For Altaeros Energies, a startup launched out of MIT, the sky’s the limit when it comes to wind power.
Founded by alumni Ben Glass ’08, SM ’10 and Adam Rein MBA ’10, Altaeros has developed the world’s first commercial airborne wind turbine, which uses a helium-filled shell to float as high as a skyscraper and capture the stronger, steadier winds available at that altitude.
We all know Usain Bolt is one of the fastest people on Earth. Now, students have shown his superhuman speeds would actually allow him to fly like a bird on one of Saturn’s moons while wearing a wingsuit.
The world-record holding sprinter has reached top speeds of 12.27 meters per second, which would be fast enough for him to take off on Titan while wearing a regular wingsuit.
Researchers from the Univ. of Alberta are abuzz after using fruit flies to find new ways of taking advantage of caffeine’s lethal effects on cancer cells — results that could one day be used to advance cancer therapies for people.
Previous research has established that caffeine interferes with processes in cancer cells that control DNA repair, a finding that has generated interest in using the stimulant as a chemotherapy treatment. But given the toxic nature of caffeine at high doses, researchers from the faculties of medicine and dentistry and science instead opted to use it to identify genes and pathways responsible for DNA repair.
A new study looking at the potential health benefits of organic versus non-organic food found that fruit flies fed an organic diet recorded better health outcomes than flies fed a nonorganic diet. The study from the lab of biologist Johannes Bauer, Southern Methodist Univ., found that fruit flies raised on diets of organic foods performed better on several tests for general health.
“While these findings are certainly intriguing, what we now need to determine is why the flies on the organic diets did better, especially since not all the organic diets we tested provided the same positive health outcomes,” says Bauer, principal investigator for the study.
University Training Package Shows How to Best Study Fruit Flies
The Univ. of Manchester is leading the way when it comes to fly research with the publication of the first ever basic training package to teach students and scientists how to best use the fruit fly, Drosophila, for research. It’s hoped it will encourage more researchers working on a range of conditions from cancer to Alzheimer’s disease to use the humble fly.
The unique scheme has been put together by Andreas Prokop from the Faculty of Life Sciences alongside John Roote from the Department of Genetics at Cambridge Univ.. A paper outlining the package has been published in the February edition of the journal G3.
Fly Research Explains Humans’ Most Mysterious Physical Sense
Stroke the soft body of a newborn fruit fly larva ever-so-gently with a freshly plucked eyelash, and it will respond to the tickle by altering its movement — an observation that has helped scientists at the Univ. of California, San Francisco (UCSF) uncover the molecular basis of gentle touch, one of the most fundamental but least well understood of humans’ senses.
Our ability to sense gentle touch is known to develop early and to remain ever-present in our lives, from the first loving caresses our mothers lavish on us as newborns to the fading tingle we feel as our lives slip away. But until now, scientists have not known exactly how humans and other organisms perceive such sensations.
Scientists have observed the neurological mechanism behind temperature-dependent — febrile — seizures by genetically engineering fruit flies to harbor a mutation analogous to one that causes epileptic seizures in people. In addition to contributing the insight on epilepsy, their new study highlights the first use of genetic engineering to swap a human genetic disease mutation into a directly analogous gene in a fly.
In a newly reported set of experiments that show the value of a particularly precise but difficult genetic engineering technique, researchers at Brown Univ. and the Univ. of California, Irvine have created a Drosophila fruit fly model of epilepsy to discern the mechanism by which temperature-dependent seizures happen.
With Type 2 human diabetes climbing at alarming rates in the United States, researchers are seeking treatments for the disease, which has been linked to obesity and poor diet. Now biologists at Southern Methodist Univ. report they have developed a new tool that will help researchers better understand this deadly disease.
By manipulating the diets of healthy adult fruit flies, the researchers developed flies that are insulin-resistant, a hallmark of Type 2 diabetes. Until now, researchers largely have relied on rats, mice and other animals as model systems for exploring the metabolic and genetic changes that take place in diabetics.
“This video shows a fruit fly embryo from when it was about two-and-a-half hours old until it walked away from the microscope as a larva, 20 hours later,” says Lars Hufnagel, from the European Molecular Biology Laboratory (EMBL) in Heidelberg, Germany. “It shows all the hallmarks of fruit fly embryonic development in three dimensions.”
