Scientists modified “mesenchymal stem cells” to carry anti-cancer drugs and deliver them to target cancers

Targeting drugs to cancer tissues is a major challenge in cancer treatment. Mesenchymal stem cells (MSCs) are known for their ability to find and target tumor cells in the body, but using MSCs for drug delivery has been tricky, because upon loading with drugs, MSCs lose their viability and migratory ability. Now, researchers from Tokyo University of Science have successfully modified MSCs to deliver large quantities of anti-cancer drugs in a targeted manner to developing cancer cells.

As humans evolve, cancer also evolves in parallel, making the race for finding efficient treatment methods for cancer patients challenging and constant. In addition to designing drugs for treatment, the delivery of these drugs to targeted organs is also a major challenge faced by the cancer research community. …


Researchers at Tokyo University of Science devise a new electrochemical technology to manufacture ammonia-based fertilizer from urea

From the perspective of future societies, in extremely closed environments such as a space station, self-sufficiency in food cultivation and waste management is critical. However, the technology to achieve this is still lacking. In a new study, scientists from Japan shed light on their most recent breakthrough: a cheap and efficient method to make liquid fertilizer (ammonia) from simplified artificial urine, serving an ideal dual purpose of growing food and treating waste.

Manuring with man urine: researchers from Japan electrochemically create ammonia from urine to grow plants in space
Manuring with man urine: researchers from Japan electrochemically create ammonia from urine to grow plants in space
Manuring with man urine: researchers from Japan electrochemically create ammonia from urine to grow plants in space | Photo courtesy: Freepik

In extreme environments, even the most ordinary tasks can seem like unsurmountable challenges. Because of such difficulties, humanity has, for the most part, settled on grounds that were favorable for harvesting crops, herding cattle, and building shelters. But as we seek to expand the limits of human exploration, both on earth and in space, the people pioneering this search will undoubtedly face conditions that, for all intents and purposes, are not conducive to human habitation. …


New sodium-storing electrode material for rechargeable batteries with unprecedented energy density

Today, most rechargeable batteries are lithium-ion batteries, which are made from relatively scarce elements — this calls for the development of batteries using alternative materials. In a new study, scientists from Tokyo University of Science, Japan, find an energy-efficient method to fabricate a hard carbon electrode with enormously high sodium storage capacity. This could pave the way for next-generation sodium-ion batteries made with inexpensive and abundant materials, and having a higher energy density than lithium-ion batteries.

New sodium-storing electrode material for rechargeable batteries with unprecedented energy density
New sodium-storing electrode material for rechargeable batteries with unprecedented energy density
The higher capacity of this new hard carbon electrode material means that a 19% increase in energy density by weight is possible in sodium-ion batteries compared with lithium-ion batteries | Image courtesy: Shinichi Komaba from Tokyo University of Science

Cost-effective rechargeable batteries are at the heart of virtually all portable electronic devices, which have become ubiquitous in modern daily life. Moreover, rechargeable batteries are essential components in many environment-friendly technologies, such as electric cars and systems that harvest renewable energy. They are also key enablers of various medical devices and facilitate research in various fields as the energy source of electronic sensors and cameras. So, it shouldn’t come as a surprise that there is a lot of effort spent in developing better and cheaper rechargeable batteries. …


Scientists investigate oxidative reactions in ytterbium silicide, a heat-resistant coating, to improve heat efficiency in aircraft gas turbine engines

Ytterbium silicide (Yb–Si) is a promising coating material for the high-temperature sections of aircraft gas turbine engines. Although Yb–Si is heat-resistant and prevents formation of structurally harmful SiO2 in the coating, its oxidation mechanisms are unclear. In a recent study, scientists from Japan demonstrate how the Yb to Si ratio in the material, and the surrounding atmosphere, affect the oxidation processes in Yb–Si, opening doors to more energy efficient gas turbines.

Finding safe and long-lasting heat-resistant material for the high-temperature parts of aircraft gas turbine engines.
Finding safe and long-lasting heat-resistant material for the high-temperature parts of aircraft gas turbine engines.
Finding safe and long-lasting heat-resistant material for the high-temperature parts of aircraft gas turbine engines is key to building better aircraft | Photo courtesy: Robert Bye on Unsplash

Certain sections of aero gas-turbine engines, which are widely used in aircrafts, regularly reach temperatures above 1,200 °C. Needless to say, any materials used in such harsh environments must be durable and up to the task. Ceramic matrix composites made of silicon carbide (SiC) have recently garnered interest as promising candidates for gas-turbine engines. However, these materials require a heat-resistant coating layer to prevent the oxidation of SiC and subsequent evaporation of SiO2, which is a process that leads to a decrease in the material volume and, therefore, structural defects such as large cracks or the topmost layer flaking off. …


Scientists develop modern analytical techniques as a tool for advancing forensic investigations

A single strand of hair in a crime scene contains many clues that can help identify a perpetrator. In a recent study, scientists at Tokyo University of Science, Japan, have combined two modern techniques, called surface-enhanced Raman spectroscopy and X-ray fluorescence, to distinguish between different colors in individual hair strands. Both these techniques are almost non-destructive and can be conducted with portable devices, making this a promising way to get supportive evidence in forensic investigations.

