August 28, 2015

Ant communication: Secrets of the antennae


Fig. 1: Communication between Japanese carpenter ants
Using one of the antennae on its head, an ant accesses information
provided by hydrocarbons on the body surface of another ant,
enabling nestmate and caste recognition, and instruction
about occupational tasks.

(August 28, 2015) A research group, involving Project Assistant Professor HOJO Masaru, Associate Professor SAKURA Midori, and Professor OZAKI Mamiko at Kobe University's Graduate School of Science and researchers from the National Institute for Basic Biology, has identified chemosensory proteins (CSPs) that play important roles in communications between worker ants. CSPs may represent a starting point for elucidation of the molecular mechanisms involved in the sophisticated system of communication that supports ants' complex societies, and the evolution of these mechanisms. These findings were published in Scientific Reports on August 27 (Japan time).

Ants, being social insects, form highly organized societies on the basis of very close communication between individuals, mediated by pheromones and other chemical substances. Information about the genomes of several ant species has been obtained to date, and genes linked to chemosensitivity in ants have been shown to be diverse. However, almost no elucidation of the modes of expression and functioning of these genes in chemosensory organs has previously been achieved.

This research group previously showed that one type of CSP1, CjapCSP1, binds with cuticular hydrocarbons2 that play important roles in ant inter-individual communication, and that this is linked to nestmate recognition behavior by worker ants (Ozaki et al., 2005).

Fig. 2: Expression loci of CSPs on antennae of Japanese carpenter ant workers
(A) Expression loci of CjapCSP1 (green) and CjapCSP12 (red). (B) Expression loci of
CjapCSP1 (green) and CjapCSP13 (red). (a) and (b) show magnified images of the
regions enclosed by broken lines in (A) and (B), respectively.
Yellow indicates regions where two genes are co-expressed at a single locus.

In the present research, Project Assistant Professor HOJO Masaru’s research group extracted RNA from the antennae of the Japanese carpenter ant (Camponotus japonicus), with support from the laboratory of INOUE Kunio at Kobe University’s Biology Department, and comprehensively analyzed the genes expressed on the antennae using a next-generation DNA-sequencer and supercomputer at the National Institute for Basic Biology. The nucleotide sequences of 11 novel CSPs were thus elucidated.

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New glass manufacturing technique could enable design of hybrid glasses and revolutionise gas storage



(August 28, 2015)  A new method of manufacturing glass could lead to the production of ‘designer glasses’ with applications in advanced photonics, whilst also facilitating industrial scale carbon capture and storage. An international team of researchers, writing today in the journal Nature Communications, report how they have managed to use a relatively new family of sponge-like porous materials to develop new hybrid glasses.

The work revolves around a family of compounds called metal-organic frameworks (MOFs), which are cage-like structures consisting of metal ions, linked by organic bonds. Their porous properties have led to proposed application in carbon capture, hydrogen storage and toxic gas separations, due to their ability to selectively adsorb and store pre-selected target molecules, much like a building a sieve which discriminates not only on size, but also chemical identity.

However, since their discovery a quarter of a century ago, their potential for large-scale industrial use has been limited due to difficulties in producing linings, thin films, fibrous or other 'shaped' structures from the powders produced by chemical synthesis. Such limitations arise from the relatively poor thermal and mechanical properties of MOFs compared to materials such as ceramics or metals, and have in the past resulted in structural collapse during post-processing techniques such as sintering or melt-casting.

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journal reference (Open Access) >>

Light-activated learning


Synaptic transmission.

(August 28, 2015)  A German-French team has developed a light-sensitive switch that regulates a protein implicated in the neurobiology of synaptic plasticity. The agent promises to shed new light on the phenomenology of learning, memory and neurodegeneration.

Learning is made possible by the fact that the functional connections between nerve cells in the brain are subject to constant remodeling. As a result of activation-dependent modification of these links (‘synaptic plasticity’), circuits that are repeatedly stimulated “learn” to transmit signals ever more efficiently. This process is thought to provide the molecular basis for learning and memory, allowing the information encoded in such networks to be recalled and exploited in novel situations. The primary targets for modification are the specialized receptor proteins in nerve-cell membranes that mediate the transmission of electrical signals between individual neurons. A team of researchers led by Dirk Trauner, Professor of Chemical Biology and Genetics at LMU, in collaboration with colleagues at the Institut Pasteur in Paris, has now synthesized a light-dependent switch that enables them to control the activity of a particular class of receptors which is crucial for the formation and storage of memories. The compound provides a powerful new tool for researchers interested in probing the mechanisms that underlie short- and long-term memory. The results appear in the online journal “Nature Communications”.

Individual nerve cells generally use chemical messengers to communicate with each other. These so-called neurotransmitters are released by specialized structures called synapses at the end of the signal-transmitting fiber (the axon) and diffuse across the synaptic cleft – the narrow gap that separates nerve cells from each other. The chemical then binds to receptors on the “post-synaptic” neuron. How the post-synaptic cell reacts is dependent on the nature of the neurotransmitter and the corresponding receptor. “In this context, the so-called NMDA receptor is very special,” says Laura Laprell, a PhD student in Trauner’s group and joint first author of the new study. “It is primarily responsible for the fact that we have the capacity to form memories and the ability to learn.”

August 27, 2015

Researchers find way for eagles and wind turbines to coexist


Photo credit: Xavier Fargas/iStock/Thinkstock

(August 27, 2015)  Collisions with wind turbines kill about 100 golden eagles a year in some locations, but a new study that maps both potential wind-power sites and nesting patterns of the birds reveals sweet spots, where potential for wind power is greatest with a lower threat to nesting eagles.

