November 2020
Sensor can detect scarred or fatty liver tissue
MIT engineers have developed a diagnostic tool, based on nuclear magnetic resonance (NMR), that could be used to detect fatty liver disease and liver fibrosis.
About 25 percent of the U.S. population suffers from fatty liver disease, a condition that can lead to fibrosis of the liver and, eventually, liver failure.

Currently there is no easy way to diagnose either fatty liver disease or liver fibrosis. However, MIT engineers have now developed a diagnostic tool, based on nuclear magnetic resonance (NMR), that could be used to detect both of those conditions.

The device, which is small enough to fit on a table, uses NMR to measure how water diffuses through tissue, which can reveal how much fat is present in the tissue.
Vibrations of coronavirus proteins may
play a role in infection
New research at MIT shows that vibrations of the protein spikes on coronaviruses, including the one that causes Covid-19, play a crucial part in allowing the virus to penetrate human cells.

Credit: Markus Buehler and Yiwen Hu/MIT
When someone struggles to open a lock with a key that doesn’t quite seem to work, sometimes jiggling the key a bit will help. Now, new research from MIT suggests that coronaviruses, including the one that causes Covid-19, may use a similar method to trick cells into letting the viruses inside. The findings could be useful for determining how dangerous different strains or mutations of coronaviruses may be, and might point to a new approach for developing treatments.
Researchers decipher structure of
promising battery materials
Researchers at MIT and other institutions have found a way to stabilize the growth of crystals of several kinds of metal organic frameworks, or MOFs. This image shows two scanning electron microscopy (SEM) micrographs of Cu3HHTT2 and Co6HHTT3 that can be isolated on-demand with either rod- or plate-like (inset) morphology by varying the synthetic conditions.

Photo courtesy of the researchers
A class of materials called metal organic frameworks, or MOFs, has attracted considerable interest over the last several years for a variety of potential energy-related applications — especially since researchers discovered that these typically insulating materials could also be made electrically conductive.

Thanks to MOFs’ extraordinary combination of porosity and conductivity, this finding opened the possibility of new applications in batteries, fuel cells, supercapacitors, electrocatalysts, and specialized chemical sensors. But the process of developing specific MOF materials that possess the desired characteristics has been slow. That’s largely because it’s been hard to figure out their exact molecular structure and how it influences the material’s properties.

Six MIT faculty elected 2020 AAAS Fellows
Clockwise from top left: Nazli Choucri, Catherine Drennan, Peter Fisher, Daniela Rus, Ju Li, and Neil Gershenfeld.

Image Credit: Drennan photo by Lillie Paquette, Fisher photo by Adam Glanzman, Li and Rus photos by M. Scott Brauer.
Choucri, Drennan, Fisher, Gershenfeld, Li, and Rus are recognized for their efforts to advance science.
Six MIT faculty members have been elected as fellows of the American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS).
The new fellows are among a group of 489 AAAS members elected by their peers in recognition of their scientifically or socially distinguished efforts to advance science.
A virtual induction ceremony for the new fellows will be held on Feb. 13, 2021.
3 Questions: Using fabric to “listen” to space dust
A team of MIT researchers has sent a panel of passive smart fabric samples to the International Space Station for a year to help determine how well these fabrics survive low Earth orbit.

Image credit: Courtesy of Space BD/JAXA and edited by MIT News
Fabric samples are headed to the International Space Station for resiliency testing; possible applications include cosmic dust detectors or spacesuit smart skins.

Earlier this month a team of MIT researchers sent samples of various high-tech fabrics, some with embedded sensors or electronics, to the International Space Station. The samples (unpowered for now) will be exposed to the space environment for a year in order to determine a baseline for how well these materials survive the harsh environment of low Earth orbit.
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