UPI NewsTrack Health and Science News

June 2, 2010 at 5:44 PM
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Bright butterfly wing colors duplicated

CAMBRIDGE, England, June 2 (UPI) -- British scientists say they've found a way to mimic the bright colors found on the wings of tropical butterflies -- a finding that might help prevent forgery.

The researchers said duplicating the striking iridescent colors found on some beetles, butterflies and other insects has proven difficult, partly because rather than relying on pigmentation, the colors are produced by light bouncing off microscopic structures.

The problem was solved by doctoral student Mathias Kolle, working with Professors Ullrich Steiner and Jeremy Baumberg at the University of Cambridge. The researchers studied the Indonesian Peacock or Swallowtail butterfly (Papilio blumei), whose wing scales are composed of intricate, microscopic structures that resemble the inside of an egg carton.

Using a combination of nanofabrication procedures, Kolle and his colleagues said they were able to make structurally identical copies of the butterfly scales, and those copies produced the same vivid colors as the butterflies' wings.

"We have unlocked one of nature's secrets and combined this knowledge with state-of-the-art nanofabrication to mimic the intricate optical designs found in nature," Kolle said. "These artificial structures could be used to encrypt information in optical signatures on banknotes or other valuable items to protect them against forgery."

The research appears in the journal Nature Nanotechnology.

Non-invasive colon tests may be coming

LONDON, June 2 (UPI) -- British researchers say molecular imaging may allow colon polyp detection without the sedatives and laxatives of colonoscopies.

Dr. Stuart Taylor of the University College London and colleagues are testing the combined use of positron emission tomography and computer tomography to provide images of the bowel lining that includes tissue uptake of blood sugar.

Cancerous cells tend to take up more blood sugar than normal tissue and these concentrations can provide evidence of an abnormality such as a malignant bowel polyp.

"If these polyps are detected non-invasively and without the use of bowel preparation and sedatives, investigation can be much easier on patients who would otherwise undergo colonoscopies," Taylor, the study leader, said in a statement.

The colonoscopy effectively detects abnormalities using a telescopic camera to examine the bowel, Taylor says, but it requires bowel preparation.

Taylor and colleagues had 56 patients with no bowel preparation undergo a 1-hour PET and CTC scan. Two weeks later, the same patients had colonoscopies.

The study, published in The Journal of Nuclear Medicine, found the PET and CTC scans detected all the important larger polyps found by the colonoscopy. In addition, the patients reported the combined scan was more comfortable than the colonoscopy.

New, more sensitive, PSA test developed

CHICAGO, June 2 (UPI) -- U.S. scientists say they have developed an ultra-sensitive nanoparticle PSA test that can accurately predict a return of prostate cancer after surgery.

Researchers at Northwestern University's Feinberg School of Medicine and the University International Institute for Nanotechnology said their PSA (prostate-specific antigen) test uses nanoparticle-based technology that might be able to definitively predict after surgery if prostate cancer is cured or if it will recur.

The new test is based on assays invented at Northwestern in the laboratories of Professor Chad Mirkin. It is said to be 300 times more sensitive than currently available commercial tests and can detect a very low level of PSA that indicates the cancer has spread beyond the prostate. The scientists said the test also may pick up cancer recurrence at a much earlier stage, when secondary treatment is most effective for a patient's survival.

"This test may provide early and more accurate answers," said co-principal investigator Dr. C. Shad Thaxton, an assistant professor of urology at Feinberg. "It may allow physicians to act at the earliest and most sensitive time, which we know will provide the patient with the best chance of long- term survival."

The study results were presented Wednesday in San Francisco during the annual meeting of the American Urological Association by Feinberg urology residents Lee Zhao, Dae Kim and Hannah Alphs.

Carolyn Bertozzi wins Lemelson-MIT prize

CAMBRIDGE, Mass., June 2 (UPI) -- Professor Carolyn Bertozzi, a chemical biologist, was named the winner Wednesday of the 2010, $500,000 Lemelson-Massachusetts Institute of Technology Prize.

Bertozzi, who conducts research at both the Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory and the University of California-Berkeley, was honored for achieving extraordinary success with her pioneering inventions in the field of biotechnology.

"Bertozzi's ability to identify unmet needs and craft innovative solutions has led to scientific advances with a broad range of applications," program officials said. "Chemical insights gleaned by Bertozzi have progressed efforts to diagnose and treat diseases such as cancer, inflammatory disorders such as arthritis, and infectious diseases like tuberculosis. Her multi-disciplinary approach has led to significant developments in the ability to engineer living cells and the proteins they produce with defined chemical properties."

Among her accomplishments, Bertozzi invented the world's first bioorthogonal chemical reaction, a technology for labeling biomolecules in living cells or animals. She also invented the genetically encoded aldehyde tag technology, giving scientists a simple method for precision protein engineering,

"(She) transformed the field of chemical biology, creating new industries along the way, and bringing new innovations to fields as disparate as nanoscience, tuberculosis therapy and bone tissue engineering," said Professor Miguel Salmeron, director of the materials science division at the Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory.

Bertozzi will accept the prize during the Lemelson-MIT Program's fourth-annual EurekaFest June 16-19 at MIT.

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