When a foreign material like a medical device or surgical implant is put inside the human body, the body usually reacts negatively. For the first time ever, researchers at Northwestern Univ. have created a biodegradable biomaterial that is inherently antioxidant. The material can be used to create elastomers, liquids that turn into gels, or solids for building devices that are more compatible with cells and tissues.
Vibrate a solution of rod-shaped metal nanoparticles in water with ultrasound and they'll spin around their long axes like tiny drill bits. Why? No one yet knows exactly. But researchers at the NIST have clocked their speed, and it's fast. At up to 150,000 revolutions per minute, these nanomotors rotate 10 times faster than any nanoscale object submerged in liquid ever reported.
A Univ. of Alabama start-up company, 525 Solutions, has received about $1.5 million from the federal government to refine an invention to extract uranium from the ocean for use as fuel. It is an adsorbent, biodegradable material made from the compound chitin, which is found in crustaceans and insects. The researchers have developed transparent sheets, or mats, comprised of tiny chitin fibers, which pull uranium from the water.
The common pencil squid may hold the key to a new generation of medical technologies that could communicate more directly with the human body. Materials science researchers in California have discovered that reflectin, a protein in the tentacled creature’s skin, can conduct positive electrical charges, or protons, making it a promising material for building biologically inspired devices.
Confined water exists widely and plays important roles in natural environments, particularly inside biological nanochannels. After several years of work, scientists in China have developed a series of biomimetic nanochannels that can serve as the base for confined transportation of water. The technology suggests a potential use in energy conversion systems.
Current drug delivery systems used to administer chemotherapy to cancer patients typically release a constant dose of the drug over time, but a new study challenges this "slow and steady" approach and offers a novel way to locally deliver the drugs "on demand," as reported in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.
When stem cells are used to regenerate bone tissue, many wind up migrating away from the repair site, which disrupts the healing process. But a technique employed by a Univ. of Rochester research team keeps the stem cells in place, resulting in faster and better tissue regeneration. The keyis encasing the stem cells in polymers that attract water and disappear when their work is done.
Artificial joints have a limited lifespan. After a few years, many hip and knee joints have to be replaced. More problematic are intervertebral disc implants, which cannot easily be replaced after they “expire” and are usually reinforced, which restrict a patient’s movement. Researchers in Switzlernad have now succeeded in coating mobile intervertebral disc implants so that they show no wear and will now last for a lifetime.
Traumatic bone injuries are often so severe that the body can’t effectively repair the damage on its own. To aid the recovery, clinicians inject patients with growth factors. The treatment is costly, requiring large amounts of expensive growth factors. The growth factors also disperse, creating unwanted bone formation around the injury. A new technology could provide more efficient delivery of the bone regenerating growth factors.
Crowding has notoriously negative effects at large size scales, blamed for everything from human disease and depression to community resource shortages. But relatively little is known about the influence of crowding at the cellular level. A new JILA study shows that a crowded environment has dramatic effects on individual biomolecules.
The mechanical properties of natural joints are considered unrivalled. Cartilage is coated with a special polymer layer allowing joints to move virtually friction-free, even under high pressure. Using simulations, scientists in Europe have developed a new process that technologically imitates biological lubrication and even improves it using two different types of polymers.
Rice Univ. bioengineers have created a hydrogel that instantly turns from liquid to semisolid at close to body temperature—and then degrades at precisely the right pace. The gel shows potential as a bioscaffold to support the regrowth of bone and other 3-D tissues in a patient’s body using the patient’s own cells to seed the process.
Researchers in Pennsylvania have created an artificial chemical sensor based on one of the human body’s most important receptors, one that is critical in the action of painkillers and anesthetics. In these devices, the receptors’ activation produces an electrical response rather than a biochemical one, allowing that response to be read out by a computer.
Researchers in New York have been able to, for the first time, generate fully functional human cartilage from mesenchymal stem cells by mimicking, in vitro, the developmental process of mesenchymal condensation. While there has been great success in engineering pieces of cartilage using young animal cells, no one has, until now, been able to reproduce these results using adult human stem cells from bone marrow or fat.
In the fight against “superbugs,” scientists have discovered a class of agents that can make some of the most notorious strains vulnerable to the same antibiotics that they once handily shrugged off. Recently discovered metallopolymers, when paired with the same antibiotics MRSA normally dispatches with ease, helped evade the bacteria’s defensive enzymes and destroyed its protective walls, causing the bacteria to burst.
Synthetic collagen invented at Rice Univ. may help wounds heal by directing the natural clotting of blood. The material, KOD, mimics natural collagen, a fibrous protein that binds cells together into organs and tissues. It could improve upon commercial sponges or therapies based on naturally derived porcine or bovine-derived collagen now used to aid healing during or after surgery.
A novel ultrathin collagen matrix assembly allows for the unprecedented maintenance of liver cell morphology and function in a microscale "organ-on-a-chip" device that is one example of 3-D microtissue engineering.
Biomedical engineers have grown living skeletal muscle that looks a lot like the real thing. It contracts powerfully and rapidly, integrates into mice quickly, and for the first time, demonstrates the ability to heal itself both inside the laboratory and inside an animal.
The shells of a sea creature, the mollusk Placuna placenta, are not only exceptionally tough, but also clear enough to read through. Now, researchers at Massachusetts Institute of Technology have analyzed these shells to determine exactly why they are so resistant to penetration and damage; even though they are 99% calcite, a weak, brittle mineral.
Researchers in the U.K. have developed a new antibacterial material which has potential for cutting hospital acquired infections. The combination of two simple dyes with nanoscopic particles of gold is deadly to bacteria when activated by light, even under modest indoor lighting. And in a first for this type of substance, it also shows impressive antibacterial properties in total darkness.
Plants have many valuable functions: They provide food and fuel, release the oxygen that we breathe and add beauty to our surroundings. Now, a team of Massachusetts Institute of Technology researchers wants to make plants even more useful by augmenting them with nanomaterials that could enhance their energy production and give them completely new functions, such as monitoring environmental pollutants.
Sometimes it only takes a quick jolt of electricity to get a swarm of cells moving in the right direction. Researchers at the Univ. of California, Berkeley found that an electrical current can be used to orchestrate the flow of a group of cells, an achievement that could establish the basis for more controlled forms of tissue engineering.
Researchers at Harvard Univ.'s Wyss Institute have developed a method to carry out large-scale manufacturing of everyday objects using a fully degradable bioplastic isolated from shrimp shells. The objects exhibit many of the same properties as those created with synthetic plastics, but without the environmental threat. It also trumps most bioplastics on the market today in posing absolutely no threat to trees.
A bit of pressure from a new shrinking, sponge-like gel is all it takes to turn transplanted unspecialized cells into cells that lay down minerals and begin to form teeth. The bioinspired gel material could one day help repair or replace damaged organs, such as teeth and bone, and possibly other organs as well.
Protein from a small, tasty mollusk inspired Michigan Technological Univ.’s Bruce P. Lee to invent a new type of hydrogel actuator. Hydrogels are soft networks of polymers with high water content, like jello. Because of their soft, gentle texture, they have the potential to interact safely with living tissues and have applications in a number of medical areas, including tissue engineering.