Brad Fedy, a professor in the Faculty of Environment at the University of Waterloo, and Jason Tack, a PhD student at Colorado State University, took nesting data from a variety of areas across Wyoming, and created models using a suite of environmental variables and referenced those against areas with wind-development potential. The results of their research appear in PLOS ONE.

Increased mortalities threaten the future of long-lived species and, when a large bird like a golden eagle is killed by wind development, the turbine stops, causes temporary slowdowns and can result in fines to operators.

“We can’t endanger animals and their habitats in making renewable energy projects happen,” said Professor Fedy, a researcher in Waterloo’s Department of Environment and Resource Studies. “Our work shows that it’s possible to guide development of sustainable energy projects, while having the least impact on wildlife populations.”

Golden eagles are large-ranging predators of conservation concern in the United States. With the right data, stakeholders can use the modelling techniques the researchers employed to reconcile other sustainable energy projects with ecological concerns.

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Successful Boron-Doping of Graphene Nanoribbon


Graphene nanoribbon under the microscope.
(Image: University of Basel)

(August 27, 2015)  Physicists at the University of Basel succeed in synthesizing boron-doped graphene nanoribbons and characterizing their structural, electronic and chemical properties. The modified material could potentially be used as a sensor for the ecologically damaging nitrogen oxides, scientists report in the latest issue of Nature Communications.

Graphene is one of the most promising materials for improving electronic devices. The two-dimensional carbon sheet exhibits high electron mobility and accordingly has excellent conductivity. Other than usual semiconductors, the material lacks the so-called band gap, an energy range in a solid where no electron states can exist. Therefore, it avoids a situation in which the device is electronically switched off. However, in order to fabricate efficient electronic switches from graphene, it is necessary that the material can be switched ”on” and ”off”.

The solution to this problem lies in trimming the graphene sheet to a ribbon-like shape, named graphene nanoribbon (GNR). Thereby it can be altered to have a band gap whose value is dependent on the width of the shape.

Synthesis on Gold Surface

To tune the band gap in order for the graphene nanoribbons to act like a well-established silicon semiconductor, the ribbons are being doped. To that end, the researchers intentionally introduce impurities into pure material for the purpose of modulating its electrical properties. While nitrogen doping has been realized, boron-doping has remained unexplored. Subsequently, the electronic and chemical properties have stayed unclear thus far.

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One Surprise After Another: There’s News in HIV Research


Dr. Warner Greene writes about exciting advances made in the study of HIV that
may hold the promise for better treatments or even a cure for the virus. [Photo: Chris Goodfellow]

(August 27, 2015)  After studying HIV for more than 30 years, I didn’t expect to be surprised. However, recent research at the Gladstone Institutes has radically changed our fundamental understanding of how HIV works. Our discoveries have revealed new information that may lead to treatment options we’ve never before considered.

The Journey Begins

In 1981, I was part of a team that treated the first patient presenting with AIDS at the National Institutes of Health. We had never seen anything like it: a total collapse of immune system function.

Within 5 years, HIV was identified as the virus that causes AIDS, but there were still no effective treatments. All of the patients I was caring for at San Francisco General Hospital ultimately died, and there was nothing we could do about it.

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Common Blood Test May Be Able To Predict Future Hypertension


(Photo : Wiki Commons) New research suggests that a blood test may be
able to identify people who will develop hypertension well before the so-called
silent killer shows up on a blood pressure machine.

(August 27, 2015)  A blood test may be able to identify people who will develop hypertension well before the so-called silent killer shows up on a blood pressure machine, according to a recent study.

Researchers at Johns Hopkins Medicine believe a more sensitive version of a blood test long used to verify heart muscle damage from heart attacks could also predict whether someone will develop high blood pressure.  They found that people with subtle elevations in cardiac troponin T -- at levels well below the ranges detectable on the standard version of this "heart attack" test -- were more likely to be diagnosed with hypertension within a few years.

"Identifying those at risk for hypertension as well as those in the earliest stages of the disease would allow us to intervene much sooner, either with lifestyle changes or medication, before the condition develops fully and has had a chance to damage organs," lead investigator Bill McEvoy said in a statement.

For their study, researchers analyzed blood samples obtained in the late 1980s and early 1990s from more than 5,000 people enrolled in a long-term multicenter research known as the Atherosclerosis Risk in Communities Study. Designed to track heart disease risk over time, the study followed people for an average of 12 years.

None of the participants had clinical diagnosis of hypertension at the beginning of the study although a small subgroup -- about 27 percent -- had high-normal blood pressures, a condition that often heralds the onset of full-blown hypertension later on.


read also (John Hopkins Medicine) >>

Study shows plant species’ genetic responses to climate change



Semi-natural grassland plots at Buxton Climate Change Impacts Lab

(August 27, 2015)  A study by the University of Liverpool has found that the genetic diversity of wild plant species could be altered rapidly by anthropogenic climate change.

Scientists studied the genetic responses of different wild plant species, located in a natural grassland ecosystem near Buxton, to a variety of simulated climate change treatments—including drought, watering, and warming—over a 15-year period.

Analysis of DNA markers in the plants revealed that the climate change treatments had altered the genetic composition of the plant populations. The results also indicated a process of evolutionary change in one of the study species, suggesting that genetic diversity may be able to buffer plants against the harmful effects of climate change, allowing an “evolutionary rescue.”

