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.
Without even knowing it, animals have helped see us through a number of medical trials. Mice have brought us one step closer to seeing success in gene editing. Mosquitoes have allowed us to better understand and combat Zika virus. Now, slugs have inspired researchers to create a super strong medical glue that can easily seal wounds.
Arion subfuscus, the slug in question, might seem like an unlikely candidate. That is, until something messes with them. If a hungry predator tries to take a nibble, the slug detonates a cache of defensive mucus.
It can be stretched more than 10 times its own length, like a rubber band that won’t snap. It can harden, but remains flexible. Unlike superglue, it’ll work on wet surfaces. And it’s super, super sticky.
The material is mostly water with a side of positively charged proteins. Professors at Harvard University have come up with a synthetic adhesive that mimics the slug’s mucus. No actual slugs were harmed during the process.
The top layer is a hydrogel that can be cut to the size needed. The second layer is applied as liquid to the hydrogel and activates the chemical bonding.
While the adhesive is not as daunting as hardware super-glues, surgeons only have about 10 seconds to get it into place. Researchers are now patenting a biodegradable version of the glue. Much appreciated, Arion subfuscus.