Laser micro-scalpel yields biological insights into nature of tissue

Using a laser beam scalpel so fine it could inscribe words on the surface of a fly egg, researchers have snipped their way to a new understanding of a key process in a fruit fly’s embryonic development. The process, called dorsal closure, is the complex mechanism by which the embryonic skin of the fruit fly Drosophila knits itself together to protect its innards from the outside world. Understanding this seemingly arcane process is important because dorsal closure uses molecular and cellular mechanisms very similar to those involved in wound-healing as well as those that can go awry in humans to produce the spinal malformation spina bifida.

Pavlov?s Flies: Researchers Identify Fruit Fly Memory Mutants

By teaching fruit flies to avoid an odor and isolating mutant flies that can?t remember their lessons, researchers at Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory in New York have identified dozens of genes required for long-term memory. In the same study, using DNA chip technology, the scientists identified another large group of candidate memory genes that are either switched on or off in the fly brain during memory formation.

Come fly with me

Boeing has joined a small group of technology bigwigs trying to test a theory that would let engineers negate some of the effects of gravity. The American aerospace giant is using the work of controversial Russian scientist Yevgeny Podkletnov, who claims to have developed a device that can shield objects from the Earth’s pull. Other researchers claim Podkletnov’s work is hokum, but considering the cost savings such a device would represent for air travel, Boeing seems intent on getting to the bottom of it all. The Russian says he found that objects above a superconducting ceramic disc rotating over powerful electromagnets lost weight, the BBC reports. “The reduction in gravity was small, about 2 percent, but the implications — for example, in terms of cutting the energy needed for a plane to fly — were immense.”