VIDEO – How to create a drought: automated rain shelters in operation at
Buxton Climate Change Impacts Lab (time lapse)


Dr Raj Whitlock, from the University’s Institute of Integrative Biology, said: “Climate change is expected to present a significant challenge to the persistence of many populations of wild plant species.

“Our understanding of the potential for such responses to climate change is still limited, and there have been very few experimental tests carried out within intact ecosystems.

“We found that experimental climate change treatments can modify the genetic structure of plant populations within 15 years, which is very fast, in evolutionary terms.

“Evolutionary flexibility within the plant populations at Buxton may help to explain why the grassland there has proven resistant to simulated environmental change.”

Dr Raj Whitlock collecting leaf samples for genetic analysis

The experiment took place at the Buxton Climate Change Impacts Laboratory (BCCIL) in Derbyshire, where intact species-rich limestone grassland has been subjected to experimentally manipulated climate treatments since 1993 (involving summer drought, increased temperature, and enhanced rainfall).

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Political Polarization on Twitter Depends on the Issue



(August 27, 2015)  Twitter offers a public platform for people to post and share all sorts of content, from the serious to the ridiculous. While people tend to share political information with those who have similar ideological preferences, new research from NYU’s Social Media and Political Participation Lab demonstrates that Twitter is more than just an “echo chamber.”

The research is published in Psychological Science, a journal of the Association for Psychological Science.

“Platforms like Twitter or Facebook are creating unprecedented opportunities for citizens to communicate with their peers about current events,” says researcher Pablo Barberá of New York University, lead author on the study. “The conventional wisdom is that these environments exacerbate social extremism and political polarization, but we find that online communication structures are really flexible and situation-specific.”

Barberá and his co-authors—John T. Jost, Jonathan Nagler, Joshua A. Tucker, and Richard Bonneau—decided to take advantage of a new method of estimating the ideological positions of millions of Twitter users to investigate the dynamics of online conversations with respect to a wide range of public issues.

Barberá and colleagues investigated the structure and content of Twitter conversations about politicized issues such as the federal budget, marriage equality, the 2012 presidential campaign, and the 2013 government shutdown. And they also looked at non-political issues such as the 2014 Super Bowl and the Boston Marathon bombing. Their data set contained nearly 150 million tweets that mentioned specific keywords related to these topics.

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August 26, 2015

TARGA sofa and lounge




(August 26, 2015)  A project that combines the comfort of a full-upholstered furniture with a sophisticate bend wood structure. The upholstered part is simply supported by the wooden frame, while the Vienna woven cane is fixed to the structure in the upper part, creating a small screen. This combination creates an elegant effect where textile and cane meet, similar to the aesthetic of a semi-convertible car style

source >>

Colorful potatoes may pack powerful cancer prevention punch


"The butyric acid regulates immune function in the gut, suppresses chronic
inflammation and may also help to cause cancer cells to self-destruct," Vanamala said.
Image: Stephen Lea

(August 26, 2015)  Compounds found in purple potatoes may help kill colon cancer stem cells and limit the spread of the cancer, according to a team of researchers.

Baked purple-fleshed potatoes suppressed the growth of colon cancer tumors in petri dishes and in mice by targeting the cancer's stem cells. Colon cancer is the second leading cause of cancer-related deaths in the U.S. and responsible for more than 50,000 deaths annually, according to the American Cancer Society.

Attacking stem cells is an effective way to counter cancer, according to Jairam K.P. Vanamala, associate professor of food sciences, Penn State and faculty member at the Penn State Hershey Cancer Institute.

"You might want to compare cancer stem cells to roots of the weeds," Vanamala said. "You may cut the weed, but as long as the roots are still there, the weeds will keep growing back and, likewise, if the cancer stem cells are still present, the cancer can still grow and spread."

The researchers, who released their findings in the Journal of Nutritional Biochemistry, currently online, used a baked purple potato because potatoes are widely consumed and typically baked before they are consumed, especially in western countries. They wanted to make sure the vegetables maintained their anti-cancer properties even after cooking.

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MILLIONS OF PLASTIC PARTICLES FOUND IN COSMETIC PRODUCTS



Research at Plymouth University has shown almost 100,000 ‘microbeads’ could be released in every single application of certain products

(August 26, 2015)  Everyday cosmetic and cleaning products contain huge quantities of plastic particles, which are released to the environment and could be harmful to marine life, according to a new study.

Research at Plymouth University has shown almost 100,000 tiny ‘microbeads’ – each a fraction of a millimetre in diameter – could be released in every single application of certain products, such as facial scrubs.
The particles are incorporated as bulking agents and abrasives, and because of their small size it is expected many will not be intercepted by conventional sewage treatment, and are so released into rivers and oceans.

Researchers, writing in Marine Pollution Bulletin, estimate this could result in up to 80 tonnes of unnecessary microplastic waste entering the sea every year from use of these cosmetics in the UK alone.

The latest study was led by PhD student Imogen Napper, together with Professor of Marine Biology Richard Thompson, Professor of Organic Geochemistry Steve Rowland and Postdoctoral Researcher of Analytical Chemistry, Dr Adil Bakir.

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EARTH’S MINERALOGY UNIQUE IN THE COSMOS


Caption: The mineral hazenite, named after Robert Hazen, which is only found
in one locality, Mono Lake, California. Like hazenite, 22 percent of known minerals
are found in just one locality. The image is courtesy of Courtesy of Hexiong Yang.

