The Digital Edge
|Andrew Carleen||April 3rd 2014|
The electrochemical reactions inside the porous electrodes of batteries and fuel cells have been described by theorists, but never measured directly. Now, a team at MIT has figured out a way to measure the fundamental charge transfer rate — finding some significant surprises.
The study found that the Butler-Volmer (BV) equation, usually used to describe reaction rates in electrodes, is inaccurate, especially at higher voltage levels. Instead, a different approach, called Marcus-Hush-Chidsey charge-transfer theory, provides more realistic results — revealing that the limiting step of these reactions is not what had been thought.
The new findings could help engineers design better electrodes to improve batteries' rates of charging and discharging, and provide a better understanding of other electrochemical processes, such as how to control corrosion. The work is described this week in the journal Nature Communications by MIT postdoc Peng Bai and professor of chemical engineering and mathematics Martin Bazant. Read more ..
The Edge of Medicine
|Steve Baragona||April 2nd 2014|
Scientists have published two of the most detailed brain maps to date: one tracing the wiring diagram of the mouse brain and the other, an atlas of gene activity in the developing human brain.
The maps are a key tool for researchers seeking to better understand how this incredibly complex organ works, and to study what goes wrong in diseases such as Alzheimer’s and autism.
The publication falls on the first anniversary of a major Obama administration brain research initiative.
The human brain contains roughly 100 billion nerve cells connecting our senses, thoughts, motions, emotions, memories and automatic responses. A good map would help explain how these circuits communicate with each other.
So far, researchers have unraveled the complete mental circuitry of exactly one organism: a tiny worm with just 302 neurons. Other creatures’ brains have been mapped in bits and pieces. New research published in Nature puts together a complete map of the brain of a mouse. Read more ..
Edge of Astronomy
Recently physicists have been poking holes again in Stephen Hawking’s black hole theory – including Hawking himself. For decades physicists across the globe have been trying to figure out the mysteries of black holes – those fascinating monstrous entities that have such intense gravitational pull that nothing – not even light – can escape from them. Now Professor Chris Adami, Michigan State University, has jumped into the fray.
The debate about the behavior of black holes, which has been ongoing since 1975, was reignited when Hawking posted a blog on Jan. 22, 2014, stating that event horizons – the invisible boundaries of black holes – do not exist. Hawking, considered to be the foremost expert on black holes, has over the years revised his theory and continues to work on understanding these cosmic puzzles. Read more ..
The Edge of Medicine
|Steve Baragona||March 30th 2014|
In what is being called a major step forward in genetic engineering, scientists have built a customized copy of an entire yeast chromosome. Experts say it may lead to a better understanding of how the thousands of genes contained in these packages of genetic material work together in everything from yeast to humans. And it may make it easier to make designer yeast, creating living factories that churn out everything from antibiotics to biofuels.
Geneticist Jef Boeke says it started with a coffee shop conversation with a colleague.
“I mentioned casually to him that, of course we could make the yeast chromosome if we wanted to, but why on Earth would we want to do that? And he practically literally started jumping up and down with excitement when I told him that,” he said. So Boeke, the colleague, Srinivasan Chandrasegaran and a third partner, Joel Bader, spent the next year discussing how they could engineer the chromosome to make it worth the enormous investment of time and money it would take. Read more ..
The Digital Edge
|Marianne Brown||March 29th 2014|
In Vietnam, there are rising concerns about the excessive use of pesticides on crops. To ensure their vegetables are safe, some consumers are now shopping for produce online.
Billboards carry the message “don’t abuse pesticides, think of the consumer,” but a lack of government regulation has done little to combat the overuse of pesticides, and consumers are taking note. As a result, many are turning to the Internet to be better informed.
Out shopping in Hanoi’s city center, 30-year-old mother Tran Thuy Nhat expressed concerns many people can identify with.
She said she only buys vegetables from people she knows in her village on the outskirts of the city. She is worried about chemicals in vegetables and fruit and said if she buys these from someone she does not know, they could be harmful to her baby. Not everyone is lucky enough to have access to farmers they know well. But a website dedicated to providing information about shops which sell “safe vegetables” in Hanoi aims to address this lack of trust. Read more ..
The Race for Solar
|Nalin Patel||March 28th 2014|
Commercial silicon-based solar cells - such as those seen on the roofs of houses across the country - operate at about 20% efficiency for converting the Sun's rays into electrical energy. It's taken over 20 years to achieve that rate of efficiency.
