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The Edge of Healthcare

Patch Outperforms Holter for Prolonged Heart Rhythm Tracking

January 2nd 2014

heart patient hospital doctor health

Research by the Scripps Translational Science Institute (STSI) has found that a small adhesive wireless device worn on the chest for up to two weeks does a better job detecting abnormal and potentially dangerous heart rhythms than the Holter monitor, which is typically used for 24 hours and has been the standard of care for more than 50 years.

The findings suggest that the ZIO Service — which includes the ZIO Patch, data analysis and a diagnostic report provided by device maker iRhythm Technologies of
San Francisco — could replace the Holter monitor as the preferred method of tracking electrical heart activity in ambulatory patients.

“This is the first large prospective validation that this new technology superseded the device invented by Norman Holter in 1949,” said study senior author Eric Topol, MD, a cardiologist who directs STSI and serves as the chief academic officer of Scripps Health. “By tracking every heart beat for up to two weeks, the ZIO Service proved to be significantly more sensitive than the standard Holter, which uses multiple wires and typically is only used or tolerated for 24 hours. Read more ..


The Edge of Healthcare

Breakthrough Understanding 'Persistent Bacteria'

January 1st 2014

exam

The mechanism by which some bacteria are able to survive antibacterial treatment has been revealed for the first time by Hebrew University of Jerusalem researchers. Their work could pave the way for new ways to control such bacteria.

In addition to the known phenomenon by which some bacteria achieve resistance to antibiotics through mutation, there are other types of bacteria, known as "persistent bacteria," which are not resistant to the antibiotics but simply continue to exist in a dormant or inactive state while exposed to antibacterial treatment. These bacteria later "awaken" when that treatment is over, resuming their detrimental tasks, presenting a dilemma as to how to deal with them.

Until now, it had been known that there is a connection between these kind of bacteria and the naturally occurring toxin HipA in the bacteria, but scientists did not know the cellular target of this toxin and how its activity triggers dormancy of the bacteria. Read more ..


The Edge of Healthcare

Laser Scanner Detects Malaria Infections in Seconds

December 31st 2013

mosquito biting

Researchers have developed the first non-invasive method of detecting malaria infection using a laser beam scanner. The painless test appears to be 100 percent accurate and does not require using any blood.

Currently, the gold standard of malaria testing is examining a blood smear under the microscope for evidence of the deadly parasite. A diagnosis requires trained technicians, expensive equipment and time, things that are not always available in poorer and more remote parts of the world.

But so-called “vapor nanobubble” technology would eliminate the need to draw any blood. It only requires an individual to place a finger on a laser device, according to Dmitri Lopotko, a researcher with the department of biochemistry and cell biology at Rice University in Houston, Texas.

“We shine a very short light pulse through the skin.  And this light pulse is absorbed only by malaria parasites because of the wavelength we use. And in response to this short light pulse, the parasite literally explodes,” he said. Read more ..


Automotive Edge

Sales of Stop-Start Vehicles Will Grow to 55 Million Annually in Nine Years

December 30th 2013

Worldwide sales of Stop-start vehicles (SSVs) will grow from 8.8 million in 2013 to 55.4 million in 2022 according to a new report from market intelligence analyst Navigant Research.

SSVs, which eliminate idling by shutting off the engine when the vehicle is stationary and restarting it automatically when it is time to move, offer a portion of the fuel economy benefits of hybrid vehicles at a fraction of the cost premium.

Having proved popular with consumers because of its better fuel economy and the engine silence when it is stopped at an intersection, stop-start technology is seen as a low-cost and highly beneficial investment for auto manufacturers. Read more ..


The Moon on Edge

Our First Exomoon May Have Been Sighted

December 29th 2013

full moon

Exoplanets are almost old hat to astronomers, who by now have found more than 1,000 such worlds beyond the solar system. The next frontier is exomoons—moons orbiting alien planets—which are much smaller, fainter and harder to find. Now astronomers say they may have found an oddball system of a planet and a moon floating free in the galaxy rather than orbiting a star.

The system showed up in a study using micro lensing, which looks for the bending of starlight due to the gravitational pull of an unseen object between a star and Earth. In this case the massive object might well be a planet and a moon. But the signal is not very clear, the researchers acknowledge, and could instead represent a dim star and a lightweight planet. “An alternate star-plus-planet model fits the data almost as well” as the planet-plus-moon explanation, the scientists reported in a paper that was posted this week on the preprint site arXiv. The study has not yet been peer-reviewed.

