3D printing of capillaries and vascular system very faithful thanks to new material

A new material could allow the realization, through 3D printing, of artificial tissues more similar to human vascular structures, according to a statement referring to a new study published in Nature Communications.
Researchers at the University of Nottingham and Queen Mary University in London have in fact discovered a method to print graphene oxide in 3D using a protein which can organize itself into tubular structures that seem to replicate, more or less faithfully, several important properties of the same vascular tissue.

Professor Alvaro Mata explains the results of the study: “This work offers opportunities for biofabrication by allowing the simulated top-down 3D bioprinting and self-assembly of synthetic and biological components from the bottom upwards in an orderly manner at the nanoscale. We are biofabricating micro-scale capillaries that, like fluid structures compatible with cells, have physiologically relevant properties and the ability to resist flow. This could enable the recreation of vascularization in the laboratory and could have implications in the development of safer and more efficient drugs, which means that treatments could potentially reach patients much more quickly.

By controlling how graphene oxide binds to the protein, this assembly can be guided on very small scales to print frameworks with very complex geometries and up to 10 um resolution.
A good step towards laboratory replication of very important areas of human tissue and organs in general, as Yuanhao Wu, the study’s principal researcher, suggests.

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New robotic prosthesis allows hand and finger movements with thought

One of the main problems with robotic hand implants is sending the command from the patient’s brain to the hand and fingers, through the muscles or nerves, to make the necessary movements.
It is an obstacle that seems to be solved by a new project carried out by researchers at the University of Michigan who have developed a system to control with extreme precision a robotic hand that responds to the patient’s thoughts.

The interface is based on a series of small muscle grafts that amplify the nerve signals that leave the brain. The interface has already been tested on robotic prostheses and seems to have been successful after translating the signals from the brain into real movements with a stable level of precision over time.
Current robotic prostheses work mostly by recording electrical signals from the muscles. This means that the patient has to contract the muscles in the forearm to control the fingers. This is not possible for all patients: in some of them, the muscles may be damaged or completely missing and patients cannot do the necessary push-ups to start the input.

In addition, if the person’s arm sweats, swells or the prosthesis moves, the signal is no longer accurate and the device needs to be recalibrated so much so that in the end many amputees decide that it is not worth it.
The new devices are based on nerves. They also transmit the commands of the brain along the arm. However, implanting wires into the nerves to capture their electrical signals is not efficient because the nerve signals are weak.

It has therefore been thought in the past to increase these signals from the nerves by connecting them to the muscles. In practice, the weak nerve signals have been redirected to another muscle in the body. But even this approach has in many ways proved to be unsuccessful.
Researchers at the University of Michigan, led by Paul Cederna, have therefore thought of an alternative approach, namely to equip the nerves with their own small muscles.

They connected the nerves of the arm to pieces of muscle tissue collected from the thigh, creating a new set of finger muscles inside the forearm. In the study, published in Science Translational Medicine, researchers describe the first tests with this new robotic prosthesis in which wires are inserted through the skin into alternative muscle grafts.

During testing, the device seemed to be able to easily pick up electrical signals. Using computer algorithms, the researchers were able to translate electrical signals into expected movements during tests in which patients moved a virtual hand on the screen or through a commercially available prosthesis called LUKE.
Now researchers are trying to compact this interface by remodeling it so that no wires protrude through the skin and optimizing its functions.

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Nuclei of half-destroyed planets from stars detectable by radio telescopes

There are stars that, after burning all their “fuel,” turn into so-called “white dwarfs” but project their outer layers outward before performing this transformation. This material, projected at very high speed, destroys nearby objects and also strongly damages the planets by removing the outer layers of the latter in addition to the atmospheres.

According to a study by researchers at the University of Warwick, published in Monthly Notices of the Royal Astronomical Society, the remaining nuclei of these planets can “survive” for a necessary time, from 100 million to a billion years, so that they can be detected by our telescopes.

