CUR Engineering Division Announces 2021 Mentoring Awardees, Student Video Competition Winners

The Engineering Division of the Council on Undergraduate Research announces the 2021 recipients of its Mentoring Awards and winners of its Student Video Competition.

Injectable Porous Scaffolds Promote Better, Quicker Healing After Spinal Cord Injuries

In APL Bioengineering, researchers have developed materials that can interface with an injured spinal cord and provide a scaffolding to facilitate healing. To do this, scaffolding materials need to mimic the natural spinal cord tissue, so they can be readily populated by native cells in the spinal cord, essentially filling in gaps left by injury. The researchers show how the pores improve efficiency of gene therapies administered locally to the injured tissues, which can further promote tissue regeneration.

Biomaterials Could Mean Better Vaccines, Virus-Fighting Surfaces

Advances in the fields of biomaterials and nanotechnology could lead to big breakthroughs in the fight against dangerous viruses like the novel coronavirus that causes COVID-19. In APL Bioengineering, researchers from the Indian Institute of Science describe possibilities being explored by scientists, combining biomaterials and nanotechnology, to make vaccines more effective and build surfaces that could fight and kill viruses on their own.

Nanofiber Membranes Transformed Into 3D Scaffolds

Researchers combined gas foaming and 3D molding technologies to quickly transform electrospun membranes into complex 3D shapes for biomedical applications. The new approach demonstrates significant improvements in speed and quality compared with other methods, and is the first successful demonstration of formation of 3D neural tissue constructs with an ordered structure through differentiation of human neural progenitor/stem cells on these transformed 3D nanofiber scaffolds. They discuss their work in this week’s Applied Physics Reviews.

FDA Approves First At-Home Saliva Collection Test for Coronavirus

Rutgers’ RUCDR Infinite Biologics received an amended emergency use authorization from the FDA late Thursday for the first SARS-CoV-2 coronavirus test that will allow people to collect their own saliva at home and send to a lab for results. The decision follows the FDA’s recent emergency approval to RUCDR Infinite Biologics for the first saliva-based test, which involves health care workers collecting saliva from individuals at testing sites.

Rutgers Launches Genetic Testing Service for New Coronavirus

Rutgers’ RUCDR Infinite Biologics has launched a test for the SARS-CoV-2 coronavirus and is using its automation experience and infrastructure to test as many as tens of thousands of samples daily. RUCDR has also submitted an emergency use authorization request for a saliva collection method that will allow for broader population screening.

Adjusting Processing Temperature Results in Better Hydrogels for Biomedical Applications

Biohydrogels have been studied closely for their potential use in biomedical applications, but they often move between sols and gels, depending on their temperature, changes that can pose issues depending on the intended use. In Physics of Fluids, researchers discuss their work studying the effect of temperature on hydrogels. They found that creating hydrogels at room temperature or below results in more robust materials that function more effectively when used in the body.

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.