Human fingertips have several types of sensory neurons that are responsible for relaying touch signals to the central nervous system. Scientists have long believed these neurons followed a linear path to the brain with a "labeled-lines" structure. But new research on mouse whiskers reveals a surprise: At the fine scale, the sensory system's wiring diagram doesn't have a set pattern.
During open surgery, doctors rely on their sense of touch to identify anatomical structures: a procedure they call palpation. But this practice is not possible in minimally invasive surgery where surgeons work with small, specialized tools and miniature cameras. A small, wireless capsule has been developed that can restore the sense of touch that surgeons are losing as they shift increasingly from open to minimally invasive surgery.
In the search to understand memory, Wei Min is looking at cells at the most basic level, long before the formation of neurons and synapses. The asst. prof. of chemistry studies the synthesis of proteins, the building blocks of the body formed using genetic code from DNA. “We want to understand the molecular nature of memory, one of the key questions that remain in neuroscience,” he says.
Researchers have developed a new quantitative method of identifying pollen grains that is certainly nothing to sneeze at. Since the invention of the light microscopes, the classification of pollen and spores has been a highly subjective venture for those who use these tiny particles to study vegetation in their field, palynology. However, the limitations have kept researchers from classifying pollen and spores beyond a general level.
The microscopic technique, developed by researchers at Queen Mary Univ. of London, represents a major advance for cell biologists as it will allow them to investigate structures deep inside the cell, such as viruses, bacteria and parts of the nucleus in depth.
With high-tech optical tools and sophisticated mathematics, Rice Univ. researchers have found a way to pinpoint the location of specific sequences along single strands of DNA, a technique that could someday help diagnose genetic diseases. Proof-of-concept experiments in the Rice laboratory of chemist Christy Landes identified DNA sequences as short as 50 nucleotides at room temperature.
Autumn is usually not such a great time for big special effects movies as the summer blockbusters have faded and those for the holiday season have not yet opened. Fall is more often the time for thoughtful films about small subjects, which makes it perfect for the unveiling of a new movie produced by researchers at Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory.
Scientists at Massachusetts Institute of Technology and the Univ. of Texas at Arlington have developed a new type of microscopy that can image cells through a silicon wafer, allowing them to precisely measure the size and mechanical behavior of cells behind the wafer. The new technology, which relies on near-infrared light, could help scientists learn more about diseased or infected cells as they flow through silicon microfluidic devices.
A team from the Univ. of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign and Northwestern Univ. has devised a novel nuclear magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) technique that delivers a roughly 10-nm spatial resolution. This represents a significant advance in MRI sensitivity as modern MRI techniques yield spatial resolutions on the millimeter length scale, with the highest-resolution experimental instruments giving spatial resolution of a few micrometers.
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.
Inspired by how wireless communication networks use multiple radio frequencies to communicate with multiple users, researchers from the Univ. of California, Los Angeles have developed a new high-speed microscopy technique that is an order of magnitude faster than current fluorescence-imaging technologies.
Using a new and super-sensitive instrument, researchers have discovered where a protein binds to plant cell walls, a process that loosens the cell walls and makes it possible for plants to grow. Finding that binding target has been a major challenge for structural biologists because there are only tiny amounts of the protein involved in cell growth and cell walls are very complex.
Researchers are using computer simulations to investigate how ultrasound and tiny bubbles injected into the bloodstream might break up blood clots, limiting the damage caused by a stroke in its first hours. Strokes are the most common cause of long-term disability in the U.S. and the third most common cause of death.
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.
Watching a plant grow and develop roots can be a long and tiresome process, but watching this process closely can reveal what happens to a genetically modified organism. A recently developed system from IntelLiDrives and the Univ. of Wisconsin-Madison uses robotic cameras and computerized motion control systems to make this process easier.
Your smartphone now can see what the naked eye cannot: A single virus and bits of material less than one-thousandth of the width of a human hair. A team at the Univ. of California, Los Angeles has created a portable smartphone attachment that can be used to perform sophisticated field testing to detect viruses and bacteria without the need for bulky and expensive microscopes and lab equipment. The device weighs less than half a pound.
More than one billion people worldwide rely on fish as an important source of animal protein, consuming low levels of methylmercury. Methylmercury compounds specifically target the central nervous system, but now researchers have combined synchrotron x-rays with methylmercury-poisoned zebrafish larvae to learn that they may also affect our vision.
Siemens Healthcare has announced that the U.S. Food and Drug Administration has granted 510(k) clearance for Symbia Intevo—the world’s first xSPECT system, which combines the high sensitivity of single-photon emission computed tomography (SPECT) with the high specificity of computed tomography (CT). Completely integrating data from both modalities, Symbia Intevo generates high resolution and, for the first time ever, quantitative images.
Scientists at Rice Univ. have trapped bismuth in a nanotube cage to tag stem cells for x-ray tracking. Bismuth is probably best known as the active element in a popular stomach-settling elixir and is also used in cosmetics and medical applications. Rice chemist Lon Wilson and his colleagues are inserting bismuth compounds into single-walled carbon nanotubes to make a more effective contrast agent for CT scanners.
Gardiner’s frogs from the Seychelles islands, one of the smallest frogs in the world, do not possess a middle ear with an eardrum yet can croak themselves, and hear other frogs. An international team of scientists using x-rays has now solved this mystery and established that these frogs are using their mouth cavity and tissue to transmit sound to their inner ears.
Biological cells are surrounded by a membrane, which researchers in Denmark have can contain beautiful, mysterious patterns. Formed by highly organized lipids, the patterns vary according to conditions such as temperature and the type of lipid molecules. Extremely difficult to detect, these patterns have as yet no known biological function.
“Where” and “how” memories are encoded in a nervous system is one of the most challenging questions in biological research. Researchers have recently provided the first experimental evidence that a specific form of memory association is encoded in the cerebral cortex and is not localized in the hippocampus as once thought. The new study suggests that the motor cortical circuits itself, and not the hippocampus, is used as memory storage.
Each year, millions of people in the U.S. get a tuberculosis skin test to see if they have the infection. But the standard diagnostic test is difficult to give, because a hypodermic needle must be inserted at a precise angle and depth in the arm to successfully check for tuberculosis. Now, a team has created a microneedle patch that can penetrate the skin and precisely deliver a tuberculosis test.
They're called "super agers"—men and women who are in their 80s and 90s, but with brains and memories that seem far younger. Researchers are looking at this rare group in the hope that they may find ways to help protect others from memory loss. And they've had some tantalizing findings: Imaging tests have found unusually low amounts of age-related plaques along with more brain mass related to attention and memory in these elite seniors.
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.