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Cancer drugs may hold key to treating Down syndrome

May 20, 2015 7:51 am | by Ian Demsky, Univ. of Michigan | Videos | Comments

A class of FDA-approved cancer drugs may be able to prevent problems with brain cell development associated with disorders including Down syndrome and Fragile X syndrome, researchers at the Univ. of Michigan Life Sciences Institute have found. The researchers' proof-of-concept study using fruit fly models of brain dysfunction was published in eLife.

Modern medicine relies on optical fibers to cauterize unhealthy veins in a minimally invasive way. Now, Fraunhofer researchers have developed a laser processing method that facilitates automated series manufacture of these fibers at a much finer quality t

Using a new laser process to custom shape optical fibers

May 19, 2015 11:24 am | by Fraunhofer-Gesellschaft | News | Comments

Modern medicine relies on optical fibers to cauterize unhealthy veins in a minimally invasive way. Now, Fraunhofer researchers have developed a laser processing method that facilitates automated series manufacture of these fibers at a much finer quality than ever before. The scientists presented a fiber probe prototype manufactured using the new technique at the measurement fair SENSOR+TEST 2015 in Nuremberg.

The device holds a key advantage over traditional surgical tools by way of its ability to quickly transform from a bending, flexible instrument into a stiff and rigid one. Courtesy of Tommaso Ranzani

Octopus arm inspires future surgical tool

May 19, 2015 11:08 am | by Institute of Physics | News | Comments

A robotic arm that can bend, stretch and squeeze through cluttered environments has been created by a group of researchers from Italy. Inspired by the eight arms of an octopus, the device has been specifically designed for surgical operations to enable surgeons to easily access remote, confined regions of the body and, once there, manipulate soft organs without damaging them.

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Designing better medical implants

May 19, 2015 7:51 am | by Anne Trafton, MIT News Office | News | Comments

Biomedical devices that can be implanted in the body for drug delivery, tissue engineering or sensing can help improve treatment for many diseases. However, such devices are often susceptible to attack by the immune system, which can render them useless. A team of Massachusetts Institute of Technology researchers has come up with a way to reduce that immune-system rejection.

Discovery paves way for homebrewed drugs

May 18, 2015 11:22 am | by Sarah Yang, Univ. of California, Berkeley | News | Comments

Fans of homebrewed beer and backyard distilleries already know how to employ yeast to convert sugar into alcohol. But a research team led by UC Berkeley bioengineers has gone much further by completing key steps needed to turn sugar-fed yeast into a microbial factory for producing morphine and potentially other drugs, including antibiotics and anti-cancer therapeutics.

How microbes acquire electricity in making methane

May 18, 2015 10:57 am | by Mark Shwartz, Stanford Univ. | News | Comments

Stanford Univ. scientists have solved a long-standing mystery about methanogens, unique microorganisms that transform electricity and carbon dioxide into methane. In a new study, the Stanford team demonstrates for the first time how methanogens obtain electrons from solid surfaces. The discovery could help scientists design electrodes for microbial "factories" that produce methane gas and other compounds sustainably.

Solving streptide from structure to biosynthesis

May 18, 2015 7:31 am | by Princeton Univ. | News | Comments

Bacteria speak to one another using peptide signals in a soundless language known as quorum sensing. In a step towards translating bacterial communications, researchers at Princeton Univ. have revealed the structure and biosynthesis of streptide, a peptide involved in the quorum sensing system common to many streptococci.

Nanosponge-filled gel cleans up MRSA infections

May 18, 2015 7:23 am | by Univ. of California, San Diego | News | Comments

Nanoengineers at the Univ. of California, San Diego developed a gel filled with toxin-absorbing nanosponges that could lead to an effective treatment for skin and wound infections caused by MRSA, an antibiotic-resistant bacteria. This "nanosponge-hydrogel" minimized the growth of skin lesions on mice infected with MRSA, without the use of antibiotics.

