James Oliver picked up an Xbox game controller, looked up to a video screen and used the device's buttons and joystick to fly through a patient's chest cavity for an up-close look at the bottom of the heart.

And there was a sight doctors had never seen before: an accurate, 3-D view inside a patient's body accessible with a personal computer. A view doctors can shift, adjust, turn, zoom and replay at will. Software that uses real patient data from CT and MRI scans. Software doctors can use to plan a surgery or a round of radiation therapy. Software that can be used to teach physiology and anatomy. Software that puts virtual reality technology developed at Iowa State University to work helping doctors and patients, teachers and students. Software that's now being sold by an Ames startup company, BodyViz.com.

A recently devised method of imaging the chemical communication and warfare between microorganisms could lead to new antibiotics, antifungal, antiviral and anti-cancer drugs, said a Texas AgriLife Research scientist.

"Translating metabolic exchange with imaging mass spectrometry," was published Nov. 8 in Nature Chemical Biology, a prominent scientific journal. The article describes a technique developed by a collaborative team that includes Dr. Paul Straight, AgriLife Research scientist in the department of biochemistry and biophysics at Texas A&M University in College Station, Dr. Pieter Dorrestein, Yu-Liang Yang and Yuquan Xu, all at the University of California, San Diego.

by Debra Kain

A study by researchers at the University of California, San Diego School of Medicine reports a significant breakthrough in explaining gaps in scientists’ understanding of human brain function.  The study – which provides a picture of language processing in the brain with unprecedented clarity – will be published in the October 16 issue of the journal Science.

Scientists have deciphered the three-dimensional structure of the human genome, paving the way for new insights into genomic function and expanding our understanding of how cellular DNA folds at scales that dwarf the double helix. 

In a paper featured this week on the cover of the journal Science, they describe a new technology called Hi-C and apply it to answer the thorny question of how each of our cells stows some 3 billion base pairs of DNA while maintaining access to functionally crucial segments. The paper comes from a team led by scientists at Harvard University, the Broad Institute of Harvard and MIT, the University of Massachusetts Medical School, and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT).

by Deborah Halber, Picower Institute

New role discovered for brain waves

You're meeting a friend in a crowded cafeteria. Do your eyes scan the room like a roving spotlight, moving from face to face, or do you take in the whole scene, hoping that your friend's face will pop out at you? And what, for that matter, determines how fast you can scan the room?

An adaptation of two-photon microscopy, the go-to method for seeing neurons below the surface of the brain, has improved its spatial resolution threefold. The new imaging technique will allow scientists to focus on tiny structures, such as those that mediate communication between neurons, within relatively intact samples of brain tissue.

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