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Gizmorama - June 20, 2018

Good Morning,

Scientists have created a new technique where light is used to control protein activity, which dictates changes in the shape of tissue. I don't what any of that means, but I am legitimately intrigued, and fascinated by this health development.

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

Until Next Time,

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*-- New experiment to aid study of dark matter --*

Astronomers can only intimate the presence of dark matter by measuring its gravitational effect on regular matter. As such, dark matter remains poorly understood.

In search of new insights into the nature of dark matter, researchers at the Max Planck Institute for Radio Astronomy in Bonn, Germany, have proposed a new experiment, a test to confirm the universality of free fall toward dark matter.

Some astronomers have previously suggested an additional force mediates interactions between regular and dark matter -- a "fifth force."

Astronomers have attempted to test for this fifth force by measuring the acceleration of the Earth-Moon orbit toward the center of the Milky Way, home to a spherical dark matter halo. Now, scientists are proposing a fifth force test for a neutron star.

"There are two reasons that binary pulsars open up a completely new way of testing for such a fifth force between normal matter and dark matter," Lijing Shao, researcher at the Max Planck Institute for Radio Astronomy, MPIfR, said in a news release. "First, a neutron star consists of matter which cannot be constructed in a laboratory, many times denser than an atomic nucleus and consisting nearly entirely of neutrons. Moreover, the enormous gravitational fields inside a neutron star, billion times stronger than that of the sun, could in principle greatly enhance the interaction with dark matter."

Using radio telescopes, astronomers can precisely measure the neutron stars orbit by tracking the timing of its radio pulses.

In a paper published this week in the journal Physical Review Letters, astronomers propose a neutron star named PSR J1713+0747 as the ideal target for a fifth force test.

Located 3,800 light-years from Earth, PSR J1713+0747 has one of the most stable and predictable rotations in space. The neutron star boasts a rotational period of 4.6 milliseconds and a near-circular, 68-day orbit with a white dwarf companion.

If a fifth force exists, and the neutron star accelerates toward dark matter in a manner different from its acceleration toward its companion, scientists would be able to measure an interference with the binary orbit over time.

"More than 20 years of regular high precision timing with Effelsberg and other radio telescopes of the European Pulsar Timing Array and the North American NANOGrav pulsar timing projects showed with high precision that there is no change in the eccentricity of the orbit," explains Norbert Wex, also from MPIfR. "This means that to a high degree the neutron star feels the same kind of attraction towards dark matter as towards other forms of standard matter."

Scientists hope to locate new targets for a fifth force test in the near future -- targets that can be studied with even more precise instruments.

"We are busily searching for suitable pulsars near large amounts of expected dark matter," said Michael Kramer, director at MPIfR. "The ideal place is the galactic center where we use Effelsberg and other telescopes in the world to have a look as part of our Black Hole Cam project. Once we will have the Square Kilometer Array, we can make those tests super-precise."

*-- Scientists use light to create new tissue shapes --*

Scientists have developed a new technique for controlling the shape of tissue. The method uses light to control protein activity, which dictates changes in tissue shape.

Morphogenesis, the shifting of tissue shapes in an embryo, is essential to healthy development. Using optogenetics, scientists are not only able to better understand the development process, but may also be able to develop new regenerative medicine treatments.

In their latest experiments, researchers at the European Molecular Biology Laboratory in Heidelberg, Germany, used light to replicate epithelial folding, a process during which new cells are reincorporated into into the embryo before differentiating into new types of internal tissues like muscles.

Using the optogenetics technique, scientists triggered epithelial folding among cells that aren't typically involved in the transformation process.

"We've uncoupled the link between the shape and function of a cell," EMBL researcher Stefano De Renzis said in a news release. "This allows us to, for the first time, built tissues in certain shape without affecting the cell's expertise."

Researchers share their breakthrough in a new paper published Monday in the journal Nature Communications.

"The great thing about using optogenetics to guide morphogenesis is that it is a very precise technique," said lead researcher Emiliano Izquierdo. "We were able to define various shapes, and by alternating the timing and strength of illumination, we could control how far the cells folded inwards."

Researchers conducted their experiments using fruit fly embryos, but because the morphogenesis is common among the embryos of almost all living organisms, scientists believe their technique can be used to control tissue development in a human embryo. The optogenetics technique could eventually be used to grow artificial tissues for regenerative medicine.


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