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Oscillating microscopic beads could be key to biolab on a chip

September 25, 2012 4:45 am | by David L. Chandler, MIT News Office | News | Comments

If you throw a ball underwater, you'll find that the smaller it is, the faster it moves: A larger cross-section greatly increases the water's resistance. Now, a team of researchers has figured out a way to use this basic principle, on a microscopic scale, to carry out biomedical tests that could eventually lead to fast, compact, and versatile medical testing devices.

Nanoparticles detect biochemistry of inflammation

September 19, 2012 8:58 am | News | Comments

Reactive oxygen species (ROS), such as hydrogen peroxide, are produced by a chemical balance disturbance, such as inflammation, within a tissue. Because these ROS are indicators of many diseases, a non-invasive detection method would be very useful. Researchers at the University of California, San Diego have developed the first degradable polymer that is extremely sensitive to low but biologically relevant concentrations of hydrogen peroxide.

Chemists develop nose-like sensor array to “smell” cancer diagnoses

September 13, 2012 12:36 pm | News | Comments

In a pre-clinical non-small-cell lung cancer metastasis model in mice, a research team at the University of Massachusetts, Amherst uses a sensor array system of gold nanoparticles and proteins to “smell” different cancer types in much the same way our noses identify and remember different odors.


Scientists discover how an out-of-tune protein leads to heart muscle failure

September 13, 2012 4:25 am | News | Comments

Troponin I, found exclusively in heart muscle, is already used as the gold-standard marker in blood tests to diagnose heart attacks, but the new findings by Johns Hopkins University researchers reveal why and how the same protein is also altered in heart muscle malfunctions that lead to heart failure. Scientists have known of “out-of-tune” proteins for a while, but the precise origin had remained unclear.

Low-cost biosensor to detect contaminated water in developing nations

September 6, 2012 9:09 am | News | Comments

An interdisciplinary team of nine Arizona State University students participating in the 2012 International Genetically Engineered Machine (iGEM) competition have embarked on a campaign to help reduce the 1.5 million global deaths of children each year caused by diarrheal disease. The goal is an inexpensive biosensor that detects contaminated water quickly. But the challenge is which biosensor design to pursue.

Measuring glucose without needle pricks

September 4, 2012 10:02 am | News | Comments

The frequency at which droplets emerge is controlled by an acoustic trigger, which can be tuned so that each droplet containing a protein or virus meets an

Clinical trials get efficiency boost from virtual reality

August 31, 2012 6:45 am | News | Comments

Time-consuming, expensive, and often intrusive, clinical trials are nevertheless a necessity. Researchers at the University of Tennessee Space Institute in Tullahoma have developed an invention that makes clinical trials more efficient. Called "digital Eye Bank," the computer software eye modeling program can take data from eyes of patients' and build it into models from the commercial optics program to be used for researchers' virtual clinical trials.

Athletic field paint steals spotlight from the grass it covers

August 27, 2012 7:19 am | News | Comments

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.


Study details power of new chip to diagnose disease, analyze proteins

August 20, 2012 10:33 am | by Krista Conger | News | Comments

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.

Testing cholesterol with a photograph

August 17, 2012 6:47 am | News | Comments

Researchers in India have developed a total cholesterol test that uses a digital camera to take a snapshot of the back of the patient's hand rather than a blood sample. The image obtained is cropped and compared against thousands of images in a database for known cholesterol levels.

Long-predicted fluctuations in cell membranes observed for first time

August 10, 2012 7:30 am | News | Comments

The question of just how a cell membrane—which is otherwise an impermeable barrier—allows certain proteins to penetrate it remains largely a mystery. But an answer may be closer after measurements taken at the NIST and France's Institut Laue-Langevin, where scientists have observed changes in the thickness of a model cell membrane for the first time.

Researchers invent new tool to study single biological molecules

August 3, 2012 8:09 am | News | Comments

Existing technologies allow researchers to measure single molecules on the x and y axes of a 2D plane. By blending optical and atomic force microscope technologies, Iowa State University and Ames Laboratory researchers have now found a way to complete 3D nanoscale measurements of single biological molecules with unprecedented accuracy and precision.

In fly DNA, the footprint of a fly virus

August 2, 2012 5:10 am | News | Comments

In a curious evolutionary twist, biologists from the University of Buffalo report, several species of a commonly studied fruit fly appear to have incorporated genetic material from a virus into their genomes. This discovery of virus-like genes in the DNA of a commonly studied fruit fly could enable research on whether animals hijack viral genes as an anti-viral defense.


