Sunday, July 01, 2007

Science Sunday: Wrap-up of recent advancements in science from EurekAlert!

Transparent transistors to bring future displays, 'e-paper':
Researchers have used nanotechnology to create transparent transistors and circuits, a step that promises a broad range of applications, from e-paper and flexible color screens for consumer electronics to "smart cards" and "heads-up" displays in auto windshields.

Researchers at the Max Planck Institute for Biochemistry in Martinsried/Munich have shown that bioelectronic hybrid systems are no longer just a utopian vision by coupling a receptor to a silicon chip by means of a cell-transistor interface.

Scientists call for global push to advance research in synthetic biology:
With research backgrounds ranging from materials engineering to molecular biophysics, seventeen leading scientists issued a statement today announcing that, much as the discovery of DNA and creation of the transistor revolutionized science, there is a new scientific field on the brink of revolutionizing our approach to problems ranging from eco-safe energy to outbreaks of malaria: synthetic biology.

NASA satellite captures first view of 'night-shining' clouds:
A NASA satellite has captured the first occurrence this summer of mysterious iridescent polar clouds that form 50 miles above Earth's surface.

Modern brains have an ancient core:
Researchers from the European Molecular Biology Laboratory now reveal that the hypothalamus and its hormones are not purely vertebrate inventions, but have their evolutionary roots in marine, worm-like ancestors. In this week's issue of the journal Cell they report that hormone-secreting brain centres are much older than expected and likely evolved from multifunctional cells of the last common ancestor of vertebrates, flies and worms.

RNA may play larger role in cell's gene activity, Stanford researchers find:
Large, seemingly useless pieces of RNA -- a molecule originally considered only a lowly messenger for DNA -- play an important role in letting cells know where they are in the body and what they are supposed to become, researchers at Stanford University School of Medicine have discovered.

Loss of cell's 'antenna' linked to cancer's development:
Most normal vertebrate cells have cilia, small hair-like structures that protrude like antennae into the surrounding environment to detect signals that control cell growth. In a new study published in the June 29 issue of Cell, Fox Chase Cancer Center researchers describe the strong link between ciliary signaling and cancer, and identify the rogue engineers responsible for dismantling the cell's antenna.

Bright future for nanosized light source:
A bio-friendly nano-sized light source capable of emitting coherent light across the visible spectrum has been invented by researchers with the US Department of Energy's Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory, and the University of California at Berkeley. Among the many potential applications of this nano-sized light source, once the technology is refined, are single cell endoscopy and other forms of subwavelength bio-imaging, integrated circuitry for nanophotonic technology and new advanced methods of cyber cryptography.

Critical protein prevents DNA damage from persisting through generations:
A protein called ATM, long known to be involved in protecting cells from genetic damage, is also part of a system that prevents damage from being passed on when the cells divide.

New, invisible nano-fibers conduct electricity, repel dirt:
Tiny plastic fibers could be the key to some diverse technologies in the future -- including self-cleaning surfaces, transparent electronics, and biomedical tools that manipulate strands of DNA. Researchers created surfaces that, seen with the eye, look as flat and transparent as a sheet of glass. But seen up close, the surfaces are actually carpeted with tiny fibers.

Nanoparticles hitchhike on red blood cells: a potential new method for drug delivery:
Polymeric nanoparticles are excellent carriers for delivering drugs. However, they are quickly removed from the blood, sometimes in minutes, rendering them ineffective in delivering drugs. This study reports that nanoparticles can be forced to remain in circulation by attaching to red blood cells. Prolonged circulation of nanoparticles in the blood may potentially open new opportunities for the treatment of conditions such as cancer and heart disease.

Biotech breakthrough could end biodiesel's glycerin glut:
With U.S. biodiesel production at an all-time high and a record number of new biodiesel plants under construction, the industry is facing an impending crisis over its major waste byproduct, glycerin. Rice University researchers have developed a possible solution, a new biotech process to convert glycerin into ethanol, another popular biofuel. Rice chemical engineers estimate the operational costs of the process to be about 40 percent less that those of producing ethanol from corn.

Why a Rocky Mountain high?:
A University of Utah study shows how various regions of North America are kept afloat by heat within Earth's rocky crust, and how much of the continent would sink beneath sea level if not for heat that makes rock buoyant. Of coastal cities, New York City would sit 1,427 feet under the Atlantic, Boston would be 1,823 feet deep, Miami would reside 2,410 feet undersea and Los Angeles would rest 3,756 feet beneath the Pacific.



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