May 31, 2013

Cracking the Code of HIV; Providing An Up-Close View of the Enemy

Supercomputer empowers researchers to answer the 64-million-atom question by running detailed simulations of HIV

Researchers have determined the precise chemical structure of the HIV capsid, a protein shell that protects the virus's genetic material and is a key to its ability to infect and debilitate the human body's defense mechanism. Detailed simulations were achieved with the use of a supercomputer on a 64 million atom sample. The capsid has become an attractive target for the development of new antiretroviral drugs that suppress the HIV virus and stop the progression of AIDS.

The research paper describing these results is the cover story of this week's journal Nature (May 30, 2013).

Live and let die - Protein prevents immune cell suicide

A protein called c-FLIP-R is critical to immune cell survival: If this molecule is missing, the cells kill themselves – and are thus no longer able to perform their job fighting off invaders. Now, scientists at the Helmholtz Centre for Infection Research (HZI) Braunschweig and at the Otto von Guericke University (OvGU) Magdeburg have published their findings in the renowned European Journal of Immunology.

Efficient and long-lived storage of information in magnetic vortices

Magnetic monopoles erase data

A physical particle postulated 80 years ago, could provide a decisive step toward the realization of novel, highly efficient data storage devices. Scientists at the Technische Universitaet Muenchen (TUM), the Technische Universitaet Dresden and the University of Cologne found that with magnetic monopoles in magnetic vortices, called skyrmions, information can be written and erased.

Iron filings strewn on a sheet of paper trace the field lines of a bar magnet below the paper, thereby showing the magnet's north and south poles. No matter how often it is split, the bar magnet always forms a north and a south pole. However, in the early 1930s physicist Paul A. M. Dirac postulated a particle that should, as the magnetic counterpart of the electron, possess only one of the two poles, and should carry just one magnetic elementary charge.

“Population Census” of Galaxies Buried in Dust

The observations with ALMA, a research team revealed the most unidentifiable millimeter wave signals are emitted from galaxies.

A research team led by Bunyo Hatsukade, a postdoc researcher, and Kouji Ohta, a professor, both from the Graduate School of Science, Kyoto University, revealed that approximately 80% of the unidentifiable millimeter wave signals from the universe is actually emitted from galaxies, based on the observations with ALMA (Atacama Large Millimeter/submillimeter Array). ALMA’s high resolving power and sensitivity enables us to pinpoint the locations of those galaxies rich in fine solid particles (dust).

For first time atomic changes in a molecule during a chemical reaction photographed

Taking an image of an individual molecule while it undergoes a chemical reaction has been deemed one of the holy grails of chemistry. Scientists at the University of Berkeley and the University of the Basque Country (UPV-EHU) have managed, for the very first time, to take direct, single-bond-resolved images of individual molecules just before and immediately after a complex organic reaction. The images enable appreciating the processes of the rupture and creation of links between the atoms making up a molecule. The article, entitled Direct Imaging of Covalent Bond Structure in Single-Molecule Chemical Reactions, appears today, the 30 of May, in the online Science Express as an outstanding research work and will be published in the print edition of Science in the middle of June.

The scoop on bird poop: the evolving diversity of microbial life in bird guts

Gut bacteria are known to have a central role both in human and in animal health.  Animals acquire different bacteria as they age but how the microbial communities in the bodies of wild animals change over time is not well understood.  Wouter van Dongen and colleagues at the Vetmeduni Vienna have examined the gastrointestinal bacteria of chick and adult black-legged kittiwakes. Surprisingly, the microbial assemblages of chicks and adults generally differ greatly, with only a few types of bacteria in common.  The findings have recently been published in the journal BMC Ecology.

Gastrointestinal bacteria are important for digestion, immune functions and general health. Wouter van Dongen and colleagues from the Konrad Lorenz Institute of Ethology of the Vetmeduni Vienna have collaborated with scientists from the Laboratoire Évolution & Diversité Biologique (EDB), Toulouse and from the US Geological Survey, Anchorage to study the cloacal bacterial assemblies of black-legged kittiwakes (Rissa tridactyla). The bacteria in the cloaca are known to be similar to assemblages deeper within the gastrointestinal tract, so the researchers examined samples from the cloaca of birds at different ages to look indirectly at gut bacteria.

