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Plants exhibit a wide range of mechanical properties, engineers find

August 14, 2012 4:01 am | News | Comments

A Massachusetts Institute of Technology researcher has complied data on the microstructure of a number of different plants and has found that plants exhibit an enormous range of mechanical properties, depending on the arrangement of a cell wall's main building blocks. This understanding of a plants' microscopic organization may help engineers design new, bio-inspired materials.

Newly developed composite nanofibers open next chapter in orthopaedic biomaterials

August 7, 2012 11:56 am | News | Comments

Bioengineered replacements for tissues require recreation of the exquisite architecture of these tissues in three dimensions. These fibrous, collagen-based tissues located throughout the body have an ordered structure that gives them their ability to bear extreme mechanical loading. A team from the University of Pennsylvania has developed and validated a new technology in which composite nanofibrous scaffolds provide a loose enough structure for cells to colonize without impediment, but still can instruct cells how to lay down new tissue.

Structural study sheds light on atomic-scale functionalization of gold nanoparticles

August 2, 2012 10:40 am | News | Comments

Researchers report on the first structural study on the atomistic processes of a ligand-exchange reaction of a well-defined gold nanoparticle. They are hoping their insights will lead to the development of a fully controllable synthetic surface for these nanoparticles, which are water-soluble and have a number of potential biological uses.

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Tissue engineering tool creates flesh on a large scale

August 1, 2012 4:26 am | News | Comments

Imagine a machine that makes layered, substantial patches of engineered tissue. Sounds like science fiction? According to researchers at the University of Toronto, it's a growing possibility. They have invented a method that incorporates cells onto a mosaic hydrogel that offers the perfect conditions for growth.

New coating evicts biofilms for good

July 31, 2012 8:19 am | News | Comments

Biofilms stick to just about everything, from copper pipes to steel ship hulls to glass catheters, and can be both a nuisance and a health threat. A team of Harvard University scientists has developed a slick 99%-effective way to prevent the troublesome bacterial communities from ever forming on a surface.

Professor sees green energy in termite guts

July 26, 2012 9:03 am | by Bob Silberg, NASA Jet Propulsion Laboratory | News | Comments

According a California Institute of Technology microbiologist, there are hundreds of species of microbes in termite guts found nowhere else in nature. And he’s interested in a particular substance called pyruvate that is an intermediary in termites’ wood conversion ability. If we can learn how this works, he says, we could recover a tremendous amount of wasted energy from woody plant materials.

Scientists create artificial mother of pearl

July 25, 2012 7:23 am | News | Comments

Nacre, also called mother of pearl, is the iridescent coating that is found on the inside of some molluscs and on the outer coating of pearls. By recreating the biological steps that form nacre in molluscs, the scientists were able to manufacture a material which has a similar structure, mechanical behaviour, and optical appearance of that found in nature.

Silk technology preserves heat-sensitive drugs

July 10, 2012 5:57 am | News | Comments

Researchers at Tufts University School of Engineering have discovered a way to maintain the potency of vaccines and other drugs—that otherwise require refrigeration—for months and possibly years at temperatures above 110 F, by stabilizing them in a silk protein made from silkworm cocoons.

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Melanin considered for bio-friendly electronics

June 27, 2012 5:13 am | News | Comments

Melanin could soon be the face of a new generation of biologically friendly electronic devices used in applications such as medical sensor and tissue stimulation treatments. An international team of scientists has published a study that, for the first time, gives insight into the electrical properties of this pigment and its biologically compatible "bioelectronic" features.

Carbon is key for getting algae to pump out more oil

June 18, 2012 4:06 am | News | Comments

Overturning two long-held misconceptions about oil production in algae, scientists at Brookhaven National Laboratory show that ramping up the microbes' overall metabolism by feeding them more carbon increases oil production as the organisms continue to grow. The findings may point to new ways to turn photosynthetic green algae into tiny "green factories" for producing raw materials for alternative fuels.

Researchers design and build synthetic platelets

May 31, 2012 7:52 am | News | Comments

Platelets are the components of blood that allow it to prevent excessive bleeding and to heal wounds. Through a complex series of deposition and crosslinking techniques, researchers have recently built a synthetic version of the platelet that shares the natural cells characteristics. Synthetic platelets could have many biomedical uses.

Isoprene research could lead to eco-friendly car tires

May 16, 2012 5:45 am | News | Comments

The world's rubber supplies are in peril, and automobile tire producers are scrambling to seek alternative solutions. Tom Sharkey, chairperson of the Michigan State University Biochemistry and Molecular Biology Department, believes isoprene could be a viable option.

