Adult stem cells shown to develop into all brain cell types

Researchers at the University of Minnesota provide evidence for the first time that stem cells derived from adult bone marrow and injected into the blastocyst of a mouse can differentiate into all major types of cells found in the brain. The results of the research are published as the lead article in the April 25, 2003 issue of Cell Transplantation. The potential of these adult stem cells, termed multipotent adult progenitor cells (MAPCs), were the subject of research reported in Nature in June 2002. The research reported this week in Cell Transplantation takes a specific look at the ability of MAPCs to develop into cells typically found in the brain.

Sunlight converts household anti-bacterial agent to dioxin

Sunlight can convert triclosan, a common disinfectant used in anti-bacterial soaps, into a form of dioxin, and this process may produce some of the dioxin found in the environment, according to research at the University of Minnesota. The researchers said that although the dioxin was a relatively benign form, treating wastewater with chlorine could possibly lead to the production of a much more toxic species of dioxin.

'Sticky' DNA crystals promise new way to process information

Imagine information stored on something only a hundredth the size of the next generation computer chip–and made from nature’s own storage molecule, DNA. A team led by Richard Kiehl, a professor of electrical engineering at the University of Minnesota, has used the selective “stickiness” of DNA to construct a scaffolding for closely spaced nanoparticles that could exchange information on a scale of only 10 angstroms (an angstrom is one 10-billionth of a meter). The technique allows the assembly of components on a much smaller scale and with much greater precision than is possible with current manufacturing methods, Kiehl said. The work is published in a recent issue of the Journal of Nanoparticle Research.

Magnetic ‘slinky effect’ may power aurora

The spectacular aurora borealis displays that light up the northern nights could be powered by a gigantic “slinky” effect in Earth’s magnetic field lines, according to research performed at the University of Minnesota. Earth’s magnetic field resemble a slinky in that when “wiggled,” it undulates in waves that travel down the field lines at speeds up to 25 million miles per hour. These waves can pass energy to electrons, accelerating them along the magnetic field lines toward Earth. When the electrons hit atoms in the atmosphere, the atoms become excited and produce the colors of the aurora. Using electric and magnetic field data and images from NASA’s POLAR satellite, the researchers showed that energy from such waves is sufficient to power auroras and that statistically, the waves occur in the same locations as auroras–in a ring around the poles. The work will be published in the Jan. 17 issue of Science.