Combating loneliness in old age: A a virtual friendship coach for elderly persons

Loneliness often comes with old age. Making new contacts and cultivating old friendships is not always easy for many elderly persons. At the same time, many elderly persons are increasingly losing their shyness of computers. Scientists at Graz University of Technology together with international partners have developed concepts for computer applications to reduce loneliness in old age. The "Virtual Coach Reaches Out To Me" programme, in short – V2me, is meant to help the 65+ generation to find new friends, become more socially active, and stay mobile and mentally fit. In initial tests in homes for the elderly, a draft version of the interactive friendship coach enjoyed great popularity. The final evaluation phase of the prototype will commence in May with a broad user study.

Our population is becoming increasingly older – and in old age, often more lonely. A person's social environment shrinks on retirement and through deaths of acquaintances. "The aim of V2me is to reduce loneliness in old age, and thus help older persons find new companions and more joy of life. Of course, a computer programme can't replace people but it can help them to make contact with others", explains Sven Havemann of the Institute of Computer Graphics and Knowledge Visualisation at Graz University of Technology, whose team developed V2me together with nine international partners. The software makes use of a virtual coach in the form of an animated 3D figure which is a direct contact person for the user. "The coach motivates the user to become socially active, connect with other people and go out and mix. The aim is to make sustainable friendships", says Havemann.

Artificial Magnetic Monopoles discovered

A team of researchers from Cologne, Munich and Dresden have managed to create artificial magnetic monopoles. To do this, the scientists merged tiny magnetic whirls, so-called skyrmions.  At the point of merging, the physicists were able to create a monopole, which has similar characteristics to a fundamental particle postulated by Paul Dirac in 1931. In addition to fundamental research, the monopoles may also have application potential. The question of whether magnetic whirls can be used in the production of computer components one day is currently being researched by a number of groups worldwide.

When a magnet is divided, a new magnet with north and south poles is always created. However, a monopole, i.e. a north pole without a south pole or a south pole without a north pole has not yet been discovered. In the current edition of the journal Science, researchers from Cologne, Munich and Dresden describe the discovery of new type of artificial monopole in a solid, i.e. particles, which have similar characteristics to monopoles, but which only exist within materials. 

NYIT Anatomy Professor and Team Discover the Origin of the Turtle Shell

An anatomy professor at New York Institute of Technology College of Osteopathic Medicine has contributed to a published study that provides clues on the early evolution of one of nature’s unique developments:  the turtle shell.

Assistant Professor Gaberiel Bever, Ph.D., is part of a team maintaining that the 260-million-year-old reptile from South Africa, Eunotosaurus africanus, is the earliest known version of a turtle, in part because of its distinctive T-shaped ribs. Those ribs, said Bever, represent an early step in  the evolutionary development of the carapace, the hard, upper part of the shell of today’s turtles.

Twitter a Popular Source for Vaccination Information, Debate

Twitter is a popular source for receiving and sharing new information about vaccines, and also a basically reliable one, according to a study published in the June issue of the American Journal of Infection Control, the official publication of the Association for Professionals in Infection Control and Epidemiology (APIC).

Detailed emission estimates for stump-root bioenergy exceed the predicted EU limits

After 20 years of use, bioenergy produced from tree stumps and roots is generating 25–35% less emissions than coal. After 50 years of use the difference would be 40–50%. The results have been obtained using a new measurement method developed by researchers from the Finnish Environment Institute (SYKE), the Finnish Geodetic Institute, and the Tampere University of Technology.

Switching to small banks could help save the economy, expert says

Supporting smaller banks could help the UK recover from the current financial crisis, a  management expert will argue at a House of Commons event next week.

Professor Martin Parker, of the University of Leicester’s School of Management, will explain why backing “mutual” institutions, such as credit unions, small building societies, ethical and community banks should be considered a viable alternative to pouring millions into “too big to fail” big banks.

He will give his views at a House of Commons event exploring “The Role of Mutuals in Retail Financial Services” on Tuesday, June 4.

Innovative New Nanotechnology Stops Bed Bugs in Their Tracks – Literally

Stony Brook University researchers develop non-chemical bed bug solution

Bed bugs now need to watch their step. Researchers at Stony Brook University have developed a safe, non-chemical resource that literally stops bed bugs in their tracks. This innovative new technology acts as a man-made web consisting of microfibers 50 times thinner than a human hair which entangle and trap bed bugs and other insects. This patent-pending technology is being commercialized by Fibertrap, a private company that employs non-toxic pest control methods.

