The large-scale production of edible insects is unavoidable in order to continue feeding the ever-increasing global population and providing them with enough animal protein. Insect farming can be compared with mini livestock farming. It is environmentally friendly, does not require much land and produces high-quality nutrients. Furthermore, as a new sector of the food industry, it will provide a livelihood for large groups of people. This is the basic message contained in the book Edible insects: future prospects for food and feed security, written by researchers at Wageningen University and the Food and Agriculture Organisation of the UN (FAO). The book will be launched in Rome the 13th of May.
At least two billion people currently consume insects on a regular basis. More than 1,900 edible insect species have been identified, including beetles (31 percent), caterpillars (18 percent) and bees, wasps and ants (14 percent).
Research has shown that insects are highly nutritious, healthy and full of proteins, and many species contain as many unsaturated fatty acids (such as omega 3 and 6) as fish. The environmental benefits of insect farming are manifold: insects are much more efficient at converting feed into edible body weight than chickens, pigs or cattle. Furthermore, they emit 50 times fewer emissions than traditional livestock and ten times less amonia. In addition, there is less risk of animal diseases being transmitted to humans.
Whether or not we eat insects ('entomophagy') is largely dictated by culture and religion. It is part of the staple diet in many regions. Here in the West, we tend to brand such behaviour as 'disgusting' and 'primitive'. The authors of the book think that a lot of effort will have to go into devising communication strategies to promote the consumption of insects. Non-Western consumers will have to reinstate insects as a useful source of nutrition rather than copying Western eating habits. New processing methods must be developed to overcome the resistance on the part of Western consumers. These may include grinding the insects or extracting their proteins so that insects cannot be recognised as such anymore.
The scientists concerned envisage a lot of hard work before large-scale insect farming becomes a reality. There will be numerous challenges regarding industrial automated farming methods, processing and preserving techniques, conducive regulations and legislation, and gastronomy.
Despite the existing wealth of knowledge on the advantages of producing and eating insects, the authors want to see prompt, simultaneous answers to four serious questions. More documentation about the nutritional value of insects is needed in order to promote them as a healthy alternative. The effects on the environment must be clarified in order to compare this form of farming with conventional livestock production. There needs to be more certainty about the social-economic benefits of insect farming, particularly with regard to food security in the poorest sections of the population. And finally, a clear and comprehensive system of international regulations must be devised to smooth the path for investments to encourage this new branch of the industry and enable international trade in the sector to develop to its full potential.
Due to its higher capacity factor and proximity to densely populated areas, offshore wind power with integrated energy storage could satisfy > 20% of U.S. electricity demand. Similar results could also be obtained in many parts of the world. The offshore environment can be used for unobtrusive, safe, and economical utility-scale energy storage by taking advantage of the hydrostatic pressure at ocean depths to store energy by pumping water out of concrete spheres and later allowing it to flow back in through a turbine to generate electricity.
The storage spheres are an ideal complement to energy harvesting machines, such as floating wind turbines (FWTs). The system could provide near-base-load-quality utility-scale renewable energy and do double duty as the anchoring point for the generation platforms. Analysis indicates that storage can be economically feasible at depths as shallow as 200 m, with cost per megawatt hour of storage dropping until 1500 m before beginning to trend upward. The sweet spot occurs when the concrete wall thickness to withstand the hydrostatic pressure provides enough ballast mass, and this will depend on the strength of used concrete and reinforcement. In addition, the required concrete would use significant amounts of fly ash from coal-fired power plants, and the spheres can serve as artificial reefs.
The miniaturization of electronics continues to create unprecedented capabilities in computer and communications applications, enabling handheld wireless devices with tremendous computing performance operating on battery power.
A team of researchers at Columbia Engineering has used miniaturized electronics to measure the activity of individual ion-channel proteins with temporal resolution as fine as one microsecond, producing the fastest recordings of single ion channels ever performed. Ion channels are biomolecules that allow charged atoms to flow in and out of cells, and they are an important work-horse in cell signaling, sensing, and energetics.
They are also being explored for nanopore sequencing applications. As the "transistors" of living systems, they are the target of many drugs, and the ability to perform such fast measurements of these proteins will lead to new understanding of their functions. The researchers have designed a custom integrated circuit to perform these measurements, in which an artificial cell membrane and ion channel are attached directly to the surface of the amplifier chip.
"Scientists have been measuring single ion channels using large rack-mount electronic systems for the last 30 years," says Jacob Rosenstein, the lead author on the paper. Rosenstein was a PhD student in electrical engineering at the School at the time this work was done, and is now an assistant professor at Brown University. "By designing a custom microelectronic amplifier and tightly integrating the ion channel directly onto the amplifier chip surface, we are able to reduce stray capacitances that get in the way of making fast measurements."
"This work builds on other efforts in my laboratory to study the properties of individual molecules using custom electronics designed for this purpose," says Ken Shepard, professor of electrical engineering at the School and Rosenstein's adviser. The Shepard group continues to find ways to speed up these single-molecule measurements. "In some cases," he adds, "we may be able to speed things up to be a million times faster than current techniques."
There are many neurons, especially in brain regions that perform sophisticated functions such as thinking and planning, that react in different ways to a wide variety of things.
