Biosingularity

Archive for December 2006

A classic science-fiction scene shows a person wearing a metal skullcap with electrodes sticking out to detect the person’s thoughts. Another sci-fi movie standard depicts robots doing humans’ bidding. Now the two are combined, and in real life: University of Washington researchers can control the movement of a humanoid robot with signals from a human brain.

Rajesh Rao, associate professor of computer science and engineering, and his students have demonstrated that an individual can “order” a robot to move to specific locations and pick up specific objects merely by generating the proper brain waves that reflect the individual’s instructions.
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A type of nutrient found in vegetables like spinach and lettuce may be Mother Nature’s way of keeping blood pressure in check.

A small new study published at New England Journal of Medicine suggests the nitrates in many vegetables, such as spinach, lettuce, or beetroot, may keep blood vessels healthy and lower blood pressure.

Read rest of the story at WebMD.

If a zebrafish loses a chunk of its tail fin, it’ll grow back within a week. Like lizards, newts, and frogs, a zebrafish can replace surprisingly complex body parts. A tail fin, for example, has many different types of cells and is a very intricate structure. It is the fish version of an arm or leg.

The question of how cold-blooded animals re-grow missing tails and other appendages has fascinated veterinary and medical scientists. They also wonder if people, and other warm-blooded animals that evolved from these simpler creatures, might still have untapped regenerative powers hidden in their genes.
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A two-step process appears to regulate cell fate decisions for many types of developing cells, according to researchers from the University of Chicago.

This finding sheds light on a puzzling behavior. For some differentiating stem cells, the first step leads not to a final decision but to a new choice. In response to the initial chemical signal, these cells take on the genetic signatures of two different cell types. It often requires a second signal for them to commit to a single cellular identity.

In the Aug. 25 2006 issue of Cell, the researchers, working with hematopoietic stem cells, which give rise to the many types of blood cells, show how “pioneer transcription factors” trigger the first step, pushing these stem cells towards this mixed lineage, midway between two related cell types — in this case between a macrophage and a neutrophil.
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The accumulation of genetic damage in our cells is a major contributor to how we age, according to a study being published today in the journal Nature by an international group of researchers. The study found that mice completely lacking a critical gene for repairing damaged DNA grow old rapidly and have physical, genetic and hormonal profiles very similar to mice that grow old naturally. Furthermore, the premature aging symptoms of the mice led to the discovery of a new type of human progeria, a rare inherited disease in which affected individuals age rapidly and die prematurely.
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Stem cells grew, multiplied and differentiated into brain cells on a new three-dimensional scaffold of tiny protein fragments designed to be more like a living body than any other cell culture system.

An MIT engineer and Italian colleagues will report the invention-which may one day replace the ubiquitous Petri dish for growing cells-in the Dec. 27th issue of the PLoS ONE. Shuguang Zhang, associate director of MIT’s Center for Biomedical Engineering, is a pioneer in coaxing tiny fragments of amino acids called self-assembling peptides to organize themselves into useful structures. Working with visiting graduate student Fabrizio Gelain from Milan, Zhang created a designer scaffold from a network of protein nanofibers, each 5,000 times thinner than a human hair and containing pores up to 20,000 times smaller than the eye of a needle.

The researchers were able to grow a healthy colony of adult mouse stem cells on the three-dimensional scaffold without the drawbacks of two-dimensional systems.
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Until now, online scientific journals have been little more than electronic versions of the printed copy. Today, that all changes with the launch of PLoS ONE, which publishes primary research from all areas of science and employs both pre- and post-publication peer review to maximize the impact of every report it publishes. PLoS ONE is published by the Public Library of Science (PLoS), the open access publisher whose goal is to make the world’s scientific and medical literature a public resource.
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