The nanotech solution was developed at Stony Brook University’s Center for Advanced Technology in Sensor Materials (Sensor CAT), a program funded by NYSTAR, as part of a statewide effort to encourage greater technological and economic collaboration between industry and research universities.

NDSU Study Coaxes Clays to Make Human Bone

Confounding clays of the Red River Valley that cause structures to shift and buckle could actually hold the key to building better bones in humans, according to a North Dakota State University research team.

Whether damaged by injury, disease or age, your body can’t create new bone, but maybe science can. Researchers at North Dakota State University, Fargo, are making strides in tissue engineering, designing scaffolds that may lead to ways to regenerate bone. Published in the Journal of Biomedical Materials Research Part A, the research of Dr. Kalpana Katti, Dr. Dinesh Katti and doctoral student Avinash Ambre includes a novel method that uses nanosized clays to make scaffolds to mineralize bone minerals such as hydroxyapatite.

May 30, 2013

When Friends Create Enemies

Pitt study shows how Facebook’s mutual-friends feature creates security risks, privacy concerns

The mutual-friends feature on social networks such as Facebook, which displays users’ shared friendships, might not be so “friendly.”

Often revered for bringing people together, the mutual-friends feature on Facebook actually creates myriad security risks and privacy concerns according to a University of Pittsburgh study published in Computers & Security. The study demonstrates that even though users can tailor their privacy settings, hackers can still find private information through mutual-friends features.

UGA research uncovers cost of resiliency in kids

Children living in poverty who appear to succeed socially may be failing biologically. Students able to overcome the stress of growing up poor are labeled "resilient" because of their ability to overcome adversity, but University of Georgia researchers found this resiliency has health costs that last well into adulthood.

"Exposure to stress over time gets under the skin of children and adolescents, which makes them more vulnerable to disease later in life," said Gene Brody, founder and director of the UGA Center for Family Research.

Swiss-Japanese Research Suggests Origins of Key Cells in the Thymus

Medullary thymic epithelial cells (mTECs) allow the thymus to ensure that the body’s T cells are able to distinguish between potentially harmful foreign antigens and those that are produced by the body itself. A Swiss-Japanese research team suggests that mTECs do not share a common progenitor with cortical-thymic TECs (cTECs) that produce T cells, but may actually evolve from them.

T-lymphocytes, or T cells, are a principal component of the body’s adaptive immune system. Together, these cells express a large repertoire of antigen specific receptors that recognise foreign material derived, for example, from pathogens and tumour cells. The generation of these antigen receptors occurs during T cell development in the thymus.

Pioneering system for measuring offshore wind farms set up in Badalona

The Neptune project, launched by KIC InnoEnergy, the UPC, the IREC and others, can reduce the costs of offshore wind energy

Neptune, a pioneering system that performs offshore wind measurements, has begun to operate today at the Petroleum Bridge in Badalona. It consists of an eOLOS buoy to measure velocity profiles and wind direction high above sea level, and NEPTool, a tool that predicts wind speed, sea currents and waves in the short and long term with high spatial and temporal resolution.

KIC InnoEnergy is a consortium comprising the Institute for Energy Research of Catalonia (IREC), the Universitat Politècnica de Catalunya • BarcelonaTech (UPC), the Energy, Environment and Technology Research Centre (CIEMAT) in Madrid, GasNatural Fenosa and other organisations. All of these organisations, the University of Stuttgart (SWE) and the company Solucions d'Enginyeria Marítima Operacionals (SIMO) developed and promoted this revolutionary project, which will reduce the costs of offshore wind energy. Knowledge of weather conditions at the exact location where an offshore wind farm is to be located reduces the financial risk of the operation.

Robot World Cup in Eindhoven expects 2500 contestants from 40 countries

This year’s RoboCup, the world championship series for intelligent robots, will be held from 26 - 30 June in Eindhoven (the Netherlands). The competition expects around 2500 contestants from around 40 countries, competing with their rescue robots, service robots, dancing robots and of course soccer robots. Teams from the USA, Germany, Thailand, Japan, Iran and the Netherlands will defend their World Cup titles which they won in 2012 in Mexico City. The aim of RoboCup is to speed the development of reliable, low-cost robot technology to serve our ageing society.

NTU invention allows clear photos in dim light

Cameras fitted with a new revolutionary sensor will soon be able to take clear and sharp photos in dim conditions, thanks to a new image sensor invented at Nanyang Technological University (NTU).

