Friday, February 26, 2016

From Mother Nature

Due to the increase in the production of bio-inspired and biomimetic products, the collaboration between engineers and biologist has become very important. However, in the academic world these relationship are not very strong due to the inconsistency to how engineer, biologist and industrial designers see these different terms and the accuracy of the role that biologist, in particular, play in the design of these products. However, scientist overcome these differences and work together to help people. Engineers and biologist work together to create bio-inspired materials/products that will help people that for instance have lost a limb and/or are disable in any way. These robotic models allow the scientists to compare different designs with living organisms and test the role of morphological features under controlled conditions and seeing the effects before using it for the public.

The reason for creating these biologically inspired models are either problem based, or solution based. Problem based being design with the objective of exploring a particular problem. And solution based are uses biological and physiological process for useful application. Scientists apply the knowledge they have of an organism and they create a prototype that will complete the same task. Biological adhesives allow attachment of organisms or animals to surfaces. Bio-inspired adhesives provide solutions to contemporary engineering and biomedical adhesive requirements.

MIT researchers and colleagues have created a waterproof adhesive bandage inspired by gecko lizards that may soon join sutures and staples as a basic operating room tool for patching up surgical wounds or internal injuries. Gecko-like adhesives have been around for a while, but there have been significant challenges to adapt this technology for medical applications. For use in the body, this adhesive must be adapted to stick in a wet environment and be constructed from materials customized for medical applications. Such materials must be biocompatible, meaning they do not cause inflammation; biodegradable, they dissolve over time without producing toxins; and elastic, so that they can conform to and stretch with the body's tissues.

MIT researchers met these requirements by building their medical adhesive with a "biorubber" invented by Karp, Langer and others. Using micropatterning technology. They shaped the biorubber into different hill and valley profiles at nanoscale dimensions. After testing them on intestinal tissue taken from pigs, they selected the stickiest profile, one with pillars spaced just wide enough to grip and interlock with the underlying tissue.

Whether or not this product will successfully work with humans without causing any damages or infection is still to be determine. But using nature inspire products for medical benefits may save many lives without future problems.

Posted by Yerkely Gomez (1)

Wednesday, February 24, 2016

Superhuman Senses

          The superhero Daredevil lost his vision as a child and all of his other senses were enhanced to superhuman levels. This might not be all that realistic but there is some truth behind this. You may have heard of someone who's blind or deaf having their other senses enhanced but have you ever wondered how this is possible?

          A new study taking a look at those who have lost their hearing shows evidence that the parts of the brain responsible for hearing don't just stop working. Instead this part of the brain will actually begin to rewire itself into processing other senses. A phenomenon know as cross-modal neuroplasticity. Scientists are now delving deeper into neuroplasticity for clues about which parts of the brain are able to undergo these changes. Some parts of the brain are more plastic than others. Some can be modified with experience while others can only be changed during certain sensitive periods. Some parts of the brain have very little plasticity and cannot be changed at all.

          Most research dealing with this has focused on the blind who many times experience enhanced auditory abilities. Studies of brain images have shown the visual cortex being taken over by other senses like hearing or touch. And one of the authors of this new study had previously shown that those who are deaf are better at perceiving peripheral vision and motion.

          Scientists hope this growing field of research can be used in how we educate those who are normally developing as well as those who are deaf and blind. It may also help in rehabilitation of those who have experienced traumatic injuries as well as the treatment, and hopefully one day reversal, of neurodegenerative diseases and age related decline.

Sources: Bates, Mary. "Super Powers for the Blind and Deaf." Scientific American. N.p., 18 Sept. 2012. Web. 24 Feb. 2016.

Cole DiStasio (Group 1)

Have No Fear, Your Genes May Help You Find Love

When it comes to love, people will do anything to find the right partner. Whether it be dating sites, going to bars on the weekends, or blind dates people are on the constant search find true love. Turns out, no matter how hard we try to find our "perfect man/woman", our genes already have it all figured out. People may think they have a "type" such as tall, dark, and handsome, but odds are that if you're Irish theres a small chance that is who you end up with.

