Discovered: Circadian clocks; separating oil from water; hi-res images from Mars; tissue that's half-living, half-machine.
Timing your biorhythms. Scientists have long known that different people operate according to different internal schedules, patterns they refer to as circadian clocks. Sleeping, digestion, even our response to drug treatments—many physiological processes are controlled by circadian rhythms. But measuring individual patients' biorhythms has been difficult, involving taking hourly blood samples and meticulous melatonin tracking. A group of Japanese researchers thought they could devise a way to simplify the process. By sampling the metabolites in subjects' bloodstream from two blood drawings, they were able to create what they call a "molecular timetable" for measuring an individual's circadian rhythms. "In principle, the method holds great promise as a way of replacing the cumbersome melatonin assay," says the University of Zurich's Steven Brown, a molecular biologist commenting on the research. [Science Now]
High-res photo beamed back from Mars. Everyone's favorite Mars rover has sent back its first image taken with a 100mm telephoto lens. Many of the photos we've seen from Curiosity so far have shown the red planet in grainy black-and-white. But this latest photo depicts a Martian mountain range in a glorious color panorama. NASA has noted a curious "unconformity," a sort of divot in the geological terrain, in the image of Mars' Mount Sharp. Curiosity also beamed a recording of NASA administrator Charles Bolden's voice, reciting, "The knowledge we hope to gain from our observation and analysis of Gale Crater will tell us much about the possibility of life on Mars as well as the past and future possibilities for our own planet." Stayed tuned, because any minute now, Curiosity will broadcast a will.i.am song. [BBC]
Break it up, you two. Everyone knows that oil and water prefer to remain seperate. But when there's a massive oil spill and the two substances mix, extracting all that oil from a body of water is still no easy task. Now, researchers led by the University of Michigan's Anish Tuteja have figured out a way to cleanly extract the two. They've developed filters covered with water-resistant molecules that remove over 99.99% of oil from co-mingling water. "It’s a very counterintuitive filter," says Tuteja, but it seems to work. "The research is excellent, the membrane is a feat in itself," MIT's Jerome Milgram comments, hoping to see if the research could be applied in the field to oil spill sites. [Science News]
Half-man, half-machine. Like something out of a cyberpunk novel, Harvard University researchers have created a "cyborg tissue" that is constructed from equal parts rat flesh and machinery. They've made cardiomyocytes drawn from lab rats and fused with wires and transistors beat like a heart. But scientists aren't interested in this synthetic tissue for the purposes of creating cyborgs—at least, not just that. They're also hoping to use the cyborg tissue to test drugs and develop implants such as pacemakers. "It allows one to effectively blur the boundary between electronic, inorganic systems and organic, biological ones," says lead researcher Charles Lieber. He says his next goal is to get these cyborg neurons to "talk" with each other in order to, "wire up tissue and communicate with it in the same way a biological system does." [New Scientist]
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