetic material in some types of cells. Until now, scientists primarily had “snapshots” of the initial and final stages of DNA loop formation, but the new “tag and track” method uses fluorescence to watch the process step by step.