News Archives: October, 2016

Growing gold: K-State researchers develop gold nanowires for biomedical procedures

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Grown like a snowflake and sharpened with a sewing machine, a novel device by Kansas State University researchers may benefit biomedical professionals and the patients they serve during electrode and organ transplant procedures.

The device uses gold nanowires and was developed by Bret Flanders, associate professor of physics, and Govind Paneru, former graduate research assistant in physics, to manipulate and sense characteristics of individual cells in medical procedures. The gold nanowires are 1,000 times smaller than a human hair.

"Conventional surgical tools, including electrodes that are implanted in people's tissue, are unfavorably large on the cellular level," Flanders said. "Working at the individual cellular level is of increasing importance in areas such as neurosurgery. Potentially, this sleek device, made from gold nanowires, could get in close and do the job."

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Working under pressure: Diamond micro-anvils made by UAB will produce immense pressures to make new materials

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University of Alabama at Birmingham researchers will use pressures greater than those found at the center of the Earth to potentially create as yet unknown new materials. In the natural world, such immense forces deep underground can turn carbon into diamonds, or volcanic ash into slate.

The ability to produce these pressures depends on tiny nanocrystalline-diamond anvils built in a UAB clean room manufacturing facility. Each anvil head is just half the width of an average human hair. The limits of their pressure have not yet been reached as the first 27 prototypes are being tested.

We have achieved 75 percent of the pressure found at the center of the Earth, or 264 gigapascals, using lab-grown nanocrystalline-diamond micro-anvil,” said Yogesh Vohra, Ph.D., a professor and university scholar of physics in the UAB College of Arts and Sciences. “But the goal is one terapascal, which is the pressure close to the center of Saturn. We are one-quarter of the way there.”

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New evolutionary finding from University of Nebraska-Lincoln published in 'Science': Species take different genetic paths to reach same trait

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Biologists have been contemplating evolutionary change since Charles Darwin first explained it.

Using modern molecular tools and fieldwork, University of Nebraska-Lincoln biologist Jay Storz and colleagues have demonstrated for the first time that different species can take different genetic paths to develop the same trait. The team’s findings appear in the Oct. 21 issue of the journal Science.

There’s this really long-standing question in evolutionary genetics about the predictability of genetic change,” said Storz, Susan J. Rosowski professor of biological sciences.

In other words, did species with a common, beneficial trait undergo the same genetic changes to evolve that trait? Or did the trait develop through different, and therefore unpredictable, genetic paths?

It turns out that natural selection, a primary evolutionary process, can dependably produce similar, beneficial traits in different species. But at the molecular level, the evolutionary changes tend to be highly idiosyncratic, and are therefore far less predictable.

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FOA: EPSCoR Research Infrastructure Improvement Track 4

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RII Track-4 provides opportunities for non-tenured investigators to further develop their individual research potential through extended collaborative visits to the nation’s premier private, governmental, or academic research centers. Through these visits, the EPSCoR Research Fellows will be able to learn new techniques, benefit from access to unique equipment and facilities, and shift their research toward transformative new directions. The experience gained through the fellowship is intended to provide a foundation for research collaborations that span the recipient’s entire career. These benefits to the Fellows are also expected to in turn enhance the research capacity of their institutions and jurisdictions. PIs must hold a non-tenured faculty appointment or its close equivalent, either in the form of a pre-tenure tenure-track position or a long-term non-tenure-track position.

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U.S. Antarctic Program investigator from Maine perishes in snowmobile accident

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Dr. Gordon Hamilton, University of Maine Climate Change Institute, Orono, Maine, was fatally injured when the snow machine he was riding went into a crevasse. Hamilton's team was camped in a heavily crevassed area known as the Shear Zone (SZ), approximately 25 miles south of McMurdo Station, the largest of the three U.S. research stations in Antarctica.

The McMurdo SZ is a three-mile wide and more than 125-mile long swath of intensely crevassed ice where the Ross Ice Shelf meets the McMurdo Ice Shelf. The ice is up to 650 feet thick in this area. Dr. Hamilton's body has been recovered and will be returned to his family in Maine. An accident investigation has begun by USAP personnel.

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EPSCoR institutions among recipients of $44 million NSF award for genomic research on range of plants, many economically important

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To advance the basic science needed to improve agricultural practices, reduce demands on environmental resources, and address climate change challenges, the National Science Foundation (NSF)'s Plant Genome Research Program (PGRP) has awarded new grants totaling $44 million.

"For almost two decades, the PGRP has accelerated basic knowledge in plant genomics, with broad relevance to the scientific research community and to society," says James Olds, NSF assistant director for Biological Sciences. "These awards will continue to break new ground in understanding the biological principles needed to solve environmental and food security challenges today and in the future."

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$20 million research grant is largest ever for UNMC

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A team of UNMC researchers headed by Matthew Rizzo, M.D., professor and chair of the department of neurological sciences, has landed the largest grant ever for UNMC -- a five-year research grant from the National Institutes of Health totaling nearly $20 million. 

Funding is provided through the Institutional Development Award (IDeA) program and the NIH's National Institute of General Medical Studies. It will focus on developing early career researchers into independent scientists and increasing the infrastructure and other resources needed to support clinical/translational research (CTR) around the region. The grant will create the Great Plains IDeA-CTR Network, a collaboration involving nine institutions in four states -- Nebraska, North Dakota, South Dakota and Kansas. 

In addition to UNMC, the Nebraska institutions include the University of Nebraska-Lincoln, University of Nebraska at Omaha, University of Nebraska at Kearney and Boys Town National Research Hospital. Other participants include the Univ. of South Dakota, Univ. of North Dakota, North Dakota State Univ., and the Univ. of Kansas Medical Center. 

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VIDEO: Regenerating nerve fibers

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If you enjoy action movies, you can probably think of a superhero—maybe Wolverine?—who can lose a limb in battle, yet grow it right back and keep on going. But could regenerating a lost limb ever happen in real life? Some scientists are working hard to understand how other organisms do this.

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University of New Mexico among recipients of highly sought after NSF ERC grant

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The Mines Park apartment complex may look like typical student housing but these apartments are pioneering new water treatment methods for a cleaner future. Wastewater from this complex isn’t actually wasted.

This is one of the pilot projects of the National Science Foundation’s (NSF) Engineering Research Center (ERC) for Re-Inventing the Nation's Urban Water Infrastructure, or ReNUWIt. Researchers and students here combine engineering innovations with expanded use of smart natural systems to help address growing water needs in cities and towns.

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