A relatively new type of solar cell based on a perovskite material - named for scientist Lev Perovski, who first discovered materials with this structure in the Ural Mountains in the 19th century - was recently pioneered by an Oxford research team led by Professor Henry Snaith.
Perovskite solar cells, the source of huge excitement in the research community, already lie just a fraction behind commercial silicon, having reached a remarkable 17% efficiency after a mere two years of research - transforming prospects for cheap large-area solar energy generation. Read more ..
The Edge of Medicine
|Mark Peplow||March 27th 2014|
A biodegradable, implantable battery could help in the development of biomedical devices that monitor tissue or deliver treatments before being reabsorbed by the body after use.
“This is a really major advance,” says Jeffrey Borenstein, a biomedical engineer at Draper Laboratory, a non-profit research and development center in Cambridge, Massachusetts. “Until recently, there has not been a lot of progress in this area.”
In 2012, materials scientist John Rogers at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign unveiled a range of biodegradable silicon chips that could monitor temperature or mechanical strain, radio the results to external devices, and even heat up tissue to prevent infection (see ‘Biodegradable electronics here today, gone tomorrow’). Some of those chips relied on induction coils to draw wireless power from an external source. Read more ..
|Frietson Galis||March 26th 2014|
Researchers recently noticed that the remains of woolly mammoths from the North Sea often possess a 'cervical' (neck) rib—in fact, 10 times more frequently than in modern elephants (33.3% versus 3.3%). In modern animals, these cervical ribs are often associated with inbreeding and adverse environmental conditions during pregnancy. If the same factors were behind the anomalies in mammoths, this reproductive stress could have further pushed declining mammoth populations towards ultimate extinction.
Mammals, even the long-necked giraffes and the short-necked dolphins, almost always have seven neck vertebrae (exceptions being sloths, manatees and dugongs), and these vertebrae do not normally possess a rib. Read more ..
The Digital Edge
|Rosanne Skirble||March 25th 2014|
A ground-breaking new scanning technique has allowed scientists to film the insides of a live, flying insect, capturing the first-ever high-speed 3D images of the flight muscles of flies.
Researchers from Oxford University, Imperial College and the Paul Scherrer Institute used a particle accelerator to capture the images, which could one day lead to the development of micro medical devices.
The scientists developed the technique in order to study the blowfly’s complicated joint system.
"The insect is very fast and very small, with wings that beat 150 times a second," said Oxford University professor Graham Taylor, a member of the research team. "Each one of those wing beats is controlled by some tiny muscles, some of which are as thin as a human hair. So this is really an enormous technical challenge to understand this, and a particularly challenging target for understanding biological systems.” Read more ..
|Knut Dobberke||March 24th 2014|
Phosphorus can be found in fertilizers, drinks and detergents. It accumulates in waterways and pollutes them. For this reason the German Phosphorus Platform has the goal to recover this valuable, but at the same time, harmful element from water. How this can be done will be shown by researchers at the Hannover Trade Fair / IndustrialGreenTec from April 7 – 11 in Hannover where visitors can try out the method for themselves.
Using magnets the superparamagnetic particles in the water can be removed along with their phosphorus load. Not only plants, but also humans and animals need phosphorus, which is a building block of DNA. Many biological processes in our body can only take place if phosphorus atoms are also present. But farmers and industrial enterprises use so much of this element that soil is over-fertilized and waterways are contaminated. Read more ..
The Race for Batteries
|Andy Freeberg||March 20th 2014|
Scientists at the Department of Energy's SLAC National Accelerator Laboratory and Stanford University have discovered a potential way to make graphene – a single layer of carbon atoms with great promise for future electronics – superconducting, a state in which it would carry electricity with 100 percent efficiency.
Researchers used a beam of intense ultraviolet light to look deep into the electronic structure of a material made of alternating layers of graphene and calcium.
While it's been known for nearly a decade that this combined material is superconducting, the new study offers the first compelling evidence that the graphene layers are instrumental in this process, a discovery that could transform the engineering of materials for nanoscale electronic devices. Read more ..
The Edge of Medicine
|George Putic||March 19th 2014|
Since its introduction in the 1980s, magnetic resonance imaging machines, commonly known as MRI scanners, have become a highly valuable tool in diagnostic medicine. Researchers in California now say they have developed a new method that enables them to see moving images of body joints.
With the MRI scanner, the part of the patient’s body that needs to be observed is exposed to a very strong magnetic field which excites hydrogen atoms in its tissues.
