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.
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.
Widely used in the medical field, mechanically complex silicone elastomers are slowly giving up their secrets and becoming ubiquitous.
A biodegradable, biocompatible material that replicates the strength, toughness, and versatility of an insect cuticle could one day replace plastics in consumer products, and be used safely in medical applications.
Prosthetic materials for hips, which include metals, polymers, and ceramics, have a lifetime typically exceeding 10 years. However, beyond 10 years the failure rate generally increases. Engineers and physicians have discovered that graphitic carbon is a key element in a lubricating layer that forms on metal-on-metal hip implants.
A nanoscale biological coating that includes a clotting agent found in blood can halt bleeding nearly instantaneously, an advance that could improve survival rates for soldiers injured in battle.
It's a matchup worthy of a late-night cable movie: Put a school of starving piranha and a 300-lb fish together, and who comes out the winner? The surprising answer—given the notorious guillotine-like bite of the piranha—is Brazil's massive Arapaima fish. The secret to Arapaima 's success lies in its intricately designed scales, which could provide "bioinspiration" for engineers looking to develop flexible ceramics.
Scientists at The Scripps Research Institute in California and the Technion–Israel Institute of Technology have developed a "biological computer" made entirely from biomolecules that is capable of deciphering images encrypted on DNA chips. Although DNA has been used for encryption in the past, this is the first experimental demonstration of a molecular cryptosystem of images based on DNA computing.
Researchers at Rice University and Texas Children's Hospital have turned stem cells from amniotic fluid into cells that form blood vessels. Their success offers hope that such stem cells may be used to grow tissue patches to repair infant hearts.
While researchers have long known of the incredible strength of spider silk, the robust nature of the tiny filaments cannot alone explain how webs survive multiple tears and winds that exceed hurricane strength. A combination of computer simulations and new experimental observations have revealed more about the sacrificial beams and stress-dependent materials that make silk so strong.
Through experiment and mathematical analysis, Harvard University researchers have shown that the extracellular matrix, a mesh of proteins and sugars that can form outside bacterial cells, creates osmotic pressure, forcing biofilms to swell and spread. The mechanism is powerful, sometimes causing five-fold size increases in less than a day.
Expanding on previous work with engines traveling on straight tracks, a team of researchers at Kyoto University and the University of Oxford, U.K., have successfully used DNA building blocks to construct a motor capable of navigating a programmable network of tracks with multiple switches.
A Colorado State University chemistry professor has developed several patent-pending chemical processes that would create sustainable bioplastics from renewable resources for use on everything from optical fibers and contact lenses to furniture and automobile parts.
Massachusetts Institute of Technology engineers have developed a nanoscale biological coating that can halt bleeding nearly instantaneously, an advance that could dramatically improve survival rates for soldiers injured in battle.
By manipulating the way bacteria "talk" to each other, researchers at Texas A&M University have achieved an unprecedented degree of control over the formation and dispersal of biofilms—a finding with potentially significant health and industrial applications, particularly to bioreactor technology.
A team in China have described a new approach to the production of adjustable microlenses made from protein gels. They used a laser to "write" the desired micrometer-sized lens shape out of a solution of bovine serum albumin, using tailored pulses to achieve the desired characteristics.
With the help of a Swiss violin maker, researcher Francis Schwarze has created a type of with such extraordinarily good tonal qualities; better, in fact, than even a Stradivarius. The innovation was achieved with the bizarre introduction of a white-rot fungus that attacked and destroyed spruce in just the right way.
Researchers at Carnegie Mellon University have successfully used nuclear magnetic resonance spectroscopy to analyze the structure of gold nanoparticles and determine whether or not they exist in a right-handed or left-handed configuration. Determining chirality is of major importance in pharmaceutical development, an area that has seen experimentation with gold nanoparticles.
Tube-shaped traps carved from bottle-brush molecules by chemists at the University at Buffalo could one day be used to capture and purify nanomaterials or proteins. The trapping mechanism is based on charge, and the tubes can selectively encapsulate positively charged molecules.
Researchers have demonstrated, for the first time, a graphene-based transistor array that is compatible with living biological cells and capable of recording the electrical signals they generate. This proof-of-concept platform opens the way for further investigation of a promising new material.
It looks like bone. It feels like bone. For the most part, it acts like bone. And it came off an inkjet printer. Washington State University researchers have used a 3D printer to create a bone-like material and structure that can be used in orthopedic procedures, dental work, and to deliver medicine for treating osteoporosis.
One of the first tasks for the University of Warwick's new supercomputer is to use its monster megabytes to analyze the natural properties of the tiny mollusk shell. By modeling the process of a mollusk's shell construction, scientists are hoping to guide future development of materials which replicate its strength and light weight in a synthetic format.
Purdue University scientists have developed a method for stacking synthetic DNA and carbon nanotubes onto a biosensor electrode, a development that may lead to more accurate measurements for research related to diabetes and other diseases.
Also called nacre, mother-of-pearl makes up the inner shell lining of pearl mussels and some other mollusks. After studying its properties a researcher at the University of South Carolina has proposed an explanation for the unusual resilience this defensive shield shows in the face of attacks.
In nature, the strength of mother-of-pearl is a key to survival for some shellfish. Now a team led by Xiaodong Li, an engineering professor at the University of South Carolina, has posited an explanation for the unusual resilience that this important defensive shield shows in the face of predatory attacks.