Monthly Archives: July 2018

Nano Packets Of Genetic Code Seed Cells Against Brain Cancer

In a “proof of concept” study, scientists at Johns Hopkins Medicine say they have successfully delivered nano-size packets of genetic code called microRNAs to treat human brain tumors implanted in mice. The contents of the super-small containers were designed to target cancer stem cells, a kind of cellularseed” that produces countless progeny and is a relentless barrier to ridding the brain of malignant cells.

Nanoparticles releasing microRNAs (light blue) inside a human brain cancer cell

Brain cancer is one of the most widely understood cancers in terms of its genetic makeup, but we have yet to develop a good treatment for it,” says John Laterra, MD, PhD, professor of neurology, oncology and neuroscience at the Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine and a research scientist at the Kennedy Krieger Institute. “The resilience of cancer stem cells and the blood-brain barrier are major hurdles.

Blood that enters the brain is filtered through a series of vessels that act as a protective barrier. But this blood-brain barrier blocks molecular medicines that have the potential to revolutionize brain cancer therapy by targeting cancer stem cells, says Laterra.

To modernize brain tumor treatments, we need tools and methods that bypass the blood-brain barrier,” says Jordan Green, PhD, professor of biomedical engineering, ophthalmology, oncology, neurosurgery, materials science and engineering and chemical and biomolecular engineering at the Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine. “We need technology to safely and effectively deliver sensitive genetic medicines directly to tumors without damaging normal tissue.

A case in point, Green says, is glioblastoma, the form of brain cancer that Arizona Sen. John McCain is battling, which often requires repeated surgeries. Doctors remove the brain tumor tissue that they can see, but the malignancy often returns quickly, says Laterra. Most patients with glioblastoma live less than two years after diagnosis.

Results of the experiments were published online in Nano Letters.

Source: https://engineering.jhu.edu/

Digital Files Let Anyone 3-D Print Untraceable Guns

Five years ago, 25-year-old radical libertarian Cody Wilson stood on a remote central Texas gun range and pulled the trigger on the world’s first fully 3-D-printed gun. When, to his relief, his plastic invention fired a .380-caliber bullet into a berm of dirt without jamming or exploding in his hands, he drove back to Austin and uploaded the blueprints for the pistol to his website, Defcad.com.

He’d launched the site months earlier along with an anarchist video manifesto, declaring that gun control would never be the same in an era when anyone can download and print their own firearm with a few clicks. In the days after that first test-firing, his gun was downloaded more than 100,000 times. Wilson made the decision to go all in on the project, dropping out of law school at the University of Texas, as if to confirm his belief that technology supersedes law.

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Instead, Wilson has spent the last years on an unlikely project for an anarchist: Not simply defying or skirting the law but taking it to court and changing it. In doing so, he has now not only defeated a legal threat to his own highly controversial gunsmithing project. He may have also unlocked a new era of digital DIY gunmaking that further undermines gun control across the United States and the world—another step toward Wilson’s imagined future where anyone can make a deadly weapon at home with no government oversight.

Two months ago, the Department of Justice quietly offered Wilson a settlement to end a lawsuit he and a group of co-plaintiffs have pursued since 2015 against the United States government. Wilson and his team of lawyers focused their legal argument on a free speech claim: They pointed out that by forbidding Wilson from posting his 3-D-printable data, the State Department was not only violating his right to bear arms but his right to freely share information. By blurring the line between a gun and a digital file, Wilson had also successfully blurred the lines between the Second Amendment and the First.

The law caught up. Less than a week later, Wilson received a letter from the US State Department demanding that he take down his printable-gun blueprints or face prosecution for violating federal export controls. Under an obscure set of US regulations known as the International Trade in Arms Regulations (ITAR), Wilson was accused of exporting weapons without a license, just as if he’d shipped his plastic gun to Mexico rather than put a digital version of it on the internet. He took Defcad.com offline, but his lawyer warned him that he still potentially faced millions of dollars in fines and years in prison simply for having made the file available to overseas downloaders for a few days. “I thought my life was over,” Wilson says.