MIT neuroscientist Earl Miller first noticed these unusual activity patterns about 20 years ago, while recording the electrical activity of neurons in animals that were trained to perform complex tasks.
“We started noticing early on that there are a whole bunch of neurons in the prefrontal cortex that can’t be classified in the traditional way of one message per neuron,” recalls Miller, the Picower Professor of Neuroscience at MIT and a member of MIT’s Picower Institute for Learning and Memory.
In a paper appearing in Nature on May 19, 2013, Miller and colleagues at Columbia University report that these neurons are essential for complex cognitive tasks, such as learning new behavior. The Columbia team, led by the study’s senior author, Stefano Fusi, developed a computer model showing that without these neurons, the brain can learn only a handful of behavioral tasks.
“You need a significant proportion of these neurons,” says Fusi, an associate professor of neuroscience at Columbia. “That gives the brain a huge computational advantage.”
Miller and other neuroscientists who first identified this neuronal activity observed that while the patterns were difficult to predict, they were not random. “In the same context, the neurons always behave the same way. It’s just that they may convey one message in one task, and a totally different message in another task,” Miller says.
For example, a neuron might distinguish between colors during one task, but issue a motor command under different conditions.
Miller and colleagues proposed that this type of neuronal flexibility is key to cognitive flexibility, including the brain’s ability to learn so many new things on the fly. “You have a bunch of neurons that can be recruited for a whole bunch of different things, and what they do just changes depending on the task demands,” he says.
At first, that theory encountered resistance “because it runs against the traditional idea that you can figure out the clockwork of the brain by figuring out the one thing each neuron does,” Miller says.
A whopping 42% of Americans will be obese by 2030, and the swelling ranks of the rotund could end up costing the nation hundreds of billions of dollars. The scary statistics are revealed in a study released Monday by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
Currently more than a third of Americans are obese and the number is rising, particularly in men and the elderly. Buried in the CDC’s research is a nugget of good news. Even though the number of obese Americans continues to go up, it’s starting to go up at a slower rate.
The slowdown is a small victory in the fight for better health. Were obesity to rise at the same rapid rate it has in the last two decades, half the U.S. population would be obese by 2030, the study found.
The CDC’s study looked at the ramifications of the obesity crisis, including its economic impact. If the problem isn't curbed, it could cost the country $550 billion in health care costs over the next 20 years, researchers found.
Obesity — defined as a Body Mass Index over 30 — can lead to diabetes, heart disease and other serious health problems. And 27% of the rise in medical costs over the last 30 years can be pinned to excess weight, researchers wrote in the American Journal of Preventive Medicine. Even tiny progress in preventing obesity-related health conditions would save millions of dollars in health care costs, researchers wrote.
The Institute of Medicine, a nonprofit health organization, released national strategies for combating obesity Tuesday on its website, such as making nutritious foods more widely available and promoting health in schools and the workplace.
The study is based on BMI data collected by the CDC and state health departments from 1990 through 2008 as part of the Behavioral Risk Factor Surveillance System.
Sweep your gaze around Gale Crater on Mars, where NASA's Curiosity rover is currently exploring, with this 4-billion-pixel panorama stitched together from 295 images.
After several technical glitches shut down operations for a while, Curiosity resumed its science investigations earlier this week. Before the shutdown, the rover had been hard at work drilling into the Martian surface and discovering excellent evidence that the planet was once a place that could have hosted life. Though the probe is back up and running, it will be ceasing operations for a while beginning in April, when Earth and Mars are on opposite sides of the sun, which can mess with communications.
In the meantime, we can enjoy this mosaic created by photographer Andrew Bodrov of Estonia, whose previous panorama let you stand on Mars next to Curiosity. The entire image stretches 90,000 by 45,000 pixels and uses pictures taken by the rover’s two MastCams. The best way to enjoy it is to go into fullscreen mode and slowly soak up the scenery — from the distant high edges of the crater to the enormous and looming Mount Sharp, the rover’s eventual destination.
The great ecological success of spiders is often substantiated by the evolution of silk and webs. Biologists of the Kiel University and the University of Bern now found an alternative adaptation to hunting prey: hairy adhesive pads, so called scopulae. The scientists published their results in the May issue of the scientific journal PLoS One.
“More than half of all described spider species have abandoned building webs. They seize their prey directly and have to be able to hold and control the struggling prey without getting hurt themselves”, explains Jonas Wolff, PhD student in the working group ‘Functional Morphology and Biomechanics’. But how do these spiders manage to capture their prey, Wolff and his coworkers Professor Stanislav Gorb, Kiel, and Professor Wolfgang Nentwig, Bern, wondered. In order to find out, they turned their attention to the hairy pads, that grow on the legs of hunting spiders. These pads consist of specialized hairs (setae), which split into numerous branches. With these the setae can cling to surfaces very closely, which is necessary to exploit intermolecular adhesive forces.
„Until now, scientists assumed that the spiders mainly use those sticky pads for climbing on smooth surfaces. The earlier hypothesis that the adhesive pads are important for prey retention received scant attention. Our results show, that abandon web building occurred independently for several times. Interestingly, it was often accompanied by the evolution of similar adhesive pads. Specialized foot pads, which enable the spider to climb steep smooth surfaces such as window panes, are further developments derived from the prey capture apparatus”, Wolff explains. “These results give us entirely new insights on the evolution of spiders.”