"I was excited by this paper," says astronomer Jean Schneider of the Paris Observatory, who was not involved in the research. Exomoons have "become fashionable these days," he adds, and are one of his personal "holy grails." Schneider wrote a paper in 1999 on how to detect exomoons using an alternative method, called transiting. (The transit technique looks for the dimming of a star's light caused when a planet or moon passes in front of the star from Earth's perspective). Read more ..


The Digital Edge

Amazing Race Toward Autonomous Car Design

December 29th 2013

driving dashboard simulator

Self-driving cars are no longer just about Google cars. Carmakers aren't pontificating or debating the pros and cons of self-driving cars, either. Daimler is already using self-driving as a way to differentiate from other luxury cars, as it competes with its German rival BMW.

Just as much as car OEMs are under pressure to come up with their own autonomous car platforms, automotive chip suppliers such as Freescale, Infineon Technologies, and NXP Semiconductors are similarly feeling the heat.

The second half of 2014 is a sort of consensus deadline for leading car OEMs to make final decisions on architecture and technologies for semi-autonomous car platforms. By then, Freescale says, it will be working closely with OEMs, contributing its ideas and making proposals, hopeful for design wins for key technologies on the platform. Read more ..


The Research Edge

Ten Most Important Scientific Advances of 2013

December 28th 2013

The cancer research community experienced a sea change in 2013 as a strategy, decades in the making, finally cemented its potential. Promising results emerged from clinical trials of cancer immunotherapy, in which treatments target the body's immune system rather than tumors directly. According to a news release, the editors of Science magazine believe that new treatments to push T cells and other immune cells to combat cancer are now displaying enough promise to top their list of the year's most important scientific breakthroughs.

This annual list of groundbreaking scientific achievements also includes major breakthroughs in solar cell technologies, genome-editing techniques and vaccine design strategies. Read more ..


The Automotive Edge

Avoid Automobile Collisions with Emergency Steer Assistant

December 28th 2013

Highway

If in road traffic suddenly an obstacle appears in front of the vehicle, drivers have to react within fractions of a second. In many cases, the natural response time of human drivers is too long and a collision renders unavoidable. The European interactiVe project (Accidence avoidance by active intervention for Intelligent Vehicles) now has developed an assistant system aiming at avoiding or at least mitigating such collisions.

The German Centre for Aviation and Astronautics (DLR) has tested an Emergency Steer Assistant developed within the scope of the interactiVe project. The system supports the driver in the case of an imminent crash by automatic steering motions. "If in urban traffic suddenly the door of a parking vehicle is opened of on the highway a slower vehicle suddenly merges in front of you, such an emergency steer assistant can help to avoid a collision", says professor Karsten Lemmer from the DLR Institute of Traffic Systems Technology. Read more ..


The Digital Edge

SONY carves a New Niche in Wearable Electronics with SmartWig

December 27th 2013

Sony has filed a patent for the invention of the smartwig, as companies around the world rush to try and carve out a position in wearable electronics.

U.S. Patent application 2013/0311132 is for a "wearable computing device," comprising a wig, a sensor, a processor and communications link to another processor. And they have to be hidden in the wig during use! The patent was authored by Hiroaki Tobita in Paris and assigned to Sony.

While it might seem that the SmartWig – electronics hidden in human or horsehair on top of the head – is such an obvious thing as to be unworthy of being patentable, the application makes great claims. For example, it is claimed that actuators in contact with the head under the wig could vibrate to provide warnings to the wearer, or to guide them to change direction in the specific case of the "NavigationWig." With the addition of a camera in the front of the wig to detect obstacles and traffic the vibrational prompts could be used to help blind people trying to cross the road, the patent filing claims. Read more ..


The Race for Solar

Future Organic Light Emitting Diodes will come Straight from the Printer

December 27th 2013

OLEDS and solar cells to come straight from the printer in future
Scientists at the Fraunhofer Institute for Applied Polymer Research IAP in Potsdam-Golm have been working together with mechanical engineering company MBRAUN to develop a production facility capable of creating OLEDs as well as organic solar cells on an industrial scale.

The innovation makes it now possible to print OLEDs and solar cells from solutions containing luminescent organic molecules and absorptive molecules respectively, which makes printing them onto a carrier film straightforward. Usually, printing them involves vaporizing small molecules in a high vacuum, making it an expensive process.

Scientists had previously only ever used various printing technologies to design components on a laboratory scale. They can now produce larger sample series – and this is advantageous for the applications that feature large illuminated surfaces and information systems that require tailored solutions produced in relatively small numbers. Read more ..