The video was obtained using a new microscope created by Hufnagel’s lab and described online in Nature Methods. In it, you can watch as cells on the embryo’s belly dive in to form what’s known as the ventral furrow. Other cells can then be seen moving around the embryo’s rear end to its back, in a process called convergent extension. And later — when an opening appears in the embryo’s back — see the surrounding cells close the gap in a process known as dorsal closure.
Giant insects that ruled prehistoric skies for millions of years may have met their end due to the evolution of predatory birds, researchers say. Gigantic insects once dominated the Earth. About 300 million years ago, during the late Carboniferous and early Permian periods, the largest flying insects known, the predatory dragonfly-like griffinflies, had wingspans of up to 28 inches, about the same as the modern wood duck.
The leading theory of how flying insects reached such stupendous sizes has to do with past periods of high oxygen concentrations in the atmosphere, reaching up to some 50 percent richer than today. All this extra oxygen is thought to have supported the energy-hungry metabolisms of flying insects, helping them grow to titanic maximum sizes.
However, researchers found this pattern changed dramatically about 150 million years ago, with insect size shrinking despite rising oxygen levels. They note this shift coincided with the first appearance of birds in the fossil record. They suggest that given the aerial threat posed by feathered predators, the driving force in the evolution of flying insects became the need for maneuverability, thus favoring smaller body size.
For the first time, scientists have created a satellite-guided plan to effectively control the tsetse fly — an African killer that spreads “sleeping sickness” disease among humans and animals and wipes out $4.5 billion in livestock every year.
Michigan State Univ. researchers developed the plan using a decade’s worth of NASA satellite images of Kenyan landscape and by monitoring tsetse movement. With unprecedented precision, the plan can tell where and when to direct eradication efforts. Current control efforts in Kenya are ineffective and waste money by targeting tsetse-free areas, says Joseph Messina, associate professor of geography. Messina is lead researcher on the project, funded by the National Institutes of Health, to attack the tsetse fly.
In collaboration with colleagues from Portugal and Spain, researchers at the Max Planck Institute for Chemical Ecology have developed an apparatus that automatically applies odors to an airstream, while filming and analyzing the behavior of insects simultaneously. The system is called Flywalk and consists of glass tubes, airstream regulators, and a video camera. The reactions of 15 flies to up to eight different odorant signals can be tested at the same time. A first series of tests revealed that male and female fruit flies responded differently to attractant substances. The tests confirmed that male flies were no longer attracted to females that had already mated with another male because of the particular odor, cis-vaccenyl acetate, surrounding these females. Two further publications report on the processing of odor signals in the insect brain: NATURE Scientific Reports; Cell Reports; Journal of Experimental Biology.
Black flies drink blood and spread disease such as river blindness-creating misery with their presence. A Univ. of Georgia study, however, proves that the pesky insects can be useful.
Don Champagne, an entomology professor with the UGA College of Agricultural and Environmental Sciences, discovered a way to use the black fly’s blood-sucking tactics for medical advancement. The results of his research were published in the journal PLoS One. “In order to feed on blood, these insects have to contend with our natural defense agents against blood loss-like clotting,” Champagne says. “Many insects use salivary injections packed with proteins to inhibit the enzymes in our bodies from reacting the way they normally would to injury.”
Scientists from the Florida campus of The Scripps Research Institute have shown in animal models that the loss of memory that comes with aging is not necessarily a permanent thing. In a new study published this week in an advance, online edition of the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Science, Ron Davis, chair of the Department of Neuroscience at Scripps Florida, and Ayako Tonoki-Yamaguchi, a research associate in Davis’s lab, took a close look at memory and memory traces in the brains of both young and old fruit flies.
What they found is that like other organisms—from mice to humans—there is a defect that occurs in memory with aging. In the case of the fruit fly, the ability to form memories lasting a few hours (intermediate-term memory) is lost due to age-related impairment of the function of certain neurons. Intriguingly, the scientists found that stimulating those same neurons can reverse these age-related memory defects.
Fruit flies infected with a blood-borne parasite consume alcohol to self-medicate, a behavior that greatly increases their survival rate. “We believe our results are the first to show that alcohol consumption can have a protective effect against infectious disease, and in particular against blood-borne parasites,” says Todd Schlenke, an evolutionary geneticist at Emory Univ. who led the research.