Posts Tagged ‘biological’

Melinda Mills on Sociogenomics

Combining sociology and genetics, Melinda Mills and her collaborators abandon the nature v. nurture controversy for empirical research on family formation, inequality, child-rearing and other real-life concerns. In this Social Science Bites podcast, she discusses this new field of ‘sociogenomics.’

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An electric-eel-inspired soft power source from stacked hydrogels

Progress towards the integration of technology into living organisms requires electrical power sources that are biocompatible, mechanically flexible, and able to harness the chemical energy available inside biological systems. Conventional batteries were not designed with these criteria in mind. The electric organ of the knifefish Electrophorus electricus (commonly known as the electric eel) is, however, an example of an electrical power source that operates within biological constraints while featuring power characteristics that include peak potential differences of 600 volts and currents of 1 ampere. Here we introduce an electric-eel-inspired power concept that uses gradients of ions between miniature polyacrylamide hydrogel compartments bounded by a repeating sequence of cation- and anion-selective hydrogel membranes. The system uses a scalable stacking or folding geometry that generates 110 volts at open circuit or 27 milliwatts per square metre per gel cell upon simultaneous, self-registered mechanical contact activation of thousands of gel compartments in series while circumventing power dissipation before contact. Unlike typical batteries, these systems are soft, flexible, transparent, and potentially biocompatible. These characteristics suggest that artificial electric organs could be used to power next-generation implant materials such as pacemakers, implantable sensors, or prosthetic devices in hybrids of living and non-living systems.

Mimicking biological stress–strain behaviour with synthetic elastomers

Despite the versatility of synthetic chemistry, certain combinations of mechanical softness, strength, and toughness can be difficult to achieve in a single material. These combinations are, however, commonplace in biological tissues, and are therefore needed for applications such as medical implants, tissue engineering, soft robotics, and wearable electronics. Present materials synthesis strategies are predominantly Edisonian, involving the empirical mixing of assorted monomers, crosslinking schemes, and occluded swelling agents, but this approach yields limited property control. Here we present a general strategy for mimicking the mechanical behaviour of biological materials by precisely encoding their stress–strain curves in solvent-free brush- and comb-like polymer networks (elastomers). The code consists of three independent architectural parameters—network strand length, side-chain length and grafting density. Using prototypical poly(dimethylsiloxane) elastomers, we illustrate how this parametric triplet enables the replication of the strain-stiffening characteristics of jellyfish, lung, and arterial tissues.

Biomineralization-related specialization of hemocytes and mantle tissues of the Pacific oysters Crassostrea gigas [RESEARCH ARTICLE]

Anna V. Ivanina, Halina I. Falfushynska, Elia Beniash, Helen Piontkivska, and Inna M. SokolovaMolluscan exoskeleton (shell) plays multiple important roles including structural support, protection from predators and stressors, and physiological homeost…

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