From soccer balls to cookstoves, engineers are working on a range of devices that provide cheap, clean energy.
In the wealthy world, improving the energy system generally means increasing the central supply of reliable, inexpensive and environmentally-friendly power and distributing it through the power grid. Across most of the planet, though, simply providing new energy sources to the millions who are without electricity and depend on burning wood or kerosene for heat and light would open up new opportunities.
With that in mind, engineers and designers have recently created a range of innovative devices that can increase the supply of safe, cheap energy on a user-by-user basis, bypassing the years it takes to extend the power grid to remote places and the resources needed to increase a country’s energy production capacity. Here are a few of the most promising technologies.
The picture above shows the Window Socket, the perhaps simplest solar charger in existence! Just stick it on a sunny window for 5 to 8 hours with the built-in suction cup, and the solar panels on the back will store about 10 hours worth of electricity that can be used with any device. If there’s no window available, a user can just leave it on any sunny surface, including the ground. Once it’s fully charged, it can be removed and taken anywhere—inside a building, stored around in a bag or carried around in a vehicle. The designers, Kyuho Song and Boa Oh of Yanko Design, created it to resemble a normal wall outlet as closely as possible, so it can be used intuitively without any special instructions.
In 8 May 1980, the World Health Organisation declared that “the world and its peoples are free from smallpox.” Through decades of intense vaccination, this once fatal disease had been wiped out. It was a singular victory and having won it, countries around the world discontinued the vaccination programmes. After all, why protect against a disease that no longer exists, except in a few isolated stocks?
Unfortunately, this is not a rhetorical question. The smallpox vaccine did more than protect against smallpox. It also reduced the risk of contracting a related illness called monkeypox, which produces the same combination of scabby bumps and fever. It’s milder than smallpox but it’s still a serious affliction. In Africa, where monkeypox originates from, it kills anywhere from 1-10% of those who are infected. And more and more people are becoming infected.
Anne Rimoin from the University of California, Los Angeles compared data on the virus in the Democratic Republic of Congo over the last three decades. She found that, during those years, monkeypox has become 20 times more common in humans. In one particular area, 72 people out of every million were infected each year between 1981 and 1986. Between 2005 and 2007, that figure rose to 1442 per million. Rimoin thinks that we eased up the pressure on smallpox vaccination too soon. Between 1981 and 1985, only 404 cases turned up in all of Africa, and simulations predicted that the disease was unlikely to spread too far in a human population before dying out. This was no public health threat. In 1986, even the monitoring programme was stopped. In 2005 however, Rimoin’s group, together with the DRC Ministry of Health and the World Health Organization set up a new round of monkeypox surveillance and they spent two years collecting data. Their research showed that the disease is gaining ground.
Rimoin found that monkeypox was disproportionately affecting children and almost all of those who fell sick were born after 1980, when the smallpox vaccination programme was halted in the DRC. The vaccine wasn’t a perfect defence against monkeypox but it was still around 85% effective. Among people who were born during the vaccination era, those who were immunised were 5 times less likely to develop monkeypox than their protected peers. And this protection is clearly long-lasting; even 25 years on, they could still ward off the related virus.
These figures are probably underestimates too. The region’s inconsistent healthcare isn’t exactly conducive to accurate disease monitoring and Rimoin says that her team had word of many more cases, but couldn’t always check them out because of their remote location.
Monkeypox is spread by animals including squirrels and, fairly obviously, monkeys. As humans encroach upon the DRC’s tropical rainforests, the risk of being exposed to an infected carrier grows. Indeed, Rimoin found that the odds of contracting monkeypox were higher for people living near forested areas, and for men. As civil strife continues to affect the DRC, locals are being forced to rely more on hunting to get enough food and that brings men in close contact with furry viral reservoirs.
It’s an emerging threat, but Rimoin isn’t calling for smallpox vaccination to resume. Doing so would be logistically difficult in an area where even collecting data can be fraught. It might be better to take a more targeted approach, vaccinating only health workers who treat infected patients, and people who come into frequent contact with animal carriers. It may also be worth educating local people about the dangers of handling carrier species and the benefits of isolating people who show the very obvious symptoms, until they can be treated.
But most importantly, Rimoin wants active surveillance in regions where the virus circulates, especially since there are still so many unknowns about the virus. We need to better understand how it moves from human to human (and from animal to human), how often it’s fatal, or what the complications are.
It’s a good opportunity to take action now, at a time when the monkeypox is still confined to specific areas. Things might not stay that way. In 2003, there was a bizarre outbreak in the United States, as rodents from Ghana brought the disease to American prairie dogs, who handed it over to humans. All sorts of rodents the world over might become reservoirs for the disease and Rimoin writes, “If monkeypox were to become established in a wildlife reservoir outside Africa, the public health setback would be difficult to reverse.”
A team of British scientists and engineers have created a full scale model for a car they intend to drive more than 1,000 mph.