The new sensor made from graphene, is believed to be the first to be able to detect broad spectrum light, from the visible to mid-infrared, with high photoresponse or sensitivity. This means it is suitable for use in all types of cameras, including infrared cameras, traffic speed cameras, satellite imaging and more.

Not only is the graphene sensor 1,000 times more sensitive to light than current imaging sensors found in today’s cameras, it also uses 10 times less energy as it operates at lower voltages. When mass produced, graphene sensors are estimated to cost at least five times cheaper.

Early brain responses to words predict developmental outcomes in children with autism

The pattern of brain responses to words in 2-year-old children with autism spectrum disorder predicted the youngsters’ linguistic, cognitive and adaptive skills at ages 4 and 6, according to a new study.

The findings, published May 29 in PLOS ONE, are among the first to demonstrate that a brain marker can predict future abilities in children with autism.

Poor Sleep Linked to PTSD After Heart Attack

Clinicians have long speculated that poor sleep may be a mechanism involved in the higher risk of further cardiac events or death among those with post-traumatic stress disorder following a heart attack, but the association between PTSD and sleep after a heart event has been unknown.

Recent data from Columbia University Medical Center researchers have shown that symptoms of PTSD after a heart attack are relatively common. A PLOS ONE study (published in June 2012) found that 1 in 8 heart attack survivors suffer PTSD and that survivors with PTSD have a doubled risk of having another cardiac event or of dying within one to three years, compared with survivors without PTSD.

May 29, 2013

Neuroscientists get yes-no answers via brain activity

(May 29, 2013)  Western researchers have used neuroimaging to read human thought via brain activity when they are conveying specific ‘yes’ or ‘no’ answers.

Their findings were published today in The Journal of Neuroscience in a study titled, The Brain’s Silent Messenger: Using Selective Attention to Decode Human Thought for Brain-Based Communication.

According to lead researcher Lorina Naci, the interpretation of human thought from brain activity – without depending on speech or action – is one of the most provoking and challenging frontiers of modern neuroscience. Specifically, patients who are fully conscious and awake, yet, due to brain damage, are unable to show any behavioral responsivity, expose the limits of the neuromuscular system and the necessity for alternate forms of communication.

Participants were asked to concentrate on a ‘yes’ or ‘no’ response to questions like “Are you married?” or “Do you have brothers and sisters?” and only think their response, not speak it.

journal reference (OPEN ACCESS) >>

Artificial sweeteners may do more than sweeten

Researchers at Washington University School of Medicine in St. Louis have found that a popular artificial sweetener can modify how the body handles sugar.

In a small study, the researchers analyzed the sweetener sucralose (Splenda®) in 17 severely obese people who do not have diabetes and don’t use artificial sweeteners regularly.

New Gene Therapy Shows Broad Protection in Animal Models to Pandemic Flu Strains, including the Deadly 1918 Spanish Influenza

Researchers at the Perelman School of Medicine, University of Pennsylvania have developed a new gene therapy to thwart a potential influenza pandemic. Specifically, investigators in the Gene Therapy Program, Department of Pathology and Laboratory Medicine, directed by James M. Wilson, MD, PhD, demonstrated that a single dose of an adeno-associated virus (AAV) expressing a broadly neutralizing flu antibody into the nasal passages of mice and ferrets gives them complete protection and substantial reductions in flu replication when exposed to lethal strains of H5N1 and H1N1 flu virus. These strains were isolated from samples associated from historic human pandemics – one from the infamous 1918 flu pandemic and another from 2009.

New light-controlled gel makes big strides in soft robotics

Inspired by the way plants grow toward light sources, a phenomenon known as phototropism, bioengineers from the University of California, Berkeley have created a hydrogel that could be manipulated by light.

The new hydrogel, described earlier this month in the journal Nano Letters, could have future applications in the emerging field of soft robotics, which takes a cue from squishy creatures in nature, like starfish, squids and octopuses, to create flexible components.

Arctic Current Flowed Under Deep Freeze of Last Ice Age, Study Says

Evidence Retrieved from Sediments in Remote Polar Basins

During the last ice age, when thick ice covered the Arctic, many scientists assumed that the deep currents below that feed the North Atlantic Ocean and help drive global ocean currents slowed or even stopped.  But in a new study in Nature, researchers show that the deep Arctic Ocean has been churning briskly for the last 35,000 years, through the chill of the last ice age and warmth of modern times, suggesting that at least one arm of the system of global ocean currents that move heat around the planet has behaved similarly under vastly different climates.

