After 1,200 unsuccessful attempts to do something, most people would call it quits. Not Harvard University chemist Tobias Ritter. Chemistry research is 90 percent failure, he says. But success, when it comes, can be big. In Ritter's case, it could mean more-effective drugs. Ritter, a native of Germany, had been studying fluorination, the process by which fluorine atoms bind to carbon, since 2007.
Helmet sensors have been used for years to try to gauge the nuances and consequences of head injuries in contact sports like football, but now a team at Stanford University is hoping mouth guards loaded with sensors can gather head injury data on a much larger scale, helping researchers determine exactly what the human brain’s threshold is for those jarring, slot-receiver-coming-across-the-middle impacts.
Using metal chips and light, clinicians will be able to detect viruses in even rural medical clinics
By Katie Peek
Posted 10.11.2011 at 10:56 am 7 Comments
One of the many challenges of practicing medicine in developing countries is performing quick, reliable diagnosis of infectious disease. To bring rapid virus diagnostics to underserved populations, engineer Hatice Altug and her research team at Boston University have created and tested a biosensor that detects disease-causing organisms with precisely directed light.
Watching how insects use plants shows that self-medication isn’t just for complex animals
By Sarah Fecht
Posted 10.10.2011 at 10:09 am 5 Comments
“I didn’t start working with monarchs because I liked them,” says evolutionary biologist Jaap de Roode of Emory University. “I came to them because they have a really cool parasite.” That parasite, called Ophryocystis elektroscirrha, normally pokes holes in the butterflies’ skin, causing them to leak bodily fluids. But de Roode noticed that monarchs that ate the tropical milkweed plant did not suffer from parasitic infections as much as monarchs eating swamp milkweed did. This led him to suggest to his colleagues that the monarchs were self-medicating.
Potentially big stem cell news out of the New York Stem Cell Foundation Laboratory today in Nature, though in our experience it’s always good to temper one’s expectations when it comes to these sorts of things. After all, we’ve thought we cracked the code on embryonic stem cell cloning technology more than once, only to find this kind of biology is much more difficult and complex than originally thought.
[UPDATE 6 p.m.] Immune cells that protect us from the dangers of this microbe planet are behind this year’s Nobel Prize in medicine. Two of the three winners discovered receptor proteins that can recognize microbial invaders, activating the innate immune response. The third discovered dendritic cells, which serve as surveillance cells and can switch on the body's adaptive immune response.
Pain must be the bane of many a doctor's existence. It's a major symptom and indicator of many illnesses, but doctors have to rely on humans to describe and rate it, and humans are a distinctly unreliable source of information. What's a "7" on the pain scale for someone might be a "4" for another. What's a "pulsing" pain for someone might be a "pounding" for someone else. At Stanford, some doctors are figuring out the first steps to objectively measure pain, finally putting that all to rest.
By Lana Birbrair
Posted 09.19.2011 at 10:01 am 32 Comments
The design of the hypodermic needle has changed little since 1853, when French surgeon Charles Gabriel Pravaz first attached a hollow, skinpiercing cylinder to a syringe. today, medical-device designers are using micro-scale materials to make the needles shorter and thinner, which makes for less painful shots.
A new DNA-based logic circuit can sense the signs of cancer, compute that a cell is cancerous, and then cause it to self-destruct, researchers say. The cell-level diagnostic system could be used for drug screening or perhaps for disease treatment, killing tumors while leaving healthy cells alone.
The newest optical techniques are making cell biology a little clearer, but it’s still a murky business, watching cells work. A new technique that illuminates RNA — the builder of proteins, making copies according to DNA’s blueprint — is one way to shine a light on that process.
In reconstructive surgery, if a doctor needs a bone he or she can turn to a range of plastics, ceramics, or metals as suitable replacements. But when it comes to soft tissues--like the kind found in that most cosmetically important area, the face--replacements are scarce, and the ones that do exist aren’t very good, especially when it comes to fixing large-scale deformities.
Call it a silent killer: some 6 percent of the U.S. population has some kind of voice disorder, most of those resulting from scarring of the vocal cords that can lead to diminishing or even total loss of the ability to speak. Giving voice to the voiceless, a team of Harvard and MIT researchers have developed a synthetic, injectable material that can be implanted into scarred vocal cords to restore their function.
Keeping in step with this week’s flood of awesome stem cell news, a development on the embryonic front: California surgeons have implanted lab-grown retinal cells into the eyes of two patients losing their vision to macular degeneration, Technology Review
Five amazing, clean technologies that will set us free, in this month's energy-focused issue. Also: how to build a better bomb detector, the robotic toys that are raising your children, a human catapult, the world's smallest arcade, and much more.