The model, named the Bloodhound SuperSonic Car (SSC), was built by a team of aerodynamic experts, who took three years to build it. Recently shown off to the world at the Farnborough International Air Show, the 42-foot-long Bloodhound resembles a bright blue missile with wheels.
For now, it's just a model, but the wheels are in motion to create the real deal. According to an article from the BBC, aerospace manufacturer Hampson Industries "will begin building the rear of the vehicle in the first quarter of 2011." Apparently, another deal to create the front end of the car is close to being finalized.
Not surprisingly, news that there may soon exist a car capable of hitting four digits on the speedometer moved the search needle. Immediately, online lookups for "bloodhound car," "supersonic car," and "bloodhound car pictures" roared into breakout status.
Of course, nobody makes an obscenely fast car just to take its picture. As soon as the Bloodhound is fully assembled, hopefully by late 2011 or early 2012, the team will attempt to sniff out a new world land speed record. The current record belongs to the Thrust SuperSonic Car, which hit 763 mph back in 1997.
Incidentally, several of the key people involved in the Thrust vehicle also worked on the Bloodhound, including driver Andy Green, who is also a Fighter Pilot in the Royal Air Force. Here, Mr. Green discusses some of the car's impressive/terrifying capabilities. One fact to wet your appetite: The Bloodhound has a grand total of 135,000 horsepower, which is equal to 180 times the power of a formula one car. Buckle up!
Australian scientists have created the most detailed atlas of the mouse brain, a development that is helping in the fight against brain disease.
“The new brain atlas provided a fundamental tool for the neuroscience community,” said Dr Jeremy Ullmann, lead author of a paper describing the atlas in the journal NeuroImage.
The new tool will allow researchers to map what parts of the brain are affected in mouse models of brain disease – such as brain cancer, Parkinson’s disease and Alzheimers disease.
“The mouse is now the most widely used animal model for neuroscience research and magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) is fundamental to investigating changes in the brain,” Dr Ullman said.
“Our atlas is already much in demand internationally because it allows researchers to use MRI to automatically map brain structures.”
“In making these world-first maps, we had the advantage of using the most powerful MRI scanners in the Southern Hemisphere, backed up by leaders in digital image analysis, resulting in remarkably clear images of the brain,” explained senior author Prof David Reutens from the University of Queensland’s Centre for Advanced Imaging.
The project’s lead neuroanatomist, Prof Charles Watson from Curtin University, said: “the study will open the door to accurate analysis of gene targeting in the mouse brain.”
“The invention of gene targeting in the mouse has made this species the centerpiece of studies on models of human brain disease. MRI allows researchers to follow changes in the brain over time in the same animals,” he said.
Looks like this 100-million-year old spider didn’t get to enjoy its final meal. Trapped in a piece of amber, the juvenile spider appears to be on the cusp of devouring a male wasp that was caught in its web. Such a grisly scene between spider and prey has never before been found in the fossil record.
The amazing snapshot shows an event that occurred in the Early Cretaceous period, about 97 to 110 million years ago, in the Hukawng Valley of Myanmar, “almost certainly with dinosaurs wandering nearby,” as the press release about this discovery reports. The spider is a social orb-weaver spider, formally known asGeratonephila burmanica, and its victim is a wasp of the species Cascoscelio incassus. Both species are extinct today but the fossil suggests that insect behavior from the past is not too different from the present.
Related wasp species are known to parasitize spider eggs, so there is some poetic justice in the spider’s attack. “This was the wasp’s worst nightmare, and it never ended. The wasp was watching the spider just as it was about to be attacked, when tree resin flowed over and captured both of them,” said entomologist George Poinar Jr. of Oregon State University in the release.
This latest fossil doesn’t just capture the dramatic spider attack but also evidence of spider social life in the Early Cretaceous. Another spider, an adult male, is captured some distance away in the amber, co-habiting on the same web as the juvenile. Males of modern-day social orb-weavers are typically found living on female-constructed webs, where they assist in capturing insects and maintaining the web.
Rice University scientists have unveiled a robust new method for arranging metal nanoparticles in geometric patterns that can act as optical processors that transform incoming light signals into output of a different color.
Rice's team used the method to create an optical device in which incoming light could be directly controlled with light via a process known as "four-wave mixing." Four-wave mixing has been widely studied, but Rice's disc-patterning method is the first that can produce materials that are tailored to perform four-wave mixing with a wide range of colored inputs and outputs.
"Versatility is one of the advantages of this process," said study co-author Naomi Halas, director of LANP and Rice's Stanley C. Moore Professor in Electrical and Computer Engineering and a professor of biomedical engineering, chemistry, physics and astronomy. "It allows us to mix colors in a very general way. That means not only can we send in beams of two different colors and get out a third color, but we can fine-tune the arrangements to create devices that are tailored to accept or produce a broad spectrum of colors."
The information processing that takes place inside today's computers, smartphones and tablets is electronic. Each of the billions of transistors in a computer chip uses electrical inputs to act upon and modify the electrical signals passing through it. Processing information with light instead of electricity could allow for computers that are both faster and more energy-efficient, but building an optical computer is complicated by the quantum rules that light obeys.
