New Scientific Achievements of Iranians

Thursday, August 30, 2012

Compiled By: Firouzeh Mirrazavi
Deputy Editor of Iran Review

*Iran Ranks First in Science Production in Middle East

President of the Islamic World Science Citation Center (ISC) Jafar Mehrad says Iran has ranked first in science production in the Middle East.

According to the statistics published by the Scopus bibliographic database, Iran published 19,559 articles from January to August 2012, Mehrad said in an interview with Mehr news agency.

He added that the figure has gained Iran the 16th place in the world in terms of science production.

Mehrad also stated that several developed and developing countries including Switzerland, Russia and Sweden stood after the Islamic Republic on the list.

The countries that precede Iran in the list include China, Britain, Germany and Japan.

According to the statistics published in the journal Nature, Iran ranked first in scientific growth in the world in 2011.

In 2000, the Islamic Republic ranked 53rd in the world in terms of highly cited medical articles, but the ranking improved to the 23rd in 2011.

According to the Institute for Scientific Information (ISI), Iranian researchers and scientists published a total of 60,979 scientific articles in major international journals from 1999 to 2008.

*Iranian Students Grab 10 Medals in Astronomy Olympiad

Iranian students have swept 10 medals at the 6th International Olympiad on Astronomy and Astrophysics (IOAA) in Latin American country of Brazil.

According to a statement issued by the Information Center of Iran’s Education Ministry, Iranian team was honored with one gold, four silver and five bronze medals at this year’s competition, IRNA reports.

About 134 students dispatched from 27 countries participated in the 2012 edition of this international contest. From among the participated countries, only Iran and Brazil were allowed to have two teams in the competition.

Iran has demonstrated a remarkable growth in science and technology over the past decade, boosting its science and technology output by five folds from 2000 to 2008. Most of this growth has been in engineering and chemistry, producing 1.4% of the world's total output within the eight-year period.

According to the Institute for Scientific Information (ISI), Iran increased its academic publishing output by nearly ten folds from 1996 to 2004.

The International Olympiad on Astronomy and Astrophysics (IOAA) is an annual event in which high school students from around the world solve theoretical, analytical and observational problems in the fields of astronomy and astrophysics.

The 6th IOAA was held in the state of Rio de Janeiro from August 4 to 14, 2012.

*Iranian-American Scientist Nima Arkani-Hamed Recipient of 3 Million Dollar FPP Prize 

Nima Arkani-Hamed, a scientist of Iranian heritage at Institute for Advanced Study, is among 9 scientists receiving the biggest Prize in Theoretical Physics of $3,000,000 each.

The nine are recipients of the Fundamental Physics Prize (FPP), established by Yuri Milner, a Russian physics student who dropped out of graduate school in 1989 and later earned billions investing in Internet companies like Facebook and Groupon.

The Fundamental Physics Prize Foundation is a not-for-profit corporation dedicated to advancing our knowledge of the Universe at the deepest level by awarding annual prizes for scientific breakthroughs, as well as communicating the excitement of fundamental physics to the public.

One of the leading particle physics phenomenologists of his generation, Nima Arkani-Hamed is concerned with the relation between theory and experiment. His research has shown how the extreme weakness of gravity, relative to other forces of nature, might be explained by the existence of extra dimensions of space, and how the structure of comparatively low-energy physics is constrained within the context of string theory. He has taken a lead in proposing new physical theories that can be tested at the Large Hadron Collider at CERN in Switzerland.

*Iranian NGO Wins UN Red Ribbon Award for Fighting AIDS 

Iranian Non-Governmental Organization (NGO) Afraye Sabz Association has won the 2012 Red Ribbon Award for taking exceptional and inspiring action to reduce the spread and impact of AIDS.

Presented by the United Nations, the Iranian NGO along with nine other community-based organizations from across the world received the award in a special session of XIX International AIDS Conference (AIDS 2012) held in the US capital city of Washington on Wednesday.

Red Ribbon Award is the world’s leading award for innovative and outstanding community work in response to the AIDS epidemic.

Selected by a technical review committee of civil society representatives, the Iranian organization is set to receive a USD 10,000 grant and international recognition.

Over 1400 nominations from more than 120 countries were received by the Red Ribbon Award secretariat, which is hosted by the Joint United Nations Program on HIV/AIDS (UNAIDS) in partnership with several other organizations.

“The winners of the Red Ribbon Award 2012 have accomplished so much with so little. They work at the grassroots level in very challenging situations to ensure that vulnerable groups and people living with HIV get the information, services and opportunities they need,” said UNAIDS Executive Director Michel Sidibe.

Afraye Sabz Association is based in the western Iranian province of Kermanshah and promotes HIV awareness by providing educational and other complementary services.

