Research creates hydrogen-producing living droplets, paving way for alternative future energy source  November 25, 2020 Normally, algal cells fix carbon dioxide and produce oxygen by photosynthesis. An international team of researchers used sugary droplets packed with living algal cells to generate hydrogen, rather than oxygen, by photosynthesis. They trapped ten thousand or so algal cells in each droplet, which were then crammed together by osmotic compression. By burying the cells deep inside the droplets, oxygen levels fell to a level that switched on special enzymes called hydrogenases that hijacked the normal photosynthetic pathway to produce hydrogen. In this way, around a quarter of a million microbial factories, typically only one-tenth of […]

Bacteria fed on a customized diet produce biodegradable polymers for alternative packaging in the cosmetics industry

Fraunhofer Research  October 1, 2020 To create biologically based, biodegradable polymers as a replacement for plastic packaging in the cosmetics industry researchers in Germany are cultivating bacteria fed on a variety of waste materials, ranging from wood waste and oil and sugar residues to glycerol from biodiesel production. They cause the bacteria to produce specific intracellular storage granules, polyhydroxyalkanoates (PHAs). The PHA is sent in the form of a white powder is turned into granules and then into a polymer film. Initial testing on small sheets of the polymer material for characteristics such as thermal stability, plasticity, and various barrier […]

Stanford engineers reprogram yeast cells to become microscopic drug factories

EurekAlert  September 2, 2020 A team of researchers in the US (Stanford University, industry) engineered baker’s yeast to produce the medicinal alkaloids hyoscyamine and scopolamine, starting from simple sugars and amino acids. They combined functional genomics to identify a missing pathway enzyme, protein engineering to enable the functional expression of an acyltransferase via trafficking to the vacuole, heterologous transporters to facilitate intracellular routing, and strain optimization to improve titres. Their integrated system positions more than twenty proteins adapted from yeast, bacteria, plants, and animals across six sub-cellular locations to recapitulate the spatial organization of tropane alkaloid biosynthesis in plants. Once […]

Acoustic tweezers move objects in the body remotely

Physics World  August 4, 2020 Researchers at the University of Washington designed ultrasound beams of specific shapes by numerical modeling and a phased array. The beams were shown to levitate and electronically steer solid objects (3-mm-diameter glass spheres) along preprogrammed paths in a water bath, and in the urinary bladders of live pigs. Deviation from the intended path was on average <10%. No injury was found on the bladder wall or intervening tissue. The work provides a framework for medical applications, as well as nonmedical uses that require noninvasively moving sizable, dense objects in a free field or within a […]

Wearable-tech glove translates sign language into speech in real time

Science Daily  June 29, 2020 An international team of researchers (China, USA – UCLA) has developed wearable sign-to-speech translation system composed of yarn-based stretchable sensor arrays and a wireless printed circuit board. It offers a high sensitivity and fast response time, allowing real-time translation of signs into spoken words to be performed. By analysing 660 acquired sign language hand gesture recognition patterns, they demonstrated a recognition rate of up to 98.63% and a recognition time of less than 1 second…read more. TECHNICAL ARTICLE 

Researchers develop viable sodium battery

Science Daily  June 1, 2020 An international team of researchers (USA – Pacific Northwest National Laboratory, Brookhaven National Laboratory, Washington State University, China) created a layered metal oxide cathode and a liquid electrolyte that included extra sodium ions. The cathode design and electrolyte system allowed for continued movement of sodium ions, preventing inactive surface crystal build-up, and allowing for unimpeded electricity generation. The research revealed the essential correlation between cathode structure evolution and surface interaction with the electrolyte. They are working to better understand the important interaction between their electrolyte and the cathode, so they can work with different materials […]

Synthetic red blood cells mimic natural ones, and have new abilities

EurekAlert  June 3, 2020 Based on a silica cell bioreplication approach researchers at the University of New Mexico designed and constructed synthetic red blood cells (RRBCs) that fully mimic the broad properties of native RBCs – size, biconcave shape, deformability, oxygen-carrying capacity, and long circulation time. Four successive nanoscale processing steps were employed for RRBC construction. Tests proved the recapitulation of RBC shape, size, and membrane structure, confirmed the ability of RRBCs to deform and pass through small slits and reconstitute themselves in a manner comparable to native RBCs. They developed modular procedures with which to load functional cargos such […]

Princeton team develops ‘poisoned arrow’ to defeat antibiotic-resistant bacteria

EurekAlert  June 3, 2020 An international team of researchers (USA – Princeton University, Germany) have found a compound, SCH-79797, that can simultaneously puncture bacterial walls and destroy folate within their cells while being immune to antibiotic resistance. This is the first antibiotic that can target Gram-positives and Gram-negatives without resistance, attacking via two different mechanisms within one molecule. They hope that it is generalizable, leading to better antibiotics and new types of antibiotics in the future. Even with extraordinary effort, they were unable to generate any resistance to this compound… read more. TECHNICAL ARTICLE

Lab-made skin grows its own hair

Nature Podcast June 3, 2020 A team of researchers in the US (Boston Children’s Hospital, Harvard Medical School, Indiana University, Stanford University) developed an organoid culture system that generates complex skin from human pluripotent stem cells. They used stepwise modulation of the transforming growth factor β (TGFβ) and fibroblast growth factor (FGF) signaling pathways to co-induce cranial epithelial cells and neural crest cells within a spherical cell aggregate. During an incubation period of 4–5 months, a cyst-like skin organoid composed of stratified epidermis, fat-rich dermis and pigmented hair follicles that are equipped with sebaceous glands emerged and a network of […]

“Living drug factories” might treat diabetes and other diseases

MIT News  March 30, 2020 To have a living drug factory that you can implant cells in patients, which could secrete drugs as-needed a team of researchers in the US (MIT, Boston Children’s Hospital, Joslin Diabetes Center, UMass Worcester) devised a way to protect the transplanted cells from the immune system by housing them inside a device built out of a silicon-based elastomer (polydimethylsiloxane) and a special porous membrane. The device contains a porous membrane that allows the transplanted cells to obtain nutrients and oxygen from the bloodstream but the pores are small enough so that immune cells such as […]