The Edge of Healthcare

Scientists Create Artificial Joint Cartilage

December 27th 2013

Surgeons

 For millions of people around the world, arthritis is an unfortunate - and painful - part of getting older. As the condition progresses, it can require surgery to replace with plastic or metal hardware the worn cartilage that no longer cushions the joint. But these artificial joints are not ideal, so researchers using innovative technologies are working to create an artificial cartilage that’s more like the real thing. 

Arthritis is a very painful condition. The operation to treat it is not much better.  Anybody who has had a knee, shoulder or hip joint replaced knows that artificial metal or plastic joints also can be painful and limit movement.  But coming up with a better alternative for eroded cartilage - a substitute that’s both load-bearing and cushioning at the same time - has been a challenge.

Farshid Guilak, professor of mechanical engineering and orthopedic surgery at Duke University in North Carolina, is part of a team working to create a strong yet softer, more supple replacement for worn away cartilage. He foresees that implanting this synthetic cartilage would be a much less radical operation than current joint surgery. “So, just basically replacing the part that is worn out, not cutting out both sides of the joint and putting a lot of metal in there," said Guilak. Read more ..


Ancient Days

Millenial Vineyards Found in Spain

December 26th 2013

Zaballa (Iruña de Oca) was a medieval settlement in northern Spain that was abandoned in the 15th century. The building of a manor monastery at the heart of it undermined the organisation of the village in the 10th century with the creation of a highly significant rent-seeking system; it was later turned into a specialized estate in the hands of local lords who, under the auspices of the economic boom in towns such as Vitoria-Gasteiz, tried to maximize their profits. In the end, the departure of its settlers towards the towns caused its abandonment.

Today, archaeologists from the Univeridad del Pais Vasco-Euskal Herriko Unibertsitatea (University of the Basque Country) in Spain are endeavouring to reconstruct and salvage Basque rural heritage by studying deserted settlements like Zaballa. The Basque Country, also known as Euzkadi, is among the various autonomous regions of Spain, which include Andalucia, Catalonia, and Asturias. Read more ..


The Edge of Healthcare

Male Hormone Reduces Effectiveness of Flu Vaccine

December 25th 2013

nurse w/stethoscope

Researchers have known for some time that men tend to experience more severe influenza and get sicker from microbial infections than women.  A new study suggests it may be that immune responses in men are affected by the male hormone testosterone.

In a small study involving 53 women and 34 men, researchers at Stanford University in California measured their antibody response to the 2008-2009 seasonal flu vaccine.  Vaccines stimulate the production of antibodies, which are the immune system’s first line of defense against microbial invaders. As predicted by previous research, the vaccine stimulated a stronger antibody response in women than men.

Lynda Chiodetti runs the National Institutes of Health section that helped fund the study. She said the investigators identified a cluster of genes in the male participants that is associated with lipid or fat metabolism. Many of those genes are regulated by testosterone.  Read more ..


The Edge of Nature

What Sharks, Honeybees and Humans Have in Common

December 24th 2013

Honeybee

A research team led by UA anthropologist David Raichlen has found that the Hadza tribe’s movements while foraging can be described by a mathematical pattern called a Lévy walk – a pattern that also is found in the movements of many other animals.

A mathematical pattern of movement called a Lévy walk describes the foraging behavior of animals from sharks to honey bees, and now for the first time has been shown to describe human hunter-gatherer movement as well. The study, led by University of Arizona anthropologist David Raichlen, was published today in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

The Lévy walk pattern appears to be ubiquitous in animals, similar to the golden ratio, phi, a mathematical ratio that has been found to describe proportions in plants and animals throughout nature. “Scientists have been interested in characterizing how animals search for a long time,” said Raichlen, “so we decided to look at whether human hunter-gatherers use similar patterns.” Read more ..


Education on Edge

No Math Gene: Learning Mathematics Takes Practice

December 23rd 2013

school kids

New research at the Norwegian University of Science and Technology (NTNU) in Trondheim could have an effect on how math is taught.

If you want to be really good at all types of math, you need to practice them all. You can't trust your innate natural talent to do most of the job for you.

This might seem obvious to some, but it goes against the traditional view that if you are good at math, it is a skill that you are simply born with.

Professor Hermundur Sigmundsson at Department of Psychology is one of three researchers involved in the project. The results have been published in Psychological Reports.

The researchers tested the math skills of 70 Norwegian fifth graders, aged 10.5 years on average. Their results suggest that it is important to practice every single kind of math subject to be good at all of them, and that these skills aren't something you are born with. Read more ..


