by David Chandler

A prototype of what is being touted as the world's first practical flying car took to the air for the first time this month, a milestone in a project started four years ago by students in MIT's Department of Aeronautics and Astronautics.

At 7:40 a.m. on March 5, the winged car taxied down a runway in Plattsburgh, N.Y., took off, flew for 37 seconds and landed further down the runway -- a maneuver it would repeat about a half dozen times over the next two days. In the coming months the company, a Woburn-based startup called Terrafugia, will test the plane in a series of ever-longer flights and a variety of maneuvers to learn about its handling characteristics.

The goal of this research is to enable a multi-limbed robot to climb vertical rock using techniques similar to those developed by human climbers (Figure 1). The robot consists of a small number of articulated limbs. Only the limb end-points can make contact with the environment—a vertical surface with small, arbitrarily distributed features called holds (Figure 2). A path through this environment is a sequence of one-step climbing moves in which the robot brings a limb end-point to a new hold.

Mammalian cells can produce tiny magnetic nuggets after the introduction of a single gene from bacteria, scientists have found. The gene MagA could become a valuable tool for tracking cells’ movement through the body via magnetic resonance imaging (MRI), says Xiaoping Hu, PhD, professor of biomedical engineering at Emory University and the Georgia Institute of Technology.

“We have found a very simple way to make mammalian cells have a magnetic signature,” says Hu, who is director of Emory's Biomedical Imaging Technology Center and a Georgia Research Alliance Eminent Scholar.

by Amy Coombs

A new programme at the US Department of Defense funds regenerative medicine to help wounded vets, but a surprising level of detail seems top secret

As body armor improves, soldiers are less likely to be wounded by bullets. Explosive devices now account for more than 75% of injuries sustained by soldiers in Iraq and Afghanistan. Unlike a bullet, which pierces a single spot, explosives tear away skin and muscle.

"In this war the wounds are more horrific," says Colonel Bob Vandre of the US Army Medical Research and Material Command in Fort Detrick, Maryland. "You can have big pieces of tissue and bone torn away." He's putting his hopes in science. "Using stem cells and biodegradable matrixes may allow us to regrow that tissue."

Mary Lidstrom Mary Lidstrom may be a biologist by training, but she is a systems engineer by inclination.

It was a lesson she learned about herself more than 20 years ago while trying to bring a more quantitative approach to her science. She started working with engineers and discovered she really enjoyed an engineering approach to understanding complex biological systems.

Revolutionary purification techniques address impending global water crisis

A worldwide water crisis is imminent and will severely stress much of the world by 2025 unless new purification techniques can adequately and economically treat all sources of water. That's the prognosis of water-treatment expert Mark Shannon, director of the Center of Advanced Materials for Purification of Water with Systems at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign.

"Current processes to purify water require a lot of chemicals and a lot of energy, making treatment too costly or unavailable for much of the developed and developing world," Shannon said. "The difficulties in treating water are only expected to worsen as resources become more constrained."

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This news service is provided by Good Samaritan Institute, located in Santa Rosa Beach, Florida.

GSI is a non-profit dedicated to the advancement of medical research by improving communication among scientists.