Review: Discover: LAB NOTES: Weekly dispatches from the world of science
(Observer (UK) Via Acquire Media NewsEdge) This way to corn flakes
Joe Strummer once sang: "I'm all lost in the supermarket/ I can no longer shop happily", but the Clash legend was writing before the invention of Locata radio-location technology. GPS isn't that great in shopping malls or airports but "indoor positioning" uses ground-based devices to guide you to the cheese counter or the correct flight gate. The systems have been tested to 18cm accuracy and are being used in Australian gold mines. The US air force has signed a multimillion-dollar contract with the Australian company, and Google and Nokia are interested. It is expected that these systems would work alongside GPS, New Scientist reports, and the technology could be in our smartphones in five years.
Life after death
The stem cells in human bone marrow can survive for up to five days after a person's death, opening up the possibility that they could be harvested and used in life-saving medical treatment. Researchers at the University of Miami took mesenchymal stem cells (left) from the fingers of five-day-old corpses and grew them on into cartilage, cells that grow bone and fat cells. Stem cells are used in large quantities to treat some children with leukemia, for example, but are hard to take from living donors. Instead, Gianluca D'Ippolito, the lead Miami researcher, says, a spine from one corpse could potentially provide "billions" of stem cells.
Are memories made of this
The role of PKM-zeta, "the memory molecule" once considered critical in the formation of long-term memories, has been questioned by two US studies, Nature reports. Previous research demonstrated that blocking the brain enzyme could expunge memories in rats, flies and sea slugs (below); while the opposite effect could be achieved by injecting rodents' brains with the enzyme. However, scientists at Johns Hopkins University in Baltimore were concerned that the results might have been influenced by the agent used in the experiment. They and another team from the University of California deleted the genes for PKM-zeta from mice and discovered that the animals still formed memories in behavioural tests.
(c) 2013 Guardian Newspapers Limited.
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