Due to shortages of natural resources like oils and fossil fuels, researchers are creating energy with alternative sources. From what it seems, our bodies may be more useful than we give them credit for. As a matter of fact, our sweat can power various electronics, including radios. In this case, so can our tears, as they have been found to contain a protein called lysozyme.
Lysozyme has an innate antibacterial property, as its main role is to protect against infection by breaking down bacterial cells. While many other known piezoelectric materials contain toxic elements like lead, Stapleton says lysozyme’s nontoxic, organic quality could make it useful to biomedical technology.
Big words aside, applying pressure to the protein creates a small electrical charge. That electrical charge can power medical devices such as pacemakers, and can eventually be used to replace old batteries. Head of study Aimee Stapleton explained that lysozymes crystallize, which make them hassle-free and thus make their usage relatively easy to develop.
“I was interested in lysozyme because it can be crystallized really easily, which makes it easier to study,” she says, “because crystallized structures tend to show piezoelectricity.”
The protein is apparently more conductive than other materials, which makes them a good alternative to replace old batteries with, but don’t worry — scientists aren’t going to start making people cry. Lysozymes are apparently also present in egg whites. Maybe chicken farmers are the ones who should be stoked.
Finding a cure for cancer has been a dream for doctors and patients alike. Over the years, scientists have made progress using gene-altering treatments, which reprograms T-cells. However, it seems nanomachines may be the answer, as they can destroy cancer cells in mere seconds.
The tiny spinning molecules are driven by light, and spin so quickly that they can burrow their way through cell linings when activated.
A broken outer membrane means a cell is no more. While I can only speak for myself, I think that’s pretty killer. Researchers are developing light-activated methods using the nanomachines for non-invasive treatments.
“These nanomachines are so small that we could park 50,000 of them across the diameter of a human hair, yet they have the targeting and actuating components combined in that diminutive package to make molecular machines a reality for treating disease.”
Not initially meant for medical use, this application for nanomachines is certainly a game-changer. Great things do come in small packages.
Engineers are always on the hunt for more efficient ways to power the humble double-A battery. So far, industry geniuses have tried unusual mediums such as air and even spit. Yet the search is far from over–as electronics innovator Juan Pablo Esquivel is testing a paper battery.
“We develop small, nontoxic, inexpensive fuel cells and batteries that don’t need to be recycled and could be thrown away with no ecological impact,” he explains.
The petite power cell will charge disposable devices and microelectronics. And no–we’re not talking Hot Wheels. Esquivel aims to make pregnancy, glucose, and and disease tests cheaper and more accessible.
“Esquivel is like Cristiano Ronaldo, and, like Ronaldo, he’s playing for an excellent team. That’s why he gets results,” jokes Antonio Martínez, a professor at the Polytechnic University of Madrid.
With single-use devices hitting the bins before they lose charge, landfills could use a little less lithium.
Implants are becoming a thing of the past, now that it’s possible to 3D-print anything from brain tissue to teeth. While some remain dubious about the technology, Chinese scientists may convince them to think on the contrary. A Chinese lab has successfully incorporated 3D-printing methods to regrow underdeveloped ears using the patients’ own cells.
The researchers created a 3D-printed replica of each child’s normal ear… but … reversed. This replica was then used to create a mold littered with tiny holes and made out of biodegradable material. The mold was filled in with precursor cartilage cells taken from the children’s deformed ear that were further grown in the lab.
The ears grow over a 12-week process and are more restorative than cosmetic. Chinese researchers haven’t yet trialled the use of stem cells, but progress incredibly fast, which means its potential shouldn’t be far off. Five children have since undergone the experimental procedure.
“It’s a very exciting approach,” [said] Tessa Hadlock, a reconstructive plastic surgeon…“They’ve shown that it is possible to get close to restoring the ear structure.”
We’ve come a long way with reconstructive surgeries, and might I say — it’s music to my ears.
Medical e-skin sensors have made it easier and more affordable to detect illnesses. Devices such as nanochips have made treating these illnesses even simpler. Still, not every health condition is easy to pick up. To rule out melanoma, students from McMaster University have created Skan, which uses heat to test for skin cancer.
It works using a series of thermistors, which are inexpensive and highly accurate temperature sensors, to detect the temperature response of a patch of skin to sudden cooling.
The readings are then processed by an algorithm that uses time, temperature, and spacial readings to create a heat map, and show any spots with heat irregularities that could be a melanoma.
It is important to tackle melanomas in their early stages as they metabolize faster than normal cells. But as with most outdated technology, current detection apparatuses cost more than an arm and a leg.
There are already detection methods using thermal imaging, but they currently use thermal imaging cameras that cost upwards of $26,000.
Estimates project Skan to cost $1,000, truly a fraction of the price of traditional machines. Considering how quickly survival rates drop when melanoma gets its way, investing in Skan may be the way to go.