Researchers of the Fraunhofer Institute for Applied Solid State Physics and the Karlsruhe Institute for Technology have achieved the wireless transmission of 40 Gbit/s at 240 GHz over a distance of one kilometer. Their most recent demonstration sets a new world record and ties in seamlessly with the capacity of optical fiber transmission. In the future, such radio links will be able to close gaps in providing broadband internet by supplementing the network in rural areas and places which are difficult to access.
Digital, mobile and networked – changing media usage habits of modern society require the faster transmission of increasing vol-umes of data. Compared to the European standard, Germany lags behind in the expansion of the fiber-optic network, according to statistics from the FTTH Council Europe. Deploying new fiber-optic cables is expensive and difficult when there are natural or urban obstacles such as rivers or traffic junctions. Broadband radio links can help to overcome such critical areas, thereby facilitating the expansion of the network infrastructures. In rural areas they can be a cost-effective and flexible alternative to “Fiber to the Home”.
Researchers have now set a new world record in wireless data transmission: For the first time, fully integrated electronic transmit-ters and receivers have been developed for a frequency of 240 GHz, which allows the transmission of data rates of up to 40 Gbit/s. This equals the transmission of a complete DVD in under a second or 2400 DSL16000 internet connections. Distances of over one kilometer have already been covered by using a long range demonstrator, which the Karlsruhe Institute of Technology set up between two skyscrapers as part of the project “Millilink”. “We have managed to develop a radio link based on active electronic circuits, which enables similarly high data rates as in fiber-optic systems, therefore allowing seamless integration of the radio link”, says Prof. Ingmar Kallfass, who coordinated the project at Fraunhofer IAF within the scope of a Shared Professorship between IAF and KIT. Since 2013, Kallfass is with the University of Stuttgart, where he continues to lead the project.
Using the high frequency range between 200 and 280 GHz not only enables the fast transmission of large volumes of data, but also results in very compact technical assembly. Since the size of elec-tronic circuits and antennae scales with frequency / wavelength, the transmitter and receiver chip only measures 4 x 1.5 mm⊃2;. The semi-conductor technology developed at Fraunhofer IAF, based on tran-sistors with high carrier mobility (HEMT), makes it possible to use the frequency between 200 and 280 GHz with active transmitters and receivers in the form of compact, integrated circuits. The at-mosphere shows low attenuation in this frequency range, which enables broadband directional radio links. “This makes our radio link easier to install compared to free-space optical systems for data transmission. It also shows better robustness in poor weather condi-tions such as fog or rain”, explains Jochen Antes of KIT.
The researchers sampled mucus from animals and humans—ranging from a sea anemone to a mouse and a person—and found that bacteriophage adheres to the mucus layer on all of them. They placed bacteriophage on top of a layer of mucus-producing tissue and observed that the bacteriophage formed bonds with sugars within the mucus, causing them to adhere to the surface. They then challenged these mucus cells with E. coli bacteria and found that the bacteriophage attacked and killed off the E. coli in the mucus, effectively forming an anti-microbial barrier on the host that protected it from infection and disease.
To confirm their discovery, the team also conducted parallel research challenging non-mucus producing cells with both bacteriophage and E. coli. The results—the samples with no mucus had three times more cell death. "Taking previous research into consideration, we are able to propose the Bacteriophage Adherence to Mucus—or BAM—is a new model of immunity, which emphasizes the important role bacteriophage play in protecting the body from invading pathogens," Barr said.
A hidden protector According to Barr, part of what makes this research so novel is that bacteriophage are already present on all humans and animals. The body recruits the bacteriophage from the environment, which then naturally sticks to mucus layers across various parts of the body including the mouth and gut. The bacteriophage then becomes a protector of its host, accumulating and attacking on its own. "This discovery not only proposes a new immune system but also demonstrates the first symbiotic relationship between phage and animals," Barr said. "It will have a significant impact across numerous fields." "The research could be applied to any mucosal surface," Barr said. "We envision BAM influencing the prevention and treatment of mucosal infections seen in the gut and lungs, having applications for phage therapy and even directly interacting with the human immune system."
A team of University of Pennsylvania engineers has used a pattern of nanoantennas to develop a new way of turning infrared light into mechanical action, opening the door to more sensitive infrared cameras and more compact chemical-analysis techniques.
The research was conducted by assistant professor Ertugrul Cubukcu and postdoctoral researcher Fei Yi, along with graduate students Hai Zhu and Jason C. Reed, all of the Department of Material Scienceand Engineering in Penn’s School of Engineering and Applied Science.
Detecting light in the mid-infrared range is important for applications like night-vision cameras, but it can also be used to do spectroscopy, a technique that involves scattering light over a substance to infer its chemical composition. Existing infrared detectors use cryogenically cooled semiconductors, or thermal detectors known as microbolometers, in which changes in electrical resistance can be correlated to temperatures. These techniques have their own advantages, but both need expensive, bulky equipment to be sensitive enough for spectroscopy applications.
“We set out to make an optomechanical thermal infrared detector,” Cubukcu said. “Rather than changes in resistance, our detector works by connecting mechanical motion to changes in temperature.”
The advantage to this approach is that it could reduce the footprint of an infrared sensing device to something that would fit on a disposable silicon chip. The researchers fabricated such a device in their study.
