Category Archives: Biology

Multi-jet Jellies May Point the Way to Better Underwater Propulsion

N. bijuga nectophore structure (uoregon.edu)

N. bijuga nectophore structure
(uoregon.edu)

Squids and octopuses can swim using jet propulsion by forcing water through a mantle.  It’s a fast and effective method, and the jet can be steered, but only works in one direction at a time. Engineers, always in search of better undersea vehicle designs, however, are interested in these natural methods of locomotion.

A team of biologists has now found a tiny jellyfish that can maneuver through the water by coordinating multiple jets. The discovery, published in the September 2 issue of Nature Communications, could lead to better, more agile undersea vehicle designs.

Continue reading

Multipurpose Micro Machines – Robotic Fish from 3D Printing

3D-printed microfish containing functional nanoparticles are capable of sensing and removing toxins (J. Warner, UC San Diego Jacobs School of Engineering)

3D-printed microfish containing functional nanoparticles are capable of sensing and removing toxins (J. Warner, UC San Diego Jacobs School of Engineering)

Nanoengineers have used an innovative 3D printing technology to manufacture quantities of multipurpose, self-propelled, and controllable microrobotic “fish,” each smaller than the width of a human hair.

Some basic chemical tools, embedded in the microfish during the fabrication process, enable them to perform useful work.

The project team hopes that the work will inspire a new generation of smart microrobots with capabilities that can be applied to sensing, directed drug delivery, and environmental detoxification.

Continue reading

A (not so) Missing Link – Between the Brain and the Immune System

Newly-discovered lymphatic vessels, shown in red, were almost invisible behind larger blood vessels, shown in green (University of Virginia)

Newly-discovered lymphatic vessels, shown in red, were almost invisible behind larger blood vessels, shown in green (University of Virginia)

“They’ll have to change the textbooks.”

Scientists don’t hear this very often (if ever), but that’s the remark that came in response to a new discovery that the brain is connected to the immune system by vessels that no one knew existed.

The connection could change how neurological diseases like Alzheimer’s and multiple sclerosis are understood and treated.

Continue reading

Better Building Biology

building

Bacteria are a familiar part of indoor environments – always present, difficult to remove – and a lot of those microbes aren’t friendly (remember Legionnaire’s Disease?).  While cleaning is often ineffective – and can even be counterproductive – there are solutions to keeping buildings healthy.  New research is looking into design methods that cooperate with biology, rather than fighting it. In the process, this work could bring microbe management into mainstream architectural design.

Continue reading

Diagnosing the Sea – Proteins and Ocean Health

Collecting water samples (Brian Dimento, UCONN)

Collecting water samples (Brian Dimento, UCONN)

Proteomics is the study of cellular proteins and their functions. It’s a relatively new science but a productive one, yielding insights into maladies like tumors, cancers, and renal disease. Proteomic analysis is becoming an essential tool in the study of human health.

Now, a team of scientists has extended proteomics to the study of ocean health.

In a recent paper published in Science, the team described how they identified and measured proteins in the ocean to determine the responses of single-celled organisms to their environment. Proteomics is bringing a new perspective to the understanding of ocean ecosystems.

Continue reading

What Happens in Space . . . Might Have to Stay in Space

Dreams of interstellar voyages and planetary colonies are the adrenaline of human spaceflight programs. Such dreams imply that humans will reproduce during generations away from earth. Biological research is showing, however, that reproduction in space will be hard, and maybe impossible, and suggests that human physiology may yet be the limiting factor to long duration space missions.

Continue reading