Lab-grown seafood may be actively solving over-harvesting, but it lacks any noteworthy benefactors. On the flip side, billionaires like Bill Gates and Richard Branson are sponsoring lab-grown meat by Memphis Meats. So what’s the beef?
“Instead of using animals as pieces of technology to convert plants into proteins to make things that we like to eat, drink and wear, we can just use biology to make those things directly,” said… an early investor in Memphis Meats.
Developers envision facilities that are more reminiscent to breweries than slaughterhouses. Admittedly, the former is less unsettling. But how will Memphis Meats grow tasty steaks and chops without the direct use of an animal?
The company’s scientists identify cells that they want to scale up production on — selecting them based on the recommendations of experts. Those cells are cultivated with a blend of sugar, amino acids, fats and water, and within three to six weeks the meat is harvested.
Production is quick but still small-scale. However, with further development, the process could cut greenhouse emissions, save water, and create a more sustainable agriculture industry. From its patrons, Memphis Meats has raised a charming $22 million. I sure hope the filet mignon is worth it.
Since implanting their brain cells into humans in an attempt to treat Parkinson’s, pigs have helped further lab research. Just like mice, they have undergone testing in order to advance the health industry. Now, a new development in gene editing may allow pig-to-human transplants sooner rather than later.
To combat [difficulties], a team from Harvard University and a private company, eGenesis, just created gene-edited pig clones that are completely free of… retroviruses. Now, without the threat of these hidden diseases, it may be possible to safely transplant pig livers, hearts, and other organs.
Simply raising genetically altered pigs could be the ultimate game-changer. However, there is always the risk of organs not being accepted into host bodies.
Emerging technologies, like the CRISPR-Cas9 system of gene editing fame, are getting researchers closer to rejection free transplants.
Alongside lab-growing piglets, researchers are also dabbling into bioprinting. Using a patient’s own cells, bioprinting makes the replication of organs, tissue, and bones possible. It looks like there is greater value to bacon after all.
Thanks to gene editing, we’ve seen much progress in hard-to-treat conditions. Sufferers of both muscular dystrophy and leukemia are experiencing a new variety of treatment options. Now, thanks to CRISPR, a renowned gene editing tool, researchers have increased HIV resistance in animals.
A minor proportion of people harbor a homozygous mutation in CCR5—a gene that encodes a receptor found on immune cells—that thwarts HIV’s attempts to get inside the cells. In an attempt to mimic this natural resistance, researchers mutated CCR5 in human fetal liver hematopoietic stem/progenitor cells (HSPCs) and showed that the cells could block HIV infection after transplantation into mice.
Don’t let the medical jargon fool you — while the procedure may be complicated, the concept itself is a lot simpler. By replicating a naturally occurring genetic mutation, T-cells become more resistant to viruses. But results were slow, and researchers were patient, to say the least.
“The long-term reconstitution and secondary transplantation were time-consuming. It took us more than one-year monitoring of the mice to confirm the gene editing is robust in long-term HSCs,”
The study may not have been the first to incorporate gene editing, but it is the first to use CRISPR. We may not have engineered a complete cure (after all, we’ve only targeted mice), but finding one wouldn’t seem too improbable.
Moral of the story? Take risks. Sponsor a child genius. Our future depends on them.
With the emergence of solar farms such as the Panda Power Plant in China, new methods of harvesting power are also manifesting. Tesla has engineered the solar roof, but the University of Exeter is not stopping there. We may now have the option to replace exterior walls with solar blocks made of glass.
Known as Solar Squared, the transparent blocks contain multiple optical elements that each focus incoming sunlight onto an individual solar cell. All of the cells within each block are linked together, and the blocks themselves can in turn be wired to one another, ultimately feeding into the building’s electrical grid or a battery.
Users can choose to have the block tinted to avoid overheating. They also provide quality thermal insulation, much better than that of a traditional glass block.
Build Solar is still conducting preliminary commercial testing. If successful, Solar Squared could be seeing the light of day (pun completely intended) as early as next year.
While nanochips were reprogramming skin cells in a single touch, scientists elsewhere were attempting to fix broken hearts. Literally, of course, and they were successful. Researchers from the University of Toronto have invented an injectable bandage that can repair organs.
The 1cm by 1cm patch is so small that it can fit through a syringe. Once injected, it unfolds and then acts as a puncture repair kit for the heart.
The bandage, made of laboratory-grown heart cells, can strengthen areas that need extra support before breaking down and leaving behind new tissue.
The bandage could potentially be valuable in open heart surgery as well as in repairing blood vessels. Human trials have yet to begin as animal testing is still in the works.
“It can’t restore the heart back to full health but if it could be done in a human we think it would significantly improve quality of life.”
To cater to varying medical needs, the bandage can be customized with the addition of certain drugs. Now there’s a heartbreak chocolate can’t fix!