(August 26, 2015)  New research from a team led by Carnegie’s Robert Hazen predicts that Earth has more than 1,500 undiscovered minerals and that the exact mineral diversity of our planet is unique and could not be duplicated anywhere in the cosmos.

Minerals form from novel combinations of elements. These combinations can be facilitated by both geological activity, including volcanoes, plate tectonics, and water-rock interactions, and biological activity, such as chemical reactions with oxygen and organic material.

Nearly a decade ago, Hazen developed the idea that the diversity explosion of planet’s minerals from the dozen present at the birth of our Solar System to the nearly 5,000 types existing today arose primarily from the rise of life. More than two-thirds of known minerals can be linked directly or indirectly to biological activity, according to Hazen. Much of this is due to the rise of bacterial photosynthesis, which dramatically increased the atmospheric oxygen concentration about 2.4 billion years ago.

In a suite of four related, recently published papers, Hazen and his team—Ed Grew, Bob Downs, Joshua Golden, Grethe Hystad, and Alex Pires—took the mineral evolution concept one step further. They used both statistical models of ecosystem research and extensive analysis of mineralogical databases to explore questions of probability involving mineral distribution.

Caption Left: A rhodochrosite specimen from Butte, Montana, courtesy of Robert Downs.
Caption Right: The mineral rosasite, courtesy of Robert Downs.

They discovered that the probability that a mineral “species” (defined by its unique combination of chemical composition and crystal structure) exists at only one locality is about 22 percent, whereas the probability that it is found at 10 or fewer locations is about 65 percent. Most mineral species are quite rare, in fact, found in 5 or fewer localities.

“Minerals follow the same kind of frequency of distribution as words in a book,” Hazen explained. “For example, the most-used words in a book are extremely common such as ‘and,’ ‘the,’ and ‘a.’ Rare words define the diversity of a book’s vocabulary. The same is true for minerals on Earth. Rare minerals define our planet’s mineralogical diversity.”

Further statistical analysis of mineral distribution and diversity suggested thousands of plausible rare minerals either still await discovery or occurred at some point in Earth’s history, only to be subsequently lost by burial, erosion, or subduction back into the mantle. The team predicted that 1,563 minerals exist on Earth today, but have yet to be discovered and described.

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‘Targeted punishments’ against countries could tackle climate change



(August 26, 2015)  Targeted punishments could provide a path to international climate change cooperation, new research in game theory has found.

Conducted at the University of Warwick, the research suggests that in situations such as climate change, where everyone would be better off if everyone cooperated but it may not be individually advantageous to do so, the use of a strategy called 'targeted punishment' could help shift society towards global cooperation.

Despite the name, the ‘targeted punishment’ mechanism can apply to positive or negative incentives. The research argues that the key factor is that these incentives are not necessarily applied to everyone who may seem to deserve them. Rather, rules should be devised according to which only a small number of players are considered responsible at any one time.

The study’s author Dr Samuel Johnson, from the University of Warwick’s Mathematics Institute, explains:

"It is well known that some form of punishment, or positive incentives, can help maintain cooperation in situations where almost everyone is already cooperating, such as in a country with very little crime. But when there are only a few people cooperating and many more not doing so punishment can be too dilute to have any effect. In this regard, the international community is a bit like a failed state."

The paper, published in Royal Society Open Science and freely accessible online, shows that in situations of entrenched defection (non-cooperation), there exist strategies of 'targeted punishment' available to would-be punishers which can allow them to move a community towards global cooperation.


journal reference (Open Access) >>

ROBOTICALLY STEERED FLEXIBLE NEEDLES NAVIGATE IN TISSUE




(August 26, 2015)  Robotically steering flexible needles can reach their intended target in tissue with sub-millimetre level accuracy. This has been demonstrated by the doctoral research of Momen Abayazid, who is affiliated with the research institute MIRA of the University of Twente. An major advantage of steering flexible needles is that one can avoid obstacles or sensitive tissues and can re-orient the path of the needle in real time as you insert the needle. Abayazid will defend his doctoral thesis on 26 August, 2015.

During many diagnostic and therapeutic procedures a needle is inserted into soft tissue, such as during biopsies, or inserting radioactive seeds in order to combat prostate cancer. In many of these operations the accurate positioning of the needle is of the utmost importance. In general, rigid needles with a relatively large diameter are used in these procedures. However, the drawback of these needles is that they cannot be maneuvered when inserted into tissue and hence cannot avoid any obstacles. In addition, the tissue and organs deform during needle insertion. As a result, the needle often misses its target.

These Microscopic Fish are 3D-Printed to do More Than Swim


3D-printed microfish contain functional nanoparticles that enable them to be
self-propelled, chemically powered and magnetically steered.
The microfish are also capable of removing and sensing toxins.
Image credit: J. Warner, UC San Diego Jacobs School of Engineering.

Researchers demonstrate a novel method to build microscopic robots with complex shapes and functionalities

(August 26, 2015)  Nanoengineers at the University of California, San Diego used an innovative 3D printing technology they developed to manufacture multipurpose fish-shaped microrobots — called microfish — that swim around efficiently in liquids, are chemically powered by hydrogen peroxide and magnetically controlled. These proof-of-concept synthetic microfish will inspire a new generation of “smart” microrobots that have diverse capabilities such as detoxification, sensing and directed drug delivery, researchers said.

