The nano-magnets that will restore damaged nerve cells

When neurons are damaged by degenerative disease or injury, they have little, if any, ability to heal on their own. Restoring neural networks and their normal function is therefore a significant challenge in the field of tissue engineering. Prof. Orit Shefi and doctoral student Reut Plen from the Kofkin Faculty of Engineering at Bar-Ilan University have developed a novel technique to overcome this challenge using nanotechnology and magnetic manipulations, one of the most innovative approaches to creating neural networks.

Mutational signature linking bladder cancer and tobacco smoking found with new AI tool

UC San Diego researchers have for the first time discovered a pattern of DNA mutations that links bladder cancer to tobacco smoking. The work could help researchers identify what environmental factors, such as exposure to tobacco smoke and UV radiation, cause cancer in certain patients. It could also lead to more customized treatments for a patient’s specific cancer.

A new neuromorphic chip for AI on the edge, at a small fraction of the energy and size of today’s compute platforms

An international team of researchers has designed and built a chip that runs computations directly in memory and can run a wide variety of AI applications–all at a fraction of the energy consumed by computing platforms for general-purpose AI computing. The NeuRRAM neuromorphic chip brings AI a step closer to running on a broad range of edge devices, disconnected from the cloud, where they can perform sophisticated cognitive tasks anywhere and anytime without relying on a network connection to a centralized server.

Right off the bats

Among the many devastating impacts of Alzheimer’s disease and other types of dementia is the risk that patients will wander and become lost. Indeed, according to the Alzheimer’s Association, six in 10 people with the disease will wander at least once over the course of their illness — and many do so repeatedly.

Ultrasound remotely triggers immune cells to attack tumors in mice without toxic side effects

A new cancer immunotherapy pairs ultrasound with specially engineered CAR T cells to destroy malignant tumors while sparing normal tissue. The new experimental therapy significantly slowed down the growth of solid cancerous tumors in mice.

What if We Could Give Viruses a One-Two Punch?

Researchers at Stanford and Berkeley Lab’s Molecular Foundry have developed virus-killing molecules called peptoids. The technology could make possible an emerging category of antiviral drugs that could treat everything from herpes and COVID-19 to the common cold.

Bio-inspired hydrogel protects the heart from post-op adhesions

A hydrogel that forms a barrier to keep heart tissue from adhering to surrounding tissue after surgery was developed and successfully tested in rodents by a team of University of California San Diego researchers. The team of engineers, scientists and physicians also conducted a pilot study on porcine hearts, with promising results.

They describe their work in the June 18, 2021 issue of Nature Communications.

Single gene boosts climate resilience, yield and carbon capture in crops

Scientists at Oak Ridge National Laboratory have discovered a single gene that simultaneously boosts plant growth and tolerance for stresses such as drought and salt, all while tackling the root cause of climate change by enabling plants to pull more carbon dioxide from the atmosphere.

Brain Disease Research Reveals Differences Between Sexes

In APL Bioengineering, University of Maryland scientists highlight a growing body of research suggesting sex differences play roles in how patients respond to brain diseases, as well as multiple sclerosis, motor neuron disease, and other brain ailments. They are urging their colleagues to remember those differences when researching treatments and cures.

With gene therapy, scientists develop opioid-free solution for chronic pain

A gene therapy for chronic pain could offer a safer, non-addictive alternative to opioids. Researchers at the University of California San Diego developed the new therapy, which works by temporarily repressing a gene involved in sensing pain. It increased pain tolerance in mice, lowered their sensitivity to pain and provided months of pain relief without causing numbness.

Using Stimuli-Responsive Biomaterials to Understand Heart Development, Disease

The heart cannot regenerate new tissue, because cardiomyocytes, or heart muscle cells, do not divide after birth. However, researchers have now developed a shape memory polymer to grow cardiomyocytes. Raising the material’s temperature turned the polymer’s flat surface into nanowrinkles, which promoted cardiomyocyte alignment. The research is part of the growing field of mechanobiology, which investigates how physical forces between cells and changes in their mechanical properties contribute to development, cell differentiation, physiology, and disease.

