A wide range of biologically inspired materials may now be possible by combining protein studies, materials science and RNA sequencing, according to an international team of researchers. The researchers looked at proteins because they are the building blocks of biological materials and also often control sequencing, growth and self-assembly. RNA produced from the DNA in the cells is the template for biological proteins.
A plastic material already used in absorbable surgical sutures and other medical devices shows promise for continuous administration of antibiotics to patients with brain infections, scientists are reporting in a new study. Use of the material, placed directly on the brain’s surface, could reduce the need for weeks of costly hospital stays now required for such treatment.
Leveraging the amazing natural properties of the Morpho butterfly's wings, scientists have developed a hybrid material that shows promise for wearable electronic devices, highly sensitive light sensors and sustainable batteries. A honeycomb network of carbon nanotubes has actually been grown on Morpho butterfly wings, creating a composite material that can be activated with a laser.
Scientists at Switzerland have developed a new method for making antimicrobial surfaces that can eliminate bacteria under a minute. The breakthrough relies on a new sputtering technique that uses a highly ionized plasma to, for the first time, deposit antibacterial titanium oxide and copper films on 3-D polyester surfaces. This promotes the production of free radicals, which are powerful natural bactericides.
Tissues designed with pre-formed vascular networks are known to promote rapid vascular integration with the host. Generally, prevascularization has been achieved by seeding or encapsulating endothelial cells, but these methods are slow. Hydrogels have also been tried, but a new technique developed in Singapore uses hydrogels with a new patterning process to quickly incorporate different cell types separately into different fibers.
Using imperfections in diamonds as nanoscale thermometers, and gold nanoparticles implanted in cells as laser-induced heating mechanisms, a team of researchers working on DARPA’s Quantum-Assisted Sensing and Readout program recently demonstrated sub-degree temperature measurement and control at the nanometer scale inside living cells.
A new transparent, bio-inspired coating makes ordinary glass tough, self-cleaning and incredibly slippery, a team from the Wyss Institute for Biologically Inspired Engineering at Harvard Univ. reported. The new coating could be used to create durable, scratch-resistant lenses for eyeglasses, self-cleaning windows, improved solar panels and new medical diagnostic devices.
Some animals, like the octopus and cuttlefish, transform their shape based on environment. For decades, researchers have worked toward mimicking similar biological responses in non-living organisms, as it would have significant implications in the medical arena. Now, researchers at the Univ. of Pittsburgh have demonstrated such a biomimetic response using hydrogels.
A recent publication evaluates the latest advances toward using a protein called resilin in nanosprings, biorubbers, biosensors and other applications. This remarkable protein is rubber-like and enables dragonflies, grasshoppers and other insects to flap their wings, jump and chirp. Resilin could have major potential uses in medicine.
Unlike barnacles, which cement themselves tightly to surfaces, mussels dangle more loosely from these surfaces, attached by a collection of fine filaments known as byssus threads. This approach lets the creatures drift further out into the water, where they can absorb nutrients. Despite the fragile appearance of these threads, they can withstand impact forces that are nine times greater than forces exerted by stretching in one direction.
Researchers have developed a drug delivery technique for diabetes treatment in which a sponge-like material surrounds an insulin core. The sponge expands and contracts in response to blood sugar levels to release insulin as needed. The technique could also be used for targeted drug delivery to cancer cells.
Until now, polymers with temperature-controlled shape memory could only change form once. Biomaterial researchers have recently developed plastics that can repeatedly change from one shape to another and then back again when temperatures fluctuate within a selected range. The material is dubbed “polymer actuators” by its creators in Germany.
By feeding stem cells tiny particles made of magnetized iron oxide, scientists at Emory Univ. and Georgia Tech have used magnets to attract the cells to a particular location in the body after intravenous injection. The method could become a tool for directing stem cells’ healing powers to treat conditions such as heart disease or vascular disease.
With a 3-D printer, a petri dish and some cells from a cow, Princeton Univ. researchers are growing synthetic ears that can receive—and transmit—sound. The 3-D ear is not designed to replace a human one, though; the research is meant to explore a new method of combining electronics with biological material.
Using the octopus as inspiration, researchers in Germany have built a silent propulsion system for boats and water sport devices. The actuator works by sucking water into an elastomer ball, which is then contracted by a hydraulic piston. The most compelling feature is that the designers can produce the system in a single step with a 3-D printer.
Biomaterials are susceptible to microbial colonization, which is why silver is often added to reduce the adhesion rate of bacteria. However, a recent study by researchers in Portugal suggests that—in one material—increasing levels of silver may indirectly promote bacterial adhesion instead of decrease it.
Researchers working to design new materials that are durable, lightweight and environmentally sustainable are increasingly looking to bone for inspiration. While researchers have come up with hierarchical structures in the design of new materials, going from a computer model to the production of physical artifacts has been a persistent challenge. Now researchers have developed an approach that allows them to turn their designs into reality.
In a first-of-its-kind operation in the United States, a team of doctors at Duke University Hospital helped create a bioengineered blood vessel and transplanted it into the arm of a patient with end-stage kidney disease. The procedure was the first U.S. clinical trial to test the safety and effectiveness of the bioengineered blood vein.
Human scabs have become the model for development of an advanced wound dressing material that shows promise for speeding the healing process, scientists are reporting. The team explains that scabs are a perfect natural dressing material for wounds. In addition to preventing further bleeding, scabs protect against infection and recruit the new cells needed for healing.
It’s a familiar scenario—a patient receives a medical implant and days later, the body attacks the artificial valve or device, causing complications to an already compromised system. Expensive medical devices and surgeries often are thwarted by the body’s natural response to attack something in the tissue that appears foreign. Now, University of Washington engineers have demonstrated in mice a way to prevent this sort of response.
According to recent research at Rice University, bovine serum albumin (BSA) forms a protein “corona” around gold nanoparticles that keeps them from aggregating, particularly in high-salt environments like seawater. The discovery could lead to improved biomedical applications and contribute to projects that use nanoparticles in harsh environments.
Nearly all drugs taken orally spike in concentration, decay quickly, and are only at their peak effectiveness for a short period of time. working on a solution―nanocapsules implanted beneath the skin that release pharmaceutical drugs through a nanochannel membrane and into the body at a sustained, steady rate. To design better nanochannels for a given drug, the team is hoping to use the International Space Station.
Researchers at the University of Bristol in the U.K. have led a new enquiry into how extremely small particles of silica (sand) can be used to design and construct artificial protocells in the laboratory. By attaching a thin polymer layer to the external surface of an artificial inorganic protocell built from silica nanoparticles, the scientists have potentially the problem of controlling membrane permeability.
Researchers have made a significant first step with newly engineered biomaterials for cell transplantation that could help lead to a possible cure for Type 1 diabetes, which affects about 3 million Americans. Georgia Institute of Technology engineers and Emory University clinicians have successfully engrafted insulin-producing cells into a diabetic mouse model, reversing diabetic symptoms in the animal in as little as 10 days.
Duke University biomedical engineers have grown 3D human heart muscle that acts just like natural tissue. This advancement could be important in serving as a platform for testing new heart disease medicines. The “heart patch” grown in the laboratory from human cells overcomes two major obstacles facing cell-based therapies—the patch conducts electricity at about the same speed as natural heart cells and it “squeezes” appropriately.