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The Lead

The ups and downs of the seemingly idle brain

January 21, 2015 9:24 am | by David Orenstein, Brown Univ. | News | Comments

Even in its quietest moments, the brain is never “off.” Instead, while under anesthesia, during slow-wave sleep, or even amid calm wakefulness, the brain’s cortex maintains a cycle of activity and quiet called “up” and “down” states. A new study by Brown Univ. neuroscientists probed deep into this somewhat mysterious cycle in mice, to learn more about how the mammalian brain accomplishes it.

One nanoparticle, six types of medical imaging

January 21, 2015 8:22 am | by Charlotte Hsu, Univ. at Buffalo | News | Comments

It’s technology so advanced that the machine capable of using it doesn’t yet exist. Using two...

Team enlarges brain samples, making them easier to image

January 15, 2015 2:29 pm | by Anne Trafton, MIT News Office | News | Comments

Beginning with the invention of the first microscope in the late 1500s, scientists have been...

Advanced 3-D facial imaging may aid in early detection of autism

January 14, 2015 11:16 am | by Jeff Sossamon, Univ. of Missouri-Columbia | Videos | Comments

Autism is a spectrum of closely related disorders diagnosed in patients who exhibit a shared...

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Human brain keeps memories tidy by pruning inaccurate ones

January 12, 2015 8:39 am | by Michael Hotchkiss, Office of Communications, Princeton Univ. | Videos | Comments

Forget about it. Your brain is a memory powerhouse, constantly recording experiences in long-term memory. Those memories help you find your way through the world: Who works the counter each morning at your favorite coffee shop? How do you turn on the headlights of your car? What color is your best friend's house?

Solving a case of intercellular entrapment

January 9, 2015 7:51 am | by Julie Cohen, Univ. of California, Santa Barbara | News | Comments

Optogenetics, which uses light to control cellular events, is poised to become an important technology in molecular biology and beyond. The Reich Group in Univ. of California, Santa Barbara’s Dept. of Chemistry and Biochemistry has made a major contribution to this emergent field by developing a light-activated nanocarrier that transports proteins into cells and releases them on command.

Foldscope Beta Testers Share the Wonders of the Microcosmos

December 30, 2014 9:21 am | by Stanford Medicine | News | Comments

The holidays came early for citizen-scientists who received the first batch of Foldscope build-your-own paper microscope kits from Stanford’s Prakash Lab over the last several months. These beta testers have begun sharing a variety of fascinating images, videos, tips and ideas on the Foldscope Explore website.

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New Non-invasive method can detect Alzheimer's disease early

December 26, 2014 4:20 pm | by Megan Fellman, McCormick Northwestern Engineering | News | Comments

No methods currently exist for the early detection of Alzheimer’s disease, which affects one out of nine people over the age of 65. Now, an interdisciplinary team of Northwestern University scientists and engineers has developed a noninvasive MRI approach that can detect the disease in a living animal. And it can do so at the earliest stages of the disease, well before typical Alzheimer’s symptoms appear.

Lens-free microscope can detect cancer at the cellular level

December 17, 2014 3:07 pm | by Bill Kisliuk, Univ. of California, Los Angeles | News | Comments

Univ. of California, Los Angeles researchers have developed a lens-free microscope that can be used to detect the presence of cancer or other cell-level abnormalities with the same accuracy as larger and more expensive optical microscopes. The invention could lead to less expensive and more portable technology for performing common examinations of tissue, blood and other biomedical specimens.

A Clear Vision

December 17, 2014 9:29 am | by Paul Livingstone | Articles | Comments

Around 400 BC, Hippocrates was among the first people in recorded history to postulate the brain as the seat of sensation and intelligence. Yet only in the last 100 years have we identified, and closely studied, its key building block: the neuron. A highly specialized cell found in all but the simplest animals, like sponges, the neuron is one of the keys to understanding the brain.

Neutron CT helps solve battery fire puzzle

December 12, 2014 10:43 am | by Daniel Hussey, NIST | News | Comments

Earlier this month, the NTSB released its Aircraft Incident Report on a fire aboard a Japan Airlines Boeing 787, concluding that the fire was probably caused by an internal short circuit within a cell of the lithium-ion battery.       

