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May 24, 2016

We can begin an interstellar mission today – and we should

Posted by in categories: particle physics, space travel

Fifty-five years ago, Yuri Gagarin rocketed into orbit and began to break our bonds to our planet. To mark the occasion, the nonprofit Breakthrough Institute just announced plans to free us from an even more formidable set of bonds and send a fleet of small spacecraft beyond our solar system, off to the stars. News of the ‘Breakthrough Starshot’ plan was met with great enthusiasm, but also with more than a little skepticism. The distance between stars is vast. Our closest neighbour, the Alpha Centauri system, is 4.4 light years away – roughly 25 trillion miles. The Voyager 1 spacecraft, the fastest object ever created by humans, would take 70,000 years to travel that far. Many reporters greeted the Breakthrough Starshot as an idea grounded more in fantasy than in reality.

The reaction was understandable. All previous plans for interstellar flight relied on non-existent or impractical technologies such as antimatter, wormholes and warp drives. But now we have a concrete path forward, which I have published in detail. It is possible to begin the journey to the stars today.

Drawing on recent advances in photonics and electronics, we could use arrays of lasers to accelerate miniature probes (the size and mass of a semiconductor wafer, weighing less than one ounce) to unprecedented velocities. Particles of light, or photons, have no rest mass but they carry energy and momentum. Just as a sailboat can be propelled by the wind, light sails can ride the momentum of photons by reflecting a wind of intense laser light. We call such focused beams of light ‘directed energy’.

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May 24, 2016

Swallow This Robot: Foldable Droid Could Mend Stomachs

Posted by in category: robotics/AI

The new robot can unfold from an ingestible capsule and operate inside the stomach.

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May 24, 2016

Genetic variants isolated that lead to enhanced PD-L1 protein production in cancer cells

Posted by in categories: biotech/medical, genetics

(Medical Xpress)—A large team of researchers from a host of research facilities across Japan has found some genetic variants in some cancer cells that lead to enhanced PD-L1 protein production—which results in increased protection against attacks by the immune system. In their paper published in the journal Nature, the team describes their sequencing study involving adult T-cell leukemia/lymphoma cases, what they found and the possibility that such variants could be used as identifying markers in cancer patients.

Prior studies have shown that an increase in the expression of the protein PD-L1 by cancer cells confers enhanced protection against attacks by the human immune system—PD-1 receptors on T cells bind with PD-L1 causing the to become unresponsive, preventing them from attacking tumors. In this new effort, the researchers conducted a genetic analysis of a particular type of cancer cell to learn more about the genetic process involved in causing an increase in expression of PD-L1.

The team conducted whole-genome sequencing on samples given by 49 adult patients suffering from leukemia or lymphoma, looking specifically for variations that might account for an increase in expression of PD-L1. In so doing, they found that variations such as duplications, inversions or translocations in 13 of the samples, representing 27 percent of those tested, existed on a certain part of chromosome 9, which prior research had found was the part of the genome responsible for the expression of PD-L1. They report that such alterations seemed to cut off the gene’s 3’ untranslated region of the protein and in some cases led to rearranging the gene’s open reading frame, which allowed more of the protein to be expressed.

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May 24, 2016

A Guide to CRISPR Gene Activation

Posted by in categories: bioengineering, biotech/medical, genetics

“The possibility to selectively activate genes using various engineered variants of the CRISPR-Cas9 system left many researchers questioning which of the available synthetic activating Cas9 proteins to use for their purposes. The main challenge was that all had been uniquely designed and tested in different settings; there was no side-by-side comparison of their relative potentials,” said George Church, Ph.D., who is Core Faculty Member at the Wyss Institute for Biologically Inspired Engineering at Harvard University, leader of its Synthetic Biology Platform, and Professor of Genetics at Harvard Medical School. “We wanted to provide that side-by-side comparison to the biomedical research community.”

In a study published on 23 May in Nature Methods, the Wyss Institute team reports how it rigorously compared and ranked the most commonly used artificial Cas9 activators in different cell types from organisms including humans, mice and flies. The findings provide a valuable guide to researchers, allowing them to streamline their endeavors.

The team also included Wyss Core Faculty Member James Collins, Ph.D., who also is the Termeer Professor of Medical Engineering & Science and Professor of Biological Engineering at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT)’s Department of Biological Engineering and Norbert Perrimon, Ph.D., a Professor of Genetics at Harvard Medical School.

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May 24, 2016

New ‘fountain of youth’ gene may prevent heart attack, stroke

Posted by in categories: biotech/medical, life extension

Oct4, a gene, thought to be inactive in adults, may actually play a vital role in preventing heart attacks and strokes and could also delay some of the effects of ageing, scientists have found. They said the gene could also prove critical in the field of regenerative medicine.

Representative photo.Representative photo.

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May 24, 2016

Samsung Electronics To Skip OLED TV And Go Straight To QLED TV

Posted by in categories: electronics, quantum physics

Establishing the trend. Q-dot technology will be in all displays soon.

“Samsung Electronics will skip commercializing OLED for TVs and ho straight to QLED technology, perhaps as soon as 2009. Its strategy is to continue to develop its quantum-dot TVs, which are its current major products, and prepare to commercialize QLED technologies during this time.”

Read More at ET News

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May 24, 2016

ILLUSIO to Present at 2016 Virtual Reality Summit in Seoul, South Korea

Posted by in categories: augmented reality, biotech/medical, computing, virtual reality

AR for plastic surgery.

ILLUSIO, the next generation in computer imaging for plastic surgery, will be presenting at the 2016 Virtual Reality Summit in Seoul, South Korea on June 22. The conference is expected to attract thousands of people interested in the latest applications for virtual reality and augmented reality.

ILLUSIO CEO Ethan Winner will present the Company’s use of augmented reality for plastic surgery imaging. ILLUSIO combines the latest in 3D augmented reality technology with real-time morphing animation, providing a platform for plastic surgeons and their patients to visually communicate.

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May 24, 2016

Wolverton: VR’s father worried about technology’s future

Posted by in categories: futurism, virtual reality

Father of VR worried.

One might think that Jaron Lanier would be elated right now.

More than 30 years after his pioneering work in virtual reality, VR finally appears to be on the verge of becoming a mass market phenomenon. Major companies are investing in the technology; high-profile products are hitting store shelves; and developers of all sorts are creating VR experiences.

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May 24, 2016

A Battery Made From Metal and Air Is Electrifying the Developing World

Posted by in categories: computing, mobile phones, solar power, sustainability, transportation

Got to luv this.

Is this brand new type of battery the key to clean energy and off-grid electricity?

Lithium-ion batteries are having a moment. After becoming the de facto battery in laptops and cell phones over the years, they’re now starting to power electric cars (like those made by Tesla) and plug into the power grid.

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May 24, 2016

Surface area is a highly relevant dose metric for nanoparticle toxicity assessments

Posted by in category: nanotechnology

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Become a Spotlight guest author! Have you just published a scientific paper or have other exciting developments to share with the nanotechnology community? Here is how to publish on

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