While You Were at the Bench

While You Were at the Bench: Week 46

Researchers at Stanford University have created an organic polymer that is pressure sensitive and self-healing making this material ideal for artificial skin on biomimetic prostheses.  All the pieces are coming together for Skynet.

By incorporating iron oxide (rust) into a unique V-shaped ultrathin film, scientists at Technion-Israel Institute of Technology have created a new type of solar cell that can use sunlight to oxidize water and store the energy as hydrogen-based biofuels.   This design is cheaper than photovoltaic solar cells and they can store solar energy for electricity use at night.

Is the key to the fountain of youth in all of us?  After studying the immortal polyp Hydra, German scientists have discovered that the FoxO gene is evolutionarily conserved to control longevity through regulation of stem cell production and proliferation.

A world-wide collaborative effort has identified a rare variant of the TREM2 gene that nearly triples the risk of developing Alzheimer’s disease.

Is your lab’s external terabyte hard drive maxed out from all your data files?  Good thing engineers at the University of Texas have developed self-assembling block copolymers that can increase hard drive storage capacity by five fold.

Idaho State University anthropologist Jeffrey Meldrum is currently designing a remote controlled blimp for the purposes of finding the elusive Sasquatch.  I hope he equips it with a high-definition camera so I don’t have to watch any more grainy videos of purported sightings.

Have a Great Weekend!

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While You Were at the Bench: Week 45

After studying a cohort of 18-26-year-olds with autosomal dominant mutations in presenilin 1 that predispose them to early-onset Alzheimer’s disease, researchers have determined structural changes to several brain regions as well as CSF proteins indicative of increased amyloid beta.  This study has shown the earliest known biomarkers for AD, which could improve screening methods, diagnosis and treatment.

Using MRI, neuroscientists have determined that recent military veterans suffering from posttraumatic stress disorder, PTSD, have decreased amygdala volume (the brain region associated with regulating fear).  The next step is determining if a smaller amygdala predisposes people to PTSD or is a result of experiencing traumatic events.

Researchers have discovered a second species of blind mole rat, Spalax (BMR), that has innate cancer resistance mediated through the release of interferon-beta.  This discover could lead to new therapies for treating carcinoma in humans.

Astronomers have discovered three planets 42 light years away from Earth that orbit their sun at a distance suitable for sustaining climate, liquid water, and possibly life.  Their discovery will spark additional observation from both land and spaced based telescopes.

A Goffin’s cockatoo named Figaro has been observed repeatedly shaping sticks to reach food placed outside of his habitat in Vienna, Austria.   Add this species to a quickly increasing list of animals observed using tools and demonstrating “higher intelligence.”

For the first time, scientists have demonstrated that an electronic device implanted into the inner ear of guinnea pigs can be powered by endocochlear potential without loss in hearing.  This study sets the foundation for creating a biological battery that can power biosensors or drug delivery systems for treating hearing loss.

Researchers at Harvard have successfully recapitulated pulmonary edema using human lung cells grown onto a polymer (organ-on-a-chip) that allows them to quickly screen potential drugs for toxicity and therapeutic efficacy.  I wonder if PETA is excited or angry that they’ll have nothing to complain about in the future?

Have a great weekend!

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While You Were at the Bench: Week 44

The hole in the ozone layer over Antartica reached its smallest maximal size in the last two decades.  NASA and NOA scientists believe the warmer temperatures in the Antartic this year helped reduce the damage to the ozone layer caused by chlorofluorocarbons.

Researchers have engineered a macromolecule that not only inhibits the IgE-Fc Receptor but also dissociates preformed ligand-receptor complexes. This could lead to a new class of fast-acting medication for acute allergic reactions.

Researchers at Stanford University have created the first all carbon solar cell.  While they acknowledge the efficiency (< 1%) is considerably lower than commercially available photovoltaic solar cells, the carbon-based thin film technique can dramatically reduce the cost associated with solar cells.

We already know that redhead, fair skinned individuals are more susceptible to melanoma caused by ultraviolet radiation.  However, new research in ginger mice suggests redheads might develop melanoma through a mechanism of oxidative damage without exposure to the sun.

Researchers at UC Santa Barbara have discovered that Notch signaling is essential for determining cell fate during embryogenesis in C. elegans.  Blocking this signal could lead to new ways of “growing” replacement organs for humans.

And in an update to a former post, the International Thermonuclear Experimental Reactor (ITER) is being delayeddue to a complicated contract process.  The first scheduled energy producing experiments aren’t scheduled until 2027 or 2028.

A great place to go for a run.

Researchers in Montreal have shown that middle-aged, overweight individuals who exercised four days a week for four months not only lost weight, but also improved their cognitive function.  Now, put down that plate of poutine, visit RateMyPI.com, and hit the gym.

Have a great weekend!

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While You Were At the Bench: Week 43

Seven Italian seismologists have been found guilty of manslaughter for the deaths of 29 people killed in the 2009 earthquake that decimated the city of L’Aquila when they incorrectly assessed the risks of ongoing seismic activity in the area.  This judicial ruling has completely shocked the scientific community and sets an interesting precedent for scientific accountability.

The US National Research Council released a report this week stating that CURRENT scale-up methods of algal biofuels for replacing oil and ethanol transporation fuels “would place unsustainable demands on energy, water and nutrients.”  The report goes on to state that these pitfalls are being addressed and none are a definitive barrier to large scale development.  You can read a summary of the report here.

In a follow-up to the Nobel prize in physics, Princeton researchers have used microwave photons to determine the spin states of electrons.  This might allow for quick transfer of quantum information through a computing device. Here is a  summary of the study.

South African researchers have identified two individuals who naturally developed antibodies that target the outer glycan layer on HIV.  These antibodies can kill 88% of the HIV strains found worldwide, which could lead to a completely new class of drugs for treating or even curing HIV.

Here’s one for college students.  A new study out of Rutgers has shown that rats drinking moderately high levels of alcohol daily (the human equivalent of 3-4 beverages per day) did not disrupt learning processes, however, neurogenesis was reduced by 40% in the dentate gyrus of the hippocampus.  The authors note this level of drinking is closer to binge drinking, rather than moderate levels of alcohol (1-2 beverages daily) that typically show cardiovascular and cognitive health.

Cool photo of the week.  Check out this 9 gigapixel image of the center of the Milky Way (galaxy not candy bar) containing 84 million stars.  The image is a composite of photos from the European Southern Observatory’s VISTA.

Keep this in mind if you ever need to know how to eat a Triceratops.  Paleontologists have concluded from bite marks in Triceratops skull fossils that T-Rex would grip the neck frills to pull the head off and eat the tender meat around the head.   Dinosaurs are cool.

And a big thanks to all the RateMyPI.com blog readers.  Total blog views surpassed the 5K mark this week.  Keep coming back for future blog posts and remember to check out our website.

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