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Life Sciences

Study: Larger sample sizes needed to increase reproducibility in neuroscience studies

Small sample sizes in studies using functional MRI to investigate brain connectivity and function are common in neuroscience, despite years of warnings that such studies likely lack sufficient statistical power. A new analysis reveals that task-based fMRI experiments involving typical sample sizes of about 30 participants are only modestly replicable. This means that independent efforts to repeat the experiments are as likely to challenge as to confirm the original results.

Study: Two ancient populations that diverged in the Americas later ‘reconverged’

A new genetic study of ancient individuals in the Americas and their contemporary descendants finds that two populations that diverged from one another 18,000 to 15,000 years ago remained apart for millennia before mixing again. This historic “reconvergence” occurred before or during their expansion to the southern continent.

Study: Disease-causing stomach bug attacks energy generation in host cells

Researchers report in a new study that the bacterium Helicobacter pylori – a major contributor to gastritis, ulcers and stomach cancer – resists the body’s immune defenses by shutting down energy production within the cells of the stomach lining that serve as a barrier to infection.

3-D printed sugar scaffolds offer sweet solution for tissue engineering, device manufacturing

University of Illinois engineers built a 3-D printer that offers a sweet solution to making detailed structures that commercial 3-D printers can’t: Rather than a layer-upon-layer solid shell, it produces a delicate network of thin ribbons of hardened isomalt, the type of sugar alcohol used to make throat lozenges. The water-soluble, biodegradable glassy sugar structures have multiple applications in biomedical engineering, cancer research and device manufacturing.

Study: Ancient mound builders carefully timed their occupation of coastal Louisiana site

A study of ancient mound builders who lived hundreds of years ago on the Mississippi River Delta near present-day New Orleans offers new insights into how Native peoples selected the landforms that supported their villages and earthen mounds – and why these sites were later abandoned.

New technique can track drug and gene delivery to cells

University of Illinois researchers say they now know how to track and map drug and gene delivery vehicles to evaluate which are most effective at infiltrating cells and getting to their targets, insight that could guide development of new pharmaceutical agents. The researchers described their tracking system and their findings on the most effective delivery vehicles in the journal Nature Communications. 

Brazilians with less education more likely to report being in poor health, study finds

Brazilians with less education are more likely to self-report as being in poor health, according to a study using data from nationwide surveys distributed every five years from 1998 to 2013. The study also found that general subjective health did not improve over the study period, even though more people gained education throughout the study, indicating that other factors associated with poor education may need to be addressed to improve self-perceptions of health.

Team achieves two-electron chemical reactions using light energy, gold

Scientists report they can now drive two-electron chemical reactions, bringing them one step closer to building a carbon-recycling system that can harvest solar energy to efficiently convert CO2 and water into liquid fuels.

Study shows how bacteria guide electron flow for efficient energy generation

Biochemists at the University of Illinois have isolated a protein supercomplex from a bacterial membrane that, like a battery, generates a voltage across the bacterial membrane. The voltage is used to make ATP, a key energy currency of life. The new findings, reported in the journal Nature, will inform future efforts to obtain the atomic structures of large membrane protein supercomplexes.

Elastic microspheres expand understanding of embryonic development and cancer cells

A new technique that uses tiny elastic balls filled with fluorescent nanoparticles aims to expand the understanding of the mechanical forces that exist between cells, researchers report. A University of Illinois-led team has demonstrated the quantification of 3-D forces within cells living in petri dishes as well as live specimens. This research may unlock some of the mysteries related to embryonic development and cancer stem cells, i.e., tumor-repopulating cells.

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