Smart Surface Could Build Nanostructures

A smart material that can be switched back and forth between glassy and rubbery could be used to assemble tiny structures placed on its surface.

Researchers at Iowa State University in Ames, led by principal investigators Vladimir Tsukruk and Eugene Zubarev, have shown that the material can be switched back and forth on a scale of just a few molecules.

They say that it could be used for directed assembly of inorganic nanoparticles and nanotubes, as well as to precisely control liquids flowing through microfluidic devices that hold promise for biomedical research and medical diagnostics.

Y-shaped molecules

The material comprises a layer of Y-shaped molecules that are attached at the base of the Y.

One of the upright arms is a polymer that is hydrophilic-attracted to water-while the other arm is a polymer that is hydrophobic-repelled by water.

When exposed to water, the molecules collapse into mounds about eight nanometers wide with the hydrophilic arms shielding the hydrophobic arms.

When exposed to an organic solvent such as toluene, the molecules flip so that the hydrophobic arms are on top.

Ordered patterns

The properties of the two states, such as their stickiness, are dramatically different.

While the arms currently collapse in a random scatter, the researchers are aiming to create ordered patterns that will allow them to make novel surfaces with controllable properties.

Cell-friendly Particles Promise Safer Gene Therapy

A product claimed to be the world’s first biodegradable gene carrier has hit the market, promising wider and safer treatment of genetic diseases.

Developed by Oceanside, California-based Nitto Denko Group, a maker of biopolymer-based biomaterials, the carrier could be used for gene therapy.

Gene therapy involves the correction of defective genes responsible for disease. By replacing absent or faulty genes with working ones, it can allow the body to make normal rather than disease-causing proteins.

Seeking safer transportation

Typically, therapeutic genes are delivered by a carrier molecule called a vector. Vectors are usually either viruses or polymer materials.

Viruses, however, are known to have problems such as injecting their genetic payload incorrectly. It is believed that this led to the recent development of leukemia in children receiving gene therapy for severe combined immunodeficiency syndrome.

Polymer particles have been of interest as an alternative, but until now they have been less effective at transferring genes and more toxic to cells.

Efficient and nontoxic

Toxicity appears to be caused by polymer particles accumulating in cells.

Nitto Denko’s polymer particles, however, biodegrade into small, nontoxic molecules that actually promote cell survival and health.

The polymer delivery system has proven safe and highly efficient, transferring genes at up to 95% efficiency with less than 5% toxicity.

It is currently being sold for research purposes through Carlsbad, California-based Qbiogene under the product name CytoPure.

Nitto Denko hopes to develop applications for the animal experiment and human gene therapy market.

Iranian hackers exploited US officials for three years

A bunch of Iranian hackers made a successful attempt in compromising the high profile U.S. officials, including military and law and enforcement officials. The operation which was running for past three years came to knowledge when a security firm, iSIght, brought it into day light. It is still unknown what and how much of data has been compromised, the hackers used social networking websites such as YouTube, Facebook and Google Plus for the targeting the victims.

Pretending as journalists and government officials, the hackers made their way to the victims by connecting more than 2000 people in the process. “While it’s low sophistication technically, it’s actually one of the most elaborate social media, or socially engineered, espionage campaigns we’ve ever seen,” said Tiffany Jones, a senior vice president at iSight, ““The fact that this has gone largely unnoticed for three years suggests they’ve been very successful in this approach,” he included.

The firm said, there aren’t any concrete proofs about it, but “the targeting, operational schedule, and infrastructure used in this campaign is consistent with Iranian origins.”

Keeping themselves beneath the reach of radar, hackers were able to spy on the officials for almost three years. They used social engineering techniques to trick U.S. officials. During the initial stages of the operation, hackers started developing a trust by sharing legitimate links to the articles and other websites, and later in an attempt to take over the computers they started sending out the links to malicious websites.

Although FBI has not yet spitted a word about it, Facebook and other social networking websites, including LinkedIn, has started removing the fake accounts from their websites. Officials are now being warned about not accepting friend requests from unknown people.

Security is a process not a product and the biggest loophole to it are the humans, there is no patch for the human stupidity.

A good night of sleep can improve memory and learning

A new study physically shows that a good night’s sleep improves a person’s memory and learning. Using an advanced microscope, a research team split between China and the US was able to see the formation of synapses, or the connection among brain cells.

The study showed that the benefits of sleep cannot be reaped in other ways. Even intense training can not make up for lost sleep.

sleep memory learning

Scientists have know for years that memory and learning had a direct link to the amount of sleep people get a night. However, researchers never had figured out how they actually link up. Until now, that is.

Researchers New York University School of Medicine and Peking University Shenzhen Graduate School were able to train mice to to walk on top of a rotating rod. Afterwards, they looked into the living brains of the mice with a microscope to see the differences between mice who got sleep and mice who were sleep deprived.

They noticed that mice that get enough sleep have a significantly larger number of new connections formed between neurons than the mice who were sleep deprived. The study went on to note that they disrupted the stages of sleep. This lead to the realization that deep sleep or slow wave sleep better helps with memory and learning than other stages of sleep.

“Finding out sleep promotes news connections between neurons is new and nobody knew about this before. This is just the latest piece of science to highlight the heavy importance of a good night’s sleep,” said Professor Wen-Bio Gan, from New York University.

In a study done in 2013, it was also found that sleep can wash away waste toxins that are accumulated over the day. On top of that, getting a good night’s sleep can help prevent the body from getting numerous medical problems, like diabetes, cancer, or heart disease.

Although sleep is so important, many experts are worried that people do not get nearly enough sleep. With life’s many distractions, like smartphones, tablets, and constant lights being shone in through windows, people might not be getting they need.