Different tissues emit different radio frequencies which a computer turns into images. For the image to be as clear as possible, the patient has to lie perfectly still. Researchers at the University of California Davis developed a procedure for getting moving images of body parts, like joints.
Professor Robert Boutin, who leads the research team, says the procedure called ‘Active MRI’, captures multiple images per second. Those images, he says, will help doctors analyze the mechanics of the patient's joint before and after the surgery. Read more ..
The Healthy Edge
|Mary Masson||March 18th 2014|
In his 18 months of life, Garrett Peterson has never gone home, spending his days in hospital beds tethered to ventilators that even at the highest settings couldn’t prevent his breathing from periodically stopping.
His condition was so tenuous that often his parents could not hold him for fear of compromising his breathing. But after surgeons at the University of Michigan’s C.S. Mott Children’s Hospital implanted 3D printed devices to open up Garrett’s airways, his parents are now planning to take their son home to their house in Utah for the very first time.
Garrett is just the second person whose life was saved with a new, bioresorbable device developed at the University of Michigan by Glenn Green, M.D., associate professor of pediatric otolaryngology and Scott Hollister, Ph.D., professor of biomedical engineering and mechanical engineering and associate professor of surgery at U-M. Read more ..
The Medical Edge
|Laura Bailey||March 17th 2014|
University of Michigan
University of Michigan researchers have learned how to fix a cellular structure called the Golgi that mysteriously becomes fragmented in all Alzheimer's patients and appears to be a major cause of the disease.
They say that understanding this mechanism helps decode amyloid plaque formation in the brains of Alzheimer's patients—plaques that kills cells and contributes to memory loss and other Alzheimer's symptoms.
The researchers discovered the molecular process behind Golgi fragmentation, and also developed two techniques to 'rescue' the Golgi structure.
"We plan to use this as a strategy to delay the disease development," said Yanzhuang Wang. "We have a better understanding of why plaque forms fast in Alzheimer's and found a way to slow down plaque formation." The paper appears in an upcoming edition of the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. Gunjan Joshi, is the lead author. Wang said scientists have long recognized that the Golgi becomes fragmented in the neurons of Alzheimer's patients, but until now they didn't know how or why this fragmentation occurred. Read more ..
The Edge of Climate Change
|Rosanne Skirble||March 16th 2014|
A new study finds dramatic new thinning in the Greenland ice sheet in a region that was considered stable until now.
Last July, Kurt Kjaer was collecting sample sediment cores from a lake bed in southeastern Greenland when his science team witnessed a dramatic event.
“We landed and suddenly you could feel that the ground was starting to shake," he remembers.
The research director of the Natural History Museum of Denmark at the University of Copenhagen is co-author of the new study about the Greenland ice sheet.
“We turned around and we could see, ‘Oh, there’s a calving event.' Two huge icebergs that are 700 meters deep that are coming out of there, that has been released from the glacier and that is turning around," Kjaer said. "And you can actually pick up the signal from seismic space due to the shaking of the earth all the way down to Japan.” Read more ..
|Marie-Helene Thibeault||March 15th 2014|
They're called the Alberta oilsands but most of the sand actually came from the Appalachian region on the eastern side of the North American continent, a new University of Calgary-led study shows.
The oilsands also include sand from the Canadian Shield in northern and east-central Canada and from the Canadian Rockies in western Canada, the study says. This study is the first to determine the age of individual sediment grains in the oilsands and assess their origin.
"The oilsands are looked at as a Western asset," says study lead author Christine Benyon, who is just completing her Master's degree in Geoscience in the Faculty of Science.
"But we wouldn't have oilsands without the sand, and some of that sand owes its origin to the Appalachians and other parts of Canada."
The research, which also involved study sponsor Nexen Energy ULC and the University of Arizona LaserChron Center, was published last week in the Journal of Sedimentary Research. The findings contribute to geologists' fundamental understanding of the oilsands.
They also help oilsands companies better understand the stratigraphy, or layers, of sand and the ancient valleys where sediment was deposited, "and that could lead to better production techniques," Benyon says.
To determine the origin of the sand, the researchers used a relatively new technique called "detrital zircon uranium-lead geochronology." Read more ..
The Way We Are
|Jean-Phillippe Thiran||March 14th 2014|
Ecole Polytechnique Federale de Lausanne
Technology now allows us to read facial expressions and identify which of the seven universal emotions a person is feeling: fear, anger, joy, sadness, disgust, surprise, or suspicion. This is very useful in video game development, medicine, marketing, and, perhaps less obviously, in driver safety. We know that in addition to fatigue, the emotional state of the driver is a risk factor.
