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Gizmorama - March 19, 2018

Good Morning,


Ready to go on a fantastic voyage? Technology has been developed that would allow a single molecule to be tracked traveling through the body. Have gut, will travel.

Learn about this and more interesting stories from the scientific community in today's issue.

Until Next Time,
Erin


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*-- New technology promises to track single molecules traveling through the body --*

Scientists at Duke University have developed technology that could soon allow researchers to track a single drug molecule as it travels through the human body.

The technology uses a chemical tag that causes the host molecule to light up under magnetic resonance imaging. When the molecule interacts with other molecules inside the body, the MRI tag's fluorescence changes frequency.

The technology could allow researchers to better understand how a drug is metabolized by the body.

"MRI methods are very sensitive to small changes in the chemical structure, so you can actually use these tags to directly image chemical transformations," Thomas Theis, an assistant research professor in Duke's chemistry department, said in a news release.

MRI tags aren't new, but Duke scientists have developed a more precise and versatile way to attach tags to target molecules, using a kind of chemical velcro.

"The tags are like lightbulbs covered in Velcro," said Duke grad student Junu Bae. "We attach the other side of the Velcro to the target molecule, and once they find each other they stick."

The velcro technique makes the tags bioorthogonal, meaning they stick only to the target molecules and ignore all others.

When the tag binds with its molecular target, the chemical reaction produces a unique form of nitrogen gas. Scientists say the gaseous byproduct could prove useful when investigating problems with the pulmonary system.

"One could dream up a lot of potential applications for the nitrogen gas, but one that we have been thinking about is lung imaging," Theis said.

Researchers detailed their new technology in the journal Science Advances.

Scientists are now working to ensure the tags can survive the different chemical environments found in the human body. They're also working to boost the intensity with which the molecular tags light up.



*-- Elon Musk plans to launch spacecraft for Mars in 2019 --*

Tesla and SpaceX founder Elon Musk said Sunday that he is on track to launch a spacecraft for Mars by next year.

"We are building the first ship, or interplanetary ship, right now," Musk said during a question and answer session at the SXSW festival in Austin, Texas. "And we'll probably be able to do short flights, short up and down flights, probably some time in the first half of next year."

Musk said that his ship -- the Big Falcon Rocket -- will be capable of greatly reducing the average cost of a spaceflight as far as Mars in large part because it will be reusable.

"This question of reusability is so fundamental to rocketry," Musk said. "It is the fundamental breakthrough that's needed."

After a series of short flights, Musk said he hopes to have a cargo mission land on Mars by 2022.

Musk said the goal is to begin a human colony on Mars and the first spaceflights there will begin to plant those seeds.

"Once you can get there, the opportunity is immense," Musk said. "We're going to do our best to get there and then make sure there's an environment in which entrepreneurs can flourish."

In September, Musk said the Big Falcon Rocket could also one day be used for travel to different points on earth, with the possibility of flights from New York City to Shanghai taking less then 40 minutes.

***

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