Stanford scientists develop high-efficiency zinc-air battery

Stanford University scientists have developed an advanced zinc-air battery with higher catalytic activity and durability than similar batteries made with costly platinum and iridium catalysts. The results, published in the journal Nature Communications, could lead to the development of a low-cost alternative to conventional lithium-ion batteries widely used today.

"There have been increasing demands for high-performance, inexpensive and safe batteries for portable electronics, electric vehicles and other energy storage applications," said Hongjie Dai, a professor chemistry at Stanford and lead author of the study. "Metal-air batteries offer a possible low-cost solution."

Organic polymers show sunny potential

Rice, Penn State labs lay groundwork for block copolymer solar cells

A new version of solar cells created by laboratories at Rice and Pennsylvania State universities could open the door to research on a new class of solar energy devices.

The photovoltaic devices created in a project led by Rice chemical engineer Rafael Verduzco and Penn State chemical engineer Enrique Gomez are based on block copolymers, self-assembling organic materials that arrange themselves into distinct layers. They easily outperform other cells with polymer compounds as active elements.

The discovery is detailed online in the American Chemical Society journal Nano Letters.

Low Sodium Diet Key to Old Age for Stars

New VLT observations create major headache for stellar theories

Astronomers expect that stars like the Sun will blow off much of their atmospheres into space near the ends of their lives. But new observations of a huge star cluster made using ESO’s Very Large Telescope have shown — against all expectations — that a majority of the stars studied simply did not get to this stage in their lives at all. The international team found that the amount of sodium in the stars was a very strong predictor of how they ended their lives.

The way in which stars evolve and end their lives was for many years considered to be well understood. Detailed computer models predicted that stars of a similar mass to the Sun would have a period towards the ends of their lives — called the asymptotic giant branch, or AGB [1] — when they undergo a final burst of nuclear burning and puff off a lot of their mass in the form of gas and dust.

Team finds gene that helps honey bees find flowers (and get back home)

Honey bees don’t start out knowing how to find flowers or even how to get around outside the hive. Before they can forage, they must learn how to navigate a changing landscape and orient themselves in relation to the sun.

In a new study, researchers report that a regulatory gene known to be involved in learning and the detection of novelty in vertebrates also kicks into high gear in the brains of honey bees when they are learning how to find food and bring it home.

Wit, grit and a supercomputer yield chemical structure of HIV capsid

Researchers report that they have determined the precise chemical structure of the HIV capsid, a protein shell that protects the virus’s genetic material and is a key to its virulence. The capsid has become an attractive target for the development of new antiretroviral drugs.

The report appears in the journal Nature.

Scientists have long sought to understand how the HIV capsid is constructed, and many studies have chipped away at its mystery. Researchers have used a variety of laboratory techniques – cryo-electron microscopy, cryo-EM tomography, nuclear magnetic resonance spectroscopy and X-ray crystallography, to name a few – to peer at individual parts of the capsid in revealing detail, or to get a sense of the whole.

Recovery of Hawaiian green sea turtles still short of historic levels, Stanford-led study suggests

Hawaiian green sea turtle populations have increased in recent years, but their numbers still fall far short of historic levels. A new report suggests that calls to lift protection for this species may be premature.

Calls to lift protections for the iconic Hawaiian green sea turtle may be premature, according to a new study led by a Stanford researcher.

Although the number of Hawaiian green sea turtles has increased since 1978 when the species was listed under the U.S. Endangered Species Act, the population may still be only a fraction of historic levels, the research shows.

NASA, Researchers Use Weightlessness of Space to Design Better Materials for Earth

Researchers from Northeastern University are among the many scientists helping NASA use the weightlessness of space to design stronger materials here on Earth.

Structural alloys might not sound familiar, but they are an integral part of everyday materials, such as aircraft wings, car bodies, engine blocks, or gas pipelines. These materials are produced through solidification­—a process similar to the making of ice cubes.  “Solidification happens all around us, either naturally, as during the crystallization of familiar snow-flakes in the atmosphere, or in technological processes used to fabricate a host of materials, from the large silicon crystals used for solar panels to the making of almost any man-made object or structure that needs to withstand large forces, like a turbine blade,” said Northeastern University Prof. Alain Karma, who was a collaborator in this study

Researchers help threatened wheat crops in Asia

Researchers at Oregon State University have helped develop new environmental monitoring technology that will allow farmers thousands of miles away, in west and central Asia, to save millions of dollars while more effectively combatting a pest that is threatening their wheat crops.

