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Inspiration from a porcupine’s quills

December 10, 2012 5:46 pm | by Anne Trafton, MIT News Office | News | Comments

Anyone unfortunate enough to encounter a porcupine’s quills knows that once they go in, they are extremely difficult to remove. Researchers at Massachusetts Institute of Technology and Brigham and Women’s Hospital now hope to exploit the porcupine quill’s unique properties to develop new types of adhesives, needles and other medical devices.

New biomaterial gets 'sticky' with stem cells

December 10, 2012 8:00 am | News | Comments

Just like the bones that hold up your body, your cells have their own scaffolding that holds them up. This scaffolding, known as the extracellular matrix, or ECM, not only props up cells but also provides attachment sites, or "sticky spots," to which cells can bind, just as bones hold muscles in place. A new study by researchers in the U.S. and the U.K. found these sticky sports are distributed randomly throughout the ECM in the body, an important discovery with implications for researchers trying to figure out how to grow stems cells in the laboratory in ways that most closely mimic biology.

Multitasking plasmonic nanobubbles kill some cells, modify others

December 3, 2012 3:30 pm | by Mike Williams, Rice University | News | Comments

Researchers at Rice University have found a way to kill some diseased cells and treat others in the same sample at the same time. The process, which uses tunable plasmonic nanobubbles previously invented in the laboratory of Dmitri Lapotko, is activated by a pulse of laser light and leaves neighboring healthy cells untouched.

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Electrically spun fabric offers dual defense against pregnancy, HIV

November 30, 2012 1:52 pm | News | Comments

A new form of contraception could take an unexpected shape: electrically spun cloth with nanometer-sized fibers. These fibers, designed by a University of Washington team, can dissolve and release drugs, providing a cheap and discreet platform for protecting against unintended pregnancy, as well as HIV infection.

Implantable silk optics multi-task in the body

November 29, 2012 9:49 am | News | Comments

Tufts University School of Engineering researchers have demonstrated silk-based implantable optics that offer significant improvement in tissue imaging while simultaneously enabling photothermal therapy, administering drugs, and monitoring drug delivery. The devices also lend themselves to a variety of other biomedical functions.

Sieve holds nanoparticles, acts as solar absorber

November 26, 2012 12:43 pm | News | Comments

Colloidal suspensions of metal nanoparticles in water passes too easily through commonly used macroporous polymeric membranes. To handle these nanofluids, researchers have built a membrane equipped functionalized proteins that can act as filters for nanoscaled particles in aqueous solutions. Such a nano-sieve could act as a catalyzer or could capture solar energy.

Gold nanoparticle catalyst that learns from enzyme in nature

November 15, 2012 12:25 pm | News | Comments

Scientists in Japan have developed a high activity gold nanoparticle catalyst that simplifies the function of enzymes in capturing substances. This new type of catalyst mimics enzyme function on the surface of cell membranes, which capture molecules of designated lengths and shapes. The findings indicate that gold nanoparticles thus equipped could support biological activities as a catalyst in the reactions of the living body.

Building bones from wood

November 9, 2012 8:42 am | News | Comments

A research project in Europehas the aim of building bone implants that have been sourced from wood. The wood serves as a scaffolding that transforms to a ceramic identical to the mineral part of bone tissue: hydroxyapatite. The researchers believe the approach could appear in a clinical setting within ten years.

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Enzymatic pretreatment eliminates infectious bacteria from medical textiles

October 16, 2012 8:52 am | News | Comments

Researchers in Spain have improved the antimicrobial properties of medical textiles using an enzymatic pre-treatment combined with simultaneous deposition of nanoparticles and biopolymers under ultrasonic irradiation. The technique is used to create completely sterile antimicrobial textiles that help prevent hospital-acquired infections.

Spider silk’s hidden talents may produce eco-friendly optics

October 11, 2012 12:25 pm | News | Comments

At this week’s Frontiers in Optics 2012, physicists are presenting possible applications based on research that uses natural spider silk to catch light. Recent findings could present an eco-friendly alternative to glass or plastic fiber optics: the traditional materials for manipulating light. Silk-enabled implantable biosensors, lasers, and microchips could result.

One glue, two functions

October 3, 2012 4:27 am | News | Comments

University of Akron polymer scientists and biologists have discovered that a certain house spider—in order to more efficiently capture different types of prey—performs an uncommon feat. It tailors one glue to demonstrate two adhesive strengths: firm and weak. The researchers who made the finding are already working toward developing a synthetic adhesive that mimics this design strategy.

'Transient electronics' dissolve in body, environment

September 27, 2012 11:01 am | News | Comments

Tiny, fully biocompatible electronic devices that are able to dissolve harmlessly into their surroundings after functioning for a precise amount of time have been created by a research team led by biomedical engineers. Dubbed "transient electronics," the new class of silk-silicon devices promises a generation of medical implants that never need surgical removal, as well as environmental monitors and consumer electronics that can become compost rather than trash.

Oscillating microscopic beads could be key to biolab on a chip

September 25, 2012 4:45 am | by David L. Chandler, MIT News Office | News | Comments

If you throw a ball underwater, you'll find that the smaller it is, the faster it moves: A larger cross-section greatly increases the water's resistance. Now, a team of researchers has figured out a way to use this basic principle, on a microscopic scale, to carry out biomedical tests that could eventually lead to fast, compact, and versatile medical testing devices.

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Researchers develop novel 'stamping' process to pattern biomolecules

September 21, 2012 4:05 am | News | Comments

Fabricating precise biomolecular structures at extremely small scales is critical to the progress of nanotechnology. Traditionally this has been accomplished through the use of rubber stamps with tiny features which are covered with molecular inks and then stamped onto substrate surfaces, creating molecular patterns. However, when using this technique at the nanoscale, molecules tend to diffuse on the surface both during and after stamping, blurring the patterns. Now, a team of researchers have turned this "soft lithography" process on its head.

Nanostructural polymer-based treatment may ease pain of combat injuries

September 4, 2012 8:23 am | News | Comments

When bone is severely injured and amputation of a limb is necessary, or as a consequence of major orthopedic procedures, unwanted new bone formation occurs in the soft tissues surrounding the operated bone and appears as pieces of gravel-like bone. A new nanostructural polymer composite has been developed that can deliver unique RNA into cells at the bone trauma site to prevent unwanted bone features from growing.

Biocompatible cellulose nanostructures could speed wound recovery

August 23, 2012 6:30 am | News | Comments

Nanocellulose is a highly fibrillated material, composed of nanofibrils with diameters in the nanometer scale, with high aspect ratio and high specific surface area. Recently, the suitability of cellulose nanofibrils from wood for forming elastic cryogels has been demonstrated by scientists. These gels could improve wound healing if used in dressings.

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.

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.

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.

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