Sunday, June 01, 2008

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

Life, but not as we know it?
Researchers at the University of Nottingham have taken some important first steps to creating a synthetic copycat of a living cell, a leading science journal reports.

Fireflies' glow helps UT Southwestern researchers track cancer drug's effectiveness
The gene that allows fireflies to flash is helping researchers track the effectiveness of anti-cancer drugs over time.

Dehydrated tomatoes show promise for preventing prostate cancer
New research suggests that the form of tomato product one eats could be the key to unlocking its prostate cancer-fighting potential, according to a report in the June 1 issue of Cancer Research, a journal of the American Association for Cancer Research.

Acute artificial compound eyes
Insects are a source of inspiration for technological development work. For example, researchers around the world are working on ultra-thin imaging systems based on the insect eye. The principle of hyperacuity has now been successfully incorporated in a technical model.

Printed biochips
Peptide arrays are powerful tools for developing new medical substances as well as for diagnosis and therapy techniques. A new production method based on laser printing will enable the potential of peptide arrays to be effectively utilized for the first time.

Scientists in Japan design first optical pacemaker for laboratory research
The world's first optical pacemaker is described in an article published today in Optics Express, the Optical Society's open-access journal. A team of scientists at Osaka University in Japan show that powerful, but very short, laser pulses can help control the beating of heart muscle cells.

Sugar-coated antibiotics
Researchers from the John Innes Centre and the University of East Anglia have recently elucidated the structure and function of an enzyme which is involved in decorating antibiotics with sugar molecules. Many antibiotics have different carbohydrate molecules attached to them which can help the antibiotic to be taken up by the target organism or overcome resistance. By manipulating the sugar, it may be possible to restore usefulness in antibiotics to which resistance has developed.

New iron-based and copper-oxide high-temperature
In the initial studies of a new class of high-temperature superconductors discovered earlier this year, research at the Commerce Department's National Institute of Standards and Technology has revealed that new iron-based superconductors share similar unusual magnetic properties with previously known superconducting copper-oxide materials. The research appears in the May 28 advanced online publication of the journal Nature.

Getting warmer: UT Knoxville researchers uncover information on new superconductors
The world of physics is on fire about a new kind of superconductor, and a group of researchers at the University of Tennessee, Knoxville, and Oak Ridge National Laboratory led by physicist Pengcheng Dai are in the middle of the heat.They found that the new materials share a common trait with another class of high-temperature superconductors -- when the materials are doped to become superconducting, they lose their static magnetism.

Mind over matter: Monkey feeds itself using its brain
A monkey has fed itself with fluid, well-controlled movements of a human-like robotic arm by using only signals from its brain, researchers from the University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine report. Use of the robotic arm, complete with working joints, is directly controlled by the monkey, a significant advance that could benefit prosthetics for people with paralysis and spinal cord injuries, particularly those with "locked-in" conditions such as Lou Gehrig's disease, amyotrophic lateral sclerosis.

Fruit fly protein acts as decoy to capture tumor growth factors, find Penn researchers
Researchers at the University of Pennsylvania School of Medicine have shown how Argos, a fruit fly protein, acts as a "decoy" receptor, binding growth factors that promote the progression of cancer. Knowing how Argos neutralizes tumor growth may lead to new drug designs for inhibiting cancer.

When plants 'think' alike
Biologists have discovered that a fundamental building block in the cells of flowering plants evolved independently, yet almost identically, on a separate branch of the evolutionary tree -- in an ancient plant group called lycophytes that originated at least 420 million years ago.

Brown chemists create cancer-detecting nanoparticles
A team led by a Brown University chemist has created the smallest iron oxide nanoparticles to date for cancer detection by magnetic resonance imaging. The magnetic nanoparticles operate like tiny guided missiles, seeking and attaching themselves to malignant tumor cells. Once they bind, the particles emit stronger signals that MRI scans can detect.

Some biofuels might do more harm than good to the environment, study finds
Biofuels based on renewable sources are increasingly popular as a way to reduce fossil fuel dependence and limit greenhouse gas emissions, but new research shows that some of the most popular current biofuel stocks might have exactly the opposite impacts than intended.

Brain cells help neighboring nerves regenerate
Researchers have uncovered a completely unexpected way that the brain repairs nerve damage, wherein cells known as astrocytes deliver a protective protein to nearby neurons.

Oregon physicists don't flip spin but find possible electron switch
University of Oregon researchers trying to flip the spin of electrons with laser bursts lasting picoseconds (a trillionth of a second) instead found a way to manipulate and control the spin -- knowledge that may prove useful in a variety of new materials and technologies.

Carbon nanoribbons could make smaller, speedier computer chips
Stanford chemists have developed a new way to make transistors out of carbon nanoribbons. The devices could someday be integrated into high-performance computer chips to increase their speed and generate less heat, which can damage today's silicon-based chips when transistors are packed together tightly.


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