Sunday, August 24, 2008

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

Carnegie Mellon MRI technology that non-invasively locates, quantifies specific cells in the body
MRI isn't just for capturing detailed images of the body's anatomy. Thanks to imaging reagents and technology developed by Carnegie Mellon, MRI can be used to visualize -- with "exquisite" specificity -- cell populations in the living body. The ability to non-invasively locate and track cells, will greatly aid the study and treatment of cancer, inflammation, and autoimmune diseases, as well as provide a tool for advancing clinical translation of cellular regenerative medicine.

Coatings to help medical implants connect with neurons
Plastic coatings could someday help neural implants treat conditions as diverse as Parkinson's disease and macular degeneration. The coatings encourage neurons in the body to grow and connect with the electrodes that provide treatment.

New virus threatens High Plains wheat crop
Triticum mosaic virus poses a new threat to Texas wheat, according to Texas AgriLife Research scientists in Amarillo.The disease was discovered in 2006 by Dr. Dallas Seifers, a Kansas State University researcher, said Jacob Price, AgriLife Research associate researcher.Price is working with Dr. Charlie Rush, AgriLife Research plant pathologist, and Dr. Ron French, Texas AgriLife Extension Service plant pathologist, on a variety of studies to determine how big of a role it plays in the disease pressure put on area wheat.

Exploding chromosomes fuel research about evolution of genetic storage
Research into single-celled, aquatic algae called dinoflagellates is showing that these and related organisms may have evolved more than one way to tightly back their DNA into chromsomes. Even so, the evolution of chromosomes in dinoflagellates, humans and other mammals seem to share a common biochemical basis.

Accumulated bits of a cell's own DNA can trigger autoimmune disease
A security system wired within every cell to detect the presence of rogue viral DNA can sometimes go awry, triggering an autoimmune response to single-stranded bits of the cell's own DNA.

Virginia Tech researcher converts biodiesel byproduct into omega-3 fatty acids
The typical American diet often lacks omega-3 fatty acids despite clinical research that shows their potential human health benefits. Zhiyou Wen, assistant professor of biological systems engineering in Virginia Tech's College of Agriculture and Life Sciences, found a way to grow these compounds using a byproduct of the emerging biodiesel industry.

Duke chemists synthesize promising anti-cancer product
Duke University chemists have patented an efficient technique for synthesizing a marine algae extract in sufficient quantities to now test its ability to inhibit the growth of cancerous cells while leaving normal cells unaffected.

A better way to make hydrogen from biofuels
Researchers here have found a way to convert ethanol and other biofuels into hydrogen very efficiently. A new catalyst makes hydrogen from ethanol with 90 percent yield, at a workable temperature, and using inexpensive ingredients. The new catalyst is much less expensive than others being developed around the world, because it does not contain precious metals, such as platinum or rhodium.

UQ research touches a nerve
University of Queensland researchers have traced the origins of one of the most important steps in animal evolution -- the development of nerves.

Fast quantum computer building block created
The fastest quantum computer bit that exploits the main advantage of the qubit over the conventional bit has been demonstrated by researchers at University of Michigan, US Naval Research Laboratory and the University of California at San Diego.

University of Pennsylvania scientists move optical computing closer to reality
Scientists at Penn have theorized a way to increase the speed of pulses of light that bound across chains of tiny metal particles to past the speed of light by altering the particle shape. Application of this theory would use nanosized metal chains as building blocks for novel optoelectronic and optical devices.

Brain surgery is getting easier on patients
Dr. Edward Duckworth is part of a new generation of neurosurgeons who are making brain surgery a lot easier on patients. Rather than cutting out large sections of the skull or face, Duckworth is reaching the brain through much smaller openings. And in certain cases, he goes through the nose to get to the brain.

Creating unconventional metals
The semiconductor silicon and the ferromagnet iron are the basis for much of mankind's technology, used in everything from computers to electric motors. In this week's issue of the journal Nature, an international group of researchers from the UK, US and Lesotho, report that they have combined these elements with a small amount of another common metal, manganese, to create a new material which is neither a magnet nor an ordinary semiconductor.

OU researchers isolate microorganisms that convert hydrocarbons to natural gas
When a group of University of Oklahoma researchers began studying the environmental fate of spilt petroleum, a problem that has plagued the energy industry for decades, they did not expect to eventually isolate a community of microorganisms capable of converting hydrocarbons into natural gas.

Switching it up: How memory deals with a change in plans
How do our brains switch so elegantly and quickly from one well-entrenched plan to a newer one in reaction to a sudden change in circumstances?

Novel fungus helps beetles to digest hard wood
A little known fungus tucked away in the gut of Asian longhorned beetles helps the insect munch through the hardest of woods according to a team of entomologists and biochemists. Researchers say the discovery could lead to innovative methods of controlling the invasive pest, and potentially offer more efficient ways of breaking down plant biomass for generating biofuels.

Molecular sleuths track evolution through the ribosome
A new study of the ribosome, the cell's protein-building machinery, sheds light on the oldest branches of the evolutionary tree of life and suggests that differences in ribosomal structure between the three main branches of that tree are "molecular fossils" of the early evolution of protein synthesis.

Mirror self-recognition in magpies
Self-recognition, it has been argued, is a hallmark of advanced cognitive abilities in animals. It was previously thought that only the usual suspects of higher cognition -- some great apes, dolphins and elephants -- were able to recognize their own bodies in a mirror. In this week's issue of PLoS Biology, psychologist Helmut Prior and colleagues show evidence of self-recognition in magpies -- a species with a brain structure very different from mammals.

Light touch: Controlling the behavior of quantum dots
(National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST)) Researchers from NIST and the Joint Quantum Institute have reported a new way to fine-tune the light coming from quantum dots by manipulating them with pairs of lasers. Their technique could significantly improve quantum dots as a source of pairs of entangled photons for applications in quantum information technologies.


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