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Nano-bombs, coconut oil help treat acne

A natural product found in both coconut oil and human breast milk — lauric acid — may offer treatment for acne, say a scientist.

The bioengineering graduate student from the UC San Diego Jacobs School of Engineering developed a ‘smart delivery system’ capable of delivering lauric-acid-filled nano-scale bombs directly to skin-dwelling bacteria (Propionibacterium acnes) that cause common acne.

Dissaya ‘Nu’ Pornpattananangkul will present her recent work on this experimental acne-drug-delivery system at Research Expo, the annual research conference of the UC San Diego Jacobs School of Engineering. “It’s a good feeling to know that I have a chance to develop a drug that could help people with acne,” said Pornpattananangkul.

The new smart delivery system includes gold nanoparticles attached to surfaces of lauric-acid-filled nano-bombs. The gold nanoparticles keep the nano-bombs (liposomes) from fusing together. The gold nanoparticles also help the liposomes locate acne-causing bacteria based on the skin microenvironment, including pH.

Once the nano-bombs reach the bacterial membranes, the acidic microenvironment causes the gold nanoparticles to drop off. This frees the liposomes carrying lauric acid payloads to fuse with bacterial membranes and kill the Propionibacterium acnes bacteria.

Whales use ‘gestures’ when ocean becomes noisy

Scientists in Australia have found that whales use ‘gesturing’ to communicate when the wind whips up the ocean and makes it noisy. “If you imagine you’re at a party and you’re trying to talk to someone and they can’t hear what you say, you start to gesture a bit. Humpbacks are doing something similar,” said cetacean ecologist Dr Rebecca Dunlop of the University of Queensland in Brisbane.

Dunlop and colleagues examined how humpback whales off the east coast of Australia respond to the noise generated by wind whipping up the waves, which creates similar low frequencies to whale vocalisations.

They recorded the ocean noise using underwater microphones and then compared this to the behaviour of the whales, as recorded by volunteers on land. The researchers found the more wind noise, the more time whales spent on the surface, breaching and slapping their fins or tails against the water.

Dunlop says the whales are using these physical methods to communicate as an alternative to vocalising, which they carry out underwater. He says the whales can either attract attention through their movements, or through the sound they create with the movements.

Now, tap your foot on floor to switch on the gadgets

Just a slide of your foot on the floor could soon bring your hi-fi system to life, all thanks to the newly developed ‘touch floor’ by researchers at the Hasso Plattner Institute in Potsdam, Germany.

Patrick Baudisch and colleagues have developed a prototype, called Multi-toe, which is made up of a 0.5-millimetre-thick sheet of silicone lying on an 8-millimetre-thick layer of clear acrylic, both of which sit on a thick glass sheet to provide rigidity. Light beams shone into the acrylic bounce around inside until pressure from a foot, could allow them to escape.

A camera below captures the light and registers an image of whatever has pressed down on the floor. Other forms of this technique, known as frustrated total internal reflection (FTIR), are already in use in some touchscreens. However, Baudisch’s version expands the idea by allowing the identification of individual users from the pattern on the tread of their shoes.

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