This is not an absolute novelty: already in the early 90s, Alexander Wolszczan of Pennsylvania State University discovered one of these planets around a pulsar using a method to detect radio waves emitted by the star.

Researchers at the University of Warwick intend to improve this method to detect the magnetic field that forms between a white dwarf and a planetary nucleus in orbit around it. The magnetic field can, in fact, form a unipolar inductor circuit in which the remaining nucleus of the planet acts as a conductor thanks to the fact that inside the nucleus there are more than anything metallic compounds.

This is a real circuit whose radiations are emitted as radio waves that can be detected by terrestrial radio telescopes. Among other things, an effect of this kind has already been noted between Jupiter and one of his moons, Io.

According to Dimitri Veras, one of the authors of the study, “There is a weak point to detect these planetary nuclei: a nucleus too close to the white dwarf would be destroyed by tidal forces and a nucleus too far away would not be detectable. Also, if the magnetic field is too strong, it would push the core into the white dwarf, destroying it. Therefore, we should only look for planets around the white dwarf ones with weaker magnetic fields at a distance of about 3 solar rays, the distance Mercury-Sun.”

In any case, finding the only nucleus of a “naked” planet would represent a very important discovery that would help to discover the history of star systems as well as allowing you to take a look at the future history of our solar system and specifically of our planet which should not be very different.

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Scientists discover genes involved in the life extension of fruit flies

A group of Russian geneticists studied the Drosophila melanogaster, also called “fruit fly,” a model organism widely used in the research world as its genome is very well known and contains genes related to 40% of human diseases.

Moreover other characteristics, like the duration of the life of only a couple of months and the fact that this insect has two sexes, unlike other creatures like the nematodes, push more and more the researchers to use them during the experiments in order then to make correlations with the human beings. It is also the case of this study, published in Scientific Reports, which analyzed the genetic activity of the fruit fly to better understand the biology underlying the aging of its longevity.

Specifically, they used a Drosophila strain bred with the partially suppressed E (z) gene. It is a gene that influences the activity of other genes. The flies with this mutated gene show a considerably longer lifespan than the others and present greater resistance to adverse environmental conditions.

The researchers not only confirmed the positive effect of this mutation that allows fruit flies to extend their lives by 22-23% but they also discovered a positive effect on fertility as Alexey Moskalev, one of the authors of the study, explains: “It is known that in Drosophila, the extension of lifespan induced by mutation is often associated with reduced reproduction. But in our case, we have seen an increase in mutant female fertility in all age groups.”

They then discovered 239 genes involved in the mutation as well as in the midge’s metabolism as the scientist himself explains: “We found that the mutation triggers a global alteration of metabolism. It affects carbohydrate metabolism, lipid metabolism and nucleotide metabolism, as well as the activity of the immune response genes and protein synthesis.”

Important information that could be useful for further research regarding the extension of the life of these flies and in general concerns aging and metabolism linked to human longevity.

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Mini human liver created in the laboratory to simulate diseases and study them

Miniature cultured human liver labs were created by a group of researchers from the University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine. The “mini livers” could help to simulate the progressions of various liver diseases and therefore to test their therapies.

The researchers transformed genetically modified human skin cells into 3D liver tissue in “stripped” mouse livers of their own cells. Real functional 3D mini livers have therefore blossomed in the laboratory with lots of blood vessels and structural features of a normal human liver.

Researchers have already managed to mimic in particular non-alcoholic fatty liver disease. This condition sees the accumulation of fatty parts in the liver, a condition which in turn leads to very serious diseases such as cirrhosis or liver failure.

This is the first time that genetically modified human “mini livers” are created, as recalled by Alejandro Soto-Gutierrez, professor of pathology in Pittsburgh and senior author of the study. This is an important result because very often the experiments that are carried out on animals, mainly on mice, even if promising, do not turn out to be effective in clinical studies on humans.