The Healthy Edge

Two-Pronged Approach Helps Kids with ADHD and Aggression Disorders

December 22nd 2013

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Prescribing both a stimulant and an antipsychotic drug to children with physical aggression and attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), along with teaching parents to use behavior management techniques, reduces aggressive and serious behavioral problems in the children, according to a study conducted by researchers at The Ohio State University Wexner Medical Center.

The study was conducted in conjunction with the University of Pittsburgh, Stony Brook University in New York and Case Western Reserve University in Ohio. The findings published online this week ahead of publication in the January issue of the Journal of the American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry.

“Combination pharmacotherapy is becoming common in child and adolescent psychiatry, but there has been little research evaluating it,” said first author Michael Aman, director of clinical trials at Ohio State’s Nisonger Center and emeritus professor of psychology. Read more ..


Ancient Days

Ancient Americans Practiced Cranial Surgery Without a License

December 21st 2013

Cranial surgery is tricky business, even under 21st-century conditions (think aseptic environment, specialized surgical instruments and copious amounts of pain medication both during and afterward). However, evidence shows that healers in Peru practiced trepanation — a surgical procedure that involves removing a section of the cranial vault using a hand drill or a scraping tool — more than 1,000 years ago to treat a variety of ailments, from head injuries to heartsickness. And they did so without the benefit of the aforementioned medical advances.

Excavating burial caves in the south-central Andean province of Andahuaylas in Peru, UC Santa Barbara bioarchaeologist Danielle Kurin and her research team unearthed the remains of 32 individuals that date back to the Late Intermediate Period (ca. AD 1000-1250). Among them, 45 separate trepanation procedures were in evidence. Kurin's findings appear in the current issue of the American Journal of Physical Anthropology. Read more ..


The Edge of Space

ESA to Make 3D Map of Milky Way

December 20th 2013

Milky Way spine structure

The European Space Agency this week successfully launched the star-mapping satellite Gaia on a mission that will take it more than a million kilometers from Earth - to create the first three-dimensional (3D) map of our galaxy, the Milky Way.

The two-ton satellite, launched from the European Space Agency’s center in French Guiana aboard a Russian Soyuz rocket, reached the initial orbit and deployed a 10-meter circular sunshield to keep the instruments on-board, including a telescope, cool.  In order to focus on very distant and faint stars, Gaia has to be mechanically and thermally stable, so it has almost no moving parts.

Mark McCaughrean, the mission's chief scientist, says, “It will measure the positions of a billion stars but also their speeds, their motions. And with that we can run a movie of the Milky Way.  We can run it forwards, into the future, how the Milky Way will develop by looking at all the stars and how they move. But we can run it backwards as well, and we can see how the Milky Way actually formed in the first place.” Read more ..


Stealth Technology

Battery-Powered Invisibility Cloaking Device Soon to be a Reality

December 19th 2013

Researchers at The University of Texas at Austin have proposed the first design of a cloaking device that uses an external source of energy to significantly broaden its bandwidth of operation. Andrea Alù, associate professor in the Department of Electrical and Computer Engineering at the Cockrell School of Engineering, and his team have proposed a design for an active cloak that draws energy from a battery, allowing objects to become undetectable to radio sensors over a greater range of frequencies.

“Broadening the Cloaking Bandwidth with Non-Foster Metasurfaces,” was published in Physical Review Letters. Alù, researcher Pai-Yen Chen and postdoctoral research fellow Christos Argyropoulos co-authored the paper. Both Chen and Argyropoulos were at UT Austin at the time this research was conducted. The proposed active cloak will have a number of applications beyond camouflaging, such as improving cellular and radio communications, and biomedical sensing. Read more ..


Ancient Days

First High-Quality Neanderthal Genome Sequence Reveals Mixed Parentage

December 19th 2013

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The most complete sequence to date of the Neanderthal genome, using DNA extracted from a woman's toe bone that dates back 50,000 years, reveals a long history of interbreeding among at least four different types of early humans living in Europe and Asia at that time, according to University of California, Berkeley, scientists.

Population geneticist Montgomery Slatkin, graduate student Fernando Racimo and post-doctoral student Flora Jay were part of an international team of anthropologists and geneticists who generated a high-quality sequence of the Neanderthal genome and compared it with the genomes of modern humans and a recently recognized group of early humans called Denisovans. Read more ..