At the core of the device is a nanoscale structure — about a tenth of a millimeter wide and five times as long — made of a layer of gold bonded to a layer of silicon nitride. The researchers chose these materials because of their different thermal expansion coefficients, a parameter that determines how much a material will expand when heated. Because metals will naturally convert some energy from infrared light into heat, researchers can connect the amount the material expands to the amount of infrared light hitting it.
“A single layer would expand laterally, but our two layers are constrained because they’re attached to one another,” Cubukcu said. “The only way they can expand is in the third dimension. In this case, that means bending toward the gold side, since gold has the higher thermal expansion coefficient and will expand more.”
To measure this movement, the researchers used a fiber interferometer. A fiber optic cable pointed upward at this system bounces light off the underside of the silicon nitride layer, enabling the researchers to determine how far the structure has bent upwards.
“We can tell how far the bottom layer has moved based on this reflected light,” Cubukcu said. “We can even see displacements that are thousands of times smaller than a hydrogen atom.”
Scientists have used plant samples collected in the 19th Century to identify the pathogen that caused the Irish potato famine.
Scientists believe they have finally identified the pathogen that caused the Irish potato famine. A research team led by The Sainsbury Laboratory in Norwich, England, used dried leaf cuttings — some of which are nearly 170 years old — to reconstruct the spread of the HERB-1 strain of Phytophthora infestans, a fungal disease that came to Ireland via Mexico in 1845. The disease destroyed potato crops and caused the deaths of a million people.
Researchers originally thought that the US-1 strain of the fungal disease was the cause of the famine. However, it is now credited with replacing the devastating HERB-1 variant and is now dominant around the world — having been helped by an evolution in crop breeding methods. By using advanced DNA sequencing techniques, UK, US, and German scientists were able to decode the genome of the plant pathogen and compare it with modern strains, identifying when it emerged, how it spread, and its extinction throughout the 19th century.
HIV patients treated with genetically modified T cells remain healthy up to 11 years after initial therapy, researchers from the Perelman School of Medicine at the University of Pennsylvania report in the new issue of Science Translational Medicine. The results provide a framework for the use of this type of gene therapy as a powerful weapon in the treatment of HIV, cancer, and a wide variety of other diseases.
"We have 43 patients and they are all healthy," says senior author Carl June, MD, a professor of Pathology and Laboratory Medicine at Penn Medicine. "And out of those, 41 patients show long term persistence of the modified T cells in their bodies."
Early gene therapy studies raised concern that gene transfer to cells via retroviruses might lead to leukemia in a substantial proportion of patients, due to mutations that may arise in genes when new DNA is inserted. The new long-term data, however, allay that concern in T cells, further buoying the hope generated by work June's team published in 2011 showing the eradication of tumors in patients with chronic lymphocytic leukemia using a similar strategy.
"If you have a safe way to modify cells in patients with HIV, you can potentially develop curative approaches," June says. "Patients now have to take medicine for their whole lives to keep their virus under control, but there are a number of gene therapy approaches that might be curative." A lifetime of anti-HIV drug therapy, by contrast, is expensive and can be accompanied by significant side effects.
They also note that the approach the Penn Medicine team studied may allow patients with cancers and other diseases to avoid the complications and mortality risks associated with more conventional treatments, since patients treated with the modified T cells did not require drugs to weaken their own immune systems in order for the modified cells to proliferate in their bodies after infusion, as is customary for cancer patients who receive stem cell transplants.
Three-dimensional printing allows for the production of highly detailed objects through a process known as additive manufacturing. Traditional, mold-injection methods to create models or parts have several limitations, the most important of which is a difficulty in making highly complex products in a timely, cost-effective manner.
However, gradual improvements in three-dimensional printing technology have resulted in both high-end and economy instruments that are now available for the facile production of customized models. These printers have the ability to extrude high-resolution objects with enough detail to accurately represent in vivo images generated from a preclinical X-ray CT scanner. With proper data collection, surface rendering, and stereolithographic editing, it is now possible and inexpensive to rapidly produce detailed skeletal and soft tissue structures from X-ray CT data. Even in the early stages of development, the anatomical models produced by three-dimensional printing appeal to both educators and researchers who can utilize the technology to improve visualization proficiency.
The real benefits of this method result from the tangible experience a researcher can have with data that cannot be adequately conveyed through a computer screen. The translation of pre-clinical 3D data to a physical object that is an exact copy of the test subject is a powerful tool for visualization and communication, especially for relating imaging research to students, or those in other fields. Here, we provide a detailed method for printing plastic models of bone and organ structures derived from X-ray CT scans utilizing an Albira X-ray CT system in conjunction with PMOD, ImageJ, Meshlab, Netfabb, and ReplicatorG software packages.
A Japanese company, Pioneer, has unveiled a service that creates 3D holograms of unborn fetuses. Ultrasound photos - sooo old school from last century! Make way for hologram-babies. The service uses data gathered during a routine pregnancy checkup. The information from an echogram is used to create a 3D digital model of the baby on a computer. That digital model is then printed using Pioneer's compact hologram printer, first developed end of 2012. Within two hours, you have a stunning, but slightly creepy, multi-colored 3D image that lets you see your child from a range of angles.