Twenty million acres of wheat in parts of Asia and North Africa are threatened by the “Sunn pest,” a bug that can destroy the value of wheat. Speed in confronting this pest is essential – even minor delays in use of pesticides can cut wheat yield by 90 percent, and if just 2-5 percent of the grains have been affected, the entire crop becomes unusable for making bread.

Improving 'crop per drop' could boost global food security and water sustainability

New study shows increasing crop water productivity could feed an additional 110 million people while meeting the domestic water demands of nearly 1.4 billion

Improvements in crop water productivity — the amount of food produced per unit of water consumed — have the potential to improve both food security and water sustainability in many parts of the world, according to a study published online in Environmental Research Letters May 29 by scientists with the University of Minnesota’s Institute on the Environment (IonE) and the Institute of Crop Science and Resource Conservation (INRES) at the University of Bonn, Germany.

Carnegie Mellon Neuroscientists Discover New Phase of Synaptic Development

Breakthrough Could Lead to Better Understanding of Learning and Memory

Students preparing for final exams might want to wait before pulling an all-night cram session — at least as far as their neurons are concerned. Carnegie Mellon University neuroscientists have discovered a new intermediate phase in neuronal development during which repeated exposure to a stimulus shrinks synapses.

A New Kind of Cosmic Glitch

Astronomers led by McGill research group discover new phenomenon in neutron star

The physics behind some of the most extraordinary stellar objects in the Universe just became even more puzzling.

A group of astronomers led by McGill researchers using NASA's Swift satellite have discovered a new kind of glitch in the cosmos, specifically in the rotation of a neutron star.

Neutron stars are among the densest objects in the observable universe; higher densities are found only in their close cousins, black holes. A typical neutron star packs as much mass as half-a-million Earths within a diameter of only about 20 kilometers. A teaspoonful of neutron star matter would weigh approximately 1 billion tons, roughly the same as 100 skyscrapers made of solid lead.

Cholesterol Sets Off Chaotic Blood Vessel Growth

A study at the University of California, San Diego School of Medicine identified a protein that is responsible for regulating blood vessel growth by mediating the efficient removal of cholesterol from the cells.  Unregulated development of blood vessels can feed the growth of tumors.

The work, led by Yury Miller, MD, PhD, associate professor of medicine at UC San Diego, will be published in the advance online edition of the journal Nature on May 29.

Genetic Engineering Alters Mosquitoes’ Sense of Smell

In one of the first successful attempts at genetically engineering mosquitoes, HHMI researchers have altered the way the insects respond to odors, including the smell of humans and the insect repellant DEET. The research not only demonstrates that mosquitoes can be genetically altered using the latest research techniques, but paves the way to understanding why the insect is so attracted to humans, and how to block that attraction.

“The time has come now to do genetics in these important disease-vector insects. I think our new work is a great example that you can do it,” says Leslie Vosshall, an HHMI investigator at The Rockefeller University who led the new research, published May 29, 2013 in the journal Nature.


A healthy Nordic diet lowers cholesterol levels, and therefore the risk of cardiovascular disease, a pan-Nordic study where Lund University participated has found. There was also decreased inflammation associated with pre-diabetes.

-The subjects who ate a Nordic diet had lower levels of harmful LDL cholesterol and higher levels of “good" HDL cholesterol. The amount of harmful fat particles in the blood also declined, says Lieselotte Cloetens, a biomedical nutrition researcher at Lund University.

Charred Micro-Bunny Sculpture Shows Promise of New Material for 3-D Shaping

Recipe for new resin suited to making electrodes uses lasers for molding into almost any 3-D shape

Though its surface has been turned to carbon, the bunny-like features can still be easily observed with a microscope. This rabbit sculpture, the size of a typical bacterium, is one of several whimsical shapes created by a team of Japanese scientists using a new material that can be molded into complex, highly conductive 3-D structures with features just a few micrometers across. Combined with state-of-the-art micro-sculpting techniques, the new resin holds promise for making customized electrodes for fuel cells or batteries, as well as biosensor interfaces for medical uses. The research team, which includes physicists and chemists from Yokohama National University, Tokyo Institute of Technology, and the company C-MET, Inc., presents its results in a paper published today in the Optical Society’s (OSA) open-access journal Optical Materials Express.

