Discover the most talked about and latest scientific content & concepts.

Concept: Star Trek: The Next Generation


Newborn telomere length sets telomere length for later life. At birth, telomere length is highly variable among newborns and the environmental factors during in utero life for this observation remain largely unidentified. Obesity during pregnancy might reflect an adverse nutritional status affecting pregnancy and offspring outcomes, but the association of maternal pre-pregnancy body mass index (BMI) with newborn telomere length, as a mechanism of maternal obesity, on the next generation has not been addressed.

Concepts: Childbirth, Infant, Nutrition, Obesity, Mass, Breastfeeding, Body mass index, Star Trek: The Next Generation


The nanoparticle industry is expected to become a trillion dollar business in the near future. Therefore, the unintentional introduction of nanoparticles into the environment is increasingly likely. However, currently applied risk-assessment practices require further adaptation to accommodate the intrinsic nature of engineered nanoparticles. Combining a chronic flow-through exposure system with subsequent acute toxicity tests for the standard test organism Daphnia magna, we found that juvenile offspring of adults that were previously exposed to titanium dioxide nanoparticles exhibit a significantly increased sensitivity to titanium dioxide nanoparticles compared with the offspring of unexposed adults, as displayed by lower 96 h-EC(50) values. This observation is particularly remarkable because adults exhibited no differences among treatments in terms of typically assessed endpoints, such as sensitivity, number of offspring, or energy reserves. Hence, the present study suggests that ecotoxicological research requires further development to include the assessment of the environmental risks of nanoparticles for the next and hence not directly exposed generation, which is currently not included in standard test protocols.

Concepts: Environment, Natural environment, Data, Assessment, Titanium dioxide, Star Trek: The Next Generation, Daphnia, Jonathan Frakes


Restoration of touch after hand amputation is a desirable feature of ideal prostheses. Here, we show that texture discrimination can be artificially provided in human subjects by implementing a neuromorphic real-time mechano-neuro-transduction (MNT), which emulates to some extent the firing dynamics of SA1 cutaneous afferents. The MNT process was used to modulate the temporal pattern of electrical spikes delivered to the human median nerve via percutaneous microstimulation in four intact subjects and via implanted intrafascicular stimulation in one transradial amputee. Both approaches allowed the subjects to reliably discriminate spatial coarseness of surfaces as confirmed also by a hybrid neural model of the median nerve. Moreover, MNT-evoked EEG activity showed physiologically plausible responses that were superimposable in time and topography to the ones elicited by a natural mechanical tactile stimulation. These findings can open up novel opportunities for sensory restoration in the next generation of neuro-prosthetic hands.

Concepts: Sensory system, Somatosensory system, Amputation, Star Trek: The Next Generation, Prosthesis, Proprioception, Hand, Thumb


Next generation sequencing and bioinformatic approaches are increasingly used to quantify microorganisms within populations by analysis of ‘meta-barcode’ data. This approach relies on comparison of amplicon sequences of ‘barcode’ regions from a population with public-domain databases of reference sequences. However, for many organisms relevant ‘barcode’ regions may not have been identified and large databases of reference sequences may not be available. A workflow and software pipeline, ‘MetaGaAP,’ was developed to identify and quantify genotypes through four steps: shotgun sequencing and identification of polymorphisms in a metapopulation to identify custom ‘barcode’ regions of less than 30 polymorphisms within the span of a single ‘read’, amplification and sequencing of the ‘barcode’, generation of a custom database of polymorphisms, and quantitation of the relative abundance of genotypes. The pipeline and workflow were validated in a ‘wild type’ Alphabaculovirus isolate, Helicoverpa armigera single nucleopolyhedrovirus (HaSNPV-AC53) and a tissue-culture derived strain (HaSNPV-AC53-T2). The approach was validated by comparison of polymorphisms in amplicons and shotgun data, and by comparison of predicted dominant and co-dominant genotypes with Sanger sequences. The computational power required to generate and search the database effectively limits the number of polymorphisms that can be included in a barcode to 30 or less. The approach can be used in quantitative analysis of the ecology and pathology of non-model organisms.

Concepts: DNA, Gene, Biology, Population, Population ecology, Sequence, Star Trek: The Next Generation, Helicoverpa armigera


Colloidal-scale assemblies that reconfigure on demand may serve as the next generation of soft “microbots,” artificial muscles, and other biomimetic devices. This requires the precise arrangement of particles into structures that are preprogrammed to reversibly change shape when actuated by external fields. The design and making of colloidal-scale assemblies with encoded directional particle-particle interactions remain a major challenge. We show how assemblies of metallodielectric patchy microcubes can be engineered to store energy through magnetic polarization and release it on demand by microscale reconfiguration. The dynamic pattern of folding and reconfiguration of the chain-like assemblies can be encoded in the sequence of the cube orientation. The residual polarization of the metallic facets on the microcubes leads to local interactions between the neighboring particles, which is directed by the conformational restrictions of their shape after harvesting energy from external magnetic fields. These structures can also be directionally moved, steered, and maneuvered by global forces from external magnetic fields. We illustrate these capabilities by examples of assemblies of specific sequences that can be actuated, reoriented, and spatially maneuvered to perform microscale operations such as capturing and transporting live cells, acting as prototypes of microbots, micromixers, and other active microstructures.