Irritation, in particular, can make drivers more aggressive and less attentive. EPFL researchers, in collaboration with PSA Peugeot Citroën, have developed an on-board emotion detector based on the analysis of facial expressions. Tests carried out using a prototype indicate that the idea could have promising applications.
It's not easy to measure emotions within the confines of a car, especially non-invasively. The solution explored by scientists in EPFL's Signal Processing 5 Laboratory (LTS5), who specialize in facial detection, monitoring and analysis, is to get drivers' faces to do the job. In collaboration with PSA Peugeot Citroën, LTS5 adapted a facial detection device for use in a car, using an infrared camera placed behind the steering wheel. Read more ..
The Digital Edge
|Dacid Byrd||March 13th 2014|
This week marks the 25th anniversary of the invention of the World Wide Web. What started as a way for scientists to share research has changed life worldwide forever.
In March 1989, British scientist Tim Berners-Lee was working at the European Organization for Nuclear Research, or CERN, in Switzerland.
Scientists would come to CERN from all over the world, but others could not view their research because their computers were not compatible. Berners-Lee thought it would be easier if all the computers could talk to one another and swap information directly.
So he proposed linking the machines. The response from his bosses to his proposal, titled Information Management: A Proposal? “Vague, but exciting.” Little did they know. Berners-Lee’s proposal would later become known as the World Wide Web. It took two years before he and a colleague could successfully link a computer server and a web browser through the Internet. It would be officially launched in August 1991.By 1993 there were more than 500 web servers. Today, there are more than 1.7 billion people on the web worldwide. Read more ..
The Race for Nuclear Power
|Kate McAlpine||March 12th 2014|
A handheld radiation camera developed by University of Michigan engineering researchers offers nuclear plant operators a faster way to find potentially dangerous hot spots and leaky fuel rods.
The new 'Polaris-H' detector lays a gamma-ray map over an image of a room, pinpointing radiation sources with unprecedented precision. At least four U.S. nuclear power plants are using versions of the camera, which is now available commercially through the U-M spinoff company H3D.
"This technology enables people to 'see' radiation," said Zhong He, a professor of nuclear engineering and radiological sciences at U-M and CEO of H3D. "This should enable the early detection of leaks by locating abnormal radiation, a much better understanding of radiation sources to protect workers, and it could be a tool for the cleanup effort of nuclear waste and fallout, such as in Fukushima in Japan." Read more ..
The Edge of Nature
|Rosanne Skirble||March 11th 2014|
Satellite tracking devices attached to young sea turtles have provided new information on the so-called ‘lost years’ of this endangered species. As soon as the hatchlings emerge from their sandy nest, they scurry down the beach to the ocean and disappear into the deep for many years before returning to the beach to mate.
The young turtles are tiny and always on the move, making them almost impossible to track. A new study, published in the journal Proceedings of the Royal Society B, is the first to report their early behavior and movement.
Lead author Kate Mansfield, a marine biologist at the University of Central Florida, credits small remote sensing devices. Loggerhead turtles were tagged and released from Florida’s Atlantic coast, then followed for up to 220 days.
“Because they were solar powered, they did not require huge batteries in order to communicate with overhead satellites,” she explained. “So we were able to use much smaller tags that had become available [to put] on smaller turtles.” Read more ..
Edge of Space
|Nicole Casal Moore ||March 10th 2014|
Astronomers at the University of Michigan have for the first time directly measured the spin of a distant supermassive black hole.
The findings, published online in Nature, provide insights into how these black holes and their host galaxies grow and change over time.
Supermassive black holes are believed to lurk at the cores of most, if not all, galaxies. They are millions or billions of times more massive than our sun and they play an important role in how galaxies evolve.
"The growth history of a supermassive black hole is encoded in its spin, so studies of spin versus time can allow us to study the co-evolution of black holes and their host galaxies," said study co-author Mark Reynolds, assistant research scientist in astronomy at the U-M College of Literature, Sciences, and the Arts. Read more ..
The Race for Solar
|Florian Aigner||March 9th 2014|
Vienna University ofm Technology
It does not get any thinner than this: The novel material graphene consists of only one atomic layer of carbon atoms and exhibits very special electronic properties. As it turns out, there are other materials too, which can open up intriguing new technological possibilities if they are arranged in just one or very few atomic layers. Researchers at the Vienna University of Technology have now succeeded for the first time in creating a diode made of tungsten diselenide. Experiments show that this material may be used to create ultrathin flexible solar cells. Even flexible displays could become possible.
