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Source: harvard.edu

Most cancers in humans are large, complex composition of billion of cells measuring centimeters in diameter. This has left scientists with a dilemma. One the one hand, some models today allow capturing of the spatial aspects of tumors, however they do not capture their genetic changes. Non-spatial models on the other hand, are able to portray a tumors' evolution, but not its three-dimensional structure, and characteristics.

Martin Nowak, Austrian scientist, and Director of the Program for Evolutionary Dynamics and Professor of Mathematics and of Biology at Harvard University, has together with scientists from the University of Edinburgh, and Johns Hopkins University now succeeded in developing the first 3-D model of solid tumors.

This new model reflects both, the three-dimensional shape, and the genetic evolution of cancer tumors. Moreover, the new model explains, why cancer cells have a surprising number of genetic mutations in common, how driver mutations spread through the whole tumor, and how drug resistance evolves. Nowak's model currently only suggests, however, it might soon be able to show how targeting short-range cellular migratory activity could have marked effects on tumor growth rates.

Nowak notes to the Medical Press that "Previously, we and others have mostly used non-spatial models to study cancer evolution. But those models do not describe the spatial characteristics of solid tumors. Now, for the first time, we have a computational model that can do that."

The research findings of Nowak and his colleagues from the University of Edinburgh and Johns Hopkins University have been published in the renowned Nature magazine.

 

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There has been a shift in the fundamentals of how light waves interact. Scientists at the Technical University of Vienna have succeeded in manipulating the scattering of light waves, and have created a new novel design for undistorted light waves.

Until recently, the paradigm within science has been that when a light wave penetrates a material that it is usually changed drastically. In effect, as soon as a light wave hits an obstacle, its constant intensity is immediately destroyed due to scattering.

This fundamental restriction has now been lifted with the most recent research developments from Vienna. Konstantinos Makris and Stefan Rotter from the Technical University of Vienna working together with Ziad Musslimani from Florida State University, as well Demetrios Christodoulides from the University of Central Florida, have been able to calculate and show materials which allow new kind of light waves to not scatter on its surface. Essentially, these specially designed non-hermitian materials remain completely unperturbed (see Fig. 2).

                      

Fig. 1 - A wave penetrates a material: usually this leads to wave interference, to darker and brighter areas. Source: TU Wien

Fig. 2 - Specially designed non-hermitian materials remain completely unperturbed. Source: TU Wien

 

Makris and Rotters research developments are reminiscent of so-called ‘meta materials’, which have a special structure that allows them to diffract light in unusual ways. In effect, these meta materials allow for the light to bend around the object, so that the object becomes invisible.

Makris notes that the “…the material is completely invisible to the wave, even though the light passes through the material and interacts with it.”

Routine fabrication of meta materials is still not in sight, however, the research conducted at TU Vienna, has enabled the advance of invisible meta materials, which will certainly find applications in many industry fields.

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Posted by on in Moves & Milestones

Cruising along America’s shores, and lakes in a boat might be the quintessential American summer experience, however, 17 million recreational boats have taken their ecological toll on the US in the past decades.

In order to counteract these negative externalities, the Department of Energy’s Argonne National Laboratory has teamed with marine industry partners such as Bombardier Recreational Products to investigate alternative fuels for recreational marine applications.

Past recommendations would have been to increase ethanol levels in fuel mixes. This advise, however, is ill suited for the recreational marine industry, due to the nature of motor boats, ethanol attracting water, potentially allow surrounding water to enter fuel tanks and affect the engines performance.

Thomas Wallner, Austrian scientist, research engineer, and Principal Investigator at Argonne’s Center for Transportation Research has therefore researched, identified, and advocated for the use of butanol, which unlike ethanol does not attract water, and does not harm the engine.

Wallner stresses that “Butanol at 16 percent blend level works as well as ethanol at 10 percent under tested conditions.” In effect, after years of testing the National Marine Manufacturers Association (NMMA) has approved this new butanol fuel, which seeks to substitute the ecologically more harmful 10-15% ethanol fuel blends.

Your guilt free boat cruise can start now!

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Our brain is a high-speed myriad of synapsis, which requires constant stimulated communication in order to overcome obstacles, and challenges.

Austrian scientists alongside their American counterparts have recently highlighted how communications between the control, and fear centers of our brain can help us overcome fear.

Dr. Nicolas Singewald, Head of Neuropharmacology at the University of Innsbruck, and his research highlight how fear can be mitigated, and even extinct. Singewald’s research builds on the notions of Ivan Pavlov, the renowned Russian physiologist who coined the term ‘extinction’, which describes gradual weakening of a conditioned response that results in the behavior decreasing or disappearing.

The research team including University of Innsbruck scientists Christina Brehm, Nicolas Singewald, and Nigel Whittle looked at the communication between the prefrontal cortex (controls the fear in our brains) and amygdala (generates fear in our brain). The activity, and intensity between these two parts determines the rate of fear extinction in them.

With this in mind, the researchers conducted manipulation experiments on mice that measured the extinction rate while the prefrontal cortex-amygdala neural circuit was stimulated. Singewald et al. noticed that a targeted “…stimulation of the ventromedial prefrontal cortex (vmPFC)–amygdala pathway facilitated extinction memory formation” as their findings notes.

This stimulation is done via optogenics i.e. a laser that is able to surgically target the exact prefrontal cortex-amygdala neural circuit. The University of Innsbruck scientists hope that with these new findings they will be able to research which neuro receptors along the prefrontal cortex-amygdala neural circuit would be susceptive to pharmological influence.

In effect, it is not utopian to suggest that fear might be treatable in the near future with targeted medication or therapy, thanks to the research findings of the University of Innsbruck scientists, and their partners.

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Posted by on in Moves & Milestones

 

BRIDGES presents career steps and other outstanding events in the professional lives of Austrian researchers and innovators in the US and Canada.

 

 

Harald C. Ott, M.D. an Austrian researcher and thoracic surgeon at Massachusetts General Hospital. Winner of the ASCINA award 2013, he recently became the first scientist to grow the world’s first lab-grown biolimb; a living, functioning, artificial leg that responds to stimuli and even circulates blood.  Regeneration experts say that the tiny pink rat leg is a step toward the future of artificial limbs. Ott is also an assistant professor of Surgery at Harvard Medical School. 

 



Dr. Alexander Rauscher has been awarded with the highly coveted Canada Research Chair (CRC) Tier II in Developmental Neuroimaging. The CRC award is $500,000 for five years, and can be extended for another five years. With this award comes a faculty position at the Department of Pediatrics and the Child and Family Research Institute at the University of British Columbia, where he is going to continue his research on quantitative magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) of brain tissue damage due to injury and disease and on methods that are able to measure tissue repair due to treatment. In babies, for instance, such brain mapping techniques will be able to show whether a new treatment is effective, years before a clinical manifestation of treatment success can be detected.

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