More and more research in the field of diagnostic medicine and in general of the treatment of human diseases focuses on the use of nanometer-sized materials, ie substances made of particles that have tens or hundreds of nanometers in diameter, naturally completely invisible to the human eye. These substances can be useful if injected into certain cells, but the problem is to make them reach the active sites in the most profitable way possible.
The most “traditional” method sees the use of peptides, fragments of proteins found in cells, tissues and enzymes. Peptides interact with cells and cause the nanomaterial of interest to enter successfully. However, the use of peptides is not yet clear and the possible side effects that such methods may have on the functionality of the cells but above all on the functionality of the introduced nanomaterials are not clear.
In a new study, published in Nature Communications, a group of researchers from the University of Minnesota proposed a new method that sees the introduction of the nanomaterial into cells without the use of peptides.
The method is explained by Hongbo Pang, assistant professor at the College of Pharmacy of the aforementioned university and one of the authors of the study: “Simply by mixing two types of nanometric materials, we discovered a new cellular process that offers a simple solution for entry of nanomaterials in cells. Furthermore, this opens up a new avenue for cellular biology that connects several fundamental elements of living cells. A further understanding of this process will help both the development of cell biology and nanotechnology.”
The new method sees the absorption by the cells facilitated thanks to cysteine, a substance that surrounds the cells themselves.
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A nanothermometer capable of measuring the temperature inside cells was developed by a group of researchers at Rice University.
The related study, published in the Journal of Physical Chemistry B, describes how researchers Angel Martí and Meredith Ogle modified a biocompatible molecular rotor known as boron dipyrrometene (BODIPY, for short) to build what can be considered as a “nanothermometer” In order to detect the temperature level inside a single cell with good precision.
Temperature detection occurs through the fluorescence of the “nanothermometer” whose duration depends precisely on the variations in temperature. Fluorescence, in fact, depends on the excitation of the molecule used as a thermometer and the excitation, in turn, depends on how much the molecule itself wobbles, that is it goes back and forth like the clock pendulum.
Detection takes place through the observation of boron dipyrrometene through an imaging microscope.
One of the uses that such a thermometer could have is related to the identification of cancer cells, as Martí himself specifies: “We would like to know if we can identify cancer cells from the heat they produce and differentiate them from normal cells.”
Scientists and engineers at Florida Atlantic University have presented the new robot dog defined as “intelligent” that “sees and hears.” Unlike other robot dogs, this time the researchers thought they also had an aesthetic side: in addition to being a quadruped, the robot is characterized by a head, printed in 3D, which makes it look like a Doberman.
Precisely the head, in any case, serves to contain the computerized brain whose decisions are based on the techniques of deep learning and in general of artificial intelligence. The computer in the dog’s head is in fact “trained” through a deep neural network, a sort of basic computerized simulation of the brain.
This means that the dog should learn from the experience following all the data it receives through the sensors, cameras and microphones it is equipped with. It around 90 pounds, it is still considered by its creators a puppy in training.
For the moment the robot is able to respond to commands such as “sit down,” “get up,” and “lie down.” According to the creators themselves, however, it should also be able to understand and respond to manual signals and voice signals in various languages. It might even recognize the hands and faces of other dogs.
However, it is not a mere toy: the main missions it can carry out are related to safety. It will be able to detect the presence of guns, explosives, and anything else dangerous to help police and security personnel. It could also be used as a service dog for the blind or as a rescuer for search and rescue missions following natural disasters, such as hurricanes or earthquakes.
The robot has in fact been designed to be able to move even in uneven terrain and could make autonomous decisions, therefore not simply being dependent on the commands entered remotely.
The various sensory inputs are processed by a special Nvidia Jetson TX2 graphics card with four combined teraflops of computing power.
A group of researchers has discovered eumelanin, a natural pigment that is also found in human eyes, in the fossilized eyes of crane flies (Tipulidae) dating back 54 million years ago. It was a surprise for the researchers themselves as it was believed that in arthropods there were no melanin pigments in the visual system.
To underline the surprise of the discovery is Johan Lindgren, lead author of the study and professor in the Department of Geology of the University of Lund: “We were surprised by what we discovered because we weren’t looking for it or we didn’t expect it.” After making the discovery in the fossils, the researchers then examined the eyes of today’s crane flies and found that substance also in these species.
Then comparing the fossilized eyes with the eyes of today’s species, the researchers found that the fossilized eyes were characterized by the presence of calcified homatatid lenses. According to Lindgren, it was this mineral that replaced the original chitinous material in the fossil.
And this has led the researchers themselves to reconsider a widespread hypothesis concerning the evolution of visual systems in animals. Previous research had, in fact, suggested that trilobites, a group of extinct sea arthropods, possessed mineralized lenses during their lifetime.
As Lindgren explains, “the general opinion was that the trilobites had lenses made from single crystals of calcium carbonate. However, they were probably much more similar to modern arthropods because their eyes were mainly biological.”
To understand how any intelligent alien civilizations could observe the Earth and eventually understand that life exists on our planet, a group of researchers has decided to transform and adapt the images we possess of the only planet with the presence of life we know.
We speak of course of the Earth and of the images taken from satellites to other space vehicles, images that the same researchers have analyzed and modified to make them appear possibly similar to those that any alien astronomers would see observing us.
They have worked on several thousand images of the Earth captured by the American satellite Deep Space Climate Observatory, a satellite that is located in an interesting observation point where there is a sort of gravitational balance between the Earth and the Sun. The images, which are taken at 10 specific wavelengths, they were modified by the researchers who worked on the light curves and were able to understand which parameters of these curves corresponded to the ground and which to other details such as cloud cover.
After understanding these relationships, they adapted them to the Earth’s rotation. The result is a sort of terrestrial map that presents various approximate contours of the main continents, contours represented by a black line that roughly follows the coastlines, and various areas of different colors that indicate the ocean and the emerged lands.
A map that the same researchers define as “the first two-dimensional (2D) surface map of the Earth reconstructed from light curve observations without hypotheses on its spectral properties” in the abstract of the study presented for the time being Su arXiv.
The same study could be useful to reconstruct the surface features of Earth-like exoplanets in future observations.
A second exoplanet has been discovered around the star β Pictoris, a fairly young star given that it is only 23 million years old and can also be considered fairly close since it is “only” 63.4 light years away.
Precisely because it is a young star, Beta Pictoris is still surrounded by the disk of dust and various materials which, according to the most accredited theory concerning the formation of planets, represents the “source” of the material which then goes to form the same planets. For this reason, the β Pictoris system has fascinated astronomers in recent years as it is allowing them to observe a planetary system being formed.
The first planet around this star, β Pictoris b, was discovered as early as 2009. Ten years later, analyzing the data obtained with the HARPS tool of the ESO Observatory of La Silla in Chile, the researchers discovered a second planet, β Pictoris c. In both cases, these are two giant gas planets.
β Pictoris c has a mass nine times that of Jupiter and orbits around its star in about 1200 days. It is located relatively close to its star, if we consider the distance between the Sun and Jupiter.
β Pictoris c is in fact separated from the star by a distance that is similar to the one that separates the Sun from the belt of asteroids, which is a little beyond Mars. β Pictoris c is instead 3.3 times more distant from its star than β Pictoris b.
Astronomers hope to find out more information about this young and interesting planetary system by analyzing the data that will be acquired by the GAIA spacecraft and those of another much larger telescope still under construction in Chile.