Researchers at the University of California- Berkeley, Harvard University, University of California- San Francisco, and Tel Aviv University have studied how couples pair up in certain communities such as Mexico, Puerto Rico, and the U.S. Results show that both males and females tend to attract mates who are in fact similar to them. This is a concept known as assortative mating and it is a phenomenon that can be seen amongst all races, ages, and body types.

In a 2009 study researchers found that out of 90 married couples and 152 random pairs, the 90 married couples were found with more diverse MHCs. MCHs are a genetic region that plays a role in immune response and reproductive success. The scientists believed this to be the result of an evolutionary strategy to increase reproductive success.

Also, another study was conducted at University of Colorado- Boulder where researchers studied the genetic profiles of 825 white couples. The study examined the single-nucleotide polymorphisms which are the parts of the DNA that show how humans differ from one another. The researchers found that married individuals are more likely to be genetically similar than two random individuals from the same population.

It is difficult to believe that people really have much less control over who they date or marry than they think. People learn to rely too much on their brains when in fact they should just follow their heart and if their lucky their genes may help them find their perfect match.

 Al-Khatib, T. (2015, October 19). Attraction Guided by our Genes. Retrieved February 24, 2016, from 

Posted By: Ashley Geary (1)

Could Jupiter's Moon Have Life?

Europa is Jupiter’s moon which has a frigid temperature and doesn’t appear from the outside to be very hospitable in terms of being able to harbor life. But under a crust of ice miles thick, Europa contains roughly twice the amount of water Earth does. In virtually every instance of life on earth, we find that water has been involved. If we are able to find life on Europa, we would finally be able to claim water to be a common denominator of life in the universe. Furthermore, if we found life we could compare the Europan specimens to aspects of life on earth. Would life on Europa also contain DNA? What would they use as energy? These questions open the door for deeper philosophical questions. What is life? There is still debate on whether or not viruses are living and finding examples of life on Europa could help answer that question as well.

But the question remains on how we would go about getting to the liquid water in the first place. The first option is equipping whatever space probe we send out with a drill that could drill through miles of ice in order to get to the water. The second and more feasible option has to do with geysers that shoot the water high above the surface of the moon. If we could lock the probe into Europa’s orbit, we could catch projected micro-organisms and it would be almost like examining bugs on a windshield.

This would be an incredible discovery biology and give much needed life to the field of astrobiology. The mission to Europa is currently on NASA’s budget request list and is a very real possibility in the near future.

Posted By Forootan Alizadehasil


Image result for obesity in the US
The obesity rate in this country has been steadily increasing throughout the past decades due to the lack of self-confidence, inactive life styles and the environment.  Obesity has become one of the highest health concerns in today’s society, with the risks of life-threatening diseases such as stroke, high blood pressure, diabetes as well as many others.  With this being a rising epidemic, this society needs solutions such as government assistance with financial issues and the prices of food, a change in the media and how the world views the “average weight,” but also a change in the way and how much they eat at one sitting.
            With new technology coming out everyday it has been an uphill battle due to how easier life is becoming with these new devices.  Factors that have also contributed to the rise in obesity include increasingly larger food portion sizes, local community design and work schedules. There are plenty of ways this society can turn around their inactive lifestyle such as riding a bike to work, getting up from the couch and watching TV and doing something more efficient and equally as fun such as hiking, skiing or simply taking a stroll around your neighborhood.
            The United States has steadily increased the idea of portion size, becoming much larger than what should be considered the healthy amount.  Children with poorer appetite regulation may be more vulnerable to obesogenic dietary environments offering large food portions than other children. With this being said, there has been many experiments that have concluded that if children are brought up with a learned oversized portion size they will be more in risk for obesity later in life, if not sooner.  It is not unusual to get served an over flowing plate of food at a fast food restaurant and this idea needs to end!
            Many Americans do not have the financial stability to go to the grocery store and buy nutritious foods such as vegetables, whole grains and the rest of the five necessary food groups, so naturally they lean towards buying harmful cheaper food.  These problem can be solved with government assistance, why should fruits and vegetables be more expensive than a quarter ponder huge McDonalds burger?  The government could help by restricting the profit being made on nutritious foods to make them more affordable.

