ENDLESS FRONTIER:
INNOVATIONS IN SCIENCE & ENGINEERING

May 2009

Energy Stories

New Virus-Built Battery Could Power Cars, Electronic Devices
For the first time, MIT researchers have shown they can genetically engineer viruses to build both the positively and negatively charged ends of a lithium-ion battery.

The new virus-produced batteries have the same energy capacity and power performance as state-of-the-art rechargeable batteries being considered to power plug-in hybrid cars, and they could also be used to power a range of personal electronic devices, said Angela Belcher, the MIT materials scientist who led the research team. Read more >>

Health Science Stories

New Test Can Predict Spread of Breast Cancer
Scientist at MIT, the Albert Einstein College of Medicine and Weill Cornell Medical School have developed a test that could help doctors precisely identify which breast cancer patients should receive aggressive therapy, thereby sparing many women at low risk for metastatic disease from undergoing unnecessary and potentially dangerous treatment.

The researchers, including MIT biology professor Frank Gertler, developed the test based on an earlier finding that the co-mingling of three cell types can predict whether localized breast cancer will metastasize, or spread throughout the body. Read more >>

Wearable Blood Pressure Sensor Offers 24/7 Continuous Monitoring
High blood pressure is a common risk factor for heart attacks, strokes and aneurysms, so diagnosing and monitoring it are critically important. However, getting reliable blood pressure readings is not always easy Visits to the doctor's office can provoke anxiety that distorts blood pressure readings, and even when accurate, such visits provide only one-time snapshots of the patient's condition. To overcome these obstacles, MIT engineers have built a wearable blood pressure sensor that can provide continuous 24-hour monitoring. Read more >>

This project was funded by the National Institutes of Health, National Science Foundation and the Sharp Corporation.

Investigating A Sometimes-Faulty Protein's Role In Brain Links
Researchers at MIT's Picower Institute for Learning and Memory have shed light on how a protein implicated in a cognitive disorders maintains and regulates brain cell structures that are key to learning and memory.

The work culd led to new treatments for autism, mental retardation and Fragile X syndrome, which researchers believe are tied to abnormalities in synapses, the junctures through which neurons communicate. Read more >>

This work was supported by RIKEN, the National Institutes of Health and Japan's Ministry of Education, Science and Culture.

Material Technology Story

Spinning at the Nanoscale
In the office of Professor of Chemical Engineering Gregory Rutledge keeps a small piece of fabric that at first glance resembles a Kleenex. This tissue-like material, softer than silk, is composed of fibers that are a thousand times thinner than a human hair and holds promise for a wide range of applications including protective clothing, drug delivery and tissue engineering.

Such material are produced by electrospinning, a technique that has taken off in the past 10 years, though the original technology was patented more than a century ago. In Rutledge's lab, reseachers are exploring new ways to create electrospun fibers, often incorporating materials that add novel features such as the ability to kill bacteria. Read more >>