Researchers led by scientists at Case Western Reserve University have turned to an unlikely model to make medical devices safer and more comfortable—a squid's beak. Many medical implants require hard materials that have to connect to or pass through soft body tissue. This mechanical mismatch leads to problems such as skin breakdown at abdominal feeding tubes in stroke patients and where wires pass through the chest to power assistive heart pumps. Enter the squid.
Imitating the structural elements found in most sea sponges, researchers in Germany have created a new synthetic hybrid material that is extremely flexible yet has a mineral content of almost 90%. They recreated the sponge’s spicules using natural calcium carbonate and integrated a protein of the sponge. The invention is even more flexible than its natural counterpart.
A research team at the National Institute of Materials Science in Japan has recently developed a gel material which is capable of releasing drugs in response to pressure applied by the patient. Three fingers applying force to the site of the gel produces an effect for up to three days. They built the new drug from two materials already used in pharmaceuticals: a saccharide and a natural component of algae.
Researchers at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign have devised a dynamic and reversible way to assemble nanoscale structures and have used it to encrypt a Morse code message. The team started with a template of DNA origami―multiple strands of DNA woven into a tile. They “wrote” their message in the DNA template by attaching biotin-bound DNA strands to specific locations on the tiles that would light up as dots or dashes.
Scientists in Australia are perfecting a technique that may help see nanodiamonds used in biomedical applications. They have been processing the raw diamonds so that they might be used as a tag for biological molecules and as a probe for single-molecule interactions. With the help of an international team, these diamonds have recently been optically trapped and manipulated in three dimensions—the first time this has been achieved.
In systemic lupus erythematosus, the body attacks itself for largely mysterious reasons, leading to serious tissue inflammation and organ damage. Current drug treatments address symptoms only and can require life-long daily use at toxic doses. Now, scientists at Yale University have designed and tested a drug delivery system that uses biodegradable nanoparticles to deliver low drug doses. The method shows early promise for improved treatment of lupus and other chronic, uncured autoimmune diseases.
A new study has examined how bacteria clog medical devices, and the result isn’t pretty. The microbes join to create slimey ribbons that tangle and trap other passing bacteria, creating a full blockage in a startlingly short period of time. The finding could help shape strategies for preventing clogging of devices such as stents and water filters
Many researchers have been investigating the potential of tiny particles filled with drugs to treat cancer. A team of scientists in Sweden have recently made an advance in this area of research by developing “theranostic” nanoparticles, which combine therapy and diagnostics in the same nanomaterial. They are trackable through magnetic resonance.
Just like electronics, living cells use electrons for energy and information transfer. But cell membranes have thus far prevented us from “plugging” in cells to our computers. To get around this barrier that tightly controls charge balance, a research group at Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory’s Molecular Foundry has engineered <em>E. coli</em> as a testbed for cellular-electrode communication. They have now demonstrated that these bacterial strains can generate measurable current at an anode.
A new study provides details of the structure and tissue properties of the remora fish's unique adhesion system. The researchers plan to use this information to create an engineered reversible adhesive inspired by the remora that could be used to create pain- and residue-free bandages, attach sensors to objects in aquatic or military reconnaissance environments, replace surgical clamps, and help robots climb.
Researchers from North Carolina State University have, for the first time, successfully coated polymer implants with a bioactive film. The discovery should improve the success rate of such implants. The polymer used in these implants, called PEEK, does not bond well with bone or other tissues in the body. This can result in the implant rubbing against surrounding tissues, which can lead to medical complications and the need for additional surgeries.
Many medically minded researchers are in hot pursuit of designs that will allow drug-carrying nanoparticles to navigate tissues and the interiors of cells, but University of Michigan engineers have discovered that these particles have another hurdle to overcome: escaping the bloodstream. According to their work, the immune system can't get rid of some of the promising drug carriers quickly.
Biomembranes consist of a mosaic of individual, densely packed lipid molecules. These molecules are formed inside the cells. But how do these building blocks move to the correct part of the membrane? Researchers in Germany have discovered the bilayer structural mechanism that demonstrates how this is done.
A team of materials scientists at Harvard University and the University of Exeter have invented a new fiber that changes color when stretched. Inspired by nature, the researchers identified and replicated the unique structural elements that create the bright iridescent blue color of a tropical plant's fruit.
Researchers in Switzerland have designed tiny vessels that are capable of releasing active agents in the body. These “nanovehicles” are made from a liposome just 100 to 200 nm in diameter. By attaching magnetic iron oxide nanoparticles to the surface, scientists are able to target the vessel, heating it up to release the drug.
Scientists at Arizona State University are celebrating their recent success on the path to understanding what makes the fiber that spiders spin—weight for weight—at least five times as strong as piano wire. They have found a way to obtain a wide variety of elastic properties of the silk of several intact spiders' webs using a sophisticated but non–invasive laser light scattering technique.
Bacterial biofilms, which diseased groupings of cells found in 80% of infections, are a significant health hazard and one of the biggest headaches for hospitals and their constant battle against disease. Researchers from IBM, with the help of scientists in Singapore, revealed today a synthetic antimicrobial hydrogel that can break through diseased biofilms and completely eradicate drug-resistant bacteria upon contact. It is the first hydrogel to be biodegradable, biocompatible, and non-toxic.
In a small study recently conducted at Johns Hopkins Medicine, researchers reported increased healthy tissue growth after surgical repair of damaged cartilage if they put a “hydrogel” scaffolding into the wound to support and nourish the healing process. Physicians encourage cartilage growth by punching tiny holes in bone near the injured cartilage. This stimulates the patients’ stem cells to grow.
Mussels can be a mouthwatering meal, but the chemistry that lets mussels stick to underwater surfaces may also provide a highly adhesive wound closure and more effective healing from surgery. Researchers have incorporated the chemical structure from the mussel's adhesive protein into the design of an injectable synthetic polymer. The bioadhesives adhere well in wet environments, have controlled degradability, and improved biocompatibility.
A University of British Columbia researcher has helped create a gel—based on the mussel's knack for clinging to rocks, piers, and boat hulls-that can be painted onto the walls of blood vessels and stay put, forming a protective barrier with potentially life-saving implications.
A nanomaterial engineered by researchers at Duke University can help regulate chloride levels in nerve cells that contribute to chronic pain, epilepsy, and traumatic brain injury. The findings were demonstrated in individual nerve cells as well as in the brains of mice and rats, and may have future applications in intracranial or spinal devices to help treat neural injuries.
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.
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.
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.
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.