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SciTech #ScienceSunday Digest - 38/2015.
Permalink here: http://www.scitechdigest.net/2015/09/dna-origami-polymers-sonogenetic.html 

DNA origami polymers, Sonogenetic neurons, Transparent brains, Prosthetics sense touch, Hacking neurons, Microfluidic RAM, Kirigami 3D fabrication, Algorithmic language parsing, Graphene filament, Tunable cheap catalysts. 

1. Precisely Assembled Polymers from DNA Origami
Self assembled DNA origami technology has now been used to controllably form precisely ordered arrangements of conductive polymers in two and three dimensions http://phys.org/news/2015-09-sculpting-conjugated-polymer-dna-origami.html. This was enabled by functionalising a conjugated polymer with a specific sequence of single-stranded DNA; when the polymer is then added in solution to a surface on which a DNA origami array has already been formed the polymer strands can be made to form specific shapes and structures as desired, and because the polymer remains conductive this suggests the technique might be used for molecular circuit design. 

2. Sonogenetics to Control Neurons with Sound
In a similar way to how optogenetics uses neurons genetically altered with light-sensitive proteins to make them respond to light, the new field of sonogenetics uses a different ion channel protein that is sensitive to focused pulses of ultrasound to make genetically altered neurons respond to ultrasound http://neurosciencenews.com/sonogenetics-neuroscience-neurons-2640/. The embedded video shows a nematode worm being made to switch direction when ultrasound is switched on, also showing the genetically-altered neurons responsible firing up in response. Ultrasound can pass through tissues and structures that light can and so the technique might be less or non-invasive compared to optogenetics. Although optogenetics got a boost this week too http://www.ibs.re.kr/cop/bbs/BBSMSTR_000000000738/selectBoardArticle.do?nttId=12028

3. Creating Better Transparent Brains
A new technique provides a better method for turning brains transparent in order to better image 3D brain anatomy at high resolution http://www.kurzweilai.net/changing-behavior-with-synapse-engineering. Called ScaleS, the technique is an improvement on other methods that results in minimal tissue damage, uses a mixture of sorbitol and urea, is compatible with labelling techniques, and preserves tissue integrity able to withstand micron-slicing and electron microscopy. As a proof of concept the team used the tool to derive new insights into the location of Alzheimers plaques and different specialised brain cells. 

4. DARPA’s Prosthetics Sense Touch
A new advance from DARPA in prosthetics and brain-computer-interfaces has resulted in the first genuine prosthetic control + sensation closed-loop system http://www.darpa.mil/news-events/2015-09-11. The prosthetic arm attached to a 28 year old volunteer incorporated both electrode implanted into (i) the motor cortex to read brain signals and move the arm and hand, and (ii) the relevant area of the sensory cortex to input signals from sensitive touch sensors on the fingers of the prosthetic arm. In blind tests the person successfully reported which finger was touched and even knew when the researchers tried to trick them; they reported that it felt as though someone was touching their real hand. 

5. Hacking Neurons
First, a study in rats with spinal cord injuries demonstrates that synchronising attempted muscle movement with neural stimulation - via a Neurochip-2 device in this case - provides a measureable and significant boost to neuroplasticity that resulted in the ability to perform a learned task twice as well without the stimulation, if not quite as well before the injury http://spectrum.ieee.org/tech-talk/biomedical/bionics/stimulating-damaged-spines-rewires-rats-for-recovery. Second, a group engineered the synaptic weights - from inhibitory to excitatory - on a single neuron in a nematode worm and was able to alter its behaviour to swim towards rather than away from a threat, and was able to do this by swapping out different ion channels in the live nematode http://www.umassmed.edu/news/news-archives/2015/09/changing-behavior-through-synaptic-engineering/

6. Storing Cells in Random Access Memory
Microfluidic circuits can now be formed into architectures that enable the functional equivalent of transistors that store and shuttle living cells instead of electrons http://phys.org/news/2015-09-random-access-memory-cells.html. The group created a random access memory equivalent for living cells, exerting far finer control over switching states than had ever previously been achieved, and they hope to be able to create large single-cell memories in future. The ultimate goal for tools like this is to swiftly sort through a great many cells to find rare cells that may be indicative of certain diseases or disorders. 

7. Novel 3D Fabrication Techniques with Kirigami
First, complex and closed “pop-up” 3D structures can now be formed based on Japanese Kirigami techniques after forming 2D structures with strategically-placed cuts made by conventional semiconductor fabrication methods http://www.northwestern.edu/newscenter/stories/2015/09/3d-fabrication.html. Fundamentally this represents a new set of design rules for transforming most 2D electronics and photonics surfaces into complex 3D shapes. Second, again taking inspiration from Japanese Kirigami techniques, new 2D solar panels with strategic cuts are able to bend and flex in three dimensions to quickly alter the orientation of the solar cell’s surface towards the sun for improved efficiency http://ns.umich.edu/new/multimedia/videos/23109-inspired-by-art-lightweight-solar-cells-track-the-sun

8. Better Machine Learning Language Parsing
A new machine-learning system can distinguish not just words but lower-level units in language such as phonemes and syllables http://news.mit.edu/2015/learning-spoken-language-phoneme-data-0914. Unlike other comparable systems this one is unsupervised and doesn’t rely on human expert annotations, and it should enable better handling of rare languages and more accurate determination between different accents or pronunciations. Interesting assumptions built into the system include its use of a noisy channel and that word frequency will follow a power-law distribution, a phenomenon that was covered wonderfully by Vsauce recently https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=fCn8zs912OE.