Many older brains have plasticity, but in a different place

November 20, 2014 8:38 am | by David Orenstein, Brown Univ. | News | Comments

A widely presumed problem of aging is that the brain becomes less flexible or plastic, and that learning may therefore become more difficult. A new study led by Brown Univ. researchers contradicts that notion with a finding that plasticity did occur in seniors who learned a task well, but it occurred in a different part of the brain than in younger people.

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Two sensors in one

November 18, 2014 8:10 am | by Anne Trafton, MIT News Office | News | Comments

Massachusetts Institute of Technology chemists have developed new nanoparticles that can simultaneously perform magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) and fluorescent imaging in living animals. Such particles could help scientists to track specific molecules produced in the body, monitor a tumor’s environment, or determine whether drugs have successfully reached their targets.

High-speed “label-free” imaging could reveal dangerous plaques

November 4, 2014 1:21 pm | by Emil Venere, Purdue Univ. | News | Comments

Researchers are close to commercializing a new type of medical imaging technology that could diagnose cardiovascular disease by measuring ultrasound signals from molecules exposed to a fast-pulsing laser. The system takes precise 3-D images of plaques lining arteries and identifies deposits that are likely to rupture and cause heart attacks.

Heart’s own immune cells can help it heal

October 30, 2014 2:55 pm | by Julia Evangelou Strait, Washington Univ. in St. Louis | News | Comments

The heart holds its own pool of immune cells capable of helping it heal after injury, according to new research in mice at Washington University School of Medicine in St. Louis. When the heart is injured, beneficial immune cells are often supplanted by bone marrow cells, which cause damaging inflammation. In a mouse model, researchers showed that blocking the bone marrow’s macrophages protects the organ’s beneficial pool of macrophages.

“Mega” cells control the growth of blood-producing cells

October 20, 2014 9:38 am | News | Comments

While megakaryocytes are best known for producing platelets that heal wounds, these "mega" cells found in bone marrow also play a critical role in regulating stem cells according to new research from the Stowers Institute for Medical Research. The study is the first to show that hematopoietic stem cells (the parent cells) can be directly controlled by their own progeny (megakaryocytes).

Ultrasound reveals secrets of deadly abdominal aortic aneurysms

October 16, 2014 7:56 am | by Emil Venere, Purdue Univ. | News | Comments

Researchers are exploring the usefulness of ultrasound imaging to study dangerous abdominal aortic aneurysms, a bulging of the aorta that is usually fatal when it ruptures and for which there is no effective medical treatment. Abdominal aortic aneurysms are the 13th leading cause of death in the U.S., killing about 15,000 annually.

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Scientists map key moment in assembly of DNA-splitting molecular machine

October 15, 2014 8:22 am | News | Comments

The proteins that drive DNA replication are some of the most complex machines on Earth and the process involves hundreds of atomic-scale moving parts that rapidly interact and transform. Now, scientists have pinpointed crucial steps in the beginning of the replication process, including surprising structural details about the enzyme that "unzips" and splits the DNA double helix so the two halves can serve as templates for DNA duplication.

Three win Nobel for super-zoom microscopes

October 8, 2014 9:20 am | by Karl Ritter and Malin Rising, Associated Press | News | Comments

Two Americans and a German scientist won the 2014 Nobel Prize in chemistry Wednesday for finding ways to make microscopes more powerful than previously thought possible. Working independently of each other, U.S. researchers Eric Betzig and William Moerner and Stefan Hell of Germany shattered previous limits on the resolution of optical microscopes by using molecules that glow on command to peer inside tiny components of life.

Three win medicine Nobel for discovering brain's GPS

October 7, 2014 9:28 am | by Karl Ritter and Jill Lawless, Associated Press | News | Comments

A U.S.-British scientist and a Norwegian husband-and-wife research team won the Nobel Prize in medicine for discovering the brain's navigation system—the inner GPS that helps us find our way in the world—a revelation that could lead to advances in diagnosing Alzheimer's. The research by John O'Keefe, May-Britt Moser and Edvard Moser represents a "paradigm shift" in neuroscience that could help researchers understand Alzheimer's disease.