Liquid-filled fiber optics boosts chemiluminescence research

August 1, 2012 4:34 am | News | Comments

Processing biological samples on a small substrate the size of a computer chip is becoming a common task for biotechnology applications. Given the small working area, however, probing samples on the substrate with light can be difficult. Researchers in Singapore have now developed an optical fiber system that is able to deliver light to microfluidic chips with high efficiency.

“Diving board” sensors engineered to detect DNA

July 30, 2012 4:04 am | News | Comments

Researchers from Drexel University are in the process of refining a sensor technology that they developed to measure samples at the cellular level. Constructed from a tiny vibrating piezoelectric cantilever, the sensor may become an accurate method for quickly detecting traces of DNA in liquid samples.

Wyss Institute aims to mimic whole human body with organ-on-chip

July 27, 2012 7:35 am | News | Comments

The Wyss Institute for Biologically Inspired Engineering at Harvard University this week reported that it will receive up to $37 million from the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency to develop an automated instrument that integrates 10 human organs-on-chips to study complex human physiology outside the body. The aim is to simulate the entire body’s physiology.

The Olympics and bare feet: The debate continues

July 27, 2012 7:22 am | News | Comments

Ethiopian runner Abebe Bikila made history when he earned a gold medal at the 1960 Summer Olympics in Rome. His speed and agility won him the gold, but it was barefoot running that made him a legend. Since then, experts have been split on whether running barefoot is beneficial. Recent research sheds light on why opinions have been so inconclusive.

No-Wait Medical Diagnostic Tool

July 27, 2012 6:52 am | Articles | Comments

Researchers at Sandia National Laboratories have developed a lab-on-a-disk platform, SpinDx, that they believe will be faster, less expensive, and more versatile than current medical diagnostic tools.

Insights into protein folding may lead to better flu vaccine

July 26, 2012 3:36 am | by Krishna Ramanujan, Cornell University | News | Comments

A new method for looking at how proteins fold inside mammal cells is allowing researchers to take snapshots of the cell's protein-making machinery—called ribosomes—in various stages of protein production. The scientists can then piece together the snapshots to reconstruct how proteins fold during their synthesis. The findings could one day lead to better flu vaccines, the researchers say.

Scientists discover genetic changes caused by sun damage

July 19, 2012 9:07 am | News | Comments

Tumorous cancer cells are full of ultraviolet-induced genetic damage caused by sunlight exposure, but which mutations drive this cancer? By creating a method to spot the changes, scientists from several U.S. institutions have identified six genes responsible for mutations in melanoma, three of which of which are the result of damage inflicted by  light.

Diagnostic technique uses immune cell DNA

July 9, 2012 8:56 am | by David Orenstein, Brown University | News | Comments

By looking at signature chemical differences in the DNA of various immune cells called leukocytes, scientists have developed a way to determine their relative abundance in blood samples. The relative abundance turns out to correlate with specific cancers and other diseases, making the technique potentially valuable not only for research, but also for diagnostics and treatment monitoring.

What happens when we sunburn

July 9, 2012 6:53 am | News | Comments

According to a report from research on the effects of ultraviolet (UV) radiation, the biological mechanism of sunburn—the reddish, painful, protective immune response from UV radiation—is a consequence of RNA damage to skin cells. The findings open the way to perhaps eventually blocking the inflammatory process, the scientists said, and have implications for a range of medical conditions and treatments.

Launch of organs-on-a-chip

July 6, 2012 8:45 am | News | Comments

Researchers at the University of Leiden in the Netherlands and their spin-off company Mimetas are set to soon launch their ’organs-on-a-chip’ product for drug development. These devices are composed of hundreds of micro-organs mimicked on a chip, with minuscule channels that serve as blood vessels.

Conscious perception is a matter of global neural networks

June 12, 2012 6:37 am | News | Comments

Identification of the parts of the brain are responsible for the things that reach our awareness is one of the main puzzles in neurobiology today. New findings from researchers in Europe using electrophysiological methods now support the view that the content of consciousness is not localized in a unique cortical area.

Living “microprocessor” is tuned in to its “data”

June 12, 2012 6:33 am | News | Comments

MicroRNAs start off as long strands of precursor genetic material, which get chopped by machinery called the “microprocessor” complex. When the pieces bind to messenger RNA, protein production is inhibited and protein regulation begins. But how does the microprocessor avoid cleaving the wrong type of RNA? Mathematical models may provide the answer.

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