Previous month:
November 2011
Next month:
January 2012

A Single Cell Endoscope Berkeley Lab Researchers Use Nanophotonics for Optical Look Inside Living Cells

An endoscope that can provide high-resolution optical images of the interior of a single living cell, or precisely deliver genes, proteins, therapeutic drugs or other cargo without injuring or damaging the cell, has been developed by researchers with the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE)’s Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory (Berkeley Lab). This highly versatile and mechanically robust nanowire-based optical probe can also be applied to biosensing and single-cell electrophysiology.

A team of researchers from Berkeley Lab and the University of California (UC) Berkeley attached a tin oxide nanowire waveguide to the tapered end of an optical fibre to create a novel endoscope system. Light travelling along the optical fibre can be effectively coupled into the nanowire where it is re-emitted into free space when it reaches the tip. The nanowire tip is extremely flexible due to its small size and high aspect ratio, yet can endure repeated bending and buckling so that it can be used multiple times.

Full story.

U.S. Panel Raps How Agencies Handle Human Research

U.S. government agencies fund thousands of studies on human subjects, but do not have a very good handle on the basic information about that research—possibly putting participants in harm's way, a presidential panel of reviewers has found.

The presidential bioethics commission looked into the current protections for human subjects in a review triggered by evidence of unethical behavior in a 1940s experiment that deliberately infected Guatemalan prison inmates and mental patients with sexually transmitted disease.

The commission earlier this year concluded that U.S. government researchers must have known they were violating ethical standards at the time of the experiment, shortly after World War II. They have also called for a better system to compensate medical research subjects.

Nothing like the horrors of the Guatemala study could take place under U.S. government watch now, the panel said in a report released Thursday.

But the lags in how federal agencies collect and store data about their research involving human subjects offers no assurance that all unnecessary injuries or unethical activity are prevented.

Full story.

Chasing the New Angel Investors

Entrepreneurs Find They Need More Than a 'Great Idea' When Pitching to Potential Backers


Budding entrepreneur Eric Bolden had never met an angel investor until he tried pitching a business idea to a few of them.

Last week, the retired prison guard showed up at a midtown New York loft for an event that connects entrepreneurs with investors to see whether he might get, say, $50,000, from the angels—wealthy individuals who provide capital to start-ups with the potential for fast growth.‬

Mr. Bolden, dressed in a suit and tie, took to the microphone for a two-minute pitch, clutching his crumpled notes of the key selling points for his idea—a police handgun identification signal, complete with a flashing alert. The proposed device is meant to protect plain-clothes officers from friendly fire.‬

‪Angel funding has become increasingly available to entrepreneurs like Mr. Bolden, whose product ideas are in the earliest stages.‬

Full story.

Rumors Explode Over Higgs Boson Discovery

By Ian O'Neill

Published December 07, 2011 | Discovery News

This could be the announcement we've all been waiting for. As soon as the Large Hadron Collider (LHC) revved up its supercooled electromagnets in 2008 -- which promptly "quenched" (read: broke down in a very expensive way) and then restarted the following year -- it's been the one piece of news the world has been eagerly awaiting: confirmation of the discovery of one of the Universe's most secretive particles -- the Higgs boson.

After gazillions of particle collisions and countless rumors of Higgs discoveries, we have... yet another rumor of a Higgs discovery.

But this time, the rumor seems to be meatier than ever.

Full story.

Pay ban on donor organs doesn't include bone marrow, court says

With marrow now being extracted from the bloodstream, a federal appeals court calls it blood parts, not organ parts.

The new reading of the federal prohibition could attract thousands more donors.

By Carol J. Williams, Los Angeles Times

A federal law banning compensation for organ transplants doesn't extend to bone marrow harvested from a donor's blood, a federal appeals court said Thursday in a ruling that could attract thousands of new donors in a national campaign to save the lives of those afflicted with cancer and genetic disorders.

The 1984 National Organ Transplant Act included bone marrow in its list of "organs and parts thereof" for which donors could face criminal charges and five years in prison for providing them in exchange for money or other "valuable consideration."

Though bone marrow is naturally replenishable, unlike livers, kidneys and other whole organs, its sale was barred because the extraction method used at the time the law was passed was painful and risky for the donor and authorities feared the poor would be induced to submit to the procedure to earn money.

In the last 20 years, though, medical advances have brought about a less intrusive method by which the life-saving marrow stem cells are harvested from a donor's bloodstream in much the same way as blood is drawn at a blood bank. The new process, known as apheresis, filters out excess marrow stem cells that circulate in the bloodstream, as opposed to the surgical extraction method, known as aspiration, which inserts a large needle into the hip bone and siphons out the cells.

Full story.