This is because, of course, “mice are not human,” as Soto-Gutierrez himself recalls. There are some important differences between us and them, including mutations that predispose us to specific diseases, which is not possible to study in mice.

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Injecting three hormones under the skin causes weight loss in the obese

During some experiments, researchers at Imperial College London noticed a reduction in body weight and glucose levels in obese patients with diabetes in about four weeks. The reduction took place thanks to the injection of a particular mix of hormones.

According to researchers at Imperial College, the procedure known as “gastric bypass,” sometimes very effective for reducing excess weight, is efficient because it causes a greater production of three specific hormones by the cells of the small intestine and colon.

It is a combination of hormones called “GOP” which reduces appetite and causes a loss of weight, also improving the body’s ability to use absorbed sugar in foods, which is very important for diabetics.

Based on this notion, the researchers injected a mix of three hormones into patients: peptide 1 similar to glucagon (GLP-1), oxintomodulin (OXM) and peptide YY (PYY). This combination mimicked the combination of hormones whose increased production occurs after the aforementioned surgery.

Patients received this treatment for four weeks. The injection took place through a special pump that slowly introduced the mix into the body, under the skin, for 12 hours a day. At the same time, patients followed a diet prescribed by a dietitian.

According to Tricia Tan, a professor at Imperial College and the lead author of the study, the results have shown promise and show significant improvements in patient health in just four weeks. The same researcher in the press release adds: “Compared to other methods the treatment is non-invasive and has reduced glucose levels to almost normal levels in our patients.”

The results of the study were published in Diabetes Care.

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New fabric allows you to control electronic devices through clothes

A new garment fabric that “allows users to control electronic devices through clothing” was developed by a group of researchers at Purdue University.

The same researchers underline the importance of this study as it is the first time that an efficient technique is shown to create a self-feeding fabric that can contain sensors or even displays using simple embroideries without resorting to the expensive processes that are necessary today to insert electronics or sensors of any kind in clothes, as reported by Ramses Martinez, professor at Purdue and one of the authors of the study which appeared in Advanced Functional Materials.

The fabrics created by Purdue scientists can in fact be resistant to water, and therefore to rain, and can be antibacterial as well as breathable but at the same time they can collect energy from the user himself to feed the electronics embedded in the fabric.

The technology is based on the omniphobic triboelectric nanogenerators (RF-TENG) thanks to which it was possible to incorporate tiny electronic components into the garment.

“It’s like having a wearable remote control that also keeps odors, rain, stains and bacteria away from the user,” the researchers report.

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Mass of a huge supermassive black hole calculated with precision by astronomers

What happens in a black hole? It is not yet known whether the theories are different. For the moment we have to settle for studying what happens in the “sphere of influence” of a black hole, ie the inner region closest to the “edge” of the black hole itself which is not part of the event horizon, that area beyond the which also the light can no longer leave.

A group of scholars is going to use this with the Aracama Large Millimeter / submillimeter Array (ALMA) to study this specific region of influence of the supermassive black hole located in the center of the galaxy NGC 3258. The latter is an elliptical galaxy that is located at a distance of about 100 million light-years from us.

The researchers determined the “weight” of the supermassive black hole: 2.25 billion solar masses. This is the most massive black hole measured with ALMA and one of the most massive but identified.

Researchers have shown that with this telescope it is possible to “map the rotation of gaseous discs around supermassive black holes with extraordinary details,” as reported by Benjamin Boizelle, a researcher at Texas A&M University as well as the principal author of the study published in the Astrophysical Journal.

Thanks to these “extraordinary details,” they calculated the weight of the black hole with a precision of better than 1%, a measurement that is considered as one of the most precise black hole mass measurements ever made for a black hole beyond outside the Milky Way.

The same data also shows that the speed of rotation of the disk around the black hole ranges from one million miles per hour in the outer edge, located at a distance of about 500 light-years from the black hole, up to three million miles per hour in the most central regions, at a distance of just 65 light-years from the black hole.

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