Twitter May Become Less Interactive and More an Advertising Broadcast Medium Like TV or Radio

New study examines why people tweet and what that could mean for Twitter’s future

Popular social media site Twitter may eventually resemble a broadcast medium like television or radio, with users reading messages written by celebrities and corporations rather than writing their own “tweet” messages of up to 140 characters, suggests a new study coauthored by Andrew T. Stephen, assistant professor of business administration and Katz Fellow in Marketing in the University of Pittsburgh’s Joseph M. Katz Graduate School of Business and College of Business Administration.

Pigeons peck for computerized treat

UI study shows pigeons use touch screens to solve challenging problems

Go to about any public square, and you see pigeons pecking at the ground, always in search of crumbs dropped by a passerby. While the pigeons’ scavenging may seem random, new research by psychologists at the University of Iowa suggest the birds are capable of making highly intelligent choices, sometimes with problem-solving skills to match.

'Junk DNA' plays active role in cancer progression, researchers find

Scientists at The University of Nottingham have found that a genetic rogue element produced by sequences until recently considered ‘junk DNA’ could promote cancer progression.

The researchers, led by Dr Cristina Tufarelli, in the School of Graduate Entry Medicine and Health Sciences, discovered that the presence of this faulty genetic element — known as chimeric transcript LCT13 — is associated with the switching off of a known tumour suppressor gene (known as TFPI-2) whose expression is required to prevent cancer invasion and metastasis.

Gene Therapies for Regenerative Surgery Are Getting Closer, Says Review in Plastic and Reconstructive Surgery

Experimental genetic techniques may one day provide plastic and reconstructive surgeons with an invaluable tool—the ability to promote growth of the patient's own tissues for reconstructive surgery.  A review of recent progress toward developing effective gene therapies for use in "regenerative surgery" appears in the June issue of Plastic and Reconstructive Surgery®, the official medical journal of the American Society of Plastic Surgeons (ASPS).

Over the past ten years, researchers have developed several promising gene therapy techniques to grow skin, bone and other tissues for reconstructive surgery.  But they still face many challenges in developing gene-based approaches that can make the leap from the research lab to the operating room, according to the review by Dr. Giorgio Giatsidis and colleagues of Padua University Hospital, Italy.

Coupled particles cross energy wall

Model demonstrates that it is possible for two particles to cross an energy barrier together, where a single particle could not

For the first time, a new kind of so-called Klein tunnelling—representing the quantum equivalent of crossing an energy wall— has been presented in a model of two interacting particles. This work by Stefano Longhi and Giuseppe Della Valle from the Institute of Photonics and Nanotechnology in Milan, Italy, is about to be published in EPJ B.


Paper is known for its ability to absorb liquids, making it ideal for products such as paper towels. But by modifying the underlying network of cellulose fibers, etching off surface “fluff” and applying a thin chemical coating, researchers have created a new type of paper that repels a wide variety of liquids – including water and oil.

The paper takes advantage of the so-called "lotus effect" – used by leaves of the lotus plant – to repel liquids through the creation of surface patterns at two different size scales and the application of a chemical coating. The material, developed at the Georgia Institute of Technology, uses nanometer- and micron-scale structures, plus a surface fluorocarbon, to turn old-fashioned paper into an advanced material.

New chemical approach to beat Alzheimer’s disease

A computer generated molecular model of heparan sulphates

Scientists at the University of Liverpool and Callaghan Innovation in New Zealand have developed a new chemical approach to help harness the natural ability of complex sugars to treat Alzheimer’s disease.

The team used a new chemical method to produce a library of sugars, called heparan sulphates, which are known to control the formation of the proteins in the brain that cause memory loss.

NRL Geochemistry Survey at Chatham Rise Reveals Absence of Modern Day Greenhouse Gas Emissions

Geochemistry analysis conducted by the U.S. Naval Research Laboratory of fossil sediment injection structures off the New Zealand coast in February and March, reveal no presence of modern day expulsions of methane gas, a potential contributor to global 'greenhouse effect' warming.

The main focus of this most recent expedition was to investigate the geological origin of seafloor anomalies discovered during a 2007 marine-life survey on the Chatham Rise.