The Edge of Healthcare

Packing Insulin into a Pill-Friendly Form for Diabetes Treatment

December 18th 2013

Diabetes

Since insulin's crucial discovery nearly a century ago, countless diabetes patients have had to inject themselves with the life-saving medicine. Now scientists are reporting a new development toward a long-sought insulin pill that could save millions the pain of daily shots. Published in the ACS journal Biomacromolecules, the advance could someday not only eliminate the "ouch" factor, but also get needle-wary — and weary — patients to take their medicine when they should.

Sanyog Jain and colleagues explain that patients with diabetes sometimes skip doses or stop taking their insulin because the injections can be painful. But doing so puts their health in danger. An estimated 347 million people globally (about 26 million in the U.S.) are living with diabetes. In the U.S., more than a quarter of these patients are taking some kind of insulin therapy. For years, researchers have sought a way to transform delivery of this therapy from a shot to a pill, but it has been a challenge. The body's digestive enzymes that are so good at breaking down food also break down insulin before it can get to work. In addition, insulin doesn't get easily absorbed through the gut into the bloodstream. To overcome these hurdles, Jain's team combined two approaches to shield insulin from the digestive enzymes and then get it into the blood. Read more ..


The Way We Are

Never Forget a Face

December 17th 2013

victim

Do you have a forgettable face? Many of us go to great lengths to make our faces more memorable, using makeup and hairstyles to give ourselves a more distinctive look.

Now your face could be instantly transformed into a more memorable one without the need for an expensive makeover, thanks to an algorithm developed by researchers in MIT's Computer Science and Artificial Intelligence Laboratory (CSAIL).

The algorithm, which makes subtle changes to various points on the face to make it more memorable without changing a person's overall appearance, was unveiled earlier this month at the International Conference on Computer Vision in Sydney.

"We want to modify the extent to which people will actually remember a face," says lead author Aditya Khosla.. "This is a very subtle quality, because we don't want to take your face and replace it with the most memorable one in our database, we want your face to still look like you." Read more ..


The Edge of Healthcare

Tinnitus Discovery Opens Door to Possible New Treatments

December 16th 2013

Man cupping his ear

For tens of millions of Americans, there's no such thing as the sound of silence. Instead, even in a quiet room, they hear a constant ringing, buzzing, hissing, humming or other noise in their ears that isn't real. Called tinnitus, it can be debilitating and life-altering.

Now, University of Michigan Medical School researchers report new scientific findings that help explain what is going on inside their unquiet brains.

The discovery reveals an important new target for treating the condition. Already, the U-M team has a patent pending and device in development based on the approach. The critical findings are, though the work was done in animals, provide a science-based, novel approach to treating tinnitus in humans.

Susan Shore explains that her team has confirmed that a process called stimulus-timing dependent multisensory plasticity is altered in animals with tinnitus – and that this plasticity is "exquisitely sensitive" to the timing of signals coming in to a key area of the brain. Read more ..


The Edge of Nature

Dramatic Changes Coming for the Great Lakes

December 15th 2013

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Declines of the food resources that feed lake organisms are likely causing dramatic changes in the Great Lakes, according to a new study.

The study, led by the U.S. Geological Survey and co-authored by three University of Michigan researchers, found that since 1998, water clarity has been increasing in most Great Lakes, while phytoplankton (the microscopic water organisms that feed all other animals), native invertebrates and prey fish have been declining.

These food web changes fundamentally affect the ecosystem's valuable resources and are likely caused by decreasing levels of lake nutrients, and by growing numbers of invasive species such as zebra and quagga mussels. Read more ..


The Education Edge

Maryland Mobile Lab Brings Science to Students

December 14th 2013

Research and Development Chemistry

Instead of looking at pictures in textbooks or working with simulations on computers, high school students across Maryland have a chance to experiment with professional scientists while using the latest lab equipment.

The teens conduct these experiments, not in their classroom, but in a bus outfitted as a mobile laboratory,

The traveling Bio Lab recently visited Patapsco High School and Center for Arts in Baltimore, which delighted of their teacher.

“Today, the chemistry students were able to do an acid based hydration, which means they neutralize an acid with a base," Leah Warble said. "Normally they would do it through simulations on the computer. The BioLab is allowing them to do it in real life, actual time and actually apply it to something we use in real life, which is biodiesel.” Instructor Angel Mangus, who is in charge of the 13-meter Maryland BioLab, says the converted bus has the equipment students need to explore a wide variety of sciences. Read more ..