The technique used to fabricate the microfish provides numerous improvements over other methods traditionally employed to create microrobots with various locomotion mechanisms, such as microjet engines, microdrillers and microrockets. Most of these microrobots are incapable of performing more sophisticated tasks because they feature simple designs — such as spherical or cylindrical structures — and are made of homogeneous inorganic materials. In this new study, researchers demonstrated a simple way to create more complex microrobots.

Schematic illustration of the process of functionalizing the microfish.
Platinum nanoparticles are first loaded into the tail of the fish for
propulsion via reaction with hydrogen peroxide. Next, iron oxide nanoparticles
are loaded into the head of the fish for magnetic control.
Image credit: W. Zhu and J. Li, UC San Diego Jacobs School of Engineering.

The research, led by Professors Shaochen Chen and Joseph Wang of the NanoEngineering Department at the UC San Diego, was published in the Aug. 12 issue of the journal Advanced Materials.

By combining Chen’s 3D printing technology with Wang’s expertise in microrobots, the team was able to custom-build microfish that can do more than simply swim around when placed in a solution containing hydrogen peroxide. Nanoengineers were able to easily add functional nanoparticles into certain parts of the microfish bodies. They installed platinum nanoparticles in the tails, which react with hydrogen peroxide to propel the microfish forward, and magnetic iron oxide nanoparticles in the heads, which allowed them to be steered with magnets.

Fluorescent image demonstrating the detoxification capability of the
microfish containing PDA nanoparticles.
Image credit: W. Zhu and J. Li, UC San Diego Jacobs School of Engineering.

“We have developed an entirely new method to engineer nature-inspired microscopic swimmers that have complex geometric structures and are smaller than the width of a human hair. With this method, we can easily integrate different functions inside these tiny robotic swimmers for a broad spectrum of applications,” said the co-first author Wei Zhu, a nanoengineering Ph.D. student in Chen’s research group at the Jacobs School of Engineering at UC San Diego.

As a proof-of-concept demonstration, the researchers incorporated toxin-neutralizing nanoparticles throughout the bodies of the microfish. Specifically, the researchers mixed in polydiacetylene (PDA) nanoparticles, which capture harmful pore-forming toxins such as the ones found in bee venom. The researchers noted that the powerful swimming of the microfish in solution greatly enhanced their ability to clean up toxins. When the PDA nanoparticles bind with toxin molecules, they become fluorescent and emit red-colored light. The team was able to monitor the detoxification ability of the microfish by the intensity of their red glow.

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August 25, 2015

These Microscopic Fish are 3D-Printed to do More Than Swim


3D-printed microfish contain functional nanoparticles that enable them to be
self-propelled, chemically powered and magnetically steered. The microfish
are also capable of removing and sensing toxins.
Image credit: J. Warner, UC San Diego Jacobs School of Engineering.

(August 25, 2015)  Researchers demonstrate a novel method to build microscopic robots with complex shapes and functionalities.

Nanoengineers at the University of California, San Diego used an innovative 3D printing technology they developed to manufacture multipurpose fish-shaped microrobots — called microfish — that swim around efficiently in liquids, are chemically powered by hydrogen peroxide and magnetically controlled. These proof-of-concept synthetic microfish will inspire a new generation of “smart” microrobots that have diverse capabilities such as detoxification, sensing and directed drug delivery, researchers said.

The technique used to fabricate the microfish provides numerous improvements over other methods traditionally employed to create microrobots with various locomotion mechanisms, such as microjet engines, microdrillers and microrockets. Most of these microrobots are incapable of performing more sophisticated tasks because they feature simple designs — such as spherical or cylindrical structures — and are made of homogeneous inorganic materials. In this new study, researchers demonstrated a simple way to create more complex microrobots.


Schematic illustration of the process of functionalizing the microfish.
Platinum nanoparticles are first loaded into the tail of the fish for propulsion
via reaction with hydrogen peroxide. Next, iron oxide nanoparticles are
loaded into the head of the fish for magnetic control.
Image credit: W. Zhu and J. Li, UC San Diego Jacobs School of Engineering.

The research, led by Professors Shaochen Chen and Joseph Wang of the NanoEngineering Department at the UC San Diego, was published in the Aug. 12 issue of the journal Advanced Materials.

By combining Chen’s 3D printing technology with Wang’s expertise in microrobots, the team was able to custom-build microfish that can do more than simply swim around when placed in a solution containing hydrogen peroxide. Nanoengineers were able to easily add functional nanoparticles into certain parts of the microfish bodies. They installed platinum nanoparticles in the tails, which react with hydrogen peroxide to propel the microfish forward, and magnetic iron oxide nanoparticles in the heads, which allowed them to be steered with magnets.

Fluorescent image demonstrating the detoxification capability
of the microfish containing PDA nanoparticles.
Image credit: W. Zhu and J. Li, UC San Diego Jacobs School of Engineering.

“We have developed an entirely new method to engineer nature-inspired microscopic swimmers that have complex geometric structures and are smaller than the width of a human hair. With this method, we can easily integrate different functions inside these tiny robotic swimmers for a broad spectrum of applications,” said the co-first author Wei Zhu, a nanoengineering Ph.D. student in Chen’s research group at the Jacobs School of Engineering at UC San Diego.


journal reference >>

Texas A&M technology transforms cell phone into high-powered microscope



(August 25, 2015)  New technology that transforms a cell phone into a powerful, mobile microscope could significantly improve malaria diagnoses and treatment in developing countries that often lack the resources to address the life-threatening disease, says a Texas A&M University biomedical engineer who has created the tool.