A glimpse into the 3-D brain

October 6, 2014 11:39 am | News | Comments

People who wish to know how memory works are forced to take a glimpse into the brain. They can now do so without bloodshed: Researchers have developed a new method for creating 3-D models of memory-relevant brain structures. The approach is unique because it enables automatic calculation of the neural interconnections in the brain on the basis of their position inside the space and their projection directions.

NIH awards UC Berkeley $7.2 million to advance brain initiative

October 2, 2014 8:28 am | by Robert Sanders, UC Berkeley | News | Comments

The National Institutes of Health this week announced its first research grants through President Barack Obama’s BRAIN Initiative, including three awards to the Univ. of California, Berkeley, totaling nearly $7.2 million over three years. The projects are among 58 funded in this initial wave of NIH grants, involving 100 researchers and a total of $46 million in fiscal year 2014 dollars alone.

Virtual breast could improve cancer detection

October 1, 2014 9:10 am | by Marcia Goodrich, Michigan Technological Univ. | News | Comments

Only a minority of suspicious mammograms actually leads to a cancer diagnosis, which results in lots of needless worry and spent time for women and their families. Ultrasound elastography could be an excellent screening tool but it requires a lot of skill and interpretation. In an effort to improve results, researchers in Michigan have developed a virtual “breast”, allowing medical professionals to practice in the laboratory.

High-speed drug screen

September 30, 2014 7:37 am | by Anne Trafton, MIT News Office | News | Comments

Massachusetts Institute of Technology engineers have devised a way to rapidly test hundreds of different drug-delivery vehicles in living animals, making it easier to discover promising new ways to deliver a class of drugs called biologics, which includes antibodies, peptides, RNA and DNA, to human patients.

Scientists identify the signature of aging in the brain

September 29, 2014 12:58 pm | News | Comments

How the brain ages is still largely an open question because this organ is mostly insulated from direct contact with other systems in the body. In recent research, scientists in Israel found evidence of a unique “signature” that may be the “missing link” between cognitive decline and aging. The scientists believe that this discovery may lead, in the future, to treatments that can slow or reverse cognitive decline in older people.

Sensing neuronal activity with light

September 18, 2014 12:29 pm | by Jessica Stoller-Conrad, Caltech | News | Comments

For years, neuroscientists have been trying to develop tools that would allow them to clearly view the brain's circuitry in action. To get this complete picture, neuroscientists are working to develop a range of new tools to study the brain. Researchers at Caltech have developed one such tool that provides a new way of mapping neural networks in a living organism.

The shadow of a disease

September 15, 2014 8:45 am | News | Comments

Researchers have developed an optical method that makes individual proteins, such as the proteins characteristic of some cancers, visible. Other methods that achieve this only work if the target biomolecules have first been labeled with fluorescent tags, but this approach is very difficult. By contrast, the new method allows scientists to directly detect the scattered light of individual proteins via their shadows.

Faster image processing for low-radiation CT scans

September 12, 2014 8:08 am | by Kate McAlpine, Univ. of Michigan | Videos | Comments

A new $1.9 million study at the Univ. of Michigan seeks to make low-dose computed tomography scans a viable screening technique by speeding up the image reconstruction from half an hour or more to just five minutes. The advance could be particularly important for fighting lung cancers, as symptoms often appear too late for effective treatment.

Fingerprinting cell metabolism points toward study of obesity, diabetes

September 9, 2014 7:38 am | by Emil Venere, Purdue Univ. | News | Comments

Researchers have shown how to use a new imaging platform to map lipid metabolism in living cells, discovering specifically where cholesterol is stored and pointing toward further studies in obesity, diabetes and longevity. The imaging approach makes it possible to not only quantify the storage of cholesterol, but also the "desaturation" and oxidation of lipids, which may reduce the ability of cells to use insulin.

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