Engineers like to make things that work. And if one wants to make something work using nanoscale components—the size of proteins, antibodies, and viruses—mimicking the behavior of cells is a good place to start since cells carry an enormous amount of information in a very tiny packet. As Erik Winfree, professor of computer science, computation and neutral systems, and bioengineering, explains, “I tend to think of cells as really small robots. Biology has programmed natural cells, but now engineers are starting to think about how we can program artificial cells. We want to program something about a micron in size, finer than the dimension of a human hair, that can interact with its chemical environment and carry out the spectrum of tasks that biological things do, but according to our instructions.”
Getting tiny things to behave is, however, a daunting task. A central problem bioengineers face when working at this scale is that when biochemical circuits, such as the one Winfree has designed, are restricted to an extremely small volume, they may cease to function as expected, even though the circuit works well in a regular test tube. Smaller populations of molecules simply do not behave the same as larger populations of the same molecules, as a recent paper in Nature Chemistry demonstrates.
What does it take to regrow bone in mass quantities? Typical bone regeneration — wherein bone is taken from a patient’s hip and grafted onto damaged bone elsewhere in the body — is limited and can cause great pain just a few years after operation. In an informative talk, Molly Stevens introduces a new stem cell application that harnesses bone’s innate ability to regenerate and produces vast quantities of bone tissue painlessly.
For the first time ever, neuroscientists have completed a comprehensive roadmap of the top-trafficked communication highways in the human brain.
This white-matter map not only charts the geography of these neural highways – it also plots out which of them interact with the most other paths, which are most crucial for supporting key brain functions, and which ones leave the whole brain most vulnerable to long-term damage if they’re disrupted.
This 3D medical animation shows the coronary vessels in the heart and the different ways they may become blocked. The symptoms of acute coronary syndrome (ACS) are depicted. The animation finishes up with common treatments for acute coronary syndrome and heart attack.
In work inspired partly by the movie “Avatar,” one monkey could control the body of another monkey using thought alone by connecting the brain of the puppet-master monkey to the spine of the other through a prosthesis, researchers say.
These findings could help lead to implants that help patients overcome paralysis, scientists added.
Paralysis due to nerve or spinal cord damage remains a challenge for current surgical techniques. Scientists are now attempting to restore movement to such patients with brain-machine interfaces that allow people to operate computers or control robotic limbs.
Scientists at Imperial College London have discovered that iron deficiency may increase stroke risk by making the blood more sticky.
The findings, published in the journal PLOS ONE, could ultimately help with stroke prevention.
Every year, 15 million people worldwide suffer a stroke. Nearly six million die and another five million are left permanently disabled. The most common type, ischaemic stroke, occurs because the blood supply to the brain is interrupted by small clots.
The Imperial team found that iron deficiency increases the stickiness of small blood cells called platelets, which initiate blood clotting when they stick together. Although a link between iron deficiency and sticky platelets was first discovered almost 40 years ago, its role has been overlooked until now.
Crime dramas frequently depict detectives interrogating suspected criminals under bright lights to get the truth out of them. Now, a new study may lend credence to this tactic, as it suggests human emotion – both positive or negative – is experienced more intensely under bright lights.
The research, conducted by investigators from the University of Toronto Scarborough in Canada and Northwestern University in Illinois, was published in the Journal of Consumer Psychology.