News

Harvard scientists use simple materials to create semi-soft robots

Harvard scientists use simple materials to create semi-soft robots

June 13, 2017

At the beginning of the decade, George Whitesides helped rewrite the rules of what a machine could be with the development of biologically inspired “soft robots.” Now he’s poised to rewrite them again, with help from some plastic drinking straws.

Inspired by arthropod insects and spiders, Whitesides and Alex Nemiroski, a former postdoctoral fellow in Whitesides’ Harvard lab, have created a type of semi-soft robot capable of standing and walking. The team also created a robotic water strider capable of pushing itself

Read more about Harvard scientists use simple materials to create semi-soft robots
Harvard climate study reveals ozone hole risk in Midwest

Harvard climate study reveals ozone hole risk in Midwest

June 8, 2017

Storms common to the Midwest in summer create the same ozone-damaging chemical reactions found in polar regions in winter, according to a new Harvard study. And with extreme weather on the rise, people living in the region could face an increased risk of UV radiation.

Powerful storms in the Great Plains inject water vapor that, with temperature change, can trigger the same chemistry eroding the Arctic ozone, according to a new paper published in the Proceedings of the National Academy

Read more about Harvard climate study reveals ozone hole risk in Midwest
Physicists create antiferromagnet that may help them better understand superconductors

Physicists create antiferromagnet that may help them better understand superconductors

June 1, 2017

From the moment when physicists discovered superconductors — materials that conduct electricity without resistance at extremely low temperatures — they wondered whether they might be able to develop materials that exhibit the same properties at warmer temperatures.

The key to doing so, a group of Harvard scientists say, may lie in another exotic material known as an antiferromagnet.

Led by physics professor Markus Greiner, a team of physicists has taken a crucial step toward understanding those materials by creating a quantum antiferromagnet from an

Read more about Physicists create antiferromagnet that may help them better understand superconductors
Researchers work to create kidney filtration barrier on a chip

Researchers work to create kidney filtration barrier on a chip

May 10, 2017

The kidney, made up of about a million tiny units that work to filter blood, constantly rids the body of undesired waste products to form urine. During the process, it also holds back blood cells and valuable proteins and controls the body’s fluid content.

Key to each of these units is a structure known as the glomerulus, in which so-called podocyte cells wrap themselves tightly around a tuft of capillaries. Separated by a thin membrane composed of extracellular matrix, slits are left between them to build an actual filtration barrier. The podocytes are also

Read more about Researchers work to create kidney filtration barrier on a chip
Stem cell lines grown in lab dish may acquire mutations

Stem cell lines grown in lab dish may acquire mutations

April 26, 2017

Regenerative medicine using human pluripotent stem cells to grow transplantable tissue outside the body carries the promise to treat a range of intractable disorders, such as diabetes and Parkinson’s disease.

However, a research team from the Harvard Stem Cell Institute (HSCI), Harvard Medical School (HMS), and the Stanley Center for Psychiatric Research at the Broad Institute of MIT and Harvard has found that as stem cell lines grow in a lab dish, they often acquire

Read more about Stem cell lines grown in lab dish may acquire mutations
New vistas opening for brain disorder research

New vistas opening for brain disorder research

April 26, 2017

In a culture flask, 45 lentil-sized globs of neurons swirl in a gentle eddy of liquid medium. These lumpy, 3-D networks of human nerve cells, called brain organoids, have generated more diverse and mature cell types than any other model system of brain tissue to date.

Scientists have increasingly turned to organoids, organ models cultured from induced pluripotent stem cells, to investigate human brain development and disease. However, most brain organoid models to date have been cultured on a scale of weeks to investigate early neural development under various

Read more about New vistas opening for brain disorder research
Harvard video project channels wide range of climate change knowledge

Harvard video project channels wide range of climate change knowledge

April 24, 2017

We ignore the worst estimates of climate change — catastrophic warming topping 4 or 6 degrees Celsius — at our peril, says economist Martin Weitzman.

Climate change’s uncertainty — a product of the complexity of the natural systems involved and the vagaries of human efforts at mitigation — have led not to precise forecasts of future warming, but rather a range of likely temperature increases.

Discussion of the effects of climate change
Read more about Harvard video project channels wide range of climate change knowledge
Harvard team leads breakthrough on the genetics of parenting

Harvard team leads breakthrough on the genetics of parenting

April 20, 2017

Why is it that some species seem to be particularly attentive parents while others leave their young to fend for themselves? For years, scientists have believed one of the major drivers is experience — an animal raised by an attentive parent, the argument goes, is likely to be an attentive parent itself.

A Harvard study is challenging that idea, and breaking new ground by uncovering links between the activity of specific genes and parenting differences across species.

Read more about Harvard team leads breakthrough on the genetics of parenting
Researchers study secrets of aging via stem cells

Researchers study secrets of aging via stem cells

April 18, 2017

Third in an occasional series on how Harvard researchers are tackling the problematic issues of aging.

“If only,” wrote an ancient Japanese poet, “when one heard that Old Age was coming one could bolt the door….”

Science is working on it.

Aging is as much about the physical processes of repair and regeneration — and their slow-motion failure — as it is the passage of time. And scientists studying stem cell and regenerative biology are making progress understanding those

Read more about Researchers study secrets of aging via stem cells
Harvard scientists find evidence that ALS and SMA could be treated with a common drug

Harvard scientists find evidence that ALS and SMA could be treated with a common drug

April 14, 2017

Harvard Stem Cell Institute (HSCI) researchers have identified a compound that helps protect the cells destroyed by spinal muscular atrophy (SMA), the most frequent fatal genetic disease in children under 2 years of age.

SMA is a neurodegenerative disease targeting motor neurons, the long nerve cells that relay messages from the brain to the muscles and that are, consequently, responsible for bodily movements, including walking, swallowing, and even breathing. Patients with milder forms of SMA experience muscle wasting

Read more about Harvard scientists find evidence that ALS and SMA could be treated with a common drug