Nanotechnology Now

Our NanoNews Digest Sponsors


Heifer International

Wikipedia Affiliate Button


DHgate

Home > Press > Build it Like Mother Nature

In a step toward creating adhesives, drug delivery systems and other useful tools, Wyss Institute researchers led by Joanna Aizenberg have synthesized nanobristles that self-assemble into helical shapes,which are ubiquitous in nature.
In a step toward creating adhesives, drug delivery systems and other useful tools, Wyss Institute researchers led by Joanna Aizenberg have synthesized nanobristles that self-assemble into helical shapes,which are ubiquitous in nature.

Abstract:
Frank Lloyd Wright knew nature could teach architects a thing or two. Inspired by the contours of the landscape, Wright designed buildings with organic forms. With a similar philosophy, researchers are charting a new course in medicine through the Wyss Institute for Biologically Inspired Engineering, launched in 2009 with the largest philanthropic gift to Harvard in the University's history -- $125 million -- from engineer-entrepreneur Hansjorg Wyss.

Build it Like Mother Nature

Cambridge, MA | Posted on June 22nd, 2010

The Institute brings together researchers and clinicians from Harvard's Medical School and School of Engineering and Applied Sciences (SEAS), its affiliated hospitals and nearby institutions, and provides them with funding, space, and expert technical assistance to build on revolutionary advances in engineering, nanotechnology, synthetic biology, and computer science. Although their ideas carry a high risk of failure, they also have the potential to yield big dividends for human health.

"We're adopting the same simple, ingenious design principles that nature uses to create new medical devices and biomaterials," says Donald Ingber, the Institute's founding director and an HMS professor of pathology at Children's Hospital Boston.

Wyss teams discard stale patterns of thought by embracing strategies living systems use to adapt and compete for survival. Some of these tactics run counter to what scientists and engineers learn during their formal training. Take nature's approach to noise.

"Nature harnesses noise instead of trying to minimize it," says Ingber, using natural selection to illustrate his point. Genetic noise -- in the form of random DNA mutations -- produces populations of cells with slightly differing DNA blueprints and traits.

Electrical engineers despise noise and strive to eliminate it from equipment, from radio transmitters to lasers. Wyss researchers recognize that the human body bears little resemblance to a cool, quiet room for computer servers. This complex multi-cellular organism instead resembles an experimental polyrhythmic symphony in which the musicians work from their own scores, yet are flexible enough to improvise.

Relying on insights from nature may enable Wyss researchers to innovate where others have failed. Take tissue engineering: Instead of working in a petri dish, a team led by Ingber etched three-dimensional channels into a flexible, translucent cube and filled them with cells to recreate key structures found in the lung. The resulting "lung on a chip" expands and contracts rhythmically. It breathes. "We could never have achieved this necessary level of complexity in a dish," Ingber says. He hopes this and other tiny organ surrogates will provide an alternative to animal models. "We're not interested in making incremental improvements to existing materials and devices," he declares. "We're trying to shift paradigms."

Another Wyss team is developing an assistive device for children with cerebral palsy and other forms of brain injury that isn't stiff and awkward like a leg brace but instead is as soft and lightweight as clothing.

With seed funding from the Wyss, Eugene Goldfield, an HMS assistant professor of psychology at Children's Hospital Boston, is designing a programmable "second skin" to re-educate an injured nervous system. The skin will be made of many tiny "smart agents" that sense movement and then collaborate with patients' leg muscles to help them move.

"Without prompting from Don Ingber, I probably would have fumbled along on my own for a long time," says Goldfield. "Don realized it was important for me to connect with robotics experts, so he showed up one day and offered me a ride over to the School of Engineering and Applied Sciences." There, Goldfield met SEAS Associate Professor of Computer Science Radhika Nagpal, who is interested in robotic systems that adapt like living systems. Her group has created a self-balancing table composed of 12 identical robots that cooperate without guidance from a leader, responding to disturbances to keep the table level.

For help in mimicking nature's principle of self-organization, Nagpal and Goldfield turned to Harvard Microrobotics Laboratory founder and SEAS professor Robert Wood. Wood brings to the project new force-generating lightweight materials that he uses to make insect robots fly.

"We need each other desperately," says Nagpal of the trio's shared vision, which has drawn them out of their comfort zones. That is, after all, what the Wyss Institute is about: moving bold ideas through a discovery phase to the point where they capture interest -- and funding -- from government or industry.

####

About Wyss Institute for Biologically Inspired Engineering
The Wyss Institute for Biologically Inspired Engineering at Harvard University (http://wyss.harvard.edu) uses natureís design principles to create breakthrough technologies that will revolutionize medicine, industry and the environment. Working as an alliance among Harvardís Medical School, School of Engineering and Applied Sciences, and Faculty of Arts and Sciences, and in partnership with Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center, Childrenís Hospital Boston, Dana-Farber Cancer Institute, University of Massachusetts Medical School and Boston University, the Institute crosses disciplinary and institutional barriers to engage in high-risk, fundamental research that leads to transformative change. By applying biological principles, Wyss researchers are developing innovative new engineering solutions for healthcare, manufacturing, robotics, energy and sustainable architecture. These technologies are translated into commercial products and therapies through collaborations with clinical investigators, corporate alliances and new startups.

