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Tufts University

Scientists are experimenting with using genetically engineered spider silk proteins in the...

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

Caterpillars have inspired a soft-bodied robot that can move fast as well as wriggle into ...

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

An unregenerated tail on an untreated tadpole (top), and a regenerated tail on one that re...

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

Caterpillars' 'gut-sliding' method of locomotion could be applied to soft-bodied robots (P...

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

A medical student from Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center is shown testing the new hapti...

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

What technologies that will change the World (Photo: Stephan Uhlmann, CC license)

Here we are in the Information Age. Never before has the flow of ideas, innovation and new technologies been so strong, so much so that it's hard to imagine what the world will be like in 10, 20 or 50 years time. So which of today's fledgling technologies will have a fundamental impact on the way we live our lives in the future? MIT’s Technology Review has turned its attention to this question with the release of its annual list of 10 emerging technologies and it makes thought provoking reading.  Read More

Neural electrode array wrapped onto a model of the brain after dissolution of a thin, supp...

The same team responsible for the development of a flexible silicon device that wraps around a heart to record its electrical activity has now developed a brain implant that essentially melts into place, snugly fitting to the brain's surface. Such ultrathin flexible implants, made partly from silk, can record brain activity more faithfully than thicker implants embedded with similar electronics and could pave the way for better devices to monitor and control seizures, and to transmit signals from the brain past damaged parts of the spinal cord.  Read More

A clear silk film, about one centimeter squared, with six silicon transistors on its surfa...

Tattooing dates back to at least Neolithic times and has experienced a resurgence in popularity in many parts of the world in recent years. Advancements in tattoo pigments and the refinement of tattooing equipment has seen an improvement in the quality of tattoos being produced. Today it’s possible to get ink that glows under UV light, but a new technology could see tattoos that emit their own light. Researchers have been able to build thin, flexible silicon electronics on silk substrates that almost completely dissolve inside the body, paving the way for embedded LED tattoos that offer much more than just aesthetic appeal.  Read More

Neuroscientists identify the neural circuitry of first impressions

You only get one chance to make a first impression, and it had better be a good one. When encountering someone for the first time, we are often quick to judge whether we like that person, and research shows that people make relatively accurate and persistent evaluations based on rapid observations of even less than half a minute. Now neuroscientists at New York University and Harvard Universityhave identified the neural systems involved in forming first impressions of others.  Read More

Power Generating Shock Absorber
 Graphic: David Oxenreider

Recent developments in regeneration technology are almost ready for prime time. Both Hydraulic Hybrid Vehicles and Power Generating Shock Absorbers are both being field tested and may be soon headed for mass production. UPS have committed to purchasing seven "series" hydraulic hybrid delivery vehicles while Electric Truck, LLC has exclusively optioned commercial rights to a technology from Tufts University that uses Regenerative Shock Absorbers to recharge the batteries of any hybrid electric and electric-powered vehicle while it is driven.  Read More

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