9. 3D Printing Graphene Filament and Nerve Guides
First, a new start-up company Graphene 3D Lab has launched a graphene-based conductive polymer filament for use in 3D printers and which can help produce conductive components and electronic devices (a battery was produced as a demonstration product) and the material claims a conductivity 25 times better than comparable filaments http://spectrum.ieee.org/nanoclast/semiconductors/materials/graphene-filament-enables-fabrication-of-electronic-devices-with-3d-printing. Second, 3D printed silicone structures loaded with specific biochemical growth promoters act as personalised nerve growth guides to help restore nerve function and movement after damage and was successfully tested in rats http://phys.org/news/2015-09-d-regrow-complex-nerves-injury.html

10. Tuning Cheap Catalysts for Different Reactions
A new multi-purpose catalyst platform is based on cheap graphite, the edges of which are functionalised by binding different compounds whose composition and quantity generate a specific catalytic framework able to accelerate specific reactions http://news.mit.edu/2015/inexpensive-new-catalysts-fine-tuned-0916. The approach combines both heterogeneous and molecular electrocatalysts and ultimately aims to replace expensive catalysts across a range of different industrial chemical processes including fuel cells, carbon capture, and compound synthesis. The basic materials and processes exploit materials and systems that are already employed at industrial scale, which should facilitate scale-up. 

Archive: http://www.scitechdigest.net/2015/09/dna-origami-polymers-sonogenetic.html
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I have lost a friend to cystic fibrosis and i would like to help her by spreading the word and gaining possible support for her. In hopes she can go on to live a long and normal life. 
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You are what you eat. #GMO  
In a new study published in the peer reviewed Public Library of Science (PLOS), researchers emphasize that there is sufficient evidence that meal-derived DNA fragments carry complete genes that can enter into the human circulation system through an unknown mechanism. (0) I wonder if the scientists at these biotech corporations have already identified this method? [...]
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Weird how this is trending all over twitter but I haven't seen a single thing on Google+. 

Is the rest of the internet over reacting or do G+ users just not want to talk about it?
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If you feel that you are at risk, not many doctors will allow you to test for glyphosate, a known contributor to cancer. This website has a link to a company, with instructions, on how to test you and your family.
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Remember, Donald Rumsfeld Announced $2.3 Trillion was "missing from the Pentagon budget sheets" on 9/10/2001 (the day before 9/11)
Republicans have forced devastating cuts to vital programs like food stamps and Meals on Wheels to safeguard against “fraud” and “waste.”

But here’s the real fraud: A new investigative report by Reuters shows that the Defense Department waste is so astonishingly bad that the Pentagon doesn’t know how much money it has, where it comes from, or where it goes.

Sign the petition telling Congress: Stop all spending cuts and audit the Defense Department.

We will hand deliver the signatures to Senate Budget Chair Patty Murray (D-WA) and Senate Appropriations Chair Barbara Mikulski (D-MD) who have the subpoena power to start an investigation like this. Please click here to sign the petition.

Just how bad is the waste? Faulty and fraudulent accounting across the Defense Department is so bad that no one actually knows how much money the Pentagon has, how much of it is spent, how much is wasted, how much is stolen, or how much was spent on what it was intended for.

You read that right: No one knows how much money the Defense Department has or spends, or where is goes—not even the Defense Department itself.

And the accounting problems aren’t just money related. Apparently the Pentagon doesn’t know how many weapons it has either--leading them to buy more arms and munitions than they need because they can’t account for the ones they have.

The Defense Department receives one-half of all money appropriated by Congress every year—but it can’t account for any of it. Meanwhile, Republicans have been demanding more cuts to programs like food stamps. It’s outrageous and it needs to stop.

Sign the petition: No more cuts. Audit the Defense Department.
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Decent article on the subject of #GMO  's
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What could the government do with your cell phone location data? An ACLU video explains: just about everything.
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The precipitous loss of native vegetation across the United States has led to a dramatic decline of insect populations.
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Thanks for pointing me to this. I live by a railtrack(green corridor).this year they cleared the verges and cut 'their' half of the branches off a hazel up against my fence.then the neighbours butchered another quarter as branches were blocking light.only my quarter remains.i try to see it as a symbol of hope-the tree keeps trying to grow- but despair lurks!
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Digital Journal is a digital media news network with thousands of Digital Journalists in 200 countries around the world. Join us!
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