The Edge of Healthcare

New Tech Lets Cholesterol-Traking Smartphone Users Take Lifesaving Selfies

December 13th 2013

Smart Phone in hand

With a new smartphone device, you can now take an accurate iPhone camera selfie that could save your life – it reads your cholesterol level in about a minute.

Forget those clumsy, complicated, home cholesterol-testing devices. Cornell engineers have created the Smartphone Cholesterol Application for Rapid Diagnostics, or "smartCARD," which employs your smartphone's camera to read your cholesterol level.

"Smartphones have the potential to address health issues by eliminating the need for specialized equipment," said David Erickson, Cornell associate professor of mechanical engineering and senior author on a new peer-reviewed study. Thanks to advanced, sophisticated camera technology, Erickson and his colleagues have created a smartphone accessory that optically detects biomarkers in a drop of blood, sweat or saliva. The new application then discerns the results using color analysis. Read more ..


Edge of Space

The Mystery of Neutron Stars

December 12th 2013

Until now, scientists were pretty sure they knew how the surface of a neutron star – a super dense star that forms when a large star explodes and its core collapses – can heat itself up. However, research by a team of scientists led by a Michigan State University physicist has researchers rethinking that.

Scientists had long thought that nuclear reactions within the crust, the thick, solid, outermost layer of the star, contributed to the heating of the star’s surface. Writing in the journal Nature, Hendrik Schatz and colleagues report results from theoretical calculations that identify previously unknown layers where nuclear reactions within the crust cause rapid neutrino cooling. Neutrinos are elementary particles created through radioactive decay that pass quickly through matter. Read more ..


The Natural World

Chameleons Communicate Colorfully

December 11th 2013

To protect themselves, some animals rapidly change color when their environments change, but chameleons change colors in unusual ways when they interact with other chameleons. Arizona State University researchers have discovered that these color changes don't happen "out-of-the-blue" — instead, they convey different types of information during important social interactions.

For example, when male chameleons challenge each other for territory or a female, their coloring becomes brighter and much more intense. Males that display brighter stripes when they are aggressive are more likely to approach their opponent, and those that achieve brighter head colors are more likely to win fights. Also, how quickly their heads change color is an important predictor of which chameleon will win a skirmish. Read more ..


The Edge of Medicine

Scientists Find New Uses for Old Drugs

December 11th 2013

Research and Development Chemistry

Even as scientists work to develop new medications, many rarely prescribed, or even forgotten, drugs are making a comeback, being used to treat illnesses they weren't originally designed for.

“It is a very easy way to explore whether something that is therapeutically beneficial in one area and for one type of patient might be useful for another type of patient," said Aris Persidis, president and co-founder of  biotechnology company Biovista. "And the difference in our thinking is, 'To date, this is done by accident.  Wouldn't it be great if this could be done systematically?”

Drug repurposing
Developing a brand new drug can take 10 years or more, and costs in excess of $1 billion, according Persidis, which is why Biovista is studying new uses for safe compounds that have been supplanted by newer or better formulations and are no longer prescribed. The concept is called drug repurposing. Read more ..


Ancient Times

Mapping the Demise of the Dinosaurs

December 10th 2013

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About 65 million years ago, an asteroid or comet crashed into a shallow sea near what is now the Yucatán Peninsula of Mexico. The resulting firestorm and global dust cloud caused the extinction of many land plants and large animals, including most of the dinosaurs. At a meeting of the American Geophysical Union (AGU) in San Francisco, MBARI researchers presented evidence that remnants from this devastating impact are exposed along the Campeche Escarpment—an immense underwater cliff in the southern Gulf of Mexico.

The ancient meteorite impact created a huge crater, over 160 kilometers across. Unfortunately for geologists, this crater is almost invisible today, buried under hundreds of meters of debris and almost a kilometer of marine sediments. Although fallout from the impact has been found in rocks around the world, surprisingly little research has been done on the rocks close to the impact site, in part because they are so deeply buried. All existing samples of impact deposits close to the crater have come from deep boreholes drilled on the Yucatán Peninsula. Read more ..


The Healthy Edge

Genetic Marker Found for Liver Cancer and Diabetes in Men

December 9th 2013

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Michigan State University researchers have uncovered a genetic deficiency in males that can trigger the development of one of the most common types of liver cancer and forms of diabetes. The research, published in the online issue of Cancer Cell, found that when the NCOA5 gene, present in both men and women, was altered in male mice to a deficient level, a spontaneous reaction occurred producing cells that can lead to hepatocellular carcinoma, a type of liver cancer found to be two-to-four times more prevalent in men than women.

