Extreme medical emergencies will often require major procedures. Sometimes, they call for replacement organs, which can now be lab-grown. While they may be effective, they aren’t always practical. Luckily, researchers from Fudan University have created bendable batteries that are implantable in humans.
The team created two flexible design batteries; one being a “2D” belt comprised of electrode films over a steel mesh, and the other being a carbon nanotube fibre weave with nanoparticle electrodes – both of which “showed excellent performance”.
Most lithium-ion batteries used in implants are flammable and pose safety hazards. The new flexible material is completely non-toxic and is safe to use on the brain. It can help restore the mobility of patients with spinal injuries, among other things.
The carbon nanotube in the battery converted dissolved oxygen into hydroxide ions at an accelerated rate which can starve cancerous cells.
Yes, you heard right — the batteries can treat cancer. Electrodes on the mechanism can tackle places that are difficult for injectable drugs to reach. But as with everything experimental, we have to play the waiting game, as the batteries are not yet available. On the bright side, most discoveries are occurring consecutively, which means they could go commercial sooner than we think.
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!
Science is constantly seeking ways to treat the human body — quickly and efficiently. We may be close to mastering the art of growing replacement organs but, for now, we rely on 3D printing. Still, every year we encounter new technologies that improve the way we approach illnesses. This impressive nanochip can reprogram skin cells in a single touch.
The new technique, called tissue nanotransfection, is based on a tiny device that sits on the surface of the skin of a living body. An intense, focused electric field is then applied across the device, allowing it to deliver genes to the skin cells beneath it – turning them into different types of cells.
In essence, compromised organs can be replaced by simply incorporating new genes. This is also the first technology that does not use a viral vector. Healing can occur as quickly as in a single week.
“With this technology, we can convert skin cells into elements of any organ with just one touch. This process only takes less than a second and is non-invasive, and then you’re off,”
Like most new technologies, nanotransfection still needs to undergo refinement in order to avoid rejection. Additionally, researchers predict using the technique on internal organs. Too good to be true? Let’s hope not.
Organs are pretty versatile. We can 3D print them or grow them in labs, either way replicating functional body parts. Now, scientists have found a way to make them flexible enough to fold. In other words, origami organs exist.
“This new class of biomaterials has potential for tissue engineering and regenerative medicine as well as drug discovery and therapeutics,”
The team stumbled upon the idea for making organ-based paper after a lucky accident during their research on 3D-printed mice ovaries.
A chance spill of the hydrogel-based gelatin ink used to make the ovaries ended up pooling into a dry sheet in the bench lab, and from one strange innovation, another was born.
A mishap gone right, the bioactive “tissue paper” can potentially be used to heal wounds or supplement hormone production.
It’s a bit like papier-mâché… but what’s important is that the paper retains residual biochemicals from its protein-based origins, holding on to cellular properties from the specific organ it comes from.
As with all clinical experiments, origami organs need to undergo a lot of testing. However, a sterling sign of prospective success is the fact that the paper supports human stem cell growth. I guess paper cranes are now more than just an art form.
3D printing is proving to be a force to be reckoned with. With it, researchers can produce anything from teeth to functioning hearts — and they’re not stopping there. An Australian public research university has found a way to treat brain diseases by 3D printing brain tissue.
The treatment is based on the 3D printing of tissue from human-induced pluripotent stem cells (iPSCs), which are stem cells that have the capability of differentiating into any type of adult cell, including brain cells.
With brain illnesses being the most difficult to treat, 3D printing can consider this one of its greatest successes. Anyone can donate iPSCs. Machines use a custom-designed bioink for printing.
“By developing this further we will be able to generate healthy and diseased tissues for research, identifying better drugs for medicine and replacing or repairing damaged tissues or organs due to injury or disease.”
The range of printable neurons can tackle conditions such as epilepsy and schizophrenia. While we cannot yet print entire brains, there is hope for transplantable organs.
“There’s no doubt that sometime in the future engineering tissues by bioprinting iPSCs will be routinely performed for surgical treatments of patients with damaged or diseased tissue,”
The tissue, which can also be used to screen new drugs, is surely a breakthrough for the books.
Gene harvesting has allowed for the possibility of growing replacement organs. However, it’s a lot easier said than done. A shortage of donors and genetic material mean we can’t just mass produce parts. But maybe we can 3D print them. Swiss researchers have recently proved 3D printed hearts can beat almost identically to real ones.
The silicone heart features left and right ventricles or chambers, just like a human heart, as well as an additional chamber that acts as the heart’s engine by driving the external pump.
It’s hoped this artificial version can eventually replace mechanical pumps, which are always at risk of failure or causing complications in the body.
With nearly 26 million people suffering from heart failure worldwide, this could be the answer to a pressing issue. The heart is made of silicone and can currently last 3,000 beats. While it’s not quite fit for replacement, it certainly is a promising start.
Meanwhile, earlier this year a team from Worcester Polytechnic Institute used spinach leaves to generate functioning heart tissue, complete with veins that could transport blood.
Looks like it’s going to be a favorable year for hearts.
It never fails to impress me how we are always one step closer to figuring out the human body. We’ve learned how to handle it with robotic surgeries and now, with even more efficiency. Scientists at Monash University may have figured out how to grow replacement organs.
The team has discovered that a protein called Meox1 is pivotal in promoting the growth of muscles. They came across the protein while studying zebrafish, which are ideal candidates for the research due to their rapid rate of growth and biological similarities with humans.
Meox1 directs muscle growth by selecting the relevant stem cells for producing the specific tissue.
Apparently, we’ve got some fish to thank this this groundbreaking discovery. For years we have understood the functions of stem cells–but never how they function. Grasping its mechanisms mean researchers will ultimately have more control.
Stem cells are also increasingly being recognized as an integral tool for treating — and even curing — a number debilitating diseases. Everything from blindness to paralysis to neurological disorders like Alzheimer’s disease and Huntington’s disease have already seen breakthroughs with the help of stem cells.
With new knowledge always comes the opportunity to manipulate nature to our benefit. If it saves lives, then why not?