An Unsung Medical Breakthrough

We’re on the brink of something really big.

I just love surfing the website EurekAlert! to find scientific breakthroughs that really should be shouted from the rooftops, but are often getting lost in the stressful undertow of today’s drama-packed daily news cycle. This website gives me hope that science is still going strong and making positive differences in this world despite the anti-science climate in which we seem to be currently drowning.

The article that intrigued me the most today was one entitled, “Metal-ion breakthrough leads to new biomaterials”. I’ll do my best to break it down for you, because this is a discovery that could potentially save countless lives, and it could also have a positive impact on the environment. But if you’re truly interested after this post, I strongly encourage you to read the source article for more complex information. I’m just hitting the highest points here.

Wouldn’t it be nice if we could repair skin, blood vessels, lungs, etc. with a rubber-like tissue that was soft and stretchy? Enter elastomers. They’re a polymer that, until this breakthrough, was very difficult to produce and wasn’t very versatile. But some Cornell engineers have come up with a way to make them more easily, and, by combining them with different metals, they’re also much more useful.

For example, by crosslinking a polymer with copper, they came up with an elastomer that encourages new vessel growth. On the other hand, combining copper and zinc has the potential to fight human aging. These scientists began experimenting by using 6 different metals, and also produced an elastomer mixed with calcium and magnesium. And the best part is that all these elastomers have different qualities and they’re all biodegradable, durable, and biocompatible.

There’s a lot of potential in this discovery. It could repair blood vessels and heart tissue, and improve soft tissue reconstruction and regeneration. Another exciting application could potentially be in the industrial field, making, for example, eco-friendly, biodegradable tires.

I love the feeling that we are on the brink of something really big. It’s exciting. It’s also comforting. We may be able to solve major problems after all.

True confession. This is a picture of elastomers, but not the ones we discussed above. You have no idea how hard it was for me to find a picture that was even remotely linked to this post. So… just enjoy the pretty colors and please be kind.

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Let’s Hibernate

Sign me the heck up!

By now, this Shelter in Place/Quarantine/Lock Down, whatever you want to call it, is driving most of us up the wall. Fewer and fewer of us are complying, which makes it even more frustrating for the rest of us, because at this rate we’re never going to flatten the curve. If we don’t ensure the health of the more vulnerable amongst us, none of us will ever truly be safe.

I wish I could just go to sleep and wake up when all of this is over with. I wish I could hibernate like a bear in winter, or even better, Æstivate, which is a kind of hibernation during the hot months. That would be awesome. But then, sleep is one of my favorite things in the world.

I was thinking about this when I stumbled across an article on one of my new favorite websites, Eurekalert. I’m learning so much from perusing all the science articles on this site. It helps me believe that we are making progress after all.

The article in question is entitled, “Hibernation in mice: Are humans next?” It describes a fascinating study that came out of the University of Tsukuba, in Japan.

As with all scientific inquiry, this study started with some questions. Why do some animals hibernate while others do not? Do all animals have the potential to hibernate?

When a creature hibernates, its metabolism slows down, its temperature drops, its heart beats more slowly, it breathes more weakly, and there is less brain activity. And yet, when they wake up, they’re still healthy, albeit thinner. (Another plus, in my opinion!)

Mice do not normally hibernate, but this study shows that if you activate a cell in their brains called the Q neurons, they would do so for several days. They were able to produce these results in rats as well, in spite of the fact that they don’t even normally go into a daily torpor as mice do.

The implications of this study are rather interesting. If humans could hibernate, this could ease their pain during emergency transport. It could do wonders for space travel, as the amount of food and oxygen would be reduced, and there would be psychological benefits of “sleeping” through long journeys.

But if I let my imagination run wild, I think of people taking “hibernation vacations” (you heard it here first) to lose weight, or during times of upheaval and great stress. Sign me the heck up, is all I’m saying.

I could also see how having a reduced need for oxygen would be a wonderful thing for COVID-19 patients, who are struggling for every breath they take. It very well might buy them time to let the virus run its course. I’m no doctor, but I’d say this is worth investigating. It certainly couldn’t be worse than injecting oneself with bleach. (Do NOT inject yourself with bleach!!!)

As long as human hibernation was a voluntary thing, it could be quite beneficial to mankind. I hope this study continues. I look forward to hearing more about it.


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A Deep, Deep Dive into Nerddom

I am in nerd heaven right now!

Holy Cow, am I ever in nerd heaven right now! I just stumbled upon a news release distribution platform online called EurekAlert! It’s operated by the American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS), and therein you will find legitimate scientific press releases. These are stories that often don’t make the mainstream news, but they should.

This site is restoring my faith in mankind. It shows that there still are intelligent people out there. There are people who believe in the value of scientific inquiry, and don’t consider science some demonic conspiracy. They understand that knowledge is power and ignorance is weakness. They pursue facts and obtain answers. I’m finding this fascinating.

Best of all, they only post articles that adhere to their strict eligibility guidelines, from institutions involved in legitimate scientific research. No fake news here. No pseudoscience. No political agenda. How refreshing.

I just finished reading an article entitled “Chimpanzees help trace the evolution of human speech back to ancient ancestors.” In it, they’ve determined that Chimpanzee lip smacking behavior (and, indeed, that of gibbons and orangutans), averages 5 cycles per second.

The reason that’s interesting is that that’s the same average speed as every language the world over. Every single one. This means that human speech rhythm was built upon existing primate signal systems, and therefore has ancient roots within primate communication.

I mean, wow! Just… wow.

This website breaks its news releases down into the following categories: Agriculture, Archaeology, Atmospheric Science, Biology, Business & Economics, Chemistry & Physics, Earth Science, Education, Mathematics, Medicine & Health, Policy & Ethics, Social & Behavior, Space & Planetary, and Tech & Engineering. So there’s something in there for every nerd who ever walked the earth.

To heck with current events! It’s time we focus on current data. It’s time for us to rise up, rather than be bogged down in the foolishness. (And this site will also provide me with a great deal of blog fodder, so brace yourself.)

If you have a curious spirit and an inquiring mind, I urge you to check out EurekAlert! I’d write more, but I’m off to read an article entitled, “New study finds cannibalism in predatory dinosaurs.” Heaven only knows where I’ll wind up after that.

If you don’t hear from me, follow the bread crumbs through the delightful maze of pure science.

Nerd Glasses One

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