If code is speech, the constitutional contradictions are evident,” Wilson explained when he first launched the lawsuit in 2015. “So what if this code is a gun?” The Department of Justice‘s surprising settlement, confirmed in court documents earlier this month, essentially surrenders to that argument.

Source: https://www.wired.com/

Record For The Fastest Trip To The Space Station

The ISS Progress 56 resupply spacecraft, packed with almost three tons of cargo, automatically docked to the International Space Station’s Pirs docking compartment at 11:31 p.m. EDT Wednesday, less than six hours after its launch from the Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan. At the time of docking, the station was soaring 259 miles over the Pacific Ocean off the west coast of South America. The Soyuz rocket carrying Progress 56 launched from Baikonur at 5:44 p.m. (3:44 a.m., Baikonur time) to send the cargo ship on its expedited, 4-orbit trek to the station.

Usually it takes 4 days to complete the same task.

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The new Progress is loaded with 1,764 pounds of propellant, 48 pounds of oxygen, 57 pounds of air, 926 pounds of water and 2,910 pounds of spare parts, experiment hardware and other supplies for the Expedition 38 crew. Expedition 40 Flight Engineers Alexander Skvortsov and Max Suraev will open the hatch to Progress Thursday morning to begin unloading the cargo.

The ISS Progress 55 cargo craft, which undocked from Pirs on Monday, is now a safe distance from the complex for a series of engineering tests prior to being sent to a destructive re-entry over the Pacific Ocean on July 31.

The station’s crew began the workday at 6 a.m. Wednesday, four hours later than the usual 2 a.m. reveille to accommodate the late-night arrival of Progress.

Source: https://www.nasa.gov/

New Hope To Fight Alzheimer’s

It is known that the onset of Alzheimer’s disease (AD) is associated with the accumulation of Amyloid beta () peptides in small molecular clusters known as oligomers. These trigger the formation of so-called ‘neurofibrillary tangles’ within neurons hamper their workings, ultimately causing cell death and so significant cognitive decline. Very large Aβ oligomers which form plaques outside neurons, alongside neuroinflammation have also been found to play a key part in the progression of the disease.


The EU-funded iRhom2 in AD project took as its starting point the protein iRhom2, which has been identified as a genetic risk factor for AD due to its pro-inflammatory properties. The team were able to explore further the influence of iRhom2 on neuroinflammation in mice. iRhom2 recently emerged as a protein of note in AD as it aids the maturation of an enzyme called TACE (tumor necrosis factor-α converting enzyme) guiding it towards a cell’s plasma membrane where the enzyme releases a cell-signalling cytokine (TNFα), implicated in the regulation of inflammatory processes. While mice studies have shown that TNFα-dependent inflammation can lead to sepsis and rheumatoid arthritis, it is also thought that the process contributes to neuroinflammatory signalling events, which can cause harm in the brain.

The EU-funded iRhom2 in AD project worked with mice that are prone to develop the hallmarks of AD, amyloid plaques and memory deficits. The team genetically altered iRhom2 in the mice then analysed the progression of the pathology using an array of biochemical and histological methods, together with a number of behavioural tests to assess cognitive decline. The results were somewhat surprising.

We initially hypothesised that iRhom2 would affect one specific aspect of neuroinflammation in AD. What we discovered was even more exciting as it actually affects several different aspects of neuroinflammation simultaneously. So modulating iRhom2 appears particularly well suited to interfere with AD,” explains project coordinator Prof. Dr. Stefan Lichtenthaler.

Source: https://cordis.europa.eu/

Super Conductive Graphene Will Boost Solar Technology

In 2010, the Nobel Prize in Physics went to the discoverers of graphene. A single layer of carbon atoms, graphene possesses properties that are ideal for a host of applications. Among researchers, graphene has been the hottest material for a decade. In 2017 alone, more than 30,000 research papers on graphene were published worldwide.