            Overall while the rise in obesity continues to be one of the most harmful health issues in today’s society, it can be prevented.  Obesity leads to serious life-threating risks so it is important to make a change. 

Stephanie Aboody

Tuesday, February 23, 2016

Humans and Neanderthals Were "Friends" Longer than Expected

Before it was thought that Neanderthals and the ancestors to modern humans interbred in an event around 65,000 years ago. However, a new study suggests that there was earlier contact between the two groups around 100,000 years ago due to the discovery of modern human DNA in Neanderthals. This discovery also suggest that these early modern humans left Africa before the migration event known as the “out of Africa” event around 47-65 thousand years ago.

            People today of European, Eurasian and Asian ancestry have traces of Neanderthal DNA in their genome. This information implies that the children of Neanderthal-human parents lived amongst human populations outside of Africa where they then bred with other humans. On the other hand, present day Africans do not have these traces of Neanderthal DNA, which implies that the sexual contact between the two groups occurred outside of Africa.

            These conclusions are drawn from comparing the complete genome of hundreds of present day humans and either the partial or complete genome of four archaic humans. One of these Neanderthals, dubbed the “Altai Neanderthal” due to its discovery in a cave in southwest Siberia, contained modern human genes. These gene sequences are linked to a group of modern human ancestors from Africa that separated from other humans sometime around 200,000 years ago.

            This gene flow from a population closely related to modern humans into the Altai Neanderthal raise further questions about human migration out of Africa earlier than previously known. Why did these early humans move out of Africa and could there possibly be even earlier migration events than the one recently discovered? Did these groups co-exist in populations peacefully outside of Africa and if so, what led to the extinction of Neanderthals and other archaic human lineages? Great speculation exists around these ideas, but I’m glad we won because I would not want to look like a Neanderthal.  

Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory. "Neanderthals mated with modern humans much earlier than previously thought, study finds: First genetic evidence of modern human DNA in a Neanderthal individual." ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 17 February 2016. .

-Allen Currier (1)

Wine About It..

Everyone has heard that a glass of red wine a day is good for the heart, but is this really true? Red wine is made from dark red grapes that are crushed and fermented. Due to the grapes wine in fact has many antioxidants including, resveratrol, catechin, epicatechin, and proanthocyanidin. Proanthocyanidin and resveratrol are believed to be the antioxidants that are responsible for health benefits. These antioxidants are seen to reduce heart disease, inflammation and blood clotting, cancer and have show to extend life.  So, how much wine is needed to gain these health benefits without doing damage to the body? People who drink 5oz of red wine a day are at a 32% lower risk of these disease than people who do not drink red wine. The intake of wine must be monitored though because too much could damage the body.

Is drinking red wine everyday the only way to prevent these diseases? Is it worth it? The risks of drinking too much wine can lead to alcohol dependence, cirrhosis of the liver, and weight gain. These problems only ensue when you are starting to rely on wine, or if you are mixing the two glasses with other types of alcohols. This would do more damage to the body, but if you are just having the right amount then wine should be doing the body good. 

An example of wine helping heart disease, is know as the French Paradox. The French consume a lot of red wine. Doctors noticed that they had a lower death rates from heart disease. Even though that had the same bad habits of smoking and high blood pressure as the US and the UK. Studies in the 1980s and 90s connected the link between red wine and increased levels of antioxidants and good cholesterol. 

For more information about red wine linking to good health can be found at this link:

Posted by: Caitlyn Cordaro (1)