The add-on device, which is similar in look and feel to a protective phone case, makes use of a smart phone’s camera features to produce high-resolution images of objects 10 times smaller than the thickness of a human hair, says Gerard Coté, professor of biomedical engineering and director of the Texas A&M Engineering Experiment Station’s Center for Remote Health Technologies and Systems. Coté’s development of the instrument, known as a mobile-optical-polarization imaging device (MOPID), is detailed in the online scientific journal Scientific Reports, published by Nature. The full article can be accessed at www.nature.com/articles/srep13368.


MOPID, Coté explains, is capable of accepting a small cartridge containing a patient’s blood-smear sample. The sample is then imaged using polarized light in order to detect the presence of hemozoin crystals, Coté notes. Hemozoin crystals are the byproduct of the malaria parasite, and they occur in the blood of an infected host. As polarized light bounces off of these crystals, they appear as tiny bright dots when observed through the phone’s camera lens – enabling an instant, accurate diagnosis.

While polarized light has been the preferred option for malaria detection due to its increased sensitivity, its implementation into mainstream microscopy has been hindered by its complex configurations, maintenance, size and cost – up until now.

“What we’ve achieved with MOPID is the design of a polarized microscope platform using a cell phone, which can detect birefringence in histological specimens infected with the malaria parasite,” Coté says. “It’s a simple, low-cost, portable device that we believe is more sensitive than the standard microscope that uses white light and just as accurate as the more costly and complex benchtop version of a polarized microscope.”


MOPID could represent a significant advancement in the detection methods for malaria, a disease that the World Health Organization estimates was responsible for 584,000 deaths in 2013, along with an estimated 198 million new cases in that span of time. Given those numbers, a dire need exists for a low-cost, accurate and portable method of detection, particularly in areas of the world with few resources, Coté says. Many of these regions, he notes, suffer from misdiagnoses due to inadequate or even nonexistent medical infrastructures – and the consequences can be devastating. While failure to treat malaria can be fatal, the administering of unnecessary malaria medications as a result of misdiagnoses can results in new, drug-resistant strains of the disease in addition to increasing costs for malaria medications, Coté notes.

Coté’s solution takes advantage of existing mobile phone technology and networks – something to which a whopping 75 percent of the world has access. This ever-increasing access to mobile networks and the fact that most mobile phones are equipped with advanced camera features make mobile phones the ideal platform for advanced imaging applications such as MOPID, Coté says.

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FLINT RANGE




(August 25, 2015)    Flint modular lounge + ottoman

Conceived through intricate origami maquettes Flint represents a design that is striking yet understated, built around the concept of a nesting landscape. When together, the Flint range offers a seamless landscape of seating with smooth undulating forms. When broken the pieces reveal their striking faceted forms.

source >>

BOW CHAIR




(August 25, 2015)   The Bow Chair was developed on the principle of honest design to be true to the material and process of solid timber. Named after its slender arching backrest, the Bow Chair conveys a design tension between sharp edges and soft undulating faces. Each transition of the Lyre chair highlights the elegant, natural grain of shaped timber. Unique dado joins celebrate rather than hide its construction and thoughtful consideration for solid timber ensures minimal waste.

source >>

Zami Life Sitting




(August 25, 2015)

"Zami is not just your regular stool. Use your Zami for especially designed Zami exercises and stretches!"

The Problem
We are sitting more than ever before and are seeing increasing evidence how this affects our health. Poor posture is likely to develop neck and shoulder problems and sitting for long periods of time is associated with multiple health risk factors.

The Idea
A stool that gives you the optimal curve for your spine, enabling good posture. The stool focuses on helping you achieve good posture by actually tracking how you sit and informing you how to improve your daily sitting habits.

The Solution
Inspired by European craftmanship the designer Ruud-Jan Kokke developed the perfect stool – a piece of art designed to shape the future of sitting. Zami promotes good posture and incorporates technology which provides feedback on your sitting habits, coaching you towards a healthier lifestyle.

Zami promotes good posture by enabling the optimal curve for your spine.

Zami was inspired by years of research by orthopedic surgeon Piet Van Loon who specializes in preventative care and non surgical solutions for the spine. He is passionate about the research on biomedical science behind good posture. He invented the TLI brace and has published research articles about the negative effects of prolonged sitting.


World Alzheimer Report 2015: a new case of dementia every three seconds worldwide




(August 25, 2015)  A new report led by King’s College London reveals one person develops dementia every three seconds across the globe.

The World Alzheimer Report 2015: 'The Global Impact of Dementia: An analysis of prevalence, incidence, cost and trends’, released today, has found that there are currently around 46.8 million people living with dementia around the world.

These numbers are projected to nearly double every 20 years, increasing to 74.7 million by 2030 and almost treble to 131.5 million by 2050.
There are more than 9.9 million new cases of dementia each year worldwide, implying one new case every 3.2 seconds.
The estimates are based on new research led by Professor Martin Prince from King’s College London’s Global Observatory for Ageing and Dementia Care.
These new findings take into account both the growing numbers of older people (population ageing), and new and better evidence on the number of people living with dementia, and costs incurred.
Professor Martin Prince notes: ‘We now believe that we underestimated the current and future scale of the epidemic by 12-13% in the 2009 World Alzheimer Report, with costs growing more rapidly than the numbers of people affected.’
The report shows that the current annual societal and economic cost of dementia is US $818 billion, and it is expected to become a trillion dollar disease in just three years’ time.



