THEY SAY THE GEL CAN PROPAGATE NEURAL SIGNALS WHERE NERVES ARE INJURED.
A team of doctors and engineers have developed a new hydrogel that they say might be able to repair nerve damage more quickly and reliably than any other methods.
The hydrogel is essentially a porous and water-saturated material that can stretch, bend, and — most importantly — propagate neural signals. In animal trials, the team of Nanjing University researchers found that the hydrogel restored lost bodily function and helped the animals heal faster, according to research published Wednesday in the journal ACS NANO. Now, they’re hoping the gel will work in human medicine as well.
Today in weird news we didn’t expect to read: Researchers in Colorado have produced Franken-concrete. It’s alive, and it may be the future of green buildings.
Concrete is, quite literally, all around us. It, or versions of it, has been used since 1300 B.C., meaning even a trip to Roman ruins is surrounded by concrete. In the last century, the technology of concrete hasn’t changed, but this new breakthrough has changed that.
The second most consumed material on earth, the production and use of concrete is responsible for 6% of global CO2 emissions—no small thing. Using bacteria, sand, and a hydrogel, the researchers found a way to produce a material that mimics the strength of concrete-based mortar.
How does it work? The power of the bacteria helps to “biomineralize the scaffold, so it actually is really green. It looks like a Frankenstein-type material,” said study senior author Wil Srubar, Ph.D. “That’s exactly what we’re trying to create–something that stays alive.”
And if you thought the idea of living concrete was weird enough, hold on tight: It’s about to get weirder. The material can reproduce, with a little help. If researchers split a brick of the material in half, the bacteria grows the pieces into two complete bricks. They found that this works to end up with eight bricks from the original one in three “generations.”
The research team (led by Tan Swee Ching, at right) with samples of the hydrogel
In many arid coastal regions, a great quantity of valuable fresh water is lost into the atmosphere every day, as it evaporates from the surface of the ocean. This situation prompted scientists to create a new hydrogel that’s highly effective at capturing moisture from the sea air, and then releasing it as fresh water.
Developed by a team at the National University of Singapore, the zinc-based material is claimed to be over eight times more absorbent than existing drying agents such as silica gel and calcium chloride – it can absorb more than four times its dry weight in water. Additionally, unlike the case with traditional drying agents, no electricity is required to get that water back out of it, plus the gel can be reused over 1,000 times.
They’ll be essential to 3D-printed organs and replacement tissues.
Bioengineers are one step closer to 3D printing organs and tissues. A team led by Rice University and the University of Washington have developed a tool to 3D print complex and “exquisitely entangled” vascular networks. These mimic the body’s natural passageways for blood, air, lymph and other fluids, and they will be essential for artificial organs.
For decades, one of the challenges in replicating human tissues has been figuring out a way to get nutrients and oxygen into the tissue and how to remove waste. Our bodies use vascular networks to do this, but it’s been hard to recreate those in soft, artificial materials.
Hydrogels have shown significant potential in everything from wound dressings to soft robots, but their applications have been limited from their lack of toughness – until now. A team of scientists at Hokkaido University have developed a new set of hydrogel composites or “fiber-reinforced soft composites” that combine hydrogels with woven fiber fabric to create a material that is five times stronger than carbon steel.
When you have seriously damaged bones you want to regrow them quickly, but you also have to carefully manage that growth to produce the right shape. A gel has been created by Rice University researchers that makes it easier to produce only the bone tissue a patient needs. (Video)
This video provides more insight (on both the advantages and the disadvantages of Imec)
Tokyo-based Mebiol is working on an membrane–based plant cultivation technology called Imec that makes it possible to let plants grow on thin film instead of soil. The film is made of a water-absorbent material called hydrogel and is just “tens of microns” thick.