Thin Layers are Different
At least since the Nobel Prize in physics was awarded in 2010 for creating graphene, the "two dimensional crystals" made of carbon atoms have been regarded as one of the most promising materials in electronics. In 2013, graphene research was chosen by the EU as a flagship-project, with a funding of one billion euros. Graphene can sustain extreme mechanical strain and it has great opto-electronic properties. With graphene as a light detector, optical signals can be transformed into electric pulses on extremely short timescales. Read more ..
The Edge of Medicine
|Jennifer Nachbur||March 8th 2014|
University of Vermont
In end-stage lung disease, transplantation is sometimes the only viable therapeutic option, but organ availability is limited and rejection presents an additional challenge. Innovative research efforts in the field of tissue regeneration, including pioneering discoveries by University of Vermont Professor of Medicine Daniel Weiss, M.D., Ph.D., and colleagues, hold promise for this population, which includes an estimated 12.7 million people with chronic obstructive pulmonary disorder (COPD), the third leading cause of death in the U.S.
In the past year alone, Weiss and colleagues published four articles in Biomaterials, the leading bioengineering journal, as well as two March 2014 articles by first author Darcy Wagner, Ph.D., a postdoctoral fellow working in Weiss’ lab, reporting their development of new methods and techniques for engineering lungs for patients with COPD and pulmonary fibrosis.
Weiss and his team’s work focuses on lung tissue bioengineering, which involves the use of a scaffold – or framework – of lungs from human cadavers to engineer new lungs for patients with end-stage disease. Their studies have examined multiple perspectives on the process of stripping the cellular material from these lungs – called decellularizing – and replacing it with stem cells (recellularization), in an effort to grow new, healthy lungs for transplantation.
Working in animal and human models, Wagner, Weiss and colleagues have addressed numerous challenges faced during the lung tissue bioengineering process, such as the storage and sterilization of decellularized cadaveric scaffolds and the impact of the age and disease state of donor lungs on these processes. In one of the latest Biomaterials studies, the researchers report on novel techniques that increase the ability to perform high-throughput studies of human lungs. Read more ..
The Automotive Edge
|George Putic||March 7th 2014|
Car shows around the world increasingly suggest that in the not-too-distant future, cars will feature autopilots handling some of the driving. The auto show now under way in Geneva, Switzerland, is showcasing other possible trends - including cars manufactured by 3D printers.
The future of automobile travel - for the wealthy, at least - may look like very different. Swiss design firm Rinspeed is exhibiting a luxury vehicle, based on the U.S. electric car Tesla Model S, with swiveling recliner seats, a large TV screen and an espresso maker.
Rinspeed’s CEO Frank Rinderknecht says, in a car with autopilot, he does not want to just sit and watch the steering wheel turn left and right. “I want to sleep, relax, watch movies, news, anything else. So that's the vision, which we have," he said. "That one day on the boring motorway traffic, you just do anything which makes your life better.” Read more ..
The Edge of the Ocean Depths
|George Putic||March 6th 2014|
A new diving suit will allow oceanographers to explore the underwater world up to four times deeper than today’s most advanced compressed air gear. In addition, the new suit will allow divers to stay underwater for hours, so they can explore marine life up close as never before.
The so-called Exosuit is made of aluminum alloy, stands about two meters tall and weighs more than 240 kilograms. It is designed to protect divers below 300 meters, where the pressure is 30 times greater than on the surface.
The Exosuit, unveiled at the American Museum of Natural History in New York, has 18 rotary joints, providing better freedom of movement than similar suits.
Still, says Michael Lombardi, the museum's diving safety officer who tested the suit, it takes some time to get used to. “It takes an effort to find a comfortable spot in the suit, but at the same time you don't feel claustrophobic. I get that question all the time because it's so tight," said Lombardi. Read more ..
The Edge of Medicine
|David Orenstein||March 5th 2014|
When a person becomes sick or is exposed to an unwelcome substance, the body mobilizes specific proportions of different immune cells in the blood. Methods of discovering and detecting those profiles are therefore useful both clinically and in research. In a new paper in the journal Genome Biology, a team of scientists describes a new and uniquely advantageous way to detect them.
