Popular Science magazine lauds San Diego innovations
For more than a quarter century, Popular Science magazine has devoted its December issue to the “Best of What’s New.” Two innovations out of UC San Diego are among this year’s 100 awardees.
• The Large High Performance Outdoor Shake Table, the biggest outdoor shake table in the world, can create realistic simulations of the most devastating earthquakes ever recorded. Able to handle structures weighing up to 2200 tons, the table has tested everything from wind turbines, to masonry, wood-frame and precast concrete buildings, as well as non-structural building elements, such as stairs, elevators, and hospital equipment. The shake table is housed at the Englekirk Structural Engineering Center in Scripps Ranch.
• SkySweeper is a robot designed to inch along utility lines, searching for damage and other problems that require repairs. Made of off-the-shelf electronics and plastic parts created with an inexpensive 3D printer, the prototype cost less than $1,000 to build making it an affordable alternative to industrial robots currently used to inspect power lines. SkySweeper was designed in the UCSD Coordinated Robotics Lab.
—More information at http://bit.ly/1gOdsRC
Key part of deadly Nipah virus revealed
What began as a summer internship project designed for an undergraduate student evolved into a one-year study of one of the world’s deadliest, but little known, viruses.
Researchers at The Scripps Research Institute (TSRI) have now solved the structure of a key protein in the Nipah virus – showing how key pieces of the virus’s machinery are oriented and tethered together – which could pave the way for the development of a much-needed antiviral drug.
The Nipah virus is an emerging pathogen found in Southeast Asia. The first outbreak was in 1997, followed by yearly outbreaks since then, with increasing mortality rates. Carried by fruit bats, the virus causes only mild illness in pigs, dogs, cats, horses, goats and sheep, which also spread the disease. But in humans, lethality has ranged from an initial 40 percent to 70 percent and, in some cases, 100 percent. The medical-thriller movie “Contagion” is based on outbreaks of the Nipah virus.
—Findings published in the Journal of Virology. More information at http://bit.ly/HXTtS0
Secrets of light-emitting sea worm
Scientists at Scripps Institution of Oceanography at UC San Diego are unraveling the mechanisms behind a little-known marine worm that produces a dazzling bioluminescent display in the form of puffs of blue light released into seawater. Found around the world in muddy environments, the “parchment tube worm”—so-called because of the opaque, cocoon-like cylinders where it makes its home—produces the light by secreting a slimy bioluminescent mucus.
In one study, researchers characterized specific features of the worm’s light, tracing back its generation to a specific “photoprotein” tied to bioluminescence. (Finding published in the journal “Physiological and Biochemical Zoology.”) Another study focused on the general biochemistry and optical properties of the light production showing that the mucus produces a long-lasting glow of blue light unique to the shallow coastal environment where bioluminescence is usually produced as short-lived flashes of green-spectrum light.
Most intriguing of all is the discovery that riboflavin (AKA vitamin B2) is a key source of the light production. The worms are not able to produce riboflavin on their own — only plants and microbes can do this — therefore the worms must acquire the vitamin through a food source or from symbiosis with bacteria. (This study published in the journal “Photochemistry and Photobiology.”)
Further investigations are targeting intricacies of the chemical reactions behind the light production and methods to synthesize it in the laboratory.
—More information at http://bit.ly/HW3H5j
- Robots create 3D thermal images for firefighting
- Scientists learn cancer cells rewire metabolism to survive
- Scientists study binge-drinking rats to better understand mechanisms of addiction
- Research Report: Rare natural product a potent pain killer
- Research Report: Stress signal in cancer cells aids tumor growth
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