Findings also showed that prior to cancer development there were occurrences of glucose intolerance, a prediabetic condition that is believed to increase the risk of type 2 diabetes in humans. Conversely, the study showed female mice did not develop these diseases. Read more ..


The Edge of Medicine

Neural Prosthesis Restores Behavior After Brain Injury

December 9th 2013

Emergency Medical

Scientists from Case Western Reserve University and University of Kansas Medical Center have restored behavior—in this case, the ability to reach through a narrow opening and grasp food—using a neural prosthesis in a rat model of brain injury.

Ultimately, the team hopes to develop a device that rapidly and substantially improves function after brain injury in humans. There is no such commercial treatment for the 1.5 million Americans, including soldiers in Afghanistan and Iraq, who suffer traumatic brain injuries (TBI), or the nearly 800,000 stroke victims who suffer weakness or paralysis in the United States, annually.

The prosthesis, called a brain-machine-brain interface, is a closed-loop microelectronic system. It records signals from one part of the brain, processes them in real time, and then bridges the injury by stimulating a second part of the brain that had lost connectivity. Read more ..


The Edge of Medicine

Concussion Secrets Unveiled in Mice and Men

December 8th 2013

head injury

There is more than meets the eye following even a mild traumatic brain injury. While the brain may appear to be intact, new findings reported in Nature suggest that the brain's protective coverings may feel the brunt of the impact.

Using a newly developed mouse trauma model, senior author Dorian McGavern watched specific cells mount an immune response to the injury and try to prevent more widespread damage. Notably, additional findings suggest a similar immune response may occur in patients with mild head injury.

In this study, researchers also discovered that certain molecules, when applied directly to the mouse skull, can bypass the brain's protective barriers and enter the brain. The findings suggested that, in the mouse trauma model, one of those molecules may reduce effects of brain injury.

Although concussions are common, not much is known about the effects of this type of damage. As part of this study, Lawrence Latour examined individuals who had recently suffered a concussion but whose initial scans did not reveal any physical damage to brain tissue. After administering a commonly used dye during MRI scans, Latour and his colleagues saw it leaking into the meninges, the outer covers of the brain, in 49 percent of 142 patients with concussion. Read more ..


Geological Edge

How Water Dissolves Rock: Drop by Drop, Molecule by Molecule

December 6th 2013

Scientists from Rice University and the University of Bremen's Center for Marine Environmental Sciences (MARUM) in Germany have combined cutting-edge experimental techniques and computer simulations to find a new way of predicting how water dissolves crystalline structures like those found in natural stone and cement.

In a new study featured in the Journal of Physical Chemistry C, the team found their method was more efficient at predicting the dissolution rates of crystalline structures in water than previous methods. The research could have wide-ranging impacts in diverse areas, including water quality and planning, environmental sustainability, corrosion resistance and cement construction.

"We need to gain a better understanding of dissolution mechanisms to better predict the fate of certain materials, both in nature and in man-made systems," said lead investigator Andreas Lüttge, a professor of mineralogy at MARUM and professor emeritus and research professor in Earth science at Rice. His team specializes in studying the thin boundary layer that forms between minerals and fluids. Read more ..


Ancient Times

Neanderthals Organized Their Homes Like Modern Humans Do

December 5th 2013

Scientists have found that Neanderthals organized their living spaces in ways that would be familiar to modern humans, a discovery that once again shows similarities between these two close cousins.

The findings, published in the latest edition of the Canadian Journal of Archaeology, indicate that Neanderthals butchered animals, made tools and gathered round the fire in different parts of their shelters.

"There has been this idea that Neanderthals did not have an organized use of space, something that has always been attributed to humans," said Julien Riel-Salvatore, assistant professor of anthropology at the University of Colorado Denver and lead author of the study. "But we found that Neanderthals did not just throw their stuff everywhere but in fact were organized and purposeful when it came to domestic space."

The findings are based on excavations at Riparo Bombrini, a collapsed rock shelter in northwest Italy where both Neanderthals and, later, early humans lived for thousands of years. This study focused on the Neanderthal levels while future research will examine the more recent modern human levels at the site. The goal is to compare how the two groups organized their space. Read more ..


New Materials

New Alloy Provides the Largest Shape-Memory Effect of Any Metal

December 3rd 2013

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Listen up nickel-titanium and all you other shape-memory alloys, there’s a new kid on the block that just claimed the championship for elasticity and is primed to take over the shape memory apps market at the nanoscale. A research team at Berkeley Lab has discovered a way to introduce a recoverable strain into bismuth ferrite of up to 14-percent on the nanoscale, larger than any shape-memory effect observed in a metal. This discovery opens the door to applications in a wide range of fields, including medical, energy and electronics.