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Another Milestone in Hybrid Artificial Photosynthesis



Berkeley Lab Researchers Use Solar Energy and Renewable Hydrogen to Produce Methane

(August 25, 2015)  A team of researchers at the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE)’s Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory (Berkeley Lab) developing a bioinorganic hybrid approach to artificial photosynthesis have achieved another milestone. Having generated quite a buzz with their hybrid system of semiconducting nanowires and bacteria that used electrons to synthesize carbon dioxide into acetate, the team has now developed a hybrid system that produces renewable molecular hydrogen and uses it to synthesize carbon dioxide into methane, the primary constituent of natural gas.

“This study represents another key breakthrough in solar-to-chemical energy conversion efficiency and artificial photosynthesis,” says Peidong Yang, a chemist with Berkeley Lab’s Materials Sciences Division and one of the leaders of this study. “By generating renewable hydrogen and feeding it to microbes for the production of methane, we can now expect an electrical-to-chemical efficiency of better than 50 percent and a solar-to-chemical energy conversion efficiency of 10-percent if our system is coupled with state-of-art solar panel and electrolyzer.”

(From left) Peidong Yang, Christopher Chang and Michelle Chang led the development
of an artificial photosynthesis system that can convert CO2 into valuable chemical
products using only water and sunlight. (Photo by Roy Kaltschmidt)

Yang, who also holds appointments with UC Berkeley and the Kavli Energy NanoScience Institute (Kavli-ENSI) at Berkeley, is one of three corresponding authors of a paper describing this research in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (PNAS). The paper is titled “A hybrid bioinorganic approach to solar-to-chemical conversion.” The other corresponding authors are Michelle Chang and Christopher Chang. Both also hold joint appointments with Berkeley Lab and UC Berkeley. In addition, Chris Chang is a Howard Hughes Medical Institute (HHMI) investigator. (See below for a full list of the paper’s authors.)

Photosynthesis is the process by which nature harvests the energy in sunlight and uses it to synthesize carbohydrates from carbon dioxide and water. Carbohyrates are biomolecules that store the chemical energy used by living cells. In the original hybrid artificial photosynthesis system developed by the Berkeley Lab team, an array of silicon and titanium oxide nanowires collected solar energy and delivered electrons to microbes which used them to reduce carbon dioxide into a variety of value-added chemical products. In the new system, solar energy is used to split the water molecule into molecular oxygen and hydrogen. The hydrogen is then transported to microbes that use it to reduce carbon dioxide into one specific chemical product, methane.

A major advance in artificial photosynthesis poses win/win for the environment
– removing CO2 from the atmosphere and using it for green chemistry,
including renewable fuel production. (Photo by Caitlin Givens)

“In our latest work, we’ve demonstrated two key advances,” says Chris Chang. “First, our use of renewable hydrogen for carbon dioxide fixation opens up the possibility of using hydrogen that comes from any sustainable energy source, including wind, hydrothermal and nuclear. Second, having demonstrated one promising organism for using renewable hydrogen, we can now, through synthetic biology, expand to other organisms and other value-added chemical products.”

The concept in the two studies is essentially the same – a membrane of semiconductor nanowires that can harness solar energy is populated with bacterium that can feed off this energy and use it to produce a targeted carbon-based chemical. In the new study, the membrane consisted of indium phosphide photocathodes and titanium dioxide photoanodes. Whereas in the first study, the team worked with Sporomusa ovata, an anaerobic bacterium that readily accepts electrons from the surrounding environment to reduce carbon dioxide, in the new study the team populated the membrane with Methanosarcina barkeri, an anaerobic archaeon that reduces carbon dioxide using hydrogen rather than electrons.

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Record-high pressure reveals secrets of matter




(August 25, 2015)  A research team at Linköping University, together with colleagues in Europe and the United States, has shown that at extremely high pressure even the innermost electrons in the atomic nuclei of the metal osmium begin to interact with each other, a phenomenon never witnessed before. The findings have been published in Nature.

“If we know more about how a matter works, we will be in a better position to develop materials that withstand extreme conditions. In research we're constantly making advances, but in this case we’ve taken a giant leap”, says Igor Abrikosov, professor of theoretical physics at Linköping University, who also leads the theoretical team within the project.

We already know that material properties change at high pressure. As pressure increases, the distance between the atoms decreases, and the outer electrons, the highly mobile valence electrons, interact with each other. It is also the valence electrons that determine the material’s properties. For example under high pressure a shiny electrically conductive metal such as sodium becomes a transparent insulator, and a gas such as oxygen solidifies and conducts electricity. The oxygen can even become superconductive.

But while the valence electrons are highly mobile, the inner electrons continue to move steadily around their atomic nuclei.

The highest pressure achieved thus far is 4 million atmospheres or 400 GPa, which is roughly the pressure at the earth's centre. But thanks to a newly developed method, the researchers have been able to achieve a pressure that is twice as high as at the earth's centre and 7.7 million times higher than at the earth's surface. With great precision they have then been able to measure both temperature and relative positions of atoms in a small crystalline piece of osmium. Osmium is the metal with the highest density and is almost as incompressible as diamond.

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August 24, 2015

Mayo Clinic researchers find new code that makes reprogramming of cancer cells possible



August 24, 2015)  Cancer researchers dream of the day they can force tumor cells to morph back to the normal cells they once were. Now, researchers on Mayo Clinic’s Florida campus have discovered a way to potentially reprogram cancer cells back to normalcy.

