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September 2009
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November 2009

Local Stem Cell Break Through Could Help Fight Liver Disease

Discovery At The Medical College Of Wisconsin Gives Liver Disease Patients Hope

POSTED: 9:43 pm CDT October 26, 2009
UPDATED: 11:12 pm CDT October 26, 2009

A stem cell breakthrough at the Medical College of Wisconsin offers new hope in the fight against liver disease.

Scientists figured out how to turn skin cells into healthy liver cells. On good days, Emily Moynihan motors through a busy afternoon routine. She makes snacks, helps her three boys with homework and watches her two nieces.

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COLUMBUS, Ohio -- In the quest for smaller, faster computer chips, researchers are increasingly turning to quantum mechanics -- the exotic physics of the small.

The problem: the manufacturing techniques required to make quantum devices have been equally exotic.

That is, until now.

Researchers at Ohio State University have discovered a way to make quantum devices using technology common to the chip-making industry today.

This work might one day enable faster, low-power computer chips. It could also lead to high-resolution cameras for security and public safety, and cameras that provide clear vision through bad weather.

Paul Berger, professor of electrical and computer engineering and professor of physics at Ohio State University, and his colleagues report their findings in an upcoming issue of IEEE Electron Device Letters.

The team fabricated a device called a tunneling diode using the most common chip-making technique, called chemical vapor deposition.

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Innovation leads the way for Prodesse's big payday

Biotech firm's investors listened to customers, changed the business and increased value

Shortly after Tom Shannon invested in and began running Prodesse Inc., he realized no one wanted to buy the Waukesha biotech company's labor-intensive flu tests.

Instead of abandoning Prodesse, Shannon decided to take it in a new direction.

The fruits of that decision were apparent this week when San-Diego-based Gen-Probe Inc. said it would acquire privately held Prodesse for $60 million. That price could rise as high as $85 million if certain milestones are met in 2010 and 2011.

"Prodesse is a great success story for the state because it beat all the big companies by being first to market with a highly accurate, molecular diagnostic flu test," said Kevin Conroy, president and chief executive officer of Madison-based Exact Sciences Corp. and a Prodesse director.

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Inquisitiveness of Milwaukee native leads to a Nobel prize

By Mark Johnson of the Journal Sentinel Posted: Oct. 8, 2009

Many miles and years removed from the competitive dinner-table debates of his childhood in Milwaukee and Wauwatosa, Yale chemist Thomas A. Steitz awoke at 5:20 Wednesday morning to the sound of a ringing phone, long distance from Sweden.

Steitz, the caller said, had won the 2009 Nobel Prize in chemistry. One by one, members of the Nobel Committee then got on the phone to offer personal congratulations.

"They wanted to be sure I knew this was not a hoax," Steitz said in an interview with the Journal Sentinel. "Since I knew some of the members of the committee, I could recognize their voices."

Sharing the prize and the $1.4 million with Steitz, 69, were Venkatraman Ramakrishnan of the MRC Laboratory of Molecular Biology in England and Ada E. Yonath of the Weizmann Institute of Science in Israel. The three scientists were honored for fundamental work that revealed the structure and function of ribosomes, which transform our DNA into the proteins necessary for virtually every human action from breathing to thinking.

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Researchers create smaller and more efficient nuclear battery

Mizzou scientist develops a powerful nuclear battery that uses a liquid semiconductor

COLUMBIA, Mo. – Batteries can power anything from small sensors to large systems. While scientists are finding ways to make them smaller but even more powerful, problems can arise when these batteries are much larger and heavier than the devices themselves. University of Missouri researchers are developing a nuclear energy source that is smaller, lighter and more efficient.

"To provide enough power, we need certain methods with high energy density," said Jae Kwon, assistant professor of electrical and computer engineering at MU. "The radioisotope battery can provide power density that is six orders of magnitude higher than chemical batteries."

Kwon and his research team have been working on building a small nuclear battery, currently the size and thickness of a penny, intended to power various micro/nanoelectromechanical systems (M/NEMS). Although nuclear batteries can pose concerns, Kwon said they are safe.

"People hear the word 'nuclear' and think of something very dangerous," he said. "However, nuclear power sources have already been safely powering a variety of devices, such as pace-makers, space satellites and underwater systems."

His innovation is not only in the battery's size, but also in its semiconductor. Kwon's battery uses a liquid semiconductor rather than a solid semiconductor.

"The critical part of using a radioactive battery is that when you harvest the energy, part of the radiation energy can damage the lattice structure of the solid semiconductor," Kwon said. "By using a liquid semiconductor, we believe we can minimize that problem."

Kwon has been collaborating with J. David Robertson, chemistry professor and associate director of the MU Research Reactor, and is working to build and test the battery at the facility. In the future, they hope to increase the battery's power, shrink its size and try with various other materials. Kwon said that the battery could be thinner than the thickness of human hair. They've also applied for a provisional patent.


Kwon's research has been published in the Journal of Applied Physics Letters and Journal of Radioanalytical and Nuclear Chemistry. In addition, last June, he received an "outstanding paper" award for his research on nuclear batteries at the IEEE International Conference on Solid-State Sensors, Actuators and Microsystems in Denver (Transducers 2009).

Wisconsin Alumni Research Foundation settles suit against Intel

Madison — The University of Wisconsin-Madison's patenting arm has settled its infringement lawsuit against computer chipmaker Intel Corp. involving technology used in a popular computer processor.

The case was expected to go to trial Monday in U.S. District Court in Madison, but both sides notified the court Friday they had reached a settlement. Details were not released, and Intel spokesman Chuck Mulloy said he could not comment because the terms were confidential.

The Wisconsin Alumni Research Foundation sued Santa Clara, Calif.-based Intel in February 2008, alleging that technology used in Intel's Core 2 Duo Processor and others was created by university researchers but used by Intel without a licensing agreement.

The lawsuit claimed the micro-architecture of the Intel Core family of processors infringed on a 1998 patent based on work by four researchers, including Gurindar Sohi, a computer science professor. Intel had supported Sohi's research with about $90,000 in gifts in the 1990s and argued it was entitled to the intellectual property that resulted from the funding.

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Femtoseconds lasers help formation flying

The National Physical Laboratory (NPL) has helped to establish that femtosecond comb lasers can provide accurate measurement of absolute distance in formation flying space missions.

NPL, along with collaborators, produced technical reports for the European Space Agency (ESA). The conclusions demonstrated that the lasers were a suitable method for measurement in such missions.

Formation flying missions involve multiple spacecraft flying between tens and hundreds of metres apart, which autonomously control their position relative to each other. The benefit of such missions is they can gather data in a completely different way to a standard spacecraft – the formation can effectively act as one large sensor.

Measuring absolute distance between the formation spacecraft is critical to mission success. Femtosecond comb lasers are an accurate way of making such measurements. The lasers emit light with very short pulses – each lasting just a few femtoseconds (a femtosecond is one billionth of one millionth of a second). The short pulses allow time of flight measurements to be used to determine distance to a few microns.

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