Discovered: A shot that reduces double chins; sleeping brains act like they're trying to remember something; research à la carte; a dizzying earthquake simulation machine.
The fat shot. People who want a medical solution to losing fat but don't want to undergo invasive liposuction may have a glimmer of hope in new research led by Dr. Ouliana Ziouzenkova from Ohio State University. She and her colleagues have concocted an injection that burns targeted fat deposits in the neck and stomach areas. The shot is full of genetically modified, heat-producing fatty cells extracted from mice. When the body is inundated with these cells, it turns excess calories into heat rather than fat. "If you wanted to remove a small amount of fat under your face like a double chin, or in their arms or legs, you could target these with a single injection," the scientists write in a study published in the journal Biomaterials. Testing the shot on mice, Ziouzenkova found that over-fed mice lost up to 10 percent of their body weight. If trials on fat dogs go well later this year, the scientists hope to explore the possibility of turning their findings into a treatment for humans. [The Telegraph]
To sleep, perchance to remember. Sleep remains one of science's biggest mystery. Even on a basic level, we aren't sure why we need it. The latests study from UCLA professor of neurophysics Mayank R. Mehta doesn't get to the bottom of this looming question, but it does shed light on what our brains are up to while we snooze. Mehta and his colleagues measured activity in the entorhinal cortex (described as the bridge between the neocortex and the cerebral cortex, or the "old" and "new" brain, respectively) of sleeping mice. They found that the region acts as if it's trying to remember something, pointing towards sleep's possible role in memory formation and retention. ""The big surprise here is that this kind of persistent activity is happening during sleep, pretty much all the time," says Mehta. "These results are entirely novel and surprising. In fact, this working memory–like persistent activity occurred in the entorhinal cortex even under anesthesia." This region of the brain is involved in learning, memory and Alzheimers, and has not been studied in connection with sleep until now. [UCLA]
Modeling earthquakes can be fun. With seismologists watching fault lines around the country, nervously anticipating the fearsome Next Big One, earthquake research doesn't sound like the cheeriest of fields. But every now and then researchers get to build elaborate, exciting contraptions like this one, which simulates the slippage of two tectonic plates by spinning a heavy flywheel at high speeds atop two stone disks. By studying the movement of these disks—the friction and acceleration that arises from all the shaking—scientists are better able to understand the effects of earthquakes of magnitudes between the relatively light 4.0 and the potentially disastrous 8.0. These experiments will help scientists better understand in retrospect the total energy released by real-world quakes. Watch the noisy new machine in action below: [Discover]
ReadCube wants to be the iTunes for research. For all the cutting-edge discoveries it constantly churns out, scientific research is stubbornly behind the times in one realm: publishing. Some journals are completely closed off to anyone without a subscription, and prices for à la carte papers can be prohibitively high. The Cambridge, Massachusetts-based founders of ReadCube want to change that. They plan to sell individual studies online for low prices, something like an iTunes for researchers. But will the big journals bite? So far Nature Publishing Group and the University of Utah's library are on board, but the start-up faces steep challenges to providing truly open access to research papers. Nature Publishing Group's marketing director David Hoole doesn't see this clearinghouse as a threat to his company, though. "We are all interested in experimenting with new business models and providing access to the literature in new ways," he says. "Site licenses, generally, still offer the best value for money, where the cost per download can be as little as a few cents. So I don’t think there is any risk to the subscription business from this type of article rental." [The Boston Globe]