Holograms are recordings of "light fields", the sum of the scattered light reflecting off a surface in a range of directions. (As opposed to an ordinary photograph, which captures only the light scattered in one direction). By capturing the light from a range of directions, the "light field", the hologram allows a 3D recreation of the original object. Creating a hologram from scratch is a straightforward but tricky process. (See our "How To" here). But the printer developed by Pioneer bypasses all of that, at least as far as you're concerned.
"Previously, holograms were produced by making a model of the subject, shining two lights on the model, and photographing it. That method involved a lot of work, because it required a darkroom, knowledge of techniques, and specialized equipment," said a spokesperson for Pioneer. "But with the device we've developed, even if you don't have the actual object, as long as you have a CG design, then that can be used to record a hologram easily."
Advances in holographic technology have seen holograms invade various areas of modern life. Researchers at Cambridge are investigating the security applications of holograms embedded in carbon nanotubes; it has been suggested that infrared holographic images could aid firefighters; and in 2012, Coachella festival in California featured a performance from a holographic Tupac -- though it wasn't a "hologram"in the strictest sense of the word.
How does a caterpillar turn into a butterfly? Scientists from the University of Manchester have taken 3D images of a caterpillar and watched the whole process using micro-CT scanning technology.
Studies of model insects have greatly increased our understanding of animal development. Until now, studying metamorphosing insects has mainly involved dissection. But as you might know, dissection destroys the specimen. So researchers were never able to follow the full development of a creature. So researchers came up with a new idea - using micro-computed tomography, or micro-CT scanning to get images of the insects. Two teams of scientists, Tristan Rowe and Russell Garwood from the University of Manchester and Thomas Simonsen from London's Natural History Museum use high-resolution X-ray computed tomography (CT) to overcome these issues, and three-dimensionally image numerous lepidopteran pupae throughout their development.
The researchers scanned nine painted lady butterflies in their chrysalis, over a period of 16 days. The study has revealed — in three dimensions at various stages in development — a number of the organ systems, principally the tracheae and portions of the gut. The insect's guts change shape within the body, but never disappear entirely. It also demonstrates early and rapid development of the tracheae, which become visible in scans just 12 h after pupation.
"This suggests that there is less remodelling of the tracheal system than previously expected, and is methodologically important because the tracheal system is an often-understudied character system in development." Note the researchers in their paper.
Researchers say that this form of time-lapse CT-scanning they've developed could allow faster and more detailed developmental studies on a wider range of taxa than is presently possible.
However, there are a number of limitations when applying micro-CT to insects. A number of tissues, for example, the muscles and central nervous system — are not resolved in the current scans due to lack of contrast. And ionizing radiation causes tissue damage and thus risks altering the development of the specimen when repeatedly scanned.
This technique doesn't drastically revolutionise what we knew about metamorphosis, but it does provide some small insights and gives scientists new options for their experiments.
The experiment is proof of principle that one brain can transmit information to another without visual or tactile cues.
It's not quite telepathy, but it's the closest anyone has ever come to getting a mammal to read another mammal's mind. A research team led by neurobiologist Miguel Nicolelis of Duke University has wired together the brains of two rats, allowing them transmit information between each other and cooperate. The results could help improve the design of neural-controlled prosthetic devices. And perhaps more than that, they also show that one day we could network brains as well as computers, or communicate by translating neural activity in the brain into electronic signals.
In the experiment, the Duke scientists first trained two rats to press one of two levers when a particular light switched on. Next, they then connected the animals' brains with tiny electrodes, each a fraction the size of a human hair. The electrodes linked the parts of the rats' brains that process motor signals. Rat number one was called the "encoder" and rat number two was the "decoder." The first rat's job was to receive the visual cue to press the lever. If it got it right, it got a reward.
As the encoder rat did its task, the electrical activity in the encoder rat's brain was then translated into a signal and transmitted to the decoder rat. That rat would then press its own lever. For the second rat, though, there was no light cue to tell it which corresponding lever was correct. It could only go by the signal it received from the other rat. It hit the correct lever an average of about 64 percent of the time, and sometimes up to 72 percent -- much better than if it were only doing it by chance.
To confirm that this was an effect of the signals from the encoder rat's brain, Nicolelis and his team gave the decoder rat the same stimulation, but this time from a computer. They got a similar result.
Another experiment tested whether the rat's brain could transmit information about touch. This time the rats were trained to put their nose through an opening and, using their whiskers, distinguish whether the opening was wide or narrow. For wide openings, the rats were taught to poke a computer port on their right. For narrow openings, they poked to the left.
Once trained, the rats were wired up to each other. When the encoder rat poked the relevant port, the scientists recorded the brain activity and sent the signal to the decoder rat. The decoder chose the correct side – left or right – to poke 60 to 65 percent of the time.
Tropical rainforests are known to harbor a high biodiversity of untold species, many of them unknown and unnamed by scientists as of yet. Insects, especially beetles, make up a large proportion of this undiscovered life on Earth.
Experts in remote tropical countries’ fauna such as the wilderness of New Guinea, Alexander Riedel of the Natural History Museum Karlsruhe (SMNK) and Michael Balke of the Zoological State Collection Munich (SNSB) know this well. They have discovered a special “hyperdiverse” case, the weevil genus Trigonopterus. The jungles of New Guinea are home to hundreds of distinct species, most of which have not been recorded by scientists.