DNA Origami Enables Fabricating Superconducting Nanowires

In AIP Advances, researchers describe how to exploit DNA origami as a platform to build superconducting nanoarchitectures. The structures they built are addressable with nanometric precision that can be used as a template for 3D architectures that are not possible today via conventional fabrication techniques. Inspired by previous works using the DNA molecule as a template for superconducting nanowires, the group took advantage of a recent bioengineering advance known as DNA origami to fold DNA into arbitrary shapes.

Neurons stripped of their identity are hallmark of Alzheimer’s disease, study finds

Researchers at the University of California San Diego have identified new mechanisms in neurons that cause Alzheimer’s disease. In particular, they discovered that changes in the structure of chromatin, the tightly coiled form of DNA, trigger neurons to lose their specialized function and revert to an earlier cell state. This results in the loss of synaptic connections, an effect associated with memory loss and dementia.

Researchers Use Lab-grown Tissue Grafts for Personalized Joint Replacement

A multidisciplinary team from Columbia Engineering, Columbia’s College of Dental Medicine and Department of Medicine, Louisiana State University, LaCell LLC, and Obatala Sciences has now bioengineered living cartilage-bone temporomandibular joint grafts, precisely matched to the recipient, both biologically and anatomically. Their new study, published today in Science Translational Medicine, builds upon a long series of their previous work on bioengineering functional cartilage and bone for regenerative medicine and tissue models of disease.

Machine Learning Takes on Synthetic Biology: Algorithms Can Bioengineer Cells for You

Scientists at Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory have developed a new tool that adapts machine learning algorithms to the needs of synthetic biology to guide development systematically. The innovation means scientists will not have to spend years developing a meticulous understanding of each part of a cell and what it does in order to manipulate it.

Scientists Aim Gene-Targeting Breakthrough Against COVID-19

Scientists at Berkeley Lab and Stanford have joined forces to aim a gene-targeting, antiviral agent called PAC-MAN against COVID-19.

Discovery of new biomarker in blood could lead to early test for Alzheimer’s disease

UC San Diego researchers discovered that high blood levels of RNA produced by the PHGDH gene could serve as a biomarker for early detection of Alzheimer’s disease. The work could lead to the development of a blood test to identify individuals who will develop the disease years before they show symptoms.

Composing New Proteins with Artificial Intelligence

Proteins are the building blocks of life and scientists have long studied how to improve them or design new ones. Traditionally, new proteins are created by mimicking existing proteins or manually editing their amino acids. This process is time-consuming, and it is difficult to predict the impact of changing an amino acid. In APL Bioengineering, researchers explore how to create new proteins by using machine learning to translate protein structures into musical scores, presenting an unusual way to translate physics concepts across domains.

Advances in Computer Modeling, Protein Development Propel Cellular Engineering

A review of recent work in biophysics highlights efforts in cellular engineering, ranging from proteins to cellular components to tissues grown on next-generation chips. Author Ngan Huang said the fast pace of development prompted her and her colleagues to take stock of promising areas in the field as well as hurdles researchers can expect in coming years. They discuss their work in this week’s APL Bioengineering.

NIH announces $1 million prize competition to target global disease diagnostics

The National Institutes of Health has launched a $1 million Technology Accelerator Challenge (TAC) to spur the design and development of non-invasive, handheld, digital technologies to detect, diagnose and guide therapies for diseases with high global and public health impact. The Challenge is focused on sickle cell disease, malaria and anemia and is led by NIH’s National Institute of Biomedical Imaging and Bioengineering (NIBIB).

UAH research into developing artificial lymph nodes has immunotherapy implications

Research into engineering artificial organs that mimic the functions of human lymph nodes at The University of Alabama in Huntsville (UAH) has garnered one of its professors a $507,777 National Science Foundation (NSF) Faculty Early Career Development Program (CAREER) Award.

Speakers announced for 2020 Experimental Biology meeting

Renowned scientists including Nobel laureates, research pioneers and celebrated educators will convene at the Experimental Biology (EB) 2020 meeting, to be held April 4–7 in San Diego. Bringing together more than 12,000 life scientists in one interdisciplinary community, EB showcases the latest advances in anatomy, biochemistry, molecular biology, investigative pathology, pharmacology and physiology.

Superior “Bio-Ink” for 3D Printing Pioneered

Rutgers biomedical engineers have developed a “bio-ink” for 3D printed materials that could serve as scaffolds for growing human tissues to repair or replace damaged ones in the body. Their study was published in the journal Biointerphases.