Pluto Flyby

Jul 10, 2015
NASA/New Horizons

It’s taken nine years for the NASA spaceship New Horizons to travel nearly 3 billion miles – to a far corner of our solar system, but later this month, it will fulfill its mission.  

On July 14th, just before 8 a.m. New Horizons will begin a fly-by of Pluto, the dwarf planet named for the Roman god of the underworld.  The space craft has traveled faster than any other launched from Earth, but after nine years, it won’t be able to stop for a visit.

Bioprinter at UVA Designed to Print Tissue and Organs

Jun 19, 2015
Sanjay Sunchak/University of Virginia

Organ donation saves millions of people each year, but the fact is that there aren’t enough organs to go around.  Now, scientists, engineers and students at the University of Virginia have begun using a machine that could someday make replacement parts for humans. 

The bioprinter is a small, table-top robot with a couple of tubes that contain human cells.  Guided by a computer that has analyzed images of a body part, the device lays down layer after layer of sticky material or gel and cells that are genetically programmed to work in certain ways. 

The Cars of the Future are Already Here

Jun 11, 2015
Virginia Tech, Center for Automated Vehicle Systems

Researchers will soon begin testing automated cars on Virginia Roadways. But the advent of truly driverless cars is still pretty far down the road.

On the outside this looks like any normal Cadillac SRX a sleek, a 2013 luxury SUV.  But it’s been retrofitted with screens and sensors.  A small antenna on top with a GPS and Wi-Fi receiver detecting obstacles ahead, in this case, a tester wearing what looks like a construction worker’s vest containing a transmitter. 

Virginia Tech

Scientists at Virginia Tech are one step closer to controlling a species of mosquito that carries deadly disease. It’s not a pesticide or repellant, it’s a gene that can literally change the gender of a mosquito from potentially deadly females to harmless males.

Sex matters in mosquitos, because it is females only which bite to nourish their young. That’s how they can spread disease.  Bio Chemistry Professor Jake Tu is part of the team that discovered the elusive gene called NIX, which can change female mosquitos and their offspring into males. 

Editing the Mosquito Genome

May 7, 2015

Gene editing technology is opening up a whole new world for science.  Entomologists at Virginia Tech are using it to find out exactly how mosquitos transmit deadly diseases to humans.

Most mosquito species do not transmit disease, but a few native to Africa, and now showing up in the southern U.S. do; Fatal diseases such as malaria, dengue fever and chikungunya.  Those viruses kill hundreds of thousand of people each year, most of them children.