SciTech Briefs

New technology improves detection of blood clots

Currently, there is no one method used to locate a blood clot in the body. Instead, ultrasound, magnetic resonance imaging, and computed tomography are used to view the legs, heart, and lungs, respectively. A team of researchers at the Martinos Center for Biomedical Imaging at Massachusetts General Hospital, including faculty member Peter Caravan, has developed a new method that could identify blood clots in the body with a single full-body scan.

Caravan’s team created a blood clot probe by attaching a radionuclide, which can be detected anywhere in the body by positron emission tomography (PET), to a peptide that binds specifically to fibrin, which is found in blood clots. The team tested several probes with various radionuclides in rats, and is now focusing on the fibrin binding probe #8 (FBP8) that uses copper-64 as the radionuclide and has been determined to be most efficient. The team hopes to begin human testing in the fall.

Source: Science Daily

Curbed carbon emissions could save farmers billions of dollars

Economist Brent Boehlert, a research affiliate of MIT, along with a team of researchers, has estimated that curbed carbon emissions could save farmers billions of dollars by 2100 by reducing the frequency and severity of droughts.

Boehlert and colleagues analyzed the effect of temperature and rainfall changes on droughts, and estimated that farmers will save approximately 980 million dollars annually by 2050 if large-scale carbon emission cuts are made that keep atmospheric carbon dioxide concentrations below 500 parts per million (ppm), as opposed to 1750 ppm, which is the expected atmospheric carbon dioxide concentration if no measures are taken. Less drastic cuts that keep carbon dioxide concentrations below 600 ppm would save 390 million dollars annually.

Source: Science News

Flexible electronics offer wide variety of applications

Researchers at the Air Force Research Laboratory at Wright-Patterson Air Force Base are now able to replace rigid circuit boards with flexible electronics by placing a thin silicon integrated circuit, only a few hundred nanometers thick, on a bendable plastic-like substrate.
This bendable format allows circuitry to be placed in tight spaces or curved surfaces, such as airplane wings or a person’s skin. The research team at the Wright-Patterson Air Force Base are looking into a variety of applications for this new technology, including aircraft applications measuring stresses and strains. The same technology is also being investigated as a way to monitor pilots’ health. A wearable biosensor patch that monitors the body’s heartbeat, hydration, and temperature could indicate fatigue or cognitive problems. In both cases, information could be relayed to a ground crew through the use of a small embedded antenna. The system could also monitor conditions of bridges and other infrastructure.

Source: Science Daily

Chinese writing on cave helps predict drought

Sebastian Breitenbach, a climate scientist at the University of Cambridge, along with a group of researchers, has found writing on the wall of Dayu Cave in the Qinling Mountains of central China that records information about droughts in the region between 1520 and 1920. The research team also analyzed stalagmites in Dayu Cave.

By analyzing stable isotopes of oxygen, carbon, uranium, and other elements, the researchers determined that the years which the cave writing cited as years with little rainfall, correlated with higher oxygen and carbon isotope ratios. Using this discovery, the team created a precipitation model for the region. The model aligned with a drought in the 1990s, and predicted a drought in the late 2030s.

Source: New York Times

Drones are poor choice for monitoring wildlife

Drones, or unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs), are becoming a popular method for studying wildlife, yet it has been suggested that they might cause stress or harm to the animals being studied. Mark Ditmer of the University of Minnesota, St. Paul, along with other researchers, studied the effect of a small UAV on four black bears, which were fitted with GPS collars and heart monitors.

The researchers found that the bears’ heart rates rose drastically when the UAV was flown overhead. They also discovered that the animals’ response to the UAV was stronger when the sound of the UAV approaching was masked by the wind. All four heart rates had returned to normal approximately 30 minutes after the UAV flew overhead. The researchers concluded that the animals were slightly, but not extremely, stressed by the UAV. They did note, however, that the bears being studied live in an area heavily impacted by humans, and that wild animals might have a much stronger reaction.

Source: Science News

New galaxy collision provides insight on collision rings

A team of astronomers at the University of Hong Kong and the University of Manchester have discovered a new galaxy collision, which occurs when two galaxies of similar mass collide and the resulting shockwaves form new stars. The galaxy collision, named Kathryn’s Wheel, is 30 million light years away, which is about seven times closer to the Milky Way than any other galaxy collision found to date. The collision was observed with the UK Schmidt Telescope in Australia during a wide field survey of the Southern Milky Way. The low mass of the galaxy collision suggests that collision rings can form around smaller galaxies than originally thought. Because smaller galaxies are more common, this implies that collision rings could be up to ten times more common than previously thought. The researchers intend to study the collision further with larger telescopes.

Source: Science Daily