An artist’s conception of an “eyeball Earth”, a planet tidally locked and perpetually facing a red dwarf star in a close orbit. Some scientists theorize that this hypothetical class of planets may be good candidates for harboring life; and they would be relatively easy to detect because of the light-dimming disturbance of the star due to the planet’s close and frequent revolution.
3-D Printed Material Mimics Biological Tissue
For the first time, scientists have printed structures that mimic the texture, consistency and certain properties of biological tissue. The manmade “tissues” are nothing more than water droplets encased in oil, stacked atop one another, but the scientists were able to construct stable structures that held their form for weeks, structures that conducted electricity and even structures that folded similarly to how muscle cells do.
The researchers used a type of 3-D printer to eject an aqueous solution (water containing some salts) into a bead of oil, which was suspended in more of the aqueous solution. By carefully arranging the droplets, the researchers were able to get them to stick together. In other words “You’re just dropping spheres onto other sticky spheres.” After the “print” was completed, the researchers skimmed off the extra oil, leaving a sturdy, jelly-like structure that somewhat resembled brain and fat tissues.
The research was detailed in this week’s issue of the journal Science.
Golden Orb Spider Farm
“Current medical advances in the area of infertility medicine and neonatology have made total ectogenesis (the gestation of a human being entirely outside the body of a human female) less a figment of the imagination of science fiction writers … and more a realistic possibility for those living in the not so distant future.”
The project is based on research into how spider silk might become a material of choice for prototyping scaffolds on which to grow human tissue. Research in tissue engineering has indeed found that silk is a better substance than polymeric materials to construct such ‘scaffolds’. Fully functioning hearts and wombs have already been grown artificially on silk scaffolds.
Advances in reproductive science and medicine would enable the complete gestation of a human embryo outside a woman’s body, within the next 5-10 years. In the ethically complex scenario where humans are brought to life in artificial wombs, one can imagine that mother would want to demonstrate maximum love and commitment by providing the the finest and most luxurious womb they could afford. Rather than the synthetic unglamorous Biosteel, mothers might look for rarer, naturally produced alternatives. Golden Orb spider silk, the most precious silk in the world, might answer their wishes.
Golden Orb spider farm speculates that employers may want to persuade their high calibre employees to delay having children in return for hi-tech fertility insurance. Female employees would receive glass Gold Orb spider farms in which to house and breed spiders. The women would feed spiders with flies every day. Once a month, a silking machine would extract several metres from each spider in the farm. In due course this gift is passed on to the child that emerges from the silky womb. Once used, this object might take on a new role of a family heirloom.
Science Summary of the Week
Last Week in Science via IFLS
Cancer genes: http://bit.ly/XkbFug
Magnetic charges of matter & antimatter: http://bit.ly/XBZbtN
Seven sex mating system: http://bit.ly/15ZOuVp
Down’s Syndrome: http://bit.ly/105Cznm
Gene therapy: http://bit.ly/160HEz6
Neanderthal hybrid: http://bit.ly/YJxbVl
➤ Rapid Cancer Cure: http://is.gd/l0XR86
➤ Artificial Sperm Cells: http://is.gd/4V1uTE
➤ Two-Headed Shark: http://is.gd/k1fkmC
➤ Living Cells’ Computer: http://is.gd/y41US4
➤ New Type of Supernova: http://is.gd/M9jGpp
➤ Turning CO2 Into Fuel: http://is.gd/4s7jMN
➤ March 25, 1786 - Italian scientist, Giovanni B Amia
➤ March 26, 1941 - English scientist, Richard Dawkins
➤ March 27, 1847 - German chemist, Otto Wallach
➤ March 29, 1883 - American chemist, Donald Van Slyke
➤ March 30, 1894 - Russian airplane builder, Sergey Ilyushin
➤ March 31, 1854 - Inventor Dugald Clerk
Enlarge This Graphic : http://is.gd/AItN4k
More Science Infographics on My Flickr Page : http://is.gd/q08fCv
Balls and Sticks
Biology is applied chemistry, chemistry is applied physics, and physics is applied maths. But nature cares little for the traditional lines separating the disciplines. And cutting-edge laboratories reflect this increasingly by encouraging researchers to work in interdisciplinary teams. For example, biophysicists discovered that by mutating four genes associated with an enzyme found in all our cells (CGI of the protein, in red and blue, pictured), they disturbed the finely-tuned electrostatic field (represented by white lines) that surrounds the molecule and controls its shape, and how it attracts vital chemicals. Because even mild defects in the enzyme can cause a rare mental disability called Snyder-Robinson syndrome, it’s critical that biologists explain how complex molecules work in as much detail as possible. For that, they need to understand physics and even quantum mechanics. Ball-and-stick models won’t do anymore.
Written by Tristan Farrow
- Yoshihiko Ikeguchi, Josai University, Japan
- Emil Alexov, Clemson University, USA
- Originally published under a Creative Commons Attribution license
- Published in PLoS Computational Biology 9(2): e1002924