“Our bismuth ferrite not only displayed the champion shape-memory value, it was also far more stable when reduced to nanometer size than shape-memory alloys,” says Jinxing Zhang, a post-doc for this study under Ramamoorthy Ramesh of Berkeley Lab’s Materials Sciences Division and now a faculty member at Beijing Normal University. “Also because our bismuth ferrite can be activated with only an electrical field rather the thermal fields needed to activate shape-memory alloys, the response time is much faster.” Read more ..


The Healthy Edge

New Weapons are Developed to Combat 'Super-Bugs'

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In the arms race between bacteria and modern medicine, bacteria have gained an edge. In recent decades, bacterial resistance to antibiotics has developed faster than the production of new antibiotics, making bacterial infections increasingly difficult to treat. Scientists worry that a particularly virulent and deadly "superbug" could one day join the ranks of existing untreatable bacteria, causing a public health catastrophe comparable with the Black Death.

Now research led by Dr. Udi Qimron of Tel Aviv University's Department of Clinical Microbiology and Immunology at the Sackler Faculty of Medicine has discovered a protein that kills bacteria. The isolation of this protein, produced by a virus that attacks bacteria, is a major step toward developing a substitute for conventional antibiotics. "To stay ahead of bacterial resistance, we have to keep developing new antibiotics," said Dr. Qimron. "What we found is a small protein that could serve as a powerful antibiotic in the future." Read more ..


Drone Wars

Congress Raises Privacy Concerns over Amazon Delivery Drones

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Sen. Ed Markey (D-Mass.) said privacy protections need to be in place before Amazon starts delivering packages with drones.

Markey noted that the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) is considering expanding the commercial use of drones, but said privacy worries must be met first.

“Before drones start delivering packages, we need the FAA to deliver privacy protections for the American public," he said in a statement. "Convenience should never trump constitutional protections," Markey continued. “Before our skies teem with commercial drones, clear rules must be set that protect the privacy and safety of the public." The FAA is scheduled to issue a ruling on the impact of increasing the use of commercial drones on the U.S. airline industry by 2015. Read more ..


The Edge of Medicine

Human Stem Cells Converted to Functional Lung Cells

December 1st 2013

Black lung

For the first time, scientists have succeeded in transforming human stem cells into functional lung and airway cells. The advance has significant potential for modeling lung disease, screening drugs, studying human lung development, and, ultimately, generating lung tissue for transplantation. The study was published today in the journal Nature Biotechnology.

"Researchers have had relative success in turning human stem cells into heart cells, pancreatic beta cells, intestinal cells, liver cells, and nerve cells, raising all sorts of possibilities for regenerative medicine," said study leader Hans-Willem Snoeck, MD, PhD. "Now, we are finally able to make lung and airway cells. This is important because lung transplants have a particularly poor prognosis. Although any clinical application is still many years away, we can begin thinking about making autologous lung transplants—that is, transplants that use a patient's own skin cells to generate functional lung tissue."

The research builds on Dr. Snoeck's 2011 discovery of a set of chemical factors that can turn human embryonic stem (ES) cells or human induced pluripotent stem (iPS) cells into anterior foregut endoderm—precursors of lung and airway cells. (Human iPS cells closely resemble human ES cells but are generated from skin cells, by coaxing them into taking a developmental step backwards. Human iPS cells can then be stimulated to differentiate into specialized cells—offering researchers an alternative to human ES cells.)  Read more ..


Ancient Days

Palatial Wine Cellar in Israel may be World's Oldest

November 30th 2013

A team of American and Israeli researchers has unearthed what could be the largest and oldest wine cellar in the Near East. The group made the discovery at the 75-acre Tel Kabri site in Israel, the ruins of a northern Canaanite city that dates back to approximately 1700 B.C.

The excavations at the vast palace of the rulers of the city are co-directed by Eric H. Cline of the George Washington University (GW), and Assaf Yasur-Landau of the University of Haifa, with Andrew Koh of Brandeis University as associate director. As researchers excavated at the site, they uncovered a three-foot-long jug, later christened "Bessie."

"We dug and dug, and all of a sudden, Bessie's friends started appearing—five, 10, 15, ultimately 40 jars packed in a 15-by-25-foot storage room," said Dr. Cline, chair of GW's Department of Classical and Near Eastern Languages and Civilizations within the Columbian College of Arts and Sciences. Read more ..



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