The organization has been cooperating with UNAIDS since a couple of years ago. It has succeeded in scaling up HIV prevention, care and support program.

The Red Ribbon Award was first presented in 2006 and since then has been handed out every two years at the International AIDS Conference.

*Iranians Receive US Patent on Solar Cells 

Researchers at Iran’s Sharif University of Technology have received a US patent issued under the title of “Single-Sided Dye-Sensitized Solar Cells Having a Vertical Patterned Structure” and publication number of US20110220192.

“We have proposed a novel structure for the solar cells which can eliminate the unnecessary formation of the conductive glasses--a major cost-intensive byproduct in the course of solar cells manufacturing,” Nima Taqavinia, associate professor at Sharif University of Technology, was quoted as saying by Fars News Agency.

“Dye-sensitized solar cells are a type of nanostructured solar cells whose mechanism is based on light absorption by the pigment molecules plus electron and whole injection to a semiconductor and an electrolyte. This resembles the photosynthesis occurring in plants,” Taqavinia explained about the invented dye-sensitized solar cells.

The research group is affiliated to the Nanoparticles and Nanocoatings Lab at the Department of Physics of Sharif University of Technology.

“Our main mission in the laboratory is to pave the way for commercialization of the solar cells technology. Concurrent with this project, we are conducting other researches within the same framework and hope to come up with suitable results soon in the future,” he said.

As for the commercialization and mass production of solar cells in Iran, Taqavinia said, “For the fabrication of a small panel of solar cells, a large number of layering and heat treatment steps are required. From the mass production viewpoint, each simple step demands a great deal of design and operation.”

The production rate, processing cost, cost of raw materials and all other parameters impacting the final cost should be low enough for the new product to beat its rivals. Also, the durability and excellence of performance are two other key factors.

As a result, a combination of parameters together with technical novelty can guarantee a promising commercialization.

“We make our contributions to the different aspects of this development. To materialize such a dream, which is the localization of the solar cell production technology, we need to build a diverse and strong portfolio of related patents,” he said.

*Khademhosseini: A Top Young Innovator 

Ali Khademhosseini is an Iranian-Canadian scientist who has carried out research in the area of biomedical microdevices and biomaterials. He has developed a number of methods for controlling the stem cell microenvironment using microscale devices and to engineer biomaterials for tissue engineering.

Born 1975 in Tehran, Khademhosseini received his PhD in Bioengineering at MIT and his undergraduate and Masters Degrees, both in chemical engineering at University of Toronto.

His research is based on developing micro- and nanoscale technologies to control cellular behavior with particular emphasis in developing microscale biomaterials and engineering systems for tissue engineering. Currently, his laboratory is developing technologies to control the formation of vascularized tissues with appropriate microarchitectures as well as regulating stem cell differentiation within microengineered systems. 

Khademhosseini has edited 3 books and 4 journal special issues and is an author on over 180 peer reviewed journal papers, 35 book chapters, 160 abstracts, and 16 patent/disclosure applications. 

His work has been published in journals such as PNAS, JACS, Advanced Materials, Biomaterials and Lab on a chip and highlighted in numerous public news media, Nature, Scientific American and Technology Review Magazine.  Also, he has been invited to give over 150 seminars at various academic and industrial institutions.

Dr. Khademhosseini’s interdisciplinary research has been recognized by over 25 major national and international awards.  He has received the early career awards from three major engineering discipline societies: electrical (IEEE Engineering in Medicine and Biology award / IEEE Nanotechnology award), chemical (AIChE Colburn award) and mechanical engineering (ASME YC Fung award). 

He is also the recipient of the Presidential Early Career Award for Scientists and Engineers (PECASE), the highest honor given by the U.S. government for early career investigators. In 2011, he received the Pioneers of Miniaturization Prize from the Royal Society of Chemistry for his contribution to microscale tissue engineering and microfluidics.  In addition, he has received the young investigator awards of the Society for Biomaterials and the Tissue Engineering and Regenerative Medicine International Society-North America.

Khademhosseini has published extensively in the area of biomedicine and stem cell bioengineering; more than 100 invited presentations and 14 issued or pending patents.

*Iran Ranks 2nd in Stem Cell Transplant

Iran ranks second in treating thalassemia and transplanting stem cells, a top world researcher announced.

The announcement was made by Professor Ardeshir Ghavamzadeh, the head of Tehran Medical University’s Hematology-Oncology and Stem Cell Transplantation Research Center who won the world’s top researcher award for thalassemia and cancer treatment in 2012, Fars News Agency reported.

Ghavamzadeh, who won the Distinguished Service Award from the Center for International Blood and Marrow Transplant Research in 2012, also reiterated that 85 percent of thalassemic people in Iran are fully cured and return to their normal lives if their disease is diagnosed at an early stage.