Analytical techniques to distinguish between two single strands of colored hair
Analytical techniques to distinguish between two single strands of colored hair
An overview of the analytical techniques used in this study, which together make it possible to distinguish between two single strands of colored hair | Photo courtesy: Shinsuke Kunimura from Tokyo University of Science

In crime scene investigations, a single strand of hair can make a huge difference in the evolution of a case or trial. In most cases, forensic scientists must look for clues hidden in minuscule amounts of substances or materials found at crime scenes. If a fallen strand of hair with root cells attached is found, a DNA test can reveal the identity of a criminal; unfortunately, this seldom happens. Even though other types of DNA analysis can be conducted using the “mitochondrial DNA” embedded in the hair shaft itself, such tests are not sufficient to reliably identify a person and usually call for additional evidence. …


Scientists develop an energy-efficient strategy to reversibly change “spin orientation” or magnetization direction in magnetite at room temperature

Spintronics — based on the principles of electron charge and magnetic spin — goes beyond the limits of conventional electronics. However, spintronic devices are yet to see advances, because controlling the magnetization angle in the magnetic material is difficult. Now, scientists have developed an all-solid redox device composed of magnetite thin film and a solid electrolyte containing lithium ions that successfully manipulated the magnetization angle at room temperature, sparking a possible revolution in the field of spintronics.

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Over the last few decades, conventional electronics has been rapidly reaching its technical limits in computing and information technology, calling for innovative devices that go beyond the mere manipulation of electron current. In this regard, spintronics, the study of devices that exploit the “spin” of electrons to perform functions, is one of the hottest areas in applied physics. But, measuring, altering, and, in general, working with this fundamental quantum property is no mean feat. …


Scientists have uncovered a method of combining natural organic compounds which can create anticancer drugs with minimal side effects.

Scientists from the Tokyo University of Science have made a breakthrough in the development of potential drugs that can kill cancer cells. They have discovered a method of synthesizing organic compounds that are four times more fatal to cancer cells and leave non-cancerous cells unharmed. Published in the American Chemical Society Omega, their research can assist in the creation of new anticancer drugs with minimal side effects.

a method of combining natural organic compounds which can create anticancer drugs with minimal side effects
a method of combining natural organic compounds which can create anticancer drugs with minimal side effects
A method of combining natural organic compounds which can create anticancer drugs with minimal side effects

In the past decades, cancer has surpassed many other diseases to become the current second leading cause of death globally, with one in six people dying from it. This concerning position has given it a unique and ubiquitous position in global culture, so much so that finding a cure for cancer is considered one of the most noble things any person can do. Sadly, humanity hasn’t arrived at this cure yet; tons of research is being conducted to explore every angle of cancer, trying to find a weakness. …


Scientists formulate a novel strategy to predict the lifetime of nanolithography molds through changes in the contact angle of water on the mold surface

Ultraviolet nanoimprint lithography is powerful method of producing polymer nanostructures by pressing a curable resin onto a mold. However, there are no convenient methods to determine the lifetime of molds. Now, in a recent study in Japan, scientists develop a simple strategy to reliably predict the durability of mold materials by observing how water droplets make contact with the mold’s surface as it wears out and distorts with use.

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Ultraviolet nanoimprint lithography (UV-NIL) is a manufacturing technique for producing nanostructures using UV-curable resin. One of its main advantages is its sheer simplicity; UV-NIL essentially consists of pouring a liquid resin over a nanostructured mold, making the resin solidify using UV irradiation, and then releasing it from the mold. The result is a solid polymer with a nanostructure that is the inverse of that of the mold. Using this technique, a great variety of functional devices and thin films can be made for applications in fields such as optics, electronics, healthcare, biology research, and solar cells, to name just but a few. …


Scientists develop a simple and scalable strategy to produce resin films with anti-reflective nanostructures — inspired by eyes of moths

The eyes of moths have a biological nanostructure that grants them anti-reflective properties. Though researchers have managed to mimic this structure to produce anti-reflective coatings, current techniques are not easily scalable. Now, researchers from Japan have devised a strategy to produce large area moth-eye transparent films that greatly reduce reflectance and improve transmittance. These films could be used to better the visibility of screens and enhance the performance of solar panels.

Nature-Inspired Design — Mimicking Moth Eyes to Produce Transparent Anti-Reflective Coatings
Nature-Inspired Design — Mimicking Moth Eyes to Produce Transparent Anti-Reflective Coatings
Scientists have found a way to produce large area transparent films whose nanostructures are inspired by the moth eye structure | Photo courtesy: Ian Lindsay on Pixabay

There is a huge number of human problems that scientists and engineers have solved by drawing ideas directly from mechanisms found in other lifeforms, from Velcro to Japan’s famous bullet trains, the Shinkansen. Thus, it should not come as a surprise to know that many remarkable advances in anti-reflective coating were inspired by the peculiar biostructures found in moth eyes. …


Scientists report a novel method based on the chemical reaction “reduction,” which can help in efficient control of chromium toxicity in wastewater

Chromium in its hexavalent state (Cr(VI)) is a major water pollutant. It can be treated, however, by converting it into the less toxic trivalent chromium or Cr(III) via “reduction.” While several methods to facilitate this reduction exist, they are costly and restrictive. Now, scientists have come up with a technique to achieve efficient Cr(VI) reduction with a photocatalytic system in water. This method not only is cost-effective but also has direct applications in wastewater treatment.

Chromium contamination in wastewater can be mitigated by converting Cr(VI) to Cr(III)
Chromium contamination in wastewater can be mitigated by converting Cr(VI) to Cr(III)
Chromium contamination in wastewater can be mitigated by converting Cr(VI) to Cr(III) through a photochemical reaction involving copper complexes | Picture courtesy: Takashiro Akitsu, Tokyo University of Science

The element chromium, despite having various applications, has a bad reputation. This is because exposure to chromium compounds leads to a higher risk of respiratory cancer and other damaging effects on human health. To add to this problem, chromium also happens to be a major contributor to water pollution due to its presence in industrial waste. …

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Tokyo University of Science

Tokyo University of Science (TUS) is one of the most well-known, respected, and the largest science-specialized private research universities in Japan.

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