Illustration of the nuclear magnetic resonance (NMR) needle in the brain tissue. © whitehoune -, Max Planck Institute for Biological Cybernetics, University of Stuttgart. Montage: Martin Vötsch (


A team of neuroscientists and electrical engineers from Germany and Switzerland developed a highly sensitive implant that enables to probe brain physiology with unparalleled spatial and temporal resolution. Now published in Nature Methods, they introduce an ultra-fine needle with an integrated chip that is capable of detecting and transmitting nuclear magnetic resonance (NMR) data from nanoliter volumes of brain oxygen metabolism. The breakthrough design will allow entirely new applications in the life sciences.

As the loading with curcumin (yellow) increases, the dissolution rate of the containers made of polymeric micelles (blue) decreases. (Picture: Ann-Christin Pöppler)

Nanocontainer for drugs can have their pitfalls: If they are too heavily loaded, they will only dissolve poorly. Why this happens is now reported by a Würzburg research group in "Angewandte Chemie". Nanocapsules and other containers can transport drugs through a patient's body directly to the origin of the disease and release them there in a controlled manner. Such sophisticated systems are occasionally used in cancer therapy. Because they work very specifically, they have fewer side effects than drugs that are distributed throughout the entire organism.

By applying a magnetic field, the bending beam vibrates. A permanently electrically charged electret (blue) pulls the bending beam. This way his vibrance gets stronger. Copyright: Marleen Schweichel


Electrical signals measurements such as the ECG (electrocardiogram) can show how the human brain or heart works. Next to electrical signals magnetic signals also reveal something about the activity of these organs. They could be measured with little effort and without skin contact. But the especially weak signals require highly sensitive sensors. Scientists from the Collaboraive research Center 1261 "Magnetoelectric Sensors" at Kiel University have now developed a new concept for cantilever sensors, with the future aim of measuring these low frequencies of heart and brain activity. The extremely small, energy-efficient sensors are particularly well-suited for medical applications or mobile microelectronics. This is made possible by the use of electrets. Such material is permanently electrically charged, and is also used in microphones for hearing aids or mobile phones. The research team presented its sensor concept in a special edition of the renowned journal Nano Energy.


Model of the Mitoribosomal small subunit assembly in Trypanosoma brucei. © NCCR RNA & Disease

The complexity of molecular structures in the cell is amazing. Having achieved great success in elucidating these structures in recent years, biologists are now taking on the next challenge: to find out more about how they are constructed. A joint research project between two groups from the University of Bern and ETH Zurich now provides insight into a very unusual construction process in the unicellular parasite Trypanosoma brucei.