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Tufts University

Medical

New collagen scaffolding technique to benefit tissue engineering

Collagen is the main component of connective tissues and the most abundant protein in the human body. Biocompatible and biodegradable, it is an excellent material for making scaffolding for tissue engineering. The trouble is, conventional techniques disrupt the fibrous structure of collagen and weaken the end product. Tufts University researchers are aiming to change this with a new technique for fabricating collagen structures that avoids disruption and retains collagen’s strength.Read More

Electronics

"Transient electronics" dissolve once they're not needed

We’ve certainly been hearing a lot lately about tiny electronic devices that can do things such as delivering medication after being implanted in the body, measuring structural stress upon being attached to a bridge, or monitoring pollution after being placed in the environment. In all of these cases, the device has to be retrieved once it’s served its purpose, or just left in place indefinitely. Now, however, an interdisciplinary team of researchers have demonstrated “transient electronics,” which dissolve into nothing after a pre-determined amount of time.Read More

Electronics

MIT's wearable brain scanner monitors your cognitive state, handles your workload if needed

As machines get more and more sophisticated, the mental capacity of their human overlords stays at a static (albeit seemingly impressive) level, and therefore slowly starts to pale in comparison. The bandwidth of the human brain is not limitless, and if an overloaded brain happens to be overseeing machines carrying out potentially dangerous tasks, you can expect trouble. But why had we built the machines in the first place, if not to save us from trouble? Brainput, a brain-computer interface built by researchers from MIT and Tufts University, is going to let your computer know if you’re mentally fit for the job at hand. If it decides your brain is overloaded with tasks, it will help you out by handling some of them for you.Read More

Health & Wellbeing

Silk microneedles are claimed to better-deliver medication

Microneedles continue to show promise as a replacement – in at least some applications – for the hypodermic needle. Typically, a sheet containing an array of the tiny needles is adhered to the patient’s skin, like a bandage. The microneedles painlessly pierce the top layer of skin, then gradually deliver the medication within them by harmlessly dissolving into the patient’s bloodstream. As an added bonus, once everything is complete, there are no bio-hazardous used needles to dispose of. Now, bioengineers from Massachusetts’ Tufts University have developed what they claim is an even better type of microneedle, which is made from silk.Read More

Science

'World's smallest electric motor' consists of a single molecule

Remember back in the old days, when nano-scale motors were a clunky 500 nanometers across? That record was subsequently broken with a 200-nanometer model, but has now been broken again, by a motor that’s just one nanometer wide. By comparison, the width of a human hair is about 60,000 nanometers. The new motor, created by scientists at Tufts University in Massachusetts, is reportedly the first one ever to consist of a single molecule.Read More

Science

Genetically-engineered spider silk could be used in gene therapy

Spider silk is pretty amazing stuff. Pound for pound, it has a tensile strength close to that of steel while being one-fifth as dense, it’s tougher than Kevlar, and it can stretch to almost one-and-a-half times its length without breaking. As if that wasn’t enough, it now appears that a genetically engineered version of the substance could be used for delivering genes into human cells.Read More
Robotics

Caterpillars and the next generation of rolling robots

The millions of years of natural selection that lies behind the immense biodiversity found on our planet is fertile ground for keeping robotics research rolling ... in this case, literally. Some caterpillars in the Crambidae family have the amazing ability to spring into a wheel shape and roll away when it's time to get out of Dodge fast, and it is this talent that has inspired the creation of GoQBot – a 3-inch cm long soft-bodied robot that could provide a blueprint for versatile search and rescue robots of the future.Read More

Science

Spinal cord tissue regenerated with sodium

In a study that could have implications for the treatment of traumatic injuries in humans, scientists at Tufts University in Massachusetts have succeeded in getting tadpoles to regrow amputated tails. The researchers first noted that when the tails were cut off of young Xenopus laevis (African clawed frog) tadpoles, a localized increase in sodium ions occurred at the amputation site, which allowed the tail to regenerate – something which tadpoles lose the ability to do as they mature. However, after an hour of treatment with a drug cocktail that triggered an influx of sodium ions into injured cells, older tadpoles were also able to regenerate their tails. Given that tadpole tails contain spinal cord, muscle, nerves and other materials, it’s possible that the process might someday be able to regenerate the spinal cords, or even limbs, of people.Read More

Robotics

Caterpillars' gut-sliding locomotion inspires soft-bodied robot development

When a caterpillar crawls, its internal organs slide forward inside its body before its legs move. Does that matter? It does if you’re a caterpillar, but it also does if you’re a designer of soft-bodied robots. A team of researchers working at Massachusetts' Tufts University used an X-ray to observe large, opaque-bodied caterpillars, then backed up their findings by examining smaller, translucent caterpillars under a microscope. In both cases, it was observed that the caterpillar’s internal center of mass moved forward first, while its middle legs remained attached to the substrate. In a paper on their findings, the team wrote that the so-called gut-slide is “unlike any form of legged locomotion previously reported and represents a new feature in our emerging understanding of crawling.”Read More

Medical

Haptic feedback tools being developed for laparoscopic surgery training

Laparoscopic gastric banding is a common surgical treatment for morbid obesity and the most critical factor in the success of the operation lies in the hands of the surgeon - who needs the proficiency and skill to insert slender, handheld tools into the body of the patient. A team of interdisciplinary researchers, led by Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute, has recently won a US$2.3 million federal grant to develop a touch-sensitive virtual reality simulator that will realistically replicate how performing a gastric band operation feels - making it ideal for developing and teaching fundamental surgical skills and for assessing physicians wanting to be certified as a laparoscopic surgeon.Read More

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