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These Brain Cells Have Bite

by Michael Keller

One could be forgiven for assuming the cells pictured above are neurons, the fundamental units that comprise the brain and nervous system. With branching dendrites growing off central nucleus-containing somas and thin axons reaching out to communicate with other cells, they basically are neurons. 

The thing is that these cells didn’t come from the brain, spinal cord or nerves—they came from teeth. Researchers at Australia’s University of Adelaide have pushed stem cells from the teeth of adult mice to morph into ones very much like neurons. 

They say that though the new cells aren’t quite neurons yet, they can link up into networks with potentially huge benefits for stroke sufferers. They also expect for the cells to become much more like neurons as they refine their technique.

"The reality is, treatment options available to the thousands of stroke patients every year are limited," said Kylie Ellis, who conducted the research as a doctoral student. "Stem cells from teeth have great potential to grow into new brain or nerve cells, and this could potentially assist with treatments of brain disorders, such as stroke."

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Plants Engineered To Produce Insect Perfume Could Be Pesticide Alternative

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by Michael Keller

Swedish and American researchers have successfully engineered plants to produce chemical attractants like those released by insects to find mates. They say their plant factories could be used to lure and trap nuisance bugs as an environmentally friendly alternative to pesticides and synthetically produced attractants.

Using a multistep process to genetically modify a close relative of the tobacco plant, the researchers pushed the plant to produce a molecule that mimics sex pheromones released by females of two moth species that feed on orchard trees. They then deployed traps spiked with the plant-made musk and found that they efficiently caught males of both species.

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Txch This Week: A Windowless Plane With A View

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by Norman Rozenberg

This week on Txchnologist, we looked at new innovations improving current technologies.

First, we looked at a temporary tattoo that can improve workouts. The sensor sticks on skin like a tattoo and monitors athletes’ bodies as they exercise, generating real-time information about performance.

Then, we saw how a GE physicist has created a new way to scan for breast cancer. Her advance, inspired by her own brush with the disease, is designed to more accurately tell if an abnormality is malignant or benign to eliminate the unnecessary stress caused by inconclusive testing.

Ever wonder how figure skaters can glide on the rink so gracefully? The National Science Foundation and NBC Learn have teamed up again, this time to explain the science of ice

Finally, on our radar were the researchers who created the first accurate 3-D model of a strand of curly hair. Understanding how gravity and curly hair interact is important for both engineers and movie animators.

Now we’re bringing you the news and trends we’ve been following this week in the world of science, technology and innovation.

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This Week in Txch

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by Ysabel Yates

While we were examining novel preventions for malaria and zooming in on nature’s syringes this week, a lot of firsts happened in the world of science, technology, and innovation.

Click through to see the advances we’ve been following.

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