Now, two researchers from the University of Kansas (KU), Professor Hui Zhao and graduate student Samuel Lane, both of the Department of Physics & Astronomy, have connected a graphene layer with two other atomic layers (molybdenum diselenide and tungsten disulfide) thereby extending the lifetime of excited electrons in graphene by several hundred times. The finding will be published on Nano Futures, a newly launched and highly selective journal.

The work at KU may speed development of ultrathin and flexible solar cells with high efficiency.

For electronic and optoelectronic applications, graphene has excellent charge transport property. According to the researchers, electrons move in graphene at a speed of 1/30 of the speed of light — much faster than other materials. This might suggest that graphene can be used for solar cells, which convert energy from sunlight to electricity. But graphene has a major drawback that hinders such applications – its ultrashort lifetime of excited electrons (that is, the time an electron stays mobile) of only about one picosecond (one-millionth of one-millionth of a second, or 10-12 second).

These excited electrons are like students who stand up from their seats — after an energy drink, for example, which activates students like sunlight activates electrons,” Zhao said. “The energized students move freely in the classroom — like human electric current.

The KU researcher said one of the biggest challenges to achieving high efficiency in solar cells with graphene as the working material is that liberated electrons — or, the standing students — have a strong tendency to losing their energy and become immobile, like students sitting back down.

The number of electrons, or students from our example, who can contribute to the current is determined by the average time they can stay mobile after they are liberated by light,” explains Zhao. “In graphene, an electron stays free for only one picosecond. This is too short for accumulating a large number of mobile electrons. This is an intrinsic property of graphene and has been a big limiting factor for applying this material in photovoltaic or photo-sensing devices. In other words, although electrons in graphene can become mobile by light excitation and can move quickly, they only stay mobile too short a time to contribute to electricity.”

In their new paper, Zhao and Lane report this issue could be solved by using the so-called van der Waals materials. The principle of their approach is rather simple to understand. “We basically took the chairs away from the standing students so that they have nowhere to sit,” Zhao said. “This forces the electrons to stay mobile for a time that is several hundred times longer than before.”

To achieve this goal, working in KU’s Ultrafast Laser Lab, they designed a tri-layer material by putting single layers of MoSe2, WS2 and graphene on top of each other.

Source: https://news.ku.edu/

High Power Generator Utilizes Thermal Difference Of Only 5ºC

Objects in our daily lives, such as speakers, refrigerators, and even cars, are becoming “smarter” day by day as they connect to the internet and exchange data, creating the Internet of Things (IoT), a network among the objects themselves. Toward an IoT-based society, a miniaturized thermoelectric generator is anticipated to charge these objects, especially for those that are portable and wearable.

Due to advantages such as its relatively low thermal conductance but high electric conductance, silicon nanowires have emerged as a promising thermoelectric material. Silicon-based thermoelectric generators conventionally employed long, silicon nanowires of about 10-100 nanometers, which were suspended on a cavity to cutoff the bypass of the heat current and secure the temperature difference across the silicon nanowires. However, the cavity structure weakened the mechanical strength of the devices and increased the fabrication cost. To address these problems, a team of Japanese researchers from Waseda University, Osaka University, and Shizuoka University designed and successfully developed a novel silicon-nanowire thermoelectric generator, which experimentally demonstrated a high power density of 12 microwatts per 1cm2, enough to drive sensors or realize intermittent wireless communication, at a small thermal difference of only 5ºC.

Because our generator uses the same technology to manufacture semiconductor integrated circuits, its processing cost could be largely cut through mass production,” says Professor Takanobu Watanabe of Waseda University, the leading researcher of this study. “Also, it could open up a pathway to various, autonomously-driven IoT devices utilizing environmental and body heats. For instance, it may be possible to charge your smartwatch during your morning jog someday.”

