Science News - Sunday, April 13th

When Art and Science Meet, Nanoscale Smiley Faces Abound [Slideshow]
Caltech researcher Paul Rothemund folds DNA strands into an origami of nanosize shapes and patterns.

Paul Rothemund is a computer scientist and an artist, although not necessarily in that order. Using a few DNA molecules, an atomic force microscope and a computer, he can fit the likenesses of 50 billion smiley faces into a space no bigger than a drop of water.Rothemund refers to his brew of art, biology and technology as "DNA origami," because it is created by using hundreds of short DNA strands (which Rothemund refers to as "staples") to fold much longer genetic ribbons into nanoscale shapes and patterns.

DNA origami proves that microscopic material can be controlled so that it forms specific objects. "The reason the work is exciting for [potentially] making smaller circuits," he says, "is that this resolution is roughly eight to 10 times smaller than the features in current computer chips' [at] 45 to 60 nanometers." The process of creating DNA origami allows many shapes or patterns to be crafted simultaneously (50 billion in a single drop of water), paving the way to make loads of circuits more quickly and cheaper than is now possible.

Process Behind Heart Muscle Contraction Uncovered
ScienceDaily (Apr. 12, 2008) — Researchers from the University of Pittsburgh and the University of Chicago were able to control heart muscle function in a new way after discovering the previously unknown role of two enzymes in heart muscle contraction, as detailed in the April 11 cover story of the Journal of Biological Chemistry. Although in the early stages, the research provides fresh knowledge of how heart muscle functions and also holds early potential as a treatment for various heart diseases—including congestive heart failure—that is possibly less taxing on the heart than current regimens.

The First Animal On Earth Was Significantly More Complex Than Previously Believed
A new study mapping the evolutionary history of animals indicates that Earth's first animal -- a mysterious creature whose characteristics can only be inferred from fossils and studies of living animals--was probably significantly more complex than previously believed.

Earliest Step In Human Development Revealed By Human Embryonic Stem Cell Research
Researchers at Johns Hopkins have uncovered the molecular underpinnings of one of the earliest steps in human development using human embryonic stem cells. Their identification of a critical signal mediated by the protein BMP-4 that drives the differentiation of stem cells into what will become the placenta, will be published in the April issue of Cell Stem Cell.

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