Concepts: Magnetic field, Engineering, Sequence, Polarization, Star Trek: The Next Generation, Next Generation, Cube, Microbotics


Our inability to accurately monitor individual neurons and their synaptic activity precludes fundamental understanding of brain function under normal and various pathological conditions. However, recent breakthroughs in micro- and nano-scale fabrication processes have advanced the development of neuro-electronic hybrid technology. Among such devices are three-dimensional and planar electrodes, offering the advantages of either high fidelity or longer-term recordings respectively. Here, we present the next generation of planar microelectrode arrays with “nano-edges” that enable long-term (≥1 month) and high fidelity recordings at a resolution 15 times higher than traditional planar electrodes. This novel technology enables better understanding of brain function and offers a tremendous opportunity towards the development of future bionic hybrids and drug discovery devices.

Concepts: Nervous system, Time, Neuron, Brain, Economics, Rechargeable battery, Star Trek: The Next Generation, Hybrid vehicle


The fear-avoidance model describes how the belief that pain is a sign of damage leads to pain-related fear and avoidance. But other beliefs may also trigger the fear and avoidance responses described by the model. Experts have called for the next generation of fear avoidance research to explore what beliefs underlie pain-related fear and how they evolve. We have previously described damage beliefs and suffering/functional loss beliefs underlying high pain-related fear in a sample of individuals with chronic back pain. The aim of this study is to identify common and differential factors associated with the beliefs in this sample.

Concepts: Back pain, Belief, Das Model, Star Trek: The Next Generation, Next Generation, Chronic pain, Standard Model, Kanye West


The next generation of radar (radio detection and ranging) systems needs to be based on software-defined radio to adapt to variable environments, with higher carrier frequencies for smaller antennas and broadened bandwidth for increased resolution. Today’s digital microwave components (synthesizers and analogue-to-digital converters) suffer from limited bandwidth with high noise at increasing frequencies, so that fully digital radar systems can work up to only a few gigahertz, and noisy analogue up- and downconversions are necessary for higher frequencies. In contrast, photonics provide high precision and ultrawide bandwidth, allowing both the flexible generation of extremely stable radio-frequency signals with arbitrary waveforms up to millimetre waves, and the detection of such signals and their precise direct digitization without downconversion. Until now, the photonics-based generation and detection of radio-frequency signals have been studied separately and have not been tested in a radar system. Here we present the development and the field trial results of a fully photonics-based coherent radar demonstrator carried out within the project PHODIR. The proposed architecture exploits a single pulsed laser for generating tunable radar signals and receiving their echoes, avoiding radio-frequency up- and downconversion and guaranteeing both the software-defined approach and high resolution. Its performance exceeds state-of-the-art electronics at carrier frequencies above two gigahertz, and the detection of non-cooperating aeroplanes confirms the effectiveness and expected precision of the system.

Concepts: Electromagnetic radiation, Laser, Frequency, Polarization, Star Trek: The Next Generation, Radio, Radar, Ultra-wideband


SUMMARY: We have developed a laboratory information management system (LIMS) for a next generation sequencing (NGS) laboratory within the existing Galaxy platform. The system provides lab technicians standard and customizable sample information forms, barcoded submission forms, tracking of input sample quality, multiplex-capable automatic flow cell design, and automatically generated sample sheets to aid physical flow cell preparation. In addition, the platform provides the researcher with a user friendly interface to create a request, submit accompanying samples, upload sample quality measurements, and access to the sequencing results. As the LIMS is within the Galaxy platform, the researcher has access to all Galaxy analysis tools and workflows. The system reports requests and associated information to a message queuing system, such that information can be posted and stored in external systems, such as a wiki. Through an API, raw sequencing results can be automatically pre-processed and uploaded to the appropriate request folder. Developed for the Illumina HiSeq 2000 instrument, many features are directly applicable to other instruments.Availability and implementation: The code and documentation are available at CONTACT:

Concepts: Star Trek: The Next Generation, USS Enterprise


The growth of next generation sequencing (NGS) has not only dramatically accelerated the pace of research in the field of genomics, but it has also opened the door to personalized medicine and diagnostics. The resulting flood of data has led to the rapid development of large numbers of bioinformatic tools for data analysis, creating a challenging situation for researchers when choosing and configuring a variety of software for their analysis, and for other researchers trying to replicate their analysis. As NGS technology continues to expand from the research environment into clinical laboratories, the challenges associated with data analysis have the potential to slow the adoption of this technology.

Concepts: DNA, Scientific method, Bioinformatics, Molecular biology, Genomics, Research, 2000s music groups, Star Trek: The Next Generation