The newly developed thermoelectric generator lost the cavity structure but instead shortened the silicon nanowires to 0.25 nanometers, since simulations showed that the thermoelectric performance improved by minimizing the device. Professor Watanabe explains that despite its new structure, the new thermoelectric generator demonstrated the same power density as the conventional devices. More surprisingly, thermal resistance was suppressed, and the power density multiplied by ten times by thinning the generator’s silicon substrate from the conventional 750 nanometers to 50 nanometers with backside grinding.

Source: https://www.waseda.jp/

Growing New Cartilage To Eradicate Osteoarthritis Pain

What is graphene foam? It’s a synthetic “wonder material” made from the same carbon atoms that make up the lead in a pencilGraphene foam can be used as a “bioscaffold” to mesh with human stem cells and grow new cartilage. In addition to being incredibly strong, graphene foam conducts heat and electricity which helps neurons, or nerve cells, transmit information. Boise State researchers believe graphene foam-enhanced cartilage could one day be used to treat the joint pain caused by osteoarthritis as well as prevent the need for joint replacement. Osteoarthritis is incurable and affects half the U.S. population over the age of 65.

If we could take graphene foam, adhere a patient’s own stem cells on it then and inject that into someone’s knee to regrow their own cartilage, that would be the ‘pie in the sky,‘” said Dave Estrada, co-director of the Boise State University’s Advanced Nanomaterials and Manufacturing Laboratory.

A Boise State team led by Katie Yocham, a doctoral student in the Micron School of Materials Science and Engineering, and Estrada have published a study, “Mechanical Properties of Graphene Foam and Graphene Foam-Tissue Composites,” in the Advanced Engineering Materials journal.

While earlier studies at Boise State have shown that graphene foam is compatible with cells for growing new cartilage tissue, this is the first study to investigate how that tissue would actually function in a human joint under normal stresses, including high impact activities.

Trevor Lujan, an associate professor in the Department of Mechanical and Biomedical Engineering, and one of the authors of the study, praised Yocham’s work. “Katie’s strong efforts on this project have provided the biomedical community with a rigorous characterization of the bulk mechanical behavior of cellularized graphene foam. This baseline knowledge is an important step in the rising use of graphene foam for biomedical applications,” he said.

Estrada believes the biomedical use of graphene foam may have other applications, including in the military where a majority combat injuries involve the musculoskeletal system. “Our vision is to develop novel bioscaffolds that can expedite healing, reduce the need for amputation, and help save lives,” he added.

Source: https://news.boisestate.edu/

How To Generate Hot Water For Free

The HERU is a world-first global solution that literally gives you the power of generating hot water for your home from everyday items you previously had little option but to discard as waste.

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The patented, micro-scale Home Energy Resources Unit (HERU) is designed to fit seamlessly into the curtilage of your domestic property, changing the life course of most items and materials in your home. It provides a method to keep most household items as a resource by using them to power your boiler, moving you away from a linear approach to consumerism (buy, use, dispose), into a circular one, whereby ‘wastes’ never become. Imagine buying an item, bringing it home, putting the item into use and using the packaging it was wrapped up in to energise your home. The HERU enables you to utilise 100% of most products you buy, without the need to discard anything.

The ground-breaking process is simple to operate, akin to other white goods in the home such as your washing machine or dishwasher. Similarly to other white goods, the HERU requires a water supply, a standard 13-amp electrical power supply and a sewer pipe connection. We synchronise it with your gas or oil boiler so your boiler becomes a hybrid water heating system – meaning it can run via HERU, or revert back to oil or gas as and when needed. The process then uses heat treatment to break materials down and produce an average of 2.5 times the amount of energy used to run the HERU – and all at a standard oven temperature of up to 300°C.

Source: https://www.myheru.com/

A Weapon To Fight Lung Cancer

Researchers at the Children’s Medical Center Research Institute at UT Southwestern (CRI) have discovered a new metabolic vulnerability in small cell lung cancer (SCLC) that can be targeted by existing drug therapies.

SCLC is a deadly and aggressive form of lung cancer with few therapeutic options and an incredibly low five-year survival rate of 5 percent. Researchers at CRI believe the key to finding new therapies for this disease lies in better understanding the metabolism of SCLC.

Cancerous cells reprogram their metabolic pathways to grow and spread rapidly through the body. In some forms of cancer, cancer cells become highly dependent or “addicted” to specific metabolic pathways as a result of genetic mutations. Identifying these pathways can lead to new treatment options.

SCLC metabolism has not previously been studied in-depth,” said Dr. Ralph DeBerardinis, Professor at CRI and Director of CRI’s Genetic and Metabolic Disease Program.If we identify the metabolic pathways SCLC uses to grow and spread, then maybe we can find drugs to inhibit them. This could effectively cut off the fuel supply to these tumors.”

To discover new vulnerabilities in SCLC, researchers at CRI analyzed metabolism and gene expression in cells obtained from more than 25 human SCLC tumors. From the data, they identified two distinct categories of SCLC defined by the level of two oncogenes: MYC and ASCL1. Oncogenes are genes known to promote cancer formation and growth.

The study, published in Cell Metabolism, found that MYC stimulated synthesis of purine molecules. Purines are essential for cells to produce RNA and DNA, both of which are required for growth and division. MYC-expressing cells had a particular need for a specific type of purine called guanosine.

We were excited to discover that purine synthesis was so important for this subset of SCLC cells. There are already safe and effective inhibitors of guanosine synthesis used in patients for other diseases besides cancer. Our findings suggested that mice with MYC-expressing SCLC might benefit from treatment with drugs that inhibit purine synthesis,” said Dr. Fang Huang, a visiting scholar at CRI and first author on the paper.

To test the hypothesis, researchers treated mice from multiple different mouse models of SCLC with the drug mizoribine, a purine synthesis inhibitor. Treatment with this drug suppressed tumor growth and significantly extended the lifespan in mice with MYC-expressing SCLC.

Our findings suggest purine synthesis inhibitors could be effective in SCLC patients whose tumors have high levels of MYC. If we are right, this could quickly provide a new treatment for this disease, which has few options at present,” said Dr. DeBerardinis.

Source: https://www.utsouthwestern.edu/

Quantum Computer Controls One Billion Electrons Per Second One-by-One.

University of Adelaide-led research in Australia has moved the world one step closer to reliable, high-performance quantum computing. An international team has developed a ground-breaking single-electronpump”. The electron pump device developed by the researchers can produce one billion electrons per second and uses quantum mechanics to control them one-by-one. And it’s so precise they have been able to use this device to measure the limitations of current electronics equipment. This paves the way for future quantum information processing applications, including in defence, cybersecurity and encryption, and big data analysis.

This research puts us one step closer to the holy grail – reliable, high-performance quantum computing,” says project leader Dr Giuseppe C. Tettamanzi, Senior Research Fellow, at the University of Adelaide’s Institute for Photonics and Advanced Sensing.

Published in the journal Nano Letters, the researchers also report observations of electron behaviour that’s never been seen before – a key finding for those around the world working on quantum computing.

Quantum computing, or more broadly quantum information processing, will allow us to solve problems that just won’t be possible under classical computing systems,” says Dr Tettamanzi. “It operates at a scale that’s close to an atom and, at this scale, normal physics goes out the window and quantum mechanics comes into play.  To indicate its potential computational power, conventional computing works on instructions and data written in a series of 1s and 0s – think about it as a series of on and off switches; in quantum computing every possible value between 0 and 1 is available. We can then increase exponentially the number of calculations that can be done simultaneously.”

Source: https://www.adelaide.edu.au/