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Stem cell "Wild West" takes root amid lack of U.S. regulation

May 18, 2015 2:04 am | by Matthew Perrone, AP Health Writer, Associated Press | News | Comments

The liquid is dark red, a mixture of fat and blood, and Dr. Mark Berman pumps it out of the patient's backside. He treats it with a chemical, runs it through a processor and injects it into the woman's aching knees and elbows. The "soup," he says, is rich in shape-shifting stem cells: magic bullets that, according to some doctors, can be used to treat everything from Parkinson's disease to asthma to this patient's chronic osteoarthritis.

Findings reveal clues to functioning of mysterious “mimivirus”

May 14, 2015 4:16 pm | by Emil Venere, Purdue Univ. | News | Comments

Researchers have discovered the structure of a key protein on the surface of an unusually large virus called the mimivirus, aiding efforts to determine its hosts and unknown functions. The mimivirus was initially thought to be a bacterium because it is much larger than most viruses. It was isolated by French scientists in 1992 but wasn't confirmed to be a virus until 2003.

Educating the immune system to prevent allergies

May 14, 2015 10:08 am | by Julie Robert, McGill Univ. | News | Comments

With the arrival of spring, millions of people have begun their annual ritual of sneezing and wheezing due to seasonal allergies. A research team is bringing people hope with a potential vaccine that nudges the immune response away from developing allergies. The findings have clinical implications since allergies and asthma are lifelong conditions that often start in childhood and for which there is presently no cure.

New target for anti-malaria drugs

May 14, 2015 9:06 am | by Helen Knight, MIT News correspondent | News | Comments

A new target for drug development in the fight against the deadly disease malaria has been discovered by researchers at Massachusetts Institute of Technology. In a recently published paper, the researchers describe how they identified the drug target while studying the way in which the parasites Toxoplasma gondii, which causes toxoplasmosis, and Plasmodium, which causes malaria, access vital nutrients from their host cells.

Digitizing neurons

May 14, 2015 8:21 am | by Morgan McCorkle, Oak Ridge National Laboratory | News | Comments

Supercomputing resources at Oak Ridge National Laboratory will support a new initiative designed to advance how scientists digitally reconstruct and analyze individual neurons in the human brain. Led by the Allen Institute for Brain Science, the BigNeuron project aims to create a common platform for analyzing the 3-D structure of neurons.

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Infant antibiotic use linked to adult diseases

May 14, 2015 8:02 am | by Lacey Nygard, Univ. of Minnesota | News | Comments

A new study led by researchers at the Univ. of Minnesota has found a three-way link among antibiotic use in infants, changes in the gut bacteria and disease later in life. The imbalances in gut microbes, called dysbiosis, have been tied to infectious diseases, allergies and other autoimmune disorders, and obesity later in life.

Study: Vitamin B3 may help prevent certain skin cancers

May 13, 2015 6:05 pm | by Marilynn Marchione, AP Chief Medical Writer, Associated Press | News | Comments

For the first time, a large study suggests that a vitamin might modestly lower the risk of the most common types of skin cancer in people with a history of these relatively harmless yet troublesome growths. In a study in Australia, people who took a specific type of vitamin B3 for a year had a 23% lower rate of new skin cancers compared to others who took dummy pills.

Health benefits of used coffee grounds

May 13, 2015 8:57 am | by American Chemical Society | News | Comments

Coffee has gone from dietary foe to friend in recent years, partly due to the revelation that it’s rich in antioxidants. Now even spent coffee-grounds are gaining attention for being chock-full of these compounds, which have potential health benefits. In the Journal of Agricultural and Food Chemistry, researchers explain how to extract antioxidants from the grounds. They then determined just how concentrated the antioxidants are.

Using microbial communities to assess environmental contamination

May 13, 2015 7:58 am | by Lynn Yarris, Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory | News | Comments

First there were canaries in coal mines, now there are microbes at nuclear waste sites, oil spills and other contaminated environments. A multi-institutional team of more than 30 scientists has found that statistical analysis of DNA from natural microbial communities can be used to accurately identify environmental contaminants and serve as quantitative geochemical biosensors.