It would take more than a lifetime to describe this huge diversity using traditional approaches, but time is short. Forests are disappearing for the sake of expanding palm oil plantations on this island, and good arguments are needed in the battle for the conservation of each hectare of primary forest.
“This called for a new approach”, said Dr Riedel. “A portion of each weevil species’ DNA was sequenced, which helped to sort out and diagnose species efficiently. Besides, we have taken high-resolution photographs of each weevil that will be uploaded to Species ID, along with a short scientific description. More than 100 species were brought to the light of science and public attention this way right now – about five times faster than possible with traditional techniques!”
That just left naming the new species. The scientists tackled this problem with an equally innovative idea: using the Papua New Guinea phonebook. Many of the new species were named for popular family names found in the yellowpages, like the Trigonopterus moreaorum, which is based on the family name “Morea.” The families might not even guess the honor they have been given – a weevil species with their own name in the backyard.
Scientists discovered unique cellular and molecular mechanisms behind tooth renewal in American alligators (Alligator mississippiensis).
Humans naturally only have two sets of teeth – baby teeth and adult teeth. Ultimately, we want to identify stem cells that can be used as a resource to stimulate tooth renewal in adult humans who have lost teeth. But, to do that, we must first understand how they renew in other animals and why they stop in people,” Prof Chuong said.
Whereas most vertebrates can replace teeth throughout their lives, human teeth are naturally replaced only once, despite the lingering presence of a band of epithelial tissue called the dental lamina, which is crucial to tooth development.
Because alligators have well-organized teeth with similar form and structure as mammalian teeth and are capable of lifelong tooth renewal, the team reasoned that they might serve as models for mammalian tooth replacement.
“Alligator teeth are implanted in sockets of the dental bone, like human teeth. They have 80 teeth, each of which can be replaced up to 50 times over their lifetime, making them the ideal model for comparison to human teeth,” explained study lead author Prof Ping Wu, also from the University of Southern California.
The team found that each alligator tooth is a complex unit of three components – a functional tooth, a replacement tooth, and the dental lamina – in different developmental stages. The tooth units are structured to enable a smooth transition from dislodgement of the functional, mature tooth to replacement with the new tooth. Identifying three developmental phases for each tooth unit, the researchers conclude that the alligator dental laminae contain what appear to be stem cells from which new replacement teeth develop.
“Stem cells divide more slowly than other cells,” said co-author Prof Randall Widelitz of the University of Southern California.
“The cells in the alligator’s dental lamina behaved like we would expect stem cells to behave. In the future, we hope to isolate those cells from the dental lamina to see whether we can use them to regenerate teeth in the lab.”
The team also intends to learn what molecular networks are involved in repetitive renewal and hope to apply the principles to regenerative medicine in the future.
"We live in the post-genomic era, when DNA sequence data is growing exponentially", says Miami University (Ohio) computational biologist Iddo Friedberg. "But for most of the genes that we identify, we have no idea of their biological functions. They are like words in a foreign language, waiting to be deciphered." Understanding the function of genes is a problem that has emerged at the forefront of molecular biology. Many groups develop and employ sophisticated algorithms to decipher these "words". However, until now there was no comprehensive picture of how well these methods perform, "To use the information in our genes to our advantage, we first need to take stock of how well we are doing in interpreting these data".
To do so, Friedberg and his colleagues, Predrag Radivojac, of Indiana University, Bloomington IN and Sean Mooney, Buck Institute for Research on Aging, Novato CA organized the Critical Assessment of protein Function Annotation, or CAFA. CAFA is a community-wide experiment to assess the performance of the many methods used today to predict the functions of proteins, the workhorses of the cell coded by our genes.
Thirty research groups comprising 102 scientists and students participated in CAFA, presented a total of 54 methods. The participating groups came from leading universities in North America, Europe, Asia and Australia. The groups participated in blind-test experiments in which they predicted the function of protein sequences for which the functions are already known but haven't yet been made publicly available. Independent assessors then judged their performance.
The results are published in this month's issue of Nature Methods co-authored by members of all the participating groups, with Friedberg and Radivojac as lead authors. Fifteen companion papers have been published in a special issue of BMC Bioinformatics detailing the methods
"We have discovered a great enthusiasm and community spirit", said Friedberg, who since 2005 has been organizing Automated Function Prediction (AFP) meetings internationally. This, despite the competitive environment in which research groups want their methods to perform better than their peers' methods. Overall, throughout CAFA there was a highly collegial spirit, and a willingness to share information and science. "Everyone recognized that this is an important endeavor, and that only by a group effort can we move the field forward and learn to harness the deluge of genomic data, turning it into useful information."
"For the first time we have broad insight into what works, where improvement is needed, and how we should move the field forward. We will continue running CAFA in the future, as we are confident it will only help generate better methods to understand the information locked in our genomes, and those of other organisms," Friedberg said.
The initial analysis suggests that algorithms combining disparate prediction clues taken from different knowledge-bases provide more accurate predictions. The lead methods combined data from phylogenetic, gene-expression and protein-protein interaction data to provide predictions.