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A multifunctional nanoparticle that facilitates magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) can be used to pinpoint the life-threatening blood vessel plaques caused by atherosclerosis. The technology is a step toward creating a non-invasive method for seeing the structural problems that can cause ruptures and subsequent heart attack or stroke. Nicole Steinmetz of Case Western Reserve University turned to the well-known tobacco mosaic virus (TMV) to help them construct rod-shaped nanoparticles engineered from the virus. The viral capsule without its genetic material acts as the perfect biocompatible host for transporting an MRI contrast agent into the blood vessels to be scanned without the need for large quantities of the agent nor surgical catheterization.

An international team has discovered that a regulatory process that turns on photosynthesis in plants at daybreak likely developed on Earth in ancient microbes 2.5 billion years ago, long before oxygen became available to life. The work revolves around methane-forming archea, methanogens, which thrive naturally without oxygen. The researchers discovered that the protein thioredoxin, which plays a major role in contemporary photosynthesis, could repair many of the methanogen's proteins when damaged by oxygen. The research opens new vistas on evolutionary microbiology but could also have implications for understanding the production of natural gas (methane).

We could soon have a boron-based chemical cousin to the carbon flatlander graphene, thanks to researchers at Brown University in Providence, Rhode Island, USA, who have determined the unique arrangement taken up by 36 boron atoms which could form a flat disc with a hexagonal hole at its center. This molecular species might act as the preferred building block for the construction of much grander borophene sheets that would be akin to graphene sheets. The team reports its initial findings in the journal Nature Communications and team leader Lai-Sheng Wang describes the discovery as beautiful. It has exact hexagonal symmetry with the hexagonal hole we were looking for, Wang explains. The hole is of real significance here. It suggests that this theoretical calculation about a boron planar structure might be right.

A 2 million Euro research initiative funded by the European Research Council (ERC) over the next five years will see scientists endeavor to reproduce the chemical exchanges between the ocean, sea ice, snow and the atmosphere in polar regions. The University of East Anglia is launching a project to predict how the Arctic will cope with global warming by constructing a sea ice chamber and using state-of-the-art computer models. The Arctic Ocean is a vast expanse of sea ice. Most of it is covered with snow for about half of the year, but climate change has caused temperatures to rise more than anywhere else in the world over the last few decades, explains UEA's Roland von Glasow. We will focus on the links between melting sea ice and snow, and the changing chemistry of the troposphere. This is important because the troposphere is home to concentrations of greenhouse gases and aerosol particles which play key roles for our climate, he adds.

Ali Tavassoli of the University of Southampton and colleagues Jeremy Blaydes and Tom Brown have demonstrated that so-called click chemistry, invented by Barry Sharpless at the Scripps Research Institute in California and normally the preserve of organic synthesis, could also be used to carry out a total synthesis of DNA. The approach produces strands of the genetic material that can be read by human cells despite having a linker not found in nature - a phosphodiester bond. A synthetic approach to building genes in the laboratory would side-step the sophisticated enzymatic approaches used in the molecular biology lab and so might provide a clean and efficient approach when DNA is to be used in molecular circuitry and other applications.

Although it rarely happens, lithium ion batteries can, under certain conditions, ignite, damaging devices and risking life. Now, Katie Zhong and colleagues at Washington State University have developed a gummy, sol-gel, electrolyte that precludes leakage. The gummy electrolytes show excellent performance in adhesion/contact, structural integrity under various deformations, high ionic conductivity, and safety (thermal-protection and leakage-free properties). These results indicate that the gummy electrolyte is a viable solution for safe and flexible/stretchable lithium ion batteries, the team reports in the journal Advanced Energy Materials.