Sunday, August 26, 2007

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

Rocket-powered mechanical arm could revolutionize prosthetics:
Combine a mechanical arm with a miniature rocket motor: The result is a prosthetic device that is the closest thing yet to a bionic arm. A prototype of this radical design has been successfully developed and tested by a team of mechanical engineers at Vanderbilt University as part of a $30 million federal program to develop advanced prosthetic devices.

Detergents, eye rinses and other products with an on/off switch:
Researchers at an American Chemical Society meeting will report the development of an unusual biological detergent, called a Pepfactant, a surfactant made from peptides, protein subunits. Its potential applications range from a laundry detergent that hardly needs a rinse cycle to a non-irritating eye rinse to increasing the amount of oil that companies can extract from a well. The development will be described in August at the society's national meeting in Boston.

Separating the brain's 'bad' from 'good' iron:
Duke University chemists are developing ways to bind up iron in the brain to combat the neurological devastation of Parkinson's and Alzheimer's diseases. The key is to weed out potentially destructive forms of iron that generate harmful free radicals while leaving benign forms of iron alone to carry out vital functions in the body.

Better life support for artificial liver cells:
Researchers at Ohio State University are developing technology for keeping liver cells alive and functioning normally inside bioartificial liver-assist devices. Such devices enable people who are suffering from acute liver failure to survive while their own liver cells regenerate, or until they receive a liver transplant. The person's blood or plasma circulates through the device. Inside, living cells -- usually pig or human liver cells -- perform normal liver functions.

'Thin-layer' solar cells may bring cheaper 'green' power:
Scientists are researching new ways of harnessing the sun's rays which could eventually make it cheaper for people to use solar energy to power their homes.

Ground-breaking antilandmine radar:
Researchers in the Netherlands are developing a radar system that might one day see through solid earth and could be used to clear conflict zones of landmines, safely and at low cost. Writing in Inderscience's Journal of Design Research, the team explains how the new technology, with further industrial development, could eventually make vast tracts of land around the globe safe once more.

Natural insecticide recreated in the lab:
A British team headed by Steven V. Ley at the University of Cambridge reports the first synthesis of azadirachtin, a natural compound that stops predatory insects from feeding.

Using life's building blocks to control nanoparticle assembly:
Using DNA, researchers at the US Department of Energy's Brookhaven National Laboratory are studying how to control both the speed of nanoparticle assembly and the structure of its resulting nanoclusters. Mathew Maye, a chemist in Brookhaven's newly opened Center for Functional Nanomaterials, will present the latest findings in this field at the 234th National Meeting of the American Chemical Society.

Scientists find clue to mechanisms of gene signaling and regulation:
Scientists have discovered a pattern in the DNA sequence of the mouse genome that may play a fundamental part in the way DNA molecules regulate gene expression.

MSU engineering team designs innovative medical device:
A Michigan State University engineering design team has developed a medical diagnosis system that would allow people to be inexpensively screened for a variety of medical problems. The device will address the issue of affordable health care in China, where health care costs are major contributors to poverty. Although China's health care system is in a state of reform, lack of health insurance, especially in rural areas, prevent many Chinese people from seeking medical care.

New nanoparticle could provide simple early diagnosis of many diseases:
Georgia Tech and Emory University researchers have created a new nanoparticle that could someday act as a virtually all-purpose diagnostic tool to detect many inflammatory diseases in their earliest stages, including heart disease, Alzheimer's, heart disease and arthritis. The specially-designed nanoparticles seek out hydrogen peroxide (thought to be overproduced in trace amounts in the early stages of most diseases that involve some sort of chronic inflammation in the body), and emit light when they encounter it.

Coal-based fuels and products hit the refinery:
A variety of end products including jet fuel, gasoline, carbon anodes and heating oil may be possible using existing refineries and combinations of coal and refinery by-products, according to a team of Penn State researchers.

Silicon nanoparticles enhance performance of solar cells:
Placing a film of silicon nanoparticles onto a silicon solar cell can boost power, reduce heat and prolong the cell's life, researchers now report.

Breakthrough promised in detecting atherosclerosis:
A study led by a team of researchers at Oregon Health & Science University has demonstrated for the first time that molecular imaging with contrast-enhanced ultrasound and targeted microbubbles is effective in detecting at a very early stage inflammatory processes that lead to atherosclerosis.



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