Molecular switch that promotes heart cell maturation discovered

May 13, 2015 7:34 am | by Michael McCarthy, Univ. of Washington Health Services | News | Comments

A molecular switch that seems to be essential for embryonic heart cells to grow into more mature, adult-like heart cells has been discovered. The discovery should help scientist better understand how human hearts mature. Of particular interest to stem cell and regenerative medicine researchers, the finding may lead to laboratory methods to create heart cells that function more like those found in adult hearts.

Tolou Shokuhfar and colleagues are developing techniques using 3D bioprinting to generate human tissue.

Bioprinting in 3D: Looks like candy, could regenerate nerve cells

May 12, 2015 10:23 am | by Michigan Technological University | News | Comments

The printer looks like a toaster oven with the front and sides removed. Its metal frame is built up around a stainless steel circle lit by an ultraviolet light. Stainless steel hydraulics and thin black tubes line the back edge, which lead to an inner, topside box made of red plastic. All together, the gray metal frame is small enough to fit on top of an old-fashioned school desk, but nothing about this 3D printer is old school.

Researchers in the University of Colorado Center for Neuroscience have developed an implantable microscope that will allow researchers to see deep into the brain and learn about small parts of the brain we've never been able to properly study.

Researchers create microscope allowing deep brain exploration

May 12, 2015 10:05 am | by David Kelly, University of Colorado | News | Comments

A team of neuroscientists and bioengineers a have created a miniature, fiber-optic microscope designed to peer deeply inside a living brain. The laser-scanning microscope, a prototype which will be further refined, uses fiber-optics and a tiny electrowetting lens. Compared to other small, focusing lenses, it’s fast and not sensitive to motion. This allows it to reliably focus on living tissue.

Healing plants inspire new compounds for psychiatric drugs

May 12, 2015 8:02 am | by Erin Spain, Northwestern Univ. | News | Comments

Treatments used by traditional healers in Nigeria have inspired scientists at Northwestern Univ. to synthesize four new chemical compounds that could one day lead to better therapies for people with psychiatric disorders. In a recently published paper, the scientists detail how they created these natural compounds by completing the first total syntheses of two indole alkaloids: alstonine and serpentine.

Faster, smaller, more informative

May 12, 2015 7:37 am | by Anne Trafton, MIT News Office | News | Comments

A new technique invented at Massachusetts Institute of Technology can measure the relative positions of tiny particles as they flow through a fluidic channel, potentially offering an easy way to monitor the assembly of nanoparticles, or to study how mass is distributed within a cell. With further advancements, this technology has the potential to resolve the shape of objects in flow as small as viruses, the researchers say.

Measurement of a single nuclear spin in biological samples

May 11, 2015 12:06 pm | by Univ. of Basel | News | Comments

Physicists were able to show, for the first time, that the nuclear spins of single molecules can be detected with the help of magnetic particles at room temperature. The researchers describe a novel experimental setup with which the tiny magnetic fields of the nuclear spins of single biomolecules could be registered for the first time.

Improved way to assess cancer risk of pollutants

May 11, 2015 9:16 am | by Gail Wells, Oregon State Univ. | News | Comments

Scientists at Oregon State Univ. have developed a faster, more accurate method to assess cancer risk from certain common environmental pollutants. Researchers found that they could analyze the immediate genetic responses of the skin cells of exposed mice and apply statistical approaches to determine whether or not those cells would eventually become cancerous.

Damming hemorrhagic diseases

May 11, 2015 8:50 am | by Univ. of Montreal | News | Comments

A potential mechanism to combat diseases caused by haemorrhagic fever viruses has been discovered by researchers at the Univ. of Montreal's Dept. of Biochemistry and Molecular Medicine. These diseases present a dramatic risk to human health as they often spread quickly and kill a high percentage of infected individuals, as demonstrated by the recent Ebola outbreaks.

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