For more information, please click here

Copyright © Wyss Institute for Biologically Inspired Engineering

If you have a comment, please Contact us.

Issuers of news releases, not 7th Wave, Inc. or Nanotechnology Now, are solely responsible for the accuracy of the content.

Bookmark:
Delicious Digg Newsvine Google Yahoo Reddit Magnoliacom Furl Facebook

Related News Press

News and information

GLOBALFOUNDRIES to Expand Presence in China with 300mm Fab in Chongqing: Company plans new manufacturing facility and additional design capabilities to serve customers in China May 31st, 2016

Nanobiotix establishes promising preclinical proof-of-concept in Immuno Oncology May 31st, 2016

UK NANOSAFETY GROUP publishes 2nd Edition of guidance to support safe working with nanomaterials May 30th, 2016

Fast, stretchy circuits could yield new wave of wearable electronics May 30th, 2016

Synthetic Biology

The magic of microbes: ONR engineers innovative research in synthetic biology February 19th, 2016

Chemical cages: New technique advances synthetic biology February 10th, 2016

DNA 'building blocks' pave the way for improved drug delivery January 12th, 2016

Imitating synapses of the human brain could lead to smarter electronics November 15th, 2015

Academic/Education

Graphene: Progress, not quantum leaps May 23rd, 2016

Smithsonian Science Education Center and National Space Society Team Up for Next-Generation Space Education Program "Enterprise In Space" May 11th, 2016

The University of Colorado Boulder, USA, combines Raman spectroscopy and nanoindentation for improved materials characterisation May 9th, 2016

Albertan Science Lab Opens in India May 7th, 2016

Nanomedicine

Nanobiotix establishes promising preclinical proof-of-concept in Immuno Oncology May 31st, 2016

Automating DNA origami opens door to many new uses: Like 3-D printing did for larger objects, method makes it easy to build nanoparticles out of DNA May 30th, 2016

Simple attraction: Researchers control protein release from nanoparticles without encapsulation: U of T Engineering discovery stands to improve reliability and fabrication process for treatments to conditions such as spinal cord damage and stroke May 28th, 2016

Scientists illuminate a hidden regulator in gene transcription: New super-resolution technique visualizes important role of short-lived enzyme clusters May 27th, 2016

Announcements

GLOBALFOUNDRIES to Expand Presence in China with 300mm Fab in Chongqing: Company plans new manufacturing facility and additional design capabilities to serve customers in China May 31st, 2016

Nanobiotix establishes promising preclinical proof-of-concept in Immuno Oncology May 31st, 2016

UK NANOSAFETY GROUP publishes 2nd Edition of guidance to support safe working with nanomaterials May 30th, 2016

Fast, stretchy circuits could yield new wave of wearable electronics May 30th, 2016

Grants/Awards/Scholarships/Gifts/Contests/Honors/Records

Scientists illuminate a hidden regulator in gene transcription: New super-resolution technique visualizes important role of short-lived enzyme clusters May 27th, 2016

Finding a new formula for concrete: Researchers look to bones and shells as blueprints for stronger, more durable concrete May 26th, 2016

Light can 'heal' defects in new solar cell materials: Defects in some new electronic materials can be removed by making ions move under illumination May 24th, 2016

Supercrystals with new architecture can enhance drug synthesis May 24th, 2016

Nanobiotechnology

Nanobiotix establishes promising preclinical proof-of-concept in Immuno Oncology May 31st, 2016

Automating DNA origami opens door to many new uses: Like 3-D printing did for larger objects, method makes it easy to build nanoparticles out of DNA May 30th, 2016

Simple attraction: Researchers control protein release from nanoparticles without encapsulation: U of T Engineering discovery stands to improve reliability and fabrication process for treatments to conditions such as spinal cord damage and stroke May 28th, 2016

Scientists illuminate a hidden regulator in gene transcription: New super-resolution technique visualizes important role of short-lived enzyme clusters May 27th, 2016

Research partnerships

Finding a new formula for concrete: Researchers look to bones and shells as blueprints for stronger, more durable concrete May 26th, 2016

The next generation of carbon monoxide nanosensors May 26th, 2016

Revealing the nature of magnetic interactions in manganese oxide: New technique for probing local magnetic interactions confirms 'superexchange' model that explains how the material gets its long-range magnetic order May 25th, 2016

Light can 'heal' defects in new solar cell materials: Defects in some new electronic materials can be removed by making ions move under illumination May 24th, 2016

NanoNews-Digest
The latest news from around the world, FREE




  Premium Products
NanoNews-Custom
Only the news you want to read!
 Learn More
NanoTech-Transfer
University Technology Transfer & Patents
 Learn More
NanoStrategies
Full-service, expert consulting
 Learn More











ASP
Nanotechnology Now Featured Books




NNN

The Hunger Project







Car Brands
Buy website traffic