All the current means of counting immune cells in a blood sample require whole cells, said Karl Kelsey, professor of epidemiology at Brown and corresponding author, but the new system relies on something far less ephemeral: DNA. Its use of hardy strands of genetic material allows it to handle even archived samples where cells have lost their physical integrity.
All of a person’s immune cells — in fact, nearly all of their cells — have exactly the same DNA, but what makes a kidney cell different from a brain cell or a T-cell distinct from a B-cell are chemical alterations known as epigenetic marks. Those cause a cell’s genes to be expressed in the particular way that makes them different. One type of those alterations is methylation, and every kind of cell has its own methylation signature. Read more ..
The Edge of Medicine
|George Putic||March 4th 2014|
The last common ancestor of flies and humans lived more than 500 million years ago. But scientists say as both organisms evolved they developed similar strategies to sense movement around them. So - scientists at Stanford University are using flies - in an effort to better understand how the human brain works.
A human brain contains more than 100 billion neurons while the fly’s brain has just 100,000. So it is much easier for scientists to study how a fly reacts to a perceived motion. To do this, scientists designed a tiny treadmill in the shape of a ball, which a fly attached to a pole can move with its feet in any direction.
A small panoramic screen in front of it displays moving objects, causing the fly to avoid them by moving its feet. Thomas Clandinin is Associate Professor of Neurobiology at Stanford University:
“By moving the treadmill they tell us what they saw and we can measure the relationship between what they see and what they do by this kind of automatic report," said Clandinin. In another part of the lab a volunteer is watching the same images while his brain activity is being recorded. Scientists say they were surprised to find that human brains and fly brains both follow the same patterns. Read more ..
The Race for Wind
|Rosanne Skirble||March 3rd 2014|
Wind energy is one of the fastest growing sources of new electricity around the world. In 2012, global wind energy capacity grew by 19 percent, with more than 150,000 turbines operating in 90 countries.
Now a new study suggests offshore turbines could have an additional environmental benefit: weakening the power of hurricanes.
Over several decades, Stanford University's Mark Jacobson has developed a complex computer model to study air pollution, energy, weather and climate. The engineering professor recently used it to address a nagging question facing the renewable energy industry: could hurricane force winds destroy offshore windmills?
“The first thought I had was, well maybe the turbines would extract enough power from the hurricane to diminish the hurricane, but I couldn’t prove that yet, unless I ran some numerical simulations,” he said. Read more ..
Man's Best Friend
|Karin Kloosterman||March 2nd 2014|
“After we break the ice, we can bark,” says Yonatan Dror, CEO of a new Israeli pet chip monitor company called Oggii. This would sound like a weird proposition if Dror hadn’t first developed a company that attempted to decode the secret language of dogs.
After securing financing from a pet-loving “angel” friend of his, and delving into the idea, speaking Dog proved more challenging that Dror thought. So he moved to another language: decoding movement patterns in dogs to determine if they are healthy.
You can’t take blood pressure or heart rate as reliable indicators of canine health, Dror says. His company Oggii (previously Oggway), uses a chip and patented algorithms to correlate pet movements with possible problems such as ticks, skin allergies, seizures, arthritis, poor joints, brain damage and even ear infections, which account for 30 percent of all visits to the vet. Pet owners receive action alerts like “diet” or “go to the vet.” Read more ..
The Edge of Medicine
|Shaun Mason||March 1st 2014|
Researchers from UCLA's Jonsson Comprehensive Cancer Center have developed an innovative cancer-fighting technique in which custom-designed nanoparticles carry chemotherapy drugs directly to tumor cells and release their cargo when triggered by a two-photon laser in the infrared red wavelength.
The research findings by UCLA's Jeffrey Zink, a professor of chemistry and biochemistry, and Fuyu Tamanoi, a professor of microbiology, immunology and molecular genetics, and their colleagues were published online Feb. 20 in the journal Small and will appear in a later print edition.
Light-activated drug delivery holds promise for treating cancer because it give doctors control over precisely when and where in the body drugs are released. Delivering and releasing chemotherapy drugs so that they hit only tumor cells and not surrounding healthy tissues can greatly reduce treatment side effects and increase the drugs' cancer-killing effect. But the development of a drug-delivery system that responds to tissue-penetrating light has been a major challenge. Read more ..
The Healthy Edge
|Nicole Casal Moore||February 28th 2014|
Two newer classes of drugs to treat adult-onset diabetes may be no more effective than the old standby, yet they cost significantly more over the course of a patient's disease.
That's according to a National Science Foundation-funded study by researchers at the University of Michigan, Mayo Clinic and North Carolina State University.