In recent years, Iran has made huge progress in stem cell science and is respected as a pioneering country in the field.

Iran has also made wide strides in other areas of medical science and is now producing unique drugs for treating several types of cancer and AIDS.

Iranian Health Minister Marzieh Vahid Dastjerdi announced in 2011 that Iran has already applied stem cells for curing different diseases and added that her ministry supports further work in the field.

Dastjerdi said more than 100 diabetic, 6 MS and 10 cerebral palsy patients have been treated through the use of stem cells.

Stem cell research is one of the most promising research areas in modern biomedicine. However, due to moral and ethical debates, it remains a controversial issue in many parts of the world.

According to Professor Ghavamzadeh, Iranian researchers have managed to produce a new type of anti-cancer drug to treat leukemia using arsenic.

“We have produced a type of medicine for treating leukemia from arsenic,” he said.

Noting that Iran ranks first in the world for treating leukemia patients with arsenic, Ghavamzadeh told FNA that Iran is also the first country that has used arsenic to produce raw materials for treating the acute type of cancer known as M3.

The country has already mass-produced doxorubicin--a non-carcinogenic drug--used in treating lung and breast cancers and made on the basis of nano-liposomes technique. The drug has high efficiency, requires lower usage and lessens side-effects, including vascular and heart complications.

Iran has also produced two other non-carcinogenic medicines paclitaxel for breast and ovarian cancers, and oxaliplatin for colon cancer.

*Iran Develops New Heart Tissue Fixture

Iranian scientists have developed a new type of heart tissue fixture used in open heart surgery.

The open heart surgery is conducted on patients suffering from heart attacks in order to bypass a blocked vessel, ISNA reported.

The first method uses hypothermia and the second an injection of potassium ions, both aimed at keeping the heart almost still in order to connect the conduit vessel to the heart that bypasses the blockage.

“The new tissue fixture developed in Iran keeps the parts of the heart under surgery motionless while the heart continues to work,” a project researcher, Masoud Moazen Najmabad, said.

“It works just like a mechanical arm that helps the vessel transplant done while there is no need to stop the heart temporarily.”

The researcher noted that unlike similar foreign-made devices, this device prevents any heart vessel from being torn and involves a minimally invasive surgery.

According to Najmabad, it also costs less than similar foreign devices, takes less room and is smaller.

*Iranian Nano Method Receives US Patent

The United States Patent and Trademark Office recently issued a patent (US 8,110,173) for a new and simple method invented by a group of Iranian researchers for producing nickel oxide nanopowders.

“So far, I have patented two inventions concerning the production of nickel oxide nanopowders both in Iran and the US in joint collaborations with my colleagues. The first one involves the utilization of aqueous phases while the other one is based on organic phases,” Dr. Seyyed Khatibol-Eslam Sadrnejad, one of the inventors who is an MIT PhD graduate in materials science and engineering (class of 1978), explained to the news service of Iran Nanotechnology Initiative Council (INIC).

“In the current research, we were mainly after a novel, simple and inexpensive alternative method of synthesis of metal oxide nanopowders,” he added.

Sadrnejad notes that based on the known solvothermal technique, the production process is straightforward and convenient.

In a simplified form, the employed synthesis procedure can be described as follows: A specific salt of nickel is first dissolved in an appropriately selected alcohol and then gradually heated and continually stirred in order to make a precipitation reaction occur. After a sufficient period of time, the yielded participate undergoes filtration, drying and calcinations steps, orderly.

The ultimate product is chip-like particles with nanometric dimensions. Thanks to their very high specific surface areas, they hold promise for applications in energy storage, electronics, optics, process control and catalysis technology.

“A distinct advantage of our proposed scheme over the previous methods is in not having to use any surfactants (surface active agents) which are relatively costly compounds,” he said.

Commenting on the commercialization of the invention, Sadrnejad said, “Implementation of our proposed NiO nanoparticles fabrication method on large scales seems to be economic for our country and we welcome any offers from investors on the topic.”

This research project has been funded by Iran’s National Science Foundation together with INIC.

The patent registration costs were covered in part by INIC.

*Iranians Help Find New Method To Produce Nanosensor

Researchers at Materials and Energy Research Center of Iran have succeeded in the synthesis of nanosensors made of indium oxide (In2O3) nanoparticles through a novel electrophoresis deposition method.

Conducted in association with Spanish researchers from University of Barcelona, this method has better response and shorter time response in comparison with other existing methods.

Indium oxide is known as a semiconductor oxide, which is very appropriate for the identification of gases at low temperatures in comparison with other metal oxide semiconductors, INIC reported.