Team scales up production of biopolymer microthreads

May 1, 2012 6:48 am | News | Comments

Development of new therapies for a range of medical conditions, including sports injuries and heart attacks, could depend on a new production-scale microthread extruder developed by a team of graduate students and biomedical engineering faculty at Worcester Polytechnic Institute. The microthreads would support tissue regeneration, wound healing, and cell therapy.

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Coating for hip implants could prevent premature failure

April 19, 2012 5:53 am | by Anne Trafton, MIT News Office | News | Comments

More than a million Americans receive an artificial hip or knee prosthesis each year, but tens of thousands of people need early replacements because of loosening joints. To help minimize these operations, a team of chemical engineers at Massachusetts Institute of Technology has developed a thin, layered coating for implants that helps promote bone growth.

Lanthanides expand list of upconverting luminescent particles

April 13, 2012 3:14 am | News | Comments

The light that a luminescent particle emits is usually less energetic than the light that it absorbs. Some applications require the emitted light to be more energetic, but this so-called upconversion process has been observed in only a small handful of materials. Researchers in Singapore have recently succeeded in expanding this list of upconversion materials by using different lanthanides at different stages of conversion.

Carbon nanotubes can double growth of cell cultures

April 4, 2012 3:55 pm | News | Comments

According to recent first-of-its-kind research results, a dose of carbon nanotubes can more than double the growth rate of plant cell cultures. Previous work at the University of Arkansas showed that multi-walled carbon nanotubes can penetrate the thick coatings of seeds. It turns out they can also stimulate germination and growth in plant cell cultures.

Microlenses built in a test tube

March 26, 2012 8:05 am | News | Comments

Taking inspiration from the brittlestar, a sea creature that “sees” using crystalline lenses made of calcium carbonate, a team of scientists have discovered that they can grow tiny uniform hemispheric calcium carbonate thin films on a solution. Compatible with biological systems, the microlenses are defect free.

NIST experts measure practicality of DNA origami

March 7, 2012 8:26 am | News | Comments

While most researchers in nanomanufacturing are working to demonstrate what’s possible, researchers NIST are trying to determine what’s realistic. Results of their measurements of a promising self-assembly technique known as DNA origami show that current methods are too slow and inaccurate for use in certain industries, such semiconductor lithography.

New hydrogel heals itself in seconds

March 7, 2012 8:19 am | News | Comments

Bioengineers at the University of California, San Diego have invented a self-healing hydrogel that binds quickly, as easily as Velcro, and forms a bond strong enough to withstand repeated stretching. Computer simulations of the gel network helped them discover the key to its properties: the length of side chain molecules, or fingers.

Engineer discovers spider silk conducts heat

March 5, 2012 7:38 am | News | Comments

Xinwei Wang, an Iowa State University associate professor of mechanical engineering, is leading a study that found spider silk is very good at transferring heat. Spider silk, in fact, conducts heat as well or better than most metals.

Cells on film

February 27, 2012 3:19 am | News | Comments

Scientists at RIKEN Advanced Science Institute in Japan, with help from colleagues at the University of California, Los Angeles, have invented a polymer film loaded with antibodies that can capture tumor cells. This could be an important diagnostic tool because during metastasis cancerous tumor cells float around the bloodstream, nearly impossible to detect.

Team magnetizes carbon nanoparticles for cancer therapy

February 24, 2012 7:25 am | News | Comments

Carbon nanoparticles can be coated to make them attach to cancer cells, but getting them in the correct position can be difficult. A research team in Texas has magnetized nanoparticles so that they can be moved with a magnetic field. Administered using fiber optics, the method is non-destructive to healthy cells and carbon nanoparticles also fluoresce.

First results from large-scale molecular science R & D effort released

February 23, 2012 6:28 am | News | Comments

The TRR 61 project has been keeping about 150 scientists in Germany and China busy since 2008. The goal is to understand how large natural systems, such as biorganisms are assembled from numerous diverse small molecular structures. The first papers from the first stage of the project, which looks at self-assembly mechanisms, have recently been published.

Researchers find the healing properties of a spider's web

February 17, 2012 5:13 am | News | Comments

The study of spider webs has led to a discovery that will generate new types of medical sutures embedded with medication. University of Akron scientists have developed a novel biocompatible thread material similar to a specific kind of silk spun by an orb spider.

The Indispensable Biomaterial

February 15, 2012 9:44 am | by Paul Livingstone | Articles | Comments

Widely used in the medical field, mechanically complex silicone elastomers are slowly giving up their secrets and becoming ubiquitous.

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