Nanotechnology Now

Our NanoNews Digest Sponsors

Heifer International

Wikipedia Affiliate Button

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

A nanoscale wireless communication system via plasmonic antennas: Greater control affords 'in-plane' transmission of waves at or near visible light August 27th, 2016

Forces of nature: Interview with microscopy innovators Gerd Binnig and Christoph Gerber August 26th, 2016

A promising route to the scalable production of highly crystalline graphene films August 26th, 2016

Graphene under pressure August 26th, 2016

Nanofur for oil spill cleanup: Materials researchers learn from aquatic ferns: Hairy plant leaves are highly oil-absorbing / publication in bioinspiration & biomimetics / video on absorption capacity August 25th, 2016

Synthetic Biology

Analog DNA circuit does math in a test tube: DNA computers could one day be programmed to diagnose and treat disease August 25th, 2016

'Green' electronic materials produced with synthetic biology July 16th, 2016

Researchers harness DNA as the engine of super-efficient nanomachine: New platform detects traces of everything from bacteria to viruses, cocaine and metals July 10th, 2016

Academic/Education

AIM Photonics Announces Release of Process Design Kit (PDK) for Integrated Silicon Photonics Design August 25th, 2016

Nanotech Security Featured by Simon Fraser University: Company's Anti-Counterfeiting Technology Developed With the Help of University's 4D LABS Materials Research Institute August 21st, 2016

W.M. Keck Foundation awards Cal State LA a $375,000 research and education grant August 4th, 2016

Thomas Swan and NGI announce unique partnership July 28th, 2016

Nanomedicine

Nanofiber scaffolds demonstrate new features in the behavior of stem and cancer cells August 25th, 2016

Johns Hopkins scientists track metabolic pathways to find drug combination for pancreatic cancer August 25th, 2016

50 years after the release of the film 'Fantastic Voyage,' science upstages fiction: Science upstages fiction with nanorobotic agents designed to travel in the human body to treat cancer August 25th, 2016

Tunneling nanotubes between neurons enable the spread of Parkinson's disease via lysosomes August 24th, 2016

Announcements

A nanoscale wireless communication system via plasmonic antennas: Greater control affords 'in-plane' transmission of waves at or near visible light August 27th, 2016

Forces of nature: Interview with microscopy innovators Gerd Binnig and Christoph Gerber August 26th, 2016

A promising route to the scalable production of highly crystalline graphene films August 26th, 2016

Graphene under pressure August 26th, 2016

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

A nanoscale wireless communication system via plasmonic antennas: Greater control affords 'in-plane' transmission of waves at or near visible light August 27th, 2016

Forces of nature: Interview with microscopy innovators Gerd Binnig and Christoph Gerber August 26th, 2016

New electrical energy storage material shows its power: Nanomaterial combines attributes of both batteries and supercapacitors August 25th, 2016

Light and matter merge in quantum coupling: Rice University physicists probe photon-electron interactions in vacuum cavity experiments August 24th, 2016

Nanobiotechnology

Analog DNA circuit does math in a test tube: DNA computers could one day be programmed to diagnose and treat disease August 25th, 2016

Nanofiber scaffolds demonstrate new features in the behavior of stem and cancer cells August 25th