The finding, published in Nature Cell Biology, represents “an unexpected new biology that provides the code, the software for turning off cancer,” says the study’s senior investigator, Panos Anastasiadis, Ph.D., chair of the Department of Cancer Biology on Mayo Clinic’s Florida campus.

That code was unraveled by the discovery that adhesion proteins — the glue that keeps cells together — interact with the microprocessor, a key player in the production of molecules called microRNAs (miRNAs). The miRNAs orchestrate whole cellular programs by simultaneously regulating expression of a group of genes. The investigators found that when normal cells come in contact with each other, a specific subset of miRNAs suppresses genes that promote cell growth. However, when adhesion is disrupted in cancer cells, these miRNAs are misregulated and cells grow out of control. The investigators showed, in laboratory experiments, that restoring the normal miRNA levels in cancer cells can reverse that aberrant cell growth.

Lead authors Panos Anastasiadis, Ph.D., and Antonis Kourtidis, Ph.D.

“The study brings together two so-far unrelated research fields — cell-to-cell adhesion and miRNA biology — to resolve a long-standing problem about the role of adhesion proteins in cell behavior that was baffling scientists,” says the study’s lead author Antonis Kourtidis, Ph.D., a research associate in Dr. Anastasiadis’ lab. “Most significantly, it uncovers a new strategy for cancer therapy,” he adds.

That problem arose from conflicting reports about E-cadherin and p120 catenin — adhesion proteins that are essential for normal epithelial tissues to form, and which have long been considered to be tumor suppressors. “However, we and other researchers had found that this hypothesis didn’t seem to be true, since both E-cadherin and p120 are still present in tumor cells and required for their progression,” Dr. Anastasiadis says. “That led us to believe that these molecules have two faces — a good one, maintaining the normal behavior of the cells, and a bad one that drives tumorigenesis.”

Researchers on Mayo Clinic’s Florida campus have discovered a way
to potentially reprogram cancer cells back to normalcy.

Their theory turned out to be true, but what was regulating this behavior was still unknown. To answer this, the researchers studied a new protein called PLEKHA7, which associates with E-cadherin and p120 only at the top, or the “apical” part of normal polarized epithelial cells. The investigators discovered that PLEKHA7 maintains the normal state of the cells, via a set of miRNAs, by tethering the microprocessor to E-cadherin and p120. In this state, E-cadherin and p120 exert their good tumor suppressor sides.

However, “when this apical adhesion complex was disrupted after loss of PLEKHA7, this set of miRNAs was misregulated, and the E-cadherin and p120 switched sides to become oncogenic,” Dr. Anastasiadis says.

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Argonne pushing boundaries of computing in engine simulations


Argonne principal mechanical engineer Sibendu Som (left) and computational scientist
aymond Bair discuss combustion engine simulations conducted by the Virtual Engine
Research Institute and Fuels Initiative (VERIFI). The initiative will be running massive
simulations on Argonne’s Mira supercomputer to gain further insight into the
inner workings of combustion engines.

(August 24, 2015)  When you’re trying to understand the complex inner workings of a virtual engine, with its millions of variables and untold number of uncertainties, the most important horsepower number isn’t the one under the hood; it’s the one in the computer rack next door.

Researchers at the U.S. Department of Energy’s Argonne National Laboratory will be testing the limits of computing horsepower this year with a new simulation project from the Virtual Engine Research Institute and Fuels Initiative (VERIFI) that will harness 60 million computer core hours to dispel those uncertainties and pave the way to more effective engine simulations.

The work will be conducted on MIRA, which is currently the fifth-fastest supercomputer in the world and serves as the epicenter of the Argonne Leadership Computing Facility (ALCF), a DOE Office of Science User Facility. VERIFI has been working for two years to gain a deeper understanding of the complex dynamics at work in engine combustion. While VERIFI has used powerful computers before, it has never accessed a computer with the horsepower of MIRA and the abilities to unlock the deepest secrets of combustion.

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JASWIG: Height-adjustable, wooden standing desk for everyone






(August 24, 2015) Why are children still sitting down all day in class, especially when standing feels so much better? Here at JASWIG, we create health-promoting furniture to make you feel better both mentally and physically. This is why we created the StandUp, the first height-adjustable wooden standing desk made for both kids and adults.

It seems that everywhere we go, we have a place to sit: in public spaces, at the office, in our cars, on public transit, at home (you get the picture). For most of us, the default option is to recline, and our furniture and infrastructure make it the easiest choice. This occurs in schools as well, where most children spend their day in ill-fitted sitting desks. Even with afterschool activities, most modern-day kids spend up to 85% of their waking hours in sedentary activities. Adults are no better, spending 8-12 hours a day in a seated position.

This is where JASWIG comes in. We want to change our sitting culture by introducing the first height-adjustable wooden standing desk for both children and adults. We call it the StandUp. Its sleek design is made from sustainably sourced wood, and is easily adjusted by even the youngest of users.
The StandUp is the first height-adjustable wooden standing desk. Its lightweight and simple design allows for safe and easy height adjustments in seconds, even for a young child. No person is the same size, and using a standardized sitting desk or table for hours can compromise your posture circulation, and musculature. When it comes to furniture, there really is no “one size fits all.”
Our desk displays a beautiful balance between simplicity, functionality, sustainability and familiarity. The design is based on the vintage 60’s school desks but the edges and material are reflective of recent technological innovations.