Based on a simulation model that involved 15 years worth of actual patient data from more than 37,000 individuals, the researchers found that the newer drugs cost patients and insurance companies anywhere from $1,600 to $2,400 more.
That's from the time a person is diagnosed until he or she develops heart problems, circulatory complications or dies. The exact time period varies widely, but it can be more than a decade.
Some 25 million Americans live with type 2 diabetes today, so the researchers say the findings offer an avenue for substantial savings. Read more ..
The Edge of Medicine
|Lisa Merki||February 27th 2014|
University of Houston
A University of Houston (UH) scientist and his team are working to develop the next generation of prostate cancer therapies, which are targeted at metabolism.
With approximately one out of six American men being diagnosed and nearly a quarter of a million new cases expected this year, prostate cancer is the most common malignancy among men in the U.S. Since prostate cancer relies on androgens for growth and survival, androgen ablation therapies are the standard of care for late-stage disease. While patients initially respond favorably to this course of treatment, most experience a relapse within two years, at which time limited treatment options exist. At this stage, known as castration-resistant prostate cancer, androgen-deprivation therapies are no longer effective, but interestingly, androgen receptor signaling is still active and plays a large role in the progression of the cancer. Because of this, both androgen receptors and the processes downstream of the receptor remain viable targets for therapeutic intervention. Unfortunately, it is unclear which specific downstream processes actually drive the disease and, therefore, what should be targeted. Read more ..
The Digital Edge
|Matthew Hilburn||February 26th 2014|
While the National Security Agency has been getting a lot of attention for its global surveillance endeavors, a small army of private and often secretive companies is quietly peddling spyware with NSA-like capabilities to governments around the world. Among their clients; the NSA.
Many of these products go beyond simple monitoring of huge amounts of traffic or stealing files. These new programs can target individuals, infect their computers, phones, web cameras or other devices to watch and record the every move of people targeted.
The software does have legitimate uses such as gathering data about criminal activities, but critics say it too often is used by authoritarian regimes to spy on their own people. The most recent public case involves an American citizen who goes by the alias “Mr. Kidane.” Read more ..
The Healthy Edge
|Kate McAlpine||February 25th 2014|
Poets and physicians know that a scarred heart cannot beat the way it used to, but the science of reprogramming cells offers hope—for the physical heart, at least. A team of University of Michigan biomedical engineers has turned cells common in scar tissue into colonies of beating heart cells. Their findings could advance the path toward regenerating tissue that's been damaged in a heart attack.
Previous work in direct reprogramming, jumping straight from a cell type involved in scarring to heart muscle cells, has a low success rate. But Andrew Putnam, an associate professor of biomedical engineering and head of the Cell Signaling in Engineered Tissues Lab, thinks he knows at least one of the missing factors for better reprogramming. "Many reprogramming studies don't consider the environment that the cells are in—they don't consider anything other than the genes," he said. "The environment can dictate the expression of those genes." Read more ..
The Digital Edge
Imagine a user who intends to send $2 to a friend through PayPal. Embedded malware in the user’s laptop, however, converts the $2 transaction into a $2,000 transfer to the account of the malware author instead.
Researchers at Georgia Tech have created a prototype software, Gyrus, that takes extra steps to prevent malware from sending spam emails and instant messages, and blocking unauthorized commands such as money transfers.
Current protection programs might recognize the original user’s intent to send email, transfer money or engage in other transactions but cannot verify the specifics such as email contents or amount of money. Without context, it is impossible to properly verify the user’s full intent, regardless of whether the software is protecting a financial transfer, an industrial control system or a wide range of other user-driven applications. Read more ..
The Way We Are
|George Putic||February 24th 2014|
Researchers in Hungary have confirmed something many dog owners have long suspected: that canines understand our feelings.
Using a Magnetic Resonance Scanner, or MRI, scientists found that when it comes to emotions, dogs' brains are similar to those of humans.
Dogs are usually not relaxed in a lab environment, but with a little petting and lots of treats they can be trained to sit still even in an MRI scanner. That’s how researchers in Hungary’s ELTE University were able to get images of their brains at work.
Research fellow Attila Andics says it helped them better understand the dogs’ relationship with humans. “We have known for a long time that dogs and humans share similar social environment, but now our results show that dogs and humans also have similar brain mechanisms to process social information," said Andics.
