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New way to model sickle cell behavior

January 20, 2015 10:49 am | by Anne Trafton, MIT News Office | Comments

Patients with sickle cell disease often suffer from painful attacks known as vaso-occlusive crises, during which their sickle-shaped blood cells get stuck in tiny capillaries, depriving tissues of needed oxygen. Blood transfusions can sometimes prevent such attacks, but there are currently no good ways to predict when a vaso-occlusive crisis, which can last for several days, is imminent.

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Hydrogels deliver on blood-vessel growth

January 20, 2015 7:50 am | by Mike Williams, Rice Univ. | Comments

Rice Univ. scientists have found the balance necessary to aid healing with high-tech hydrogel. The team created a new version of the hydrogel that can be injected into an internal wound and help it heal while slowly degrading as it is replaced by natural tissue. Hydrogels are used as a scaffold upon which cells can build tissue. The new hydrogel overcomes a host of issues that have kept them from reaching their potential to treat injuries.

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New fibers can deliver many simultaneous stimuli

January 20, 2015 7:33 am | by David L. Chandler, MIT News Office | Comments

The human brain’s complexity makes it extremely challenging to study; not only because of its sheer size, but also because of the variety of signaling methods it uses simultaneously. Conventional neural probes are designed to record a single type of signaling, limiting the information that can be derived from the brain at any point in time. Now researchers at Massachusetts Institute of Technology may have found a way to change that.

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Humanity has exceeded four of nine “planetary boundaries”

January 16, 2015 7:53 am | by Adam Hinterthuer, Univ. of Wisconsin-Madison | Comments

An international team of researchers says climate change, the loss of biosphere integrity, land-system change and altered biogeochemical cycles like phosphorus and nitrogen runoff have all passed beyond levels that put humanity in a “safe operating space.” Civilization has crossed four of nine so-called planetary boundaries as the result of human activity, according to a report published in Science by the 18-member research team.

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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 | Comments

Autism is a spectrum of closely related disorders diagnosed in patients who exhibit a shared core of symptoms, including delays in learning to communicate and interact socially. Early detection of autism in children is the key for treatments to be most effective and produce the best outcomes. Using advanced 3-D imaging and statistical analysis techniques, researchers identified facial measurements in children with autism.

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First contracting human muscle grown in laboratory

January 14, 2015 8:28 am | by Ken Kingery, Duke Univ. | Comments

In a laboratory first, Duke Univ. researchers have grown human skeletal muscle that contracts and responds just like native tissue to external stimuli such as electrical pulses, biochemical signals and pharmaceuticals. The laboratory-grown tissue should soon allow researchers to test new drugs and study diseases in functioning human muscle outside of the human body.

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Rainfall can release aerosols

January 14, 2015 7:38 am | by Jennifer Chu, MIT News Office | Comments

Ever notice an earthy smell in the air after a light rain? Now scientists believe they may have identified the mechanism that releases this aroma, as well as other aerosols, into the environment. Using high-speed cameras, the researchers observed that when a raindrop hits a porous surface, it traps tiny air bubbles at the point of contact.

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How rivers of meltwater on Greenland’s ice sheet contribute to rising sea levels

January 13, 2015 8:31 am | by Meg Sullivan, Univ. of California, Los Angeles | Comments

As the largest single chunk of melting snow and ice in the world, the massive ice sheet that covers about 80% of Greenland is recognized as the biggest potential contributor to rising sea levels due to glacial meltwater. Until now, however, scientists’ attention has mostly focused on the ice sheet’s aquamarine lakes and on monster chunks of ice that slide into the ocean to become icebergs.

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Slick and slender snake beats short and stubby lizard in sand swimming

January 13, 2015 8:20 am | by John Toon, Georgia Institute of Technology | Comments

For swimming through sand, a slick and slender snake can perform better than a short and stubby lizard. That’s one conclusion from a study of the movement patterns of the shovel-nosed snake, a native of the Mojave Desert of the southwest U.S.

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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. | 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?

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Countering a new class of coffee shop hackers

January 9, 2015 10:52 am | by John Toon, Georgia Institute of Technology | Comments

If you’re sitting in a coffee shop, tapping away on your laptop, feeling safe from hackers because you didn’t connect to the shop’s Wi-Fi, think again. The bad guys may be able to see what you’re doing just by analyzing the low-power electronic signals your laptop emits even when it’s not connected to the Internet. And smartphones may be even more vulnerable to such spying.

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Cold virus replicates better at cooler temperatures

January 7, 2015 11:27 am | by Ziba Kashef, Yale Univ. | Comments

The common cold virus can reproduce itself more efficiently in the cooler temperature found inside the nose than at core body temperature, according to a new Yale Univ.-led study. This finding may confirm the popular, yet contested, notion that people are more likely to catch a cold in cool-weather conditions.

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Planet-hunting satellite to observe supermassive black hole

January 6, 2015 11:00 am | by Joe Hadfield, Brigham Young Univ. | Comments

If you want to see just how far Brigham Young Univ. (BYU)’s latest research extends, step outside of your house tonight, look up towards the sky, focus your view between the constellations of Cygnus and Lyra, and then zoom in about 100 million light years. That’s the home of a galaxy known as KA 1858, which contains a black hole that BYU scientists observed with the help of NASA and astrophysicists throughout the Univ. of California system.

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DNA origami could lead to nano “transformers” for biomedical applications

January 5, 2015 3:59 pm | by Pam Frost Gorder, Ohio State Univ. | Comments

If the new nanomachines built at The Ohio State Univ. look familiar, it’s because they were designed with full-size mechanical parts such as hinges and pistons in mind. The project is the first to prove that the same basic design principles that apply to typical full-size machine parts can also be applied to DNA; and can produce complex, controllable components for future nanorobots.

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New technology makes 3-D tissues, maybe organs in the future

December 22, 2014 10:34 am | Comments

A new instrument could someday build replacement human organs the way electronics are assembled today: with precise picking and placing of parts. In this case, the parts are not resistors and capacitors, but 3-D microtissues containing thousands to millions of living cells that need a constant stream of fluid to bring them nutrients and to remove waste. The new device is called “BioP3” for pick, place, and perfuse.

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