Postcard from a Comet

The Rosetta comet landing mission is back online!

The Rosetta comet landing mission is back online!

Philae has phoned home!  The first man-made probe ever to land on the surface of a comet is back in contact with Earth after seven months of silence.

I previously blogged about the project here and here.  Following a 10-year journey through space, the robotic spacecraft Rosetta entered orbit around the comet 67P/Churyumov-Gerasimenko in August 2014.  On November 12, the unmanned probe Philae was deployed to land on the surface of 67P.  The craft carries several pieces of Agilent equipment on board for direct analysis of the comet.

Unfortunately, the landing last November did not go as planned.  Philae’s landing gear failed to deploy properly, so the probe bounced off of the comet’s surface twice.  It ultimately landed a kilometer away from its original targeted site, coming to rest in a shaded area instead of direct sunlight.  Because it relied on solar batteries, Philae ran out of power and put itself into a “sleep” mode three days later.

But scientists at the European Space Agency remained optimistic.  They believed that once P67’s orbit brought the comet closer to the sun, there was a slim chance that Philae would be able to recharge its batteries enough to reawaken.  Sure enough, on June 13, Philae began communicating with Rosetta again.  Philae, Rosetta and the ESA are now exchanging packets of data.

The news gets even better.  If Philae had landed on its original site, its mission would probably have ended in March due to overheating from the high temperatures.  Because it is in a cooler spot, it should be able to function for much a longer period.  As a result, the Rosetta mission has officially been extended through September 2016.

Rosetta’s long journey will end on a high note.  As the comet moves farther away from the sun again and all solar batteries deplete for the last time, scientists plan to send Rosetta itself on a slow three-month spiral down to the surface of P67.  This will enable Rosetta to gather even more unique and valuable data about the comet.


For more information go to:

Filed Under: All, Applied Chemical
Tags: , ,

Agilent Helps Uncover a Link Between microRNAs and Prostate Cancer

We may have discovered a new biomarker for prostate cancer

We may have discovered a new biomarker for prostate cancer

Researchers have used Agilent equipment to identify a link between microRNAs and prostate cancer.

Prostate cancer is one of the most common forms of cancer in men (after skin cancer).  While most prostate cancer can be treated successfully if detected early, it is still the second-leading cause of cancer deaths among men.

MicroRNAs, which were first discovered in 1993, are small molecules in the genome that help regulate gene expression.  They affect many aspects of development and physiology in plants, animals and some viruses.  Scientists believe that miRNAs play a key role in the differentiation, growth, mobility, and even death of cells.  Dysregulation of miRNAs has been linked to various types of cancer.

Researchers in the U.S. and Turkey sought to identify a unique miRNA biomarker that could help distinguish prostate cancer from benign prostate hyperplasia.  Using microarrays to examine prostate secretion samples (PSS), they discovered four miRNAs that were consistently unregulated or significantly down-regulated in prostate cancer patients.

Their conclusion is that these differentially expressed miRNAs could be used as diagnostics markers, and recommend PSS as a powerful non-invasive source for evaluation during routine examinations.

The scientists used Agilent technologies and solutions for their research, including Agilent Human miRNA Microarrays, Agilent reagents, an Agilent SureScan Microarray Scanner and Agilent software.


For more information go to:

Filed Under: All, Diagnostics
Tags: , , , , , ,

Agilent Cuts Through Big Data in Biology

An Agilent system is analyzing 50,000 molecules per minute

An Agilent system is analyzing 50,000 molecules per minute

Until the 20th century, the world’s information doubled every 100 years.  By the end of World War II, it was doubling every 25 years.  With the rise of the Internet, inexpensive storage and emerging economies, information is currently doubling every year.  IBM predicts it may soon double every 12 hours.

This is especially a challenge in life sciences, where clinical knowledge is currently doubling every 18 months.  It is possible that many of today’s biggest challenges – from disease treatments to longevity to global warming – could be addressed by analyzing data that already exists.  But so much is being generated today that many vital pieces of information are never even looked at by a human being.

Dr. John McLean is trying to do something about the challenge of “big data,” which is measured in three dimensions: volume, velocity and variety.  The chemist and his team at Vanderbilt University are using an Agilent 6560 Ion Mobility Q-TOF LC/MS system to gather details of 50,000 molecules per minute in untargeted experiments.

In the same way that companies such as Amazon and Netflix mine customer data to determine consumer buying habits, McLean hopes to find patterns in biological data.  He describes his team’s approach as “integrated omics.”

“We’re breaking the old paradigm of individual omics studies – genomics, proteomics and so on,” McLean says.  “We’re now able to go into a biological question with or without having a target in mind.  We can let the analysis tell us what we should be paying attention to.”

As an example, McLean is studying various bacteria in 10,000 caves throughout Tennessee and Kentucky, some of which have never had contact with humans before, in the hopes of developing new drug molecules.

“All this big data stuff, it’s all the same game,” McLean says. “What are the patterns? Once you remove the descriptors from the data, it’s just a huge series of numbers. Then it depends on who’s looking at the numbers and knows what generated them. It doesn’t matter if you’re in Internet commerce or trying to solve biology. It’s all the same thing.”


For more information go to:

Filed Under: All
Tags: , ,

Please visit the Archive for more news items.

Agilent Request Form

For product or company information, please fill in all required fields.

Agilent Request Form

For product or company information, please fill in all required fields.

   
Name:
Email:
Phone:
Message:

Please leave this field empty.
captcha