Scientists Fold Organ-based 'Tissue Paper' Into Origami

iStock
iStock

So long, glitter slime. The newest thing in gross arts and crafts is so much better: Researchers have transformed real organ and muscle cells into flexible "tissue paper" that could help surgeons patch wounds and even regrow damaged hearts, ovaries, and lungs. The team described their remarkable creation in the journal Advanced Functional Materials.

Lead author and bioengineer Adam Jakus of Northwestern University hit upon the idea after witnessing a very strange chemical spill in the lab. Jakus had been trying to concoct 3D ink that would allow him to print ovaries. The container of cell-filled fluid overturned, and by the time Jakus reached it, the ink had dried into a flat sheet.

"When I tried to pick it up, it felt strong," Jakus said in a statement. "The light bulb went on in my head. I could do this with other organs."

As Jakus explains in the video below, his first stop was the butcher shop.

The research team made their paper from six kinds of cow or pig tissue: ovary, uterus, kidney, liver, heart, and muscle. The paper contains the scaffolding, or structure, of each tissue type—an encouraging environment in which new, healthy cells can flourish.

And grow they did. Flexible, foldable tissue paper treated with human bone marrow cells became a bustling nursery for the cells. After four weeks, all the original cells had attached and reproduced.

"That’s a good sign that the paper supports human stem cell growth," Jakus said. "It’s an indicator that once we start using tissue paper in animal models it will be biocompatible."

Surgeon and engineer Ramille Shah oversaw the research and was the corresponding author on the journal article. She says the tissue paper has the potential to work as a "very sophisticated Band-Aid" for damaged organs and other parts.

Reproductive scientist Teresa Woodruff tested the paper in her lab as well. She found that paper made with ovarian tissue could be used to grow functional, hormone-producing cells.

"This could provide another option to restore normal hormone function to young cancer patients who often lose their hormone function as a result of chemotherapy and radiation," she said.

Jakus said it's "really amazing" that we could someday turn animal byproducts into life-saving surgical materials. "I'll never look at a steak or pork tenderloin the same way again."

No Venom, No Problem: This Spider Uses a Slingshot to Catch Prey

Courtesy of Sarah Han
Courtesy of Sarah Han

There are thousands of ways nature can kill, and spider species often come up with the most creative methods of execution. Hyptiotes cavatus, otherwise known as the triangle weaver spider, is one such example. Lacking venom, the spider manages to weaponize its silk, using it to hurl itself forward like a terrifying slingshot to trap its prey.

This unusual method was studied up close for a recent paper published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences by researchers at the University of Akron in Ohio. They say it's the only known instance of an animal using an external device—its web—for power amplification.

Hyptiotes cavatus's technique is simple. After constructing a web, the spider takes one of the main strands and breaks it in half, pulling it taut by moving backwards. Then, it anchors itself to a spot with more webbing in the rear. When the spider releases that webbing, it surges forward, propelled by the sudden release of stored energy. In the slingshot analogy, the webbing is the strap and the spider is the projectile.

This jerking motion causes the web to oscillate, tangling the spider's prey further in silk. The spider can repeat this until the web has completely immobilized its prey, a low-risk entrapment that doesn’t require the spider to get too close and risk injury from larger victims.

The triangle weaver spider doesn’t have venom, and it needs to be proactive in attacking and stifling prey. Once a potential meal lands in its web, it’s able to clear distances much more quickly using this slingshot technique than if it crawled over. In the lab, scientists clocked the spider’s acceleration at 2535 feet per second squared.

Spiders are notoriously nimble and devious. Cebrennus rechenbergi, or the flic-flac spider, can do cartwheels to spin out of danger; Myrmarachne resemble ants and even wiggle their front legs like ant antennae. It helps them avoid predators, but if they see a meal, they’ll drop the act and pounce. With H. cavatus, it now appears they’re learning to use tools, too.

[h/t Live Science]

Bad News: The Best Time of the Day to Drink Coffee Isn’t as Soon as You Wake Up

iStock.com/ThomasVogel
iStock.com/ThomasVogel

If you depend on coffee to help get you through the day, you can rest assured that you’re not the world's only caffeine fiend. Far from it. According to a 2018 survey, 64 percent of Americans said they had consumed coffee the previous day—the highest percentage seen since 2012.

While we’re collectively grinding more beans, brewing more pots, and patronizing our local coffee shops with increased frequency, we might not be maximizing the health and energy-boosting benefits of our daily cup of joe. According to Inc., an analysis of 127 scientific studies highlighted the many benefits of drinking coffee, from a longer average life span to a reduced risk for cancer, heart disease, type 2 diabetes, and Parkinson’s disease.

Sounds great, right? The only problem is that the benefits of coffee might be diminished depending on the time of day that you drink it. Essentially, science tells us that it’s best to drink coffee when your body’s cortisol levels are low. That’s because both caffeine and cortisol cause a stress response in your body, and too much stress is bad for your health for obvious reasons. In addition, it might end up making you more tired in the long run.

Cortisol, a stress hormone, is released in accordance with your circadian rhythms. This varies from person to person, but in general, someone who wakes up at 6:30 a.m. would see their cortisol levels peak in different windows, including 8 to 9 a.m., noon to 1 p.m., and 5:30 to 6:30 p.m. Someone who rises at 10 a.m. would experience cortisol spikes roughly three hours later, and ultra-early risers can expect to push this schedule three hours forward.

However, these cortisol levels start to rise as soon as you start moving in the morning, so it isn’t an ideal time to drink coffee. Neither is the afternoon, because doing so could make it more difficult to fall asleep at night. This means that people who wake up at 6:30 a.m. should drink coffee after that first cortisol window closes—roughly between 9:30 a.m. and 11:30 a.m.—if they want to benefit for a little caffeine jolt.

To put it simply: "I would say that mid-morning or early afternoon is probably the best time," certified dietitian-nutritionist Lisa Lisiewski told CNBC. "That's when your cortisol levels are at their lowest and you actually benefit from the stimulant itself."

[h/t Inc.]

SECTIONS

arrow
LIVE SMARTER