The researchers synthesized various layers of indium oxide (In2O3) nanoparticles through an alternative current electrophoresis deposition at various frequencies.

Next, they proposed the optimum conditions for the synthesis of such layers by taking into consideration the sensitivity of the layers. A frequency of 10 kHz was reported as the best and the optimum frequency for the synthesis of the sensors.

Then, they produced thick layers of indium oxide (In2O3) nanoparticles by using optimum frequency in order to compare the properties of the synthesized nanosensor with those of the sensors produced through the precipitation method. The comparison proved that the new nanosensor benefited from more functional layers.

According to the report of researchers, the newly synthesized nanosensor provides more space for the passage of the gas due to the presence of pores caused by the chain structure of the interconnected nanoparticles. This fact results in the more desirable response of the nanosensor in comparison with other sensor.

*Iranian Students Get 2nd Place in Physics World Cup

Iran’s team ranked second in the 25th International Young Physicists’ Tournament (IYPT) held in Bad Saulgau, Germany, during July 20-29.

South Korea with 48.7 points, Iran with 46.9 points and Singapore with 46.7 points were placed first to third respectively, ISNA reported.

The Iranian team comprised Rojin Anbarafshan, Kamran Kamal Hedayat, Shiva Azizpour, Amir Reza Soheili and Mohammad Ali Modarresi.

A total of 28 teams from different countries participated in the event.

IYPT, also referred to as Physics World Cup, is a team-oriented scientific competition for secondary school students.
Participants present their solutions to scientific problems they have prepared over several months and then discuss their solutions with other teams.

The roles of Reporter (Presentation), Opponent and Reviewer are graded by a jury consisting of international experts.

The 24th International Young Physicists’ Contest was held in Iran during July 22-31 in Tehran’s Amir Kabir University.

*Iranian Makes Fastest Camera To Detect Cancer Cells

Iranian scientist Bahram Jalali has developed a new optical microscope that makes the tough task of identifying and isolating rare cells from among a large number of different cells for the early detection of cancer a whole lot easier.

The ability to distinguish and isolate rare cells from among a large population of assorted cells has become increasingly important for the early detection of the disease and for monitoring its treatment, ISNA reported.

Circulating cancer tumor cells are a perfect example. Typically, there are only a handful of them among a billion healthy cells, yet they are precursors to metastasis--the spread of cancer that causes about 90 percent of cancer mortalities. Such cells are not limited to cancer; they also include stem cells used for regenerative medicine and other cell types.

Unfortunately, the detection of such cells is difficult. Achieving good statistical accuracy requires an automated, high-throughput instrument that can examine millions of cells in a reasonably short time.

Microscopes equipped with digital cameras are currently the gold standard for analyzing cells, but they are too slow to be useful for this application.

Now, a new optical microscope developed by Jalali jointly with the UCLA engineers can make the tough task a whole lot easier.

“To catch these elusive cells, the camera must be able to capture and digitally process millions of images continuously at a very high frame rate,” said Bahram Jalali who holds the Northrop Grumman Endowed Opto-Electronic Chair in Electrical Engineering at the UCLA’s Henry Samueli School of Engineering and Applied Science.

“Conventional CCD and CMOS cameras are not fast and sensitive enough. It takes time to read the data from the array of pixels and they become less sensitive to light at high speed,” he said.

The current flow-cytometry method has high throughput, but since it relies on single-point light scattering, as opposed to taking a picture, it is not sensitive enough to detect very rare cell types, such as those present in early-stage or pre-metastasis cancer patients.

To overcome these limitations, an interdisciplinary team of researchers led by Jalali and Dino Di Carlo, a UCLA associate professor of bioengineering, with expertise in optics and high-speed electronics, microfluidics and biotechnology, has developed a high-throughput flow-through optical microscope with the ability to detect rare cells with sensitivity of one part per million in real time.

This technology builds on the photonic time-stretch camera technology created by Jalali’s team in 2009 to produce the world’s fastest continuous-running camera.

The new blood-screening technology boasts a throughput of 100,000 cells per second, approximately 100 times higher than conventional imaging-based blood analyzers. “This achievement required the integration of several cutting-edge technologies through collaborations between the departments of bioengineering and electrical engineering and the California NanoSystems Institute and adds to the significant technology infrastructure being developed at UCLA for cell-based diagnostics,” Di Carlo said.

Both Jalali and Di Carlo are members of the California Nano Systems Institute at UCLA. Their research demonstrates real-time identification of rare breast cancer cells in blood with a record low false-positive rate of one cell in a million. Preliminary results indicate that this new technology has the potential of quickly detecting rare circulating tumor cells from a large volume of blood and opening the way for early detection of cancer and monitoring the efficiency of drug and radiation therapy.

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