jjhunter: Watercolor of daisy with blue dots zooming around it like Bohr model electrons (Default)
[personal profile] jjhunter
A neat bit of engineering in this press release from MIT today, One-two punch knocks out aggressive tumors.
To improve Doxil’s effectiveness, Hammond’s team wanted to combine it with another type of therapy known as RNA interference (RNAi), which uses very short strands of RNA to block the expression of specific genes inside a living cell.

The researchers used a technique called layer-by-layer assembly to coat the Doxil particles with one layer of siRNA mixed with a positively charged polymer that helps to stabilize the RNA. This layer contains up to 3,500 siRNA molecules, each targeted to block a gene that allows cancer cells to pump the drug molecules out of the cells.

One of the major challenges that researchers have faced in developing RNAi as a cancer treatment is getting the particles to survive in the bloodstream long enough to reach their intended targets. To overcome this, the MIT particles include an outer coating of hyaluronic acid. These molecules absorb water, allowing the nanoparticles to flow through blood vessels undisturbed, Hammond says.

“This stealth layer becomes a cushion of water surrounding the nanoparticle, which allows it to go through the bloodstream as if it were water,” Hammond says. “That makes it circulate much more effectively.”
n.b. for more info on RNA interference, see this NIH factsheet.
tassosss: Oh, Mine Eyes! (Rygel)
[personal profile] tassosss
So I've been a bit obsessed with the Mars Curiosity landing that is happening Sunday night/Monday morning and I thought I'd share the love.

Where to watch the landing:
NASA TV streaming online
NASA TV schedule

Times Square NYC

When to watch:
Coverage will of course be throughout the day on August 5. The actual landing time is about 1:31 AM Eastern Aug 6/ 10:31 PM Pacific Aug 5 (Time zone converter)

[personal profile] nanila posted a few days ago about how the landing is going to happen. Under the cut is the JPL vid that is crazy and awesome about the crazy awesome the engineers are attempting.

How Curiosity will land, or. the Seven Minutes of Terror )

The science goals of Curiosity are to see if the ingredients to life are present on the surface. She's carrying 176 lbs of science equipment (compared to 11 lbs on Spirit and Opportunity) and will be doing analytical chemistry on the different sedimentary layers in Gale Crater. The video by the American Chemical Society below the cut explains it better than I can.

Chemistry: on Mars! )
nanila: fulla starz (lolcat: science)
[personal profile] nanila
Since Curiosity is soon to make its necessarily complicated landing on the surface of Mars, I thought I’d share the lecture notes I made when I went to the Royal Aeronautical Society (not to be confused with the Royal Astronomical Society) a couple of weeks ago. The lecture was given by Matt Wallace, Lead Systems Engineer for Curiosity at NASA-JPL. It was therefore tech-focused rather than science-focused. Click to read the lecture summary on my personal journal.
nanila: (old-skool: science!)
[personal profile] nanila
Sarah Mukherjee, former BBC environment correspondent, gave a lecture at the Judge Business School in Cambridge, UK last year. (A summary and embedded video of the lecture can be viewed here.) It’s about why government action to mitigate climate change has been so slow.

She attributed it to three factors:

1) Constant wavering of public opinion, which has much more influence over political rhetoric and action than actual scientific fact

2) The close ties between producers of traditional print media - read only by a relatively small audience - and politicians

3) Too many cooks spoiling the broth of mitigation advocacy, in the form of excessive numbers of disorganised participants at climate summits like the one in Copenhagen in 2009.

She suggests a few solutions in her lecture. She argues that scientists haven’t made enough of an effort to find long-term trends demonstrating that change is happening that are meaningful to laypersons. An example might be showing that the timing of a harvest festival has been getting steadily earlier over the course of 30-40 years. She makes a case for investment in schemes that implement renewable energy sources. She also argues that radical change to the education system is needed. She goes so far as to suggest that grammar schools be brought back in the original form so that bright poor children have more chances to participate in policy-making, rather than having the same wealthy elite embedded in politics, media and think tanks.

Ms Mukherjee doesn’t seem particularly hopeful that any of this would actually happen before the lights go out or before coastal Britain starts sinking into the sea. Given the relatively short-term focus of most people’s concerns - keeping themselves and their children healthy, fixing the house, paying the bills - it’s unlikely that sufficient measures will be taken in time to prevent such dramatic events.

So, how can we prevent them? Sarah Mukherjee didn’t discuss this in her lecture, but one potential way to mitigate the drastic effects of climate change - assuming they come to pass - is with a drastic solution: geoengineering. My partner is involved with a project to study one such Plan D. Under this scheme, the warming of the planet would be halted by the injection of a layer of aerosol particles into the stratosphere. If this sounds desperately risky to you, good. It should. It would be an enormous gamble with potentially unforeseen side effects. If the wrong aerosol were chosen or if the injection site were poorly chosen, it could destroy the ozone layer or trigger violent changes in weather patterns. If, however, the worst-case scenarios in climate change predictions come to pass, such as massive flooding destroying the land we live on, then we have to at least consider how to stop them. The more we’ve thought about and tested them to see if they work, the better.

Geoengineering is still in its infancy, with most of the proposed schemes being in the purely hypothetical stage. But as the idea that we already have the tools to control the Earth’s climate takes hold, I think it’s inevitable that we’ll explore it. As Motoko Kusanagi said in Ghost in the Shell, “If man realises technology is within his reach, he achieves it, like it’s damn near instinctive.” We will learn to do this, as we did with nuclear fission. We have to hope that we need never use them, though. If we must infuse the global stratosphere with aerosol to cool the planet and find that it has an unforeseen side effect, we cannot undo it quickly. This new avenue of research merits exploration, but it also merits a large degree of caution before it is seriously considered a viable global solution to climate change.
dracodraconis: (Default)
[personal profile] dracodraconis
I'm more of a researcher than a scientist, working on standards for 3D imaging systems, but still have a fascination with science. I've turned my journal into a random collection of articles that I pick up from a variety of science feeds, mostly in medicine, environmental science, space, robotics, archeology, and material science among others. I have a doctorate in engineering and a degree in mathematics, and used to work as a statistician in food science and veterinary epidemiology in the 1990s before going into engineering. 


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