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Engineering

Color-changing sensor detects signs of eye damage in tears

A new point-of-care rapid-sensing device can detect a key marker of eye injury in minutes – a time frame crucial to treating eye trauma.  

University of Illinois researchers developed a gel laden with gold nanoparticles that changes color when it reacts with a teardrop containing ascorbic acid, released from a wound to the eye. In a new study published in the journal Biosensors and Bioelectronics, the researchers used the sensor, called OjoGel, to measure ascorbic acid levels in artificial tears and in clinical samples of fluid from patients’ eyes. 

New CRISPR technique skips over portions of genes that can cause disease

In a new study in cells, University of Illinois researchers have adapted CRISPR gene-editing technology to cause the cell’s internal machinery to skip over a small portion of a gene when transcribing it into a template for protein building. This gives researchers a way not only to eliminate a mutated gene sequence, but to influence how the gene is expressed and regulated. Such targeted editing could one day be useful for treating genetic diseases caused by mutations in the genome, such as Duchenne’s muscular dystrophy, Huntington’s disease or some cancers.

Study: Human wastewater valuable to global agriculture, economics

It may seem off-putting to some, but human waste is full of nutrients that can be recycled into valuable products that could promote agricultural sustainability and better economic independence for some developing countries.

Chemicals that keep drinking water flowing may also cause fouling

Many city drinking water systems add softening agents to keep plumbing free of pipe-clogging mineral buildup. According to new research, these additives may amplify the risk of pathogen release into drinking water by weakening the grip that bacteria – like those responsible for Legionnaires’ disease – have on pipe interiors.  

High-power electronics keep their cool with new heat-conducting crystals

The inner workings of high-power electronic devices must remain cool to operate reliably. High internal temperatures can make programs run slower, freeze or shut down. Researchers at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign and The University of Texas, Dallas have collaborated to optimize the crystal-growing process of boron arsenide – a material that has excellent thermal properties and can effectively dissipate the heat generated in electronic devices.

Study reveals how polymers relax after stressful processing

The polymers that make up synthetic materials need time to de-stress after processing, researchers said. A new study has found that entangled, long-chain polymers in solutions relax at two different rates, marking an advancement in fundamental polymer physics. The findings will provide a better understanding of the physical properties of polymeric materials and critical new insight to how individual polymer molecules respond to high-stress processing conditions.

Study yields a new scale of earthquake understanding

Nanoscale knowledge of the relationships between water, friction and mineral chemistry could lead to a better understanding of earthquake dynamics, researchers said in a new study. Engineers at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign used microscopic friction measurements to confirm that, under the right conditions, some rocks can dissolve and may cause faults to slip. 

DNA enzyme shuffles cell membranes a thousand times faster than its natural counterpart

A new synthetic enzyme, crafted from DNA rather than protein, flips lipid molecules within the cell membrane, triggering a signal pathway that could be harnessed to induce cell death in cancer cells. It is the first such synthetic enzyme to outperform its natural counterparts.

What now with gerrymandering? Are algorithms part of the answer?

The Supreme Court “punted” this week on the issue of partisan gerrymandering, but left the door open to future action. An Illinois professor hopes her research can be part of the solution.

New aircraft-scheduling models may ease air travel frustrations

Flight schedules that allow for a little carefully designed wiggle room could prevent the frustration of cascading airport delays and cancellations. By focusing on the early phases of flight schedule planning and delays at various scales, researchers have developed models to help create schedules that are less susceptible to delays and easier to fix once disrupted.

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