After training 11 dogs to stay motionless while their brains were scanned, the researchers checked their neurological responses to about 200 emotionally significant sounds, from whining and crying to playful barking and laughing. They then compared the responses from human subjects. They found striking similarities. Andics says it opens new possibilities for research. Read more ..
Ecology on Edge
|Rosanne Skirble||February 23rd 2014|
A new study finds that honeybees managed by beekeepers could be infecting their wild bumblebee cousins with disease.
While honeybees and bumblebees come from the same bee family, the smaller honeybees live in managed hives, which beekeepers move from farm to farm to pollinate crops and produce honey. Bumblebees live in much smaller colonies in the wild. Both get pollen from the same flowers and crops, which is how they come into contact.
Lab experiments show that bumblebees suffer from the same parasites, pathogens and disease as honeybees. Scientists wanted to determine how that would impact bumblebees.
“We infected bees and checked their infection status and their longevity, and we found a significant reduction in their longevity," said study co-author Matthias Furst of Royal Holloway University of London. "So these pathogens are really infective and really impact our bee population.”
Bumblebees' lifespans were shortened by one-quarter to one-third, reducing the amount of food they could provide to their colonies. Co-author Mark Brown, also with Royal Holloway University, says that loss is greater for bumblebees because their colonies, or family groups, are much smaller than honeybees' hives. Read more ..
The Edge of Space
|Anne M. Stark||February 22nd 2014|
For the first time, an international team of astrophysicists, including Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory scientists, have unraveled how stars blow up in supernova explosions.
Using NASA's Nuclear Spectroscopic Telescope Array (NuSTAR) -- a high-energy X-ray observatory -- the international collaboration created the first-ever map of radioactive material in a supernova remnant, named Cassiopeia A, or Cas A for short. The findings reveal how shock waves likely rip apart massive dying stars, and ultimately end their lives.
A supernova is the cataclysmic death of a star, which is extremely luminous and causes a burst of radiation that often briefly outshines an entire galaxy before fading from view. The explosion expels much or all of a star's material at a velocity of 10 percent of the speed of light, driving a shock wave into the surrounding interstellar medium. This shock wave sweeps up an expanding shell of gas and dust called a supernova remnant.
"Stars are spherical balls of gas, and so you might think that when they end their lives and explode, that explosion would look like a uniform ball expanding out with great power," said Fiona Harrison, the principal investigator of NuSTAR at the California Institute of Technology and one of the lead authors of a new paper. "Our new results show how the explosion's heart, or engine, is distorted, possibly because the inner regions literally slosh around before detonating." Read more ..
The Edge of Medicine
|Jessica Berman||February 21st 2014|
By tightly coiling high-strength polymer fishing line and basic sewing thread, an international team of researchers have created artificial muscles of superhuman strength that can be made on the cheap.
“In terms of comparison, if you had a muscle made from our material that was the same length and weight as a natural muscle, in general it could lift about a hundred times more force than a natural muscle can,” said Carter Haines, a PhD student at the University of Texas Nanotech Institute in Dallas, which led the international research team.
For heavy lifting, researchers say a single artificial muscle of bundled, twisted fishing line can lift 7.25 kilograms. Writing in the journal Science, Haines, the report's lead author, says the synthetic muscles could be used to power human-like robots, prosthetic limbs and exoskeletons for people whose muscles have atrophied.
“One of the simpler things to do, as opposed to, let's say, replace a missing limb, is to see [if we can] create something like a glove that would fit over" a hand or limb that has lost function, he said.
According to the report, the scientists say twisted sewing thread of a diameter less than human hair works just as well and could be used for applications requiring less force. For example, a synthetic muscle used to power mechanical robots that perform minimally invasive microsurgery, Haines says. Read more ..
The Digital Edge
|Xudong Wang||February 20th 2014|
University of Wisconsin-Madison
A multi-university team of engineers has developed what could be a promising solution for charging smartphone batteries on the go — without the need for an electrical cord.
Incorporated directly into a cell phone housing, the team's nanogenerator could harvest and convert vibration energy from a surface, such as the passenger seat of a moving vehicle, into power for the phone. "We believe this development could be a new solution for creating self-charged personal electronics," says Xudong Wang, an assistant professor of materials science and engineering at the University of Wisconsin-Madison.
Wang, his Ph.D. student Yanchao Mao and collaborators from Sun Yat-sen University in China, and the University of Minnesota Duluth described their device, a mesoporous piezoelectric nanogenerator, in the January 27, 2014, issue of the journal Advanced Energy Materials. Read more ..
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