SciTech Roundup 2/6


Delivering nanoparticles to the pancreas

Type 1 diabetes can destroy a type of cell in the pancreas that produces insulin. But through Kathryn Whitehead's lab, other cells in the pancreas can be reprogrammed to produce insulin. In their paper in "Science Advances," they describe their creation of a nanoparticle that can be used to deliver mRNA, which could reprogram pancreatic alpha cells to produce insulin. Currently, most nanoparticles have been designed to go to the liver, spleen, or lungs, as those organs naturally tend to accumulate nanoparticles. However, by changing the chemistry of the nanoparticle, researchers in Whitehead's lab were able to change the types of proteins that adhered to the nanoparticle's surface, guiding the nanoparticle to the pancreas instead of other body organs.

Analyzing brain imaging recordings

Researchers can monitor brain activity by using optical imaging. But after taking imaging recordings, researchers must decide how to analyze the recordings. One type of imaging, called two-photon calcium imaging recordings, is often analyzed using either deconvolution or dimensionality reduction. However, researchers in Carnegie Mellon's biomedical engineering department as well as Howard Hughes Medical Institute found that combining these two approaches can actually produce better results. In a paper published in "Nature Computational Science," they discuss their proposed method, called Calcium Imaging Linear Dynamical System, which runs deconvolution and dimensionality reduction simultaneously. Their method outperformed others on calcium imaging recordings from larval zebrafish and mice.

Upgrading particle detectors at CERN's Large Hadron Collider

At European Organization for Nuclear Research (CERN), scientists are studying the properties of the Higgs boson, looking for new particles not predicted by the standard model of particle physics. To do this, those at CERN's Large Hadron Collider hope to increase the number of proton collisions by a factor of 20. These collisions are monitored by Compact Muon Solenoid (CMS) detectors, which are essentially large 3D cameras that can record these collisions. However, this would create significant amounts of radiation, more than the current CMS detectors can handle.

To remedy this, Carnegie Mellon will be assisting in constructing new detectors, called the High-Granularity Calorimeter (HGC). The HGC will require 30,000 modules, cameras that are radiation-tolerant, built over the course of five years. Carnegie Mellon physics professors, engineers, and students will construct 5,000 of these modules in Wean Hall. Modules will be assembled by robots, then tested, then tiled onto wheels, and then sent to CERN in Switzerland. The program leaders hope that the experience will provide graduate and undergraduate students with valuable hands-on instrumentation experience.