SciTech Briefs

3-D printed fish robots help detox water supplies

Researchers at the University of California, San Diego have developed fish-shaped microrobots called microfish that are able to swim efficiently in liquids. These microfish, unlike previous microrobots that were limited by simplistic structures, are able to perform tasks that require complex movements. The microfish include platinum nanoparticles in their tails and magnetic iron oxide nanoparticles in their heads, which allow the fish to be powered by hydrogen peroxide and steered with magnets. These microrobots are currently being studied with regard to detoxification. The research team included toxin-neutralizing polydicetylene (PDA) nanoparticles in the bodies of the microfish, which allow the microfish to collect harmful toxins from the surrounding environment. The PDA nanoparticles emit red-colored light when bound to toxin molecules, which allows the detoxification ability of the microfish to be monitored by the intensity of the red light they emit. The researchers believe the microfish could have a multitude of other applications, including directed drug delivery.

Source: Science Daily

New self-healing material could help safety in space

Timothy Scott, an assistant professor of chemical engineering at the University of Michigan, along with a team of researchers, has developed a self-healing material that could provide spacecrafts with another layer of defense against debris in space. Currently, spacecrafts can be outfitted with several different lines of defense. The International Space Station, the most heavily-shielded spacecraft ever flown, according to NASA, is equipped with bumpers that vaporize debris before it hits the walls of the spacecraft. However, if these bumpers ever failed, debris could penetrate the spacecraft walls, which would lead to a catastrophic loss of oxygen stores.

The new material developed by Scott’s team is able to heal itself after being shot with a bullet. The material is composed of a reactive liquid in between two layers of a solid polymer. When shot with a bullet, the liquid reacts with oxygen from the air to form a solid plug in under a second. The researchers believe these findings could also be useful for improving technology on Earth, such as automobiles.

Source: ACS Macro Letters

Antibiotic use linked to Type 2 diabetes diagnosis

A team of researchers, including Kristian Hallundbæk Mikkelsen, MD, of Gentofte Hospital in Denmark, has discovered a link between the amount of antibiotics a person takes and their likelihood of being diagnosed with Type 2 diabetes. In the study, the researchers tracked 15 years worth of antibiotic prescriptions for approximately 170,000 individuals with Type 2 diabetes and 1.3 million individuals without diabetes. Subjects were identified using records from three national health registries in Denmark. They found that people with Type 2 diabetes used significantly more antibiotics compared to people without diabetes; subjects with Type 2 diabetes filled 0.8 prescriptions a year, while control subjects filled only 0.5. “Although we cannot infer causality from this study, the findings raise the possibility that antibiotics could raise the risk of Type 2 diabetes,” Mikkelsen said. “Another equally compelling explanation may be that people develop Type 2 diabetes over the course of years and face a greater risk of infection during that time.”

Source: Science Daily

Permian extinction caused by volcanic activity in Siberia

Around 252 million years ago, at the end of the Permian period, more than 90 percent of marine species and 75 percent of land species vanished. Paleontologists now believe the cause of this mass extinction was volcanic activity. Scientists knew there was volcanic activity at the time of the extinction, but were previously unable to determine if this was a coincidence. To resolve this issue, the research team analyzed ancient lavas traced back to massive volcanic eruptions in what is now Siberia. The Siberian Traps eruptions released more than three million cubic kilometers of molten rock, which is enough to bury the entire United States to the height of the Eiffel Tower. Zircon crystals were found in the ash, which naturally form with small amounts of uranium that gradually decays into lead. Paleontologists now support the hypothesis that volcanic gasses caused environmental changes that rendered the planet uninhabitable for most life on it. Researchers reported these findings on August 28 in Science Advances.

Source: Science News

Scientists equip honeybees with micro-sensors

According to the Natural Defense Resource Council, nearly one-third of all honeybee colonies in the USA have vanished. In order to address the global decline in honeybees, an international research team, led by the Global Initiative for Honeybee Health, is equipping the insects with radio-frequency micro-sensors to record the bees’ behaviors.

The Sydney Morning Herald recently reported that 15,000 healthy honeybees in Australia and Brazil have been fitted with the 5.4-milligram sensors.“The tiny technology allows researchers to analyze the effects of stress factors including disease, pesticides, air pollution, water contamination, diet and extreme weather on the movements of bees and their ability to pollinate,” Dr. Paulo de Souza, a science leader with Australia’s Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organization said. “The time is now for a tightly-focused, well-coordinated national and international effort, using the same shared technology and research protocols, to help solve the problems facing honey bees worldwide before it is too late.”

Source: The Huffington Post

Blood test can predict breast cancer relapse

Researchers reported on August 26 in Science Translational Medicine that a blood test could predict up to 80 percent of breast cancer relapses after surgery and chemotherapy by identifying tumor DNA circulating in the blood. This blood test detected cancer nearly eight months before scans detected the tumors. In the study, researchers took blood samples from 55 women who underwent chemotherapy and surgery to remove breast tumors and were at moderate to high risk of having a relapse. After two years, 15 women had a relapse, and researchers found tumor DNA in the blood of 12 of them as early as two weeks after surgery. The team also noted that the blood test was unable to detect tumor DNA in the brain, which was likely due to the blood-brain barrier preventing the spread of the tumor DNA.
This blood test could potentially help doctors determine which breast cancer patients will have relapses in the future.

Source: Science News