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April 2008
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June 2008

Nanoparticles assemble by millions to encase oil drops

Designer 'nanobatons' could be used to trap oil, deliver drugs

HOUSTON -- May 29, 2008 -- In a development that could lead to new technologies for cleaning up oil spills and polluted groundwater, scientists at Rice University have shown how tiny, stick-shaped particles of metal and carbon can trap oil droplets in water by spontaneously assembling into bag-like sacs.

The tiny particles were found to assemble spontaneously by the tens of millions into spherical sacs as large as BB pellets around droplets of oil in water. In addition, the scientists found that ultraviolet light and magnetic fields could be used to flip the nanoparticles, causing the bags to instantly turn inside out and release their cargo -- a feature that could ultimately be handy for delivering drugs.

"The core of the nanotechnology revolution lies in designing inorganic nanoparticles that can self-assemble into larger structures like a 'smart dust' that performs different functions in the world – for example, cleaning up pollution," said lead research Pulickel Ajayan, Rice's Benjamin M. and Mary Greenwood Anderson Professor in Mechanical Engineering and Materials Science. "Our approach brings the concept of self-assembling, functional nanomaterials one step closer to reality."

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New metamaterial proves to be a 'perfect' absorber of light

Resonators couple individually to electric and magnetic fields to absorb all incident radiation

CHESTNUT HILL, MA – A team of scientists from Boston College and Duke University has developed a highly-engineered metamaterial capable of absorbing all of the light that strikes it – to a scientific standard of perfection – they report in the latest edition of Physical Review Letters.

The team designed and engineered a metamaterial that uses tiny geometric surface features to successfully capture the electric and magnetic properties of a microwave to the point of total absorption.

"Three things can happen to light when it hits a material," says Boston College Physicist Willie J. Padilla. "It can be reflected, as in a mirror. It can be transmitted, as with window glass. Or it can be absorbed and turned into heat. This metamaterial has been engineered to ensure that all light is neither reflected nor transmitted, but is turned completely into heat and absorbed. It shows we can design a metamaterial so that at a specific frequency it can absorb all of the photons that fall onto its surface."

In addition to Padilla, the team included BC researcher Nathan I. Landy, Duke University Professor David R. Smith and researchers Soji Sajuyigbe and Jack J. Mock.

Continue reading "New metamaterial proves to be a 'perfect' absorber of light" »

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New Study shows Sedentary High School Girls Are at Significant Risk for Future Osteoporosis

Significant numbers of female high school athletes and non-athletes suffer from one or more components of the female athlete triad, a combination of three conditions that can lead to cardiovascular disease, according to a new study by Medical College of Wisconsin researchers in Milwaukee.

The study results were presented today at the American College of Sports Medicine at Indianapolis, by Anne Z. Hoch, D.O., associate professor of orthopedic surgery and physical medicine and rehabilitation at the Medical College, and director of the Froedtert & Medical College Sports Medicine Program. She is also a member of the Medical College’s Cardiovascular Center.

Dr. Hoch found that 78 percent of female high school athletes and 65 percent of female high school non-athletes display one or more components of the female athlete triad.  The triad is a combination of three conditions – low energy availability, menstrual abnormalities and low bone mineral density – that often leads to the same steroid and hormonal profiles as postmenopausal women.

“We are concerned that non athletic girls have some of the same components of the female athlete triad as athletes and are in fact at greater risk for low bone density,” says Dr. Hoch. “These young women are under great pressure to conform to society’s standards of body image. In an effort to lose weight, they are restricting their caloric intake and adapting unhealthy nutrition habits.”

The study, conducted at Froedtert Hospital, examined eighty varsity athletes and eighty non-athletes at an all-girls school in Milwaukee. Ninety-three percent of non-athletes were found to have calcium deficiencies, compared to 74 percent of athletes.

“Most important and alarming is that 30 percent of the non athletes versus 16 percent of athletes were found to have low bone mineral density putting them at greater risk for developing osteoporosis earlier in life,” says Dr. Hoch.

Both groups showed little difference in low energy availability, with 39 percent of non-athletes and 36 percent of athletes reporting this condition.

The athletes reported 33 percent more menstrual abnormalities than the non-athletes. Women who have normal periods, and hence normal estrogen levels, are less likely to display changes in the function of the layer of cells that line the interior of blood vessels, called the endothelium.

“Change in endothelial function is the seminal event in cardiovascular disease,” says Dr. Hoch.

Dr. Hoch began her studies in the late 1990s to see if young women who have menstrual abnormalities as a result of participating in intense sports are likely to develop cardiovascular disease similar to that seen in postmenopausal women. She and her colleagues were able to show that young women who had the triad also had early vascular change that is a precursor to cardiovascular disease.

“We not only need to educate athletes about the consequences of the triad, now we must educate all students about the harmful effects of a restrictive diet in the adolescent period,” says Dr. Hoch.

The study was funded in part by a grant from the General Clinical Research Center, which has evolved into the Clinical and Translational Science Institute; the Medical College’s Cardiovascular Center; and the Steve Cullen Run and Walk.

Other Medical College researchers included Guillermo Carrere, M.D., professor of radiology; Charles Wilson, Ph.D., associate professor of radiology; David Gutterman, M.D., Northwestern Mutual Professor in Cardiology and senior associate dean for research, and Jane Schimke, clinical research coordinator in orthopedic surgery.

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$1.5 Million NIH Grant to Medical College to Study Molecular Mechanisms of Inflammatory Disorders

The Medical College of Wisconsin has received a $1.5 million award from the National Heart, Lung and Blood Institute of the National Institutes of Health to continue their study of the molecular mechanisms of cardiovascular, pulmonary and neurodegenerative disorders.

Specifically, they are studying the mechanisms by which pro-inflammatory reactive oxygen and nitrogen molecules affect the body’s proteins and lipids in inflammatory conditions such as hardening of the arteries, asthma, diabetes, amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS/Lou Gehrig’s disease), Parkinson’s and Alzheimer’s diseases. Successful completion of this study will shed new insight into the molecular changes occurring in these disorders, and may lead to development of targeted antinitration and antioxidation therapeutics.

Balaraman Kalyanaraman, Ph.D., chairman and professor of biophysics and director of the Medical College’s Free Radical Research Center, is principal investigator for this grant. Participating faculty investigators are: Jimmy Feix, Ph.D., professor of biophysics, Neil Hogg, Ph.D., professor of biophysics, Joy Joseph, Ph.D., associate professor of biophysics, Hao Zhang, Ph.D., research scientist II in biophysics, and Jacek Zielonka, Ph.D., research scientist I in biophysics. 

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Hybrid Embryo Research Endorsed

By Mary Jordan

Washington Post Foreign Service
Tuesday, May 20, 2008; A07

LONDON, May 19 -- British lawmakers voted Monday to allow the use of animal-human embryos for research after a national debate that pitted religious leaders who called it unethical against the prime minister and scientists who said it would help cure disease.

Last month, scientists at Newcastle created part-human, part-animal embryos for the first time in Britain. An attempt Monday night to ban the process, during consideration in the House of Commons of the first major revisions to embryo research laws in a generation, failed overwhelmingly on a vote of 336 to 176.

The overall bill, argued Prime Minister Gordon Brown, would enable lifesaving research that could help people with Alzheimer's, Parkinson's and other diseases. He said in an article published in the Observer newspaper Sunday, "I believe that we owe it to ourselves and future generations to introduce these measures."

The bill would allow scientists to continue injecting human DNA into cows' eggs that have had virtually all their genetic material removed, as well as other hybrid embryo processes for stem cell research. Scientists say the embryos would not be allowed to develop for more than 14 days.

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Development of embryonic stem cells into tissue-specific cells demonstrated by Hebrew University, other researchers

While it has long been known that embryonic stem cells have the ability to develop into any kind of tissue-specific cells, the exact mechanism as to how this occurs has heretofore not been demonstrated. Now, researchers at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem and elsewhere have succeeded in graphically revealing this process, resolving a long-standing question as to whether the stem cells achieve their development through selective activation or selective repression of genes.

 

The collaborative research group, which included Dr. Eran Meshorer of the Department of Genetics at the Silberman Institute of Life Sciences at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem, has revealed that the embryonic stem (ES) cells express large proportions of their genome “promiscuously.”  This permissive expression includes lineage-specific and tissue-specific genes, non-coding regions of the genome that are normally “silent,” and repetitive sequences in the genome, which comprise the majority of the mammalian genome but are also normally not expressed.

 

When ES cells differentiate into specific cell tissue-types, they undergo global genetic silencing. But until this occurs, the ES cells maintain an open and active genome. This might very well be the secret of their success, since by maintaining this flexibility they maintain their capacity to become any cell type. Once silencing, or genetic repression, occurs, this ability is gone.


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Medical College of Wisconsin Receives Award to Study Anesthesia's Affect on the Brain

     The Medical College of Wisconsin has received a four-year, $1,293,730 grant from the National Institute of General Medical Sciences to investigate how anesthesia puts the brain in an unconscious state.  The research may help unravel the mystery of consciousness, and lead to the development of novel methods for monitoring states of consciousness.

     Anthony G. Hudetz, Ph.D., professor of anesthesiology, physiology and biophysics at the Medical College, is principal investigator of the grant.

     It is thought that loss of consciousness from anesthesia is caused by a disruption in communication in parts of the brain that are involved with sharing sensory information. 

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NIH Renews Funding of Medical College National EPR Center For Years 32-36, As a Biomedical Technology Resource Center

     The National Biomedical Electron Paramagnetic Resonance (EPR) Center at the Medical College of Wisconsin has received a five-year, $5.66 million renewal grant from the National Institute of Biomedical Imaging and Bioengineering. The EPR Center, in the department of biophysics, was established in 1976 and is classified as a "Biomedical Technology Resource Center (BTRC).” It is one of eight major federally-designated research centers at the College.

     The renewal, which covers direct and indirect costs from April 1, 2008, to March 31, 2013, represents years 32 to 36 of the Center's BTRC funding. 

     James S. Hyde, Ph.D., professor of biophysics and director of the Center, is principal investigator for the grant, which has served as a core source of funding helping leverage other funding initiatives and research collaborations.

     In what is regarded as one of the strongest EPR groups in the world, Dr. Hyde leads a group of distinguished electrical engineers in technology research and development of novel analytical instrumentation for EPR spectroscopy, an essential tool for biophysics researchers worldwide.

     "Biotechnology research grants support novel, cutting-edge, multidisciplinary technology-development programs—each of which focuses on an experimental technology and serves the needs of a large, broadly based community of users,” says Dr. Hyde. "Technology research and development core projects are key to successfully securing this support. They must be at the cutting-edge of the specific research and development area, with the translational goal of increasing the usefulness of the technology in biomedical research.”

     Among Medical College faculty researchers using EPR are, Balaraman Kalyanaraman, Ph.D., professor and chairman of biophysics, and professors Neil Hogg, PhD; Joy Joseph, PhD, and Jeannette Vasquez-Vivar, Ph.D., who are using EPR to study the role of oxygen radicals in normal and diseased tissues in the Free Radical Research Center directed by Dr. Kalyanaraman, which is closely linked to the EPR Center.

     Professors Candice S. Klug, Ph.D. and Jimmy B. Felix, Ph.D, carry out studies of molecular structure and dynamics of membrane-bound proteins using spin-labeling methods, another major application of EPR spectroscopy.

     Professors William E. Antholine, PhD, and Brian Bennett PhD, use EPR spectroscopy to study the roles of transition metals in mediating biochemical reactions, and professor Witold Karol Subczynski, PhD, uses it to study oxygen transport in membranes—particularly of the lens of the eye.

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Madison-based FluGen signs contract with Wisconsin Alumni Research Foundation

FluGen, a Madison company founded in 2007 based on the research led by UW-Madison avian flu expert Yoshihiro Kawaoka, has signed a licensing agreement with the Wisconsin Alumni Research Foundation.

The primary goal: to create a faster, more effective, less expensive way to manufacture influenza vaccine.

Since the 1930s, the standard for making flu vaccine has been that a team of experts decides which flu strains to target, then chicken eggs are injected with the viruses which are then grown for use in the vaccine.

"It takes quite a bit of time to come up with that, and this year, they were off," Paul Radspinner, FluGen president, chief executive and co-founder said.

Kawaoka, a veterinary medicine professor, and UW-Madison virologist Gabrielle Neumann pioneered a new technique called reverse genetics that produces the virus in cell culture instead of eggs. Large, stainless steel vats are used "like those used in brewing beer," Radspinner said.

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Madison group heads funding for tissue regeneration firm

Jeff Richgels

Tissue Regeneration Systems Inc., a medical device company developing bioactive implants for bone and soft tissue regeneration, on Thursday announced the close of a $2 million round of financing led by Madison-based Venture Investors and joined by the founders of TRS.

The company is a spin-out of the universities of Michigan and Wisconsin, where TRS' core proprietary technologies were developed over the past decade, and from which TRS has an exclusive option to commercialize.

TRS currently is developing its first generation products aimed at the $6 billion spine market using its bioresorbable scaffold and bioactive coatings technology platforms.

TRS said it has demonstrated in animals the ability to produce spinal implants that grow strong bone without leaving an artificial implant in the body. These improvements are expected to result in patients being able to return to their normal function sooner and with improved long-term patient outcomes.

Currently, permanent metallic and polymer implants are the standard in spinal fusion or disc replacement, "hardware-based approaches" with the "primary role to mechanically fix the tissue and mechanically replace vertebrae in the spine and fuse vertebrae together," TRS co-founder Bill Murphy, an assistant professor of biomedical engineering and pharmacology at the UW, said in a statement.

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