Sunday, April 13, 2008

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

Argonne scientists, collaborators create first superinsulator
Superinsulation may sound like a marketing gimmick for a drafty attic or winter coat. But it is actually a newly-discovered fundamental state of matter created by scientists at the US Department of Energy's Argonne National Laboratory in collaboration with several European institutions. This discovery both opens new directions of inquiry in condensed matter physics and breaks ground for a new generation of microelectronics.

Found: First lungless frog
Researchers have confirmed the first case of complete lunglessness in a frog, according to a report in the April 8 issue of Current Biology, a publication of Cell Press. The aquatic frog Barbourula kalimantanensis apparently gets all the oxygen it needs through its skin.

Power of molecular imaging reveals secrets of the heart
The extraordinary action of a new cellular therapy came to light as a result of powerful PET and SPECT imaging in a recent study reported in the April issue of the Journal of Nuclear Medicine. Researchers in Germany were able to observe the repair action of circulating progenitor cells, immature blood-derived cells capable of developing into adult stem cells, as they successfully preserved healthy heart tissue and corrected blood flow imbalance within the heart.

Secrets of cellular signaling shed light on new cancer stem cell therapies
By revealing the inner workings of a common cell-to-cell signaling system, University of Michigan biologists have uncovered new clues about mysterious and contentious creatures called cancer stem cells.

How neural sludge accumulates in Alzheimer's
Researchers have identified a key mechanism by which the protein sludge that kills brain cells accumulates in Alzheimer's disease. Their findings in mice offer clues to treating AD and also could explain why memory centers of the brain are most affected in the disease.

Cancer stem cells created with technique developed at Stanford
With a bit of genetic trickery, researchers at the Stanford University School of Medicine have turned normal skin cells into cancer stem cells, a step that will make these naturally rare cells easier to study.

Most powerful laser in the world fires up
The Texas Petawatt laser reached greater than one petawatt of laser power on Monday morning, March 31, making it the highest powered laser in the world, Todd Ditmire, a physicist at The University of Texas at Austin, said.

Playing dead is no game for ant survival
Pretending to be dead is an effective self-defense strategy adopted by young fire ant workers under attack from neighboring colonies. This tactic makes them four times more likely to survive aggression than older workers who fight back. These findings, by Dr. Deby Cassill from the Biology Department at USF Petersburg in Florida and her team from USF Tampa in Florida, have just been reported online in Naturwissenschaften, a Springer publication.

Protein data bank archives 50,000th molecule structure
The Protein Data Bank, based at Rutgers University and the University of California-San Diego this month reached a significant milestone in its 37-year history. The 50,000th molecule structure was released into its archive, joining other structures vital to pharmacology, bioinformatics and education.

Needle-size device created to track tumors, radiation dose
Engineers at Purdue University are creating a wireless device designed to be injected into tumors to tell doctors the precise dose of radiation received and locate the exact position of tumors during treatment.

Researchers take step toward creating quantum computers using entangled photons in optical fibers
Prem Kumar and his research group at Northwestern University are one step closer to realizing distributed quantum computing. The group recently demonstrated one of the basic building blocks for distributed quantum computing using entangled photons generated in optical fibers, and their research was published in the April 4 edition of Physical Review Letters.

Carnegie Mellon develops computer model to study cell membrane dynamics
A cell constantly remodels its fluid membranes to carry out critical tasks, such as recognizing other cells, getting nutrients or sorting proteins. Because membranes are fluid and intrinsically disordered, investigating these and other life-sustaining processes in detail has always been difficult. But a computer model developed by Carnegie Mellon researchers provides a new approach by allowing scientists simulate and observe membrane dynamics the large scale where critical membrane-mediated processes take place.

DVDs and CD-ROMs that thwart global warming
Chemists report that carbon dioxide removed from smokestack emissions in order to slow global warming could become a valuable raw material for the production of DVDs, beverage bottles and other products made from polycarbonate plastics. Their studies will be presented in April at the American Chemical Society national meeting in New Orleans.

Scientists find a fingerprint of evolution across the human genome
The Human Genome Project revealed that only a small fraction of the 3 billion "letter" DNA code actually instructs cells to manufacture proteins, the workhorses of most life processes. This has raised the question of what the remaining part of the human genome does. How much of the rest performs other biological functions, and how much is merely residue of prior genetic events?

Carbon nanotubes made into conductive, flexible 'stained glass'
Carbon nanotubes are promising materials for many high-technology applications due to their exceptional mechanical, thermal, chemical, optical and electrical properties. Now researchers at Northwestern University have used metallic nanotubes to make thin films that are semitransparent, highly conductive, flexible and come in a variety of colors, with an appearance similar to stained glass. These results could lead to improved high-tech products such as flat-panel displays and solar cells.

Memory in artificial atoms
Nanophysicists have made a discovery that can change the way we store data on our computers. This means that in the future we can store data much faster, and more accurate. Their discovery has been published in the scientific journal Nature Physics.

Money doesn't grow on trees, but gasoline might
Researchers have made a breakthrough in the development of "green gasoline," a liquid identical to standard gasoline yet created from sustainable biomass sources like switchgrass and poplar trees.

Alligator blood may put the bite on antibiotic-resistant infections
Despite their reputation for deadly attacks on humans and pets, alligators are wiggling their way toward a new role as potential lifesavers in medicine. Scientists report that proteins in gator blood may provide powerful new antibiotics to help fight infections associated with diabetic ulcers, severe burns and "superbugs" that are resistant to conventional medication. Their research will be presented in April at the American Chemical Society national meeting in New Orleans.

Sweet nanotech batteries
Nanotechnology could improve the life of the lithium batteries used in portable devices, including laptop computers, mp3 players and mobile phones. Research to be published in the Inderscience publication -- International Journal of Nanomanufacturing -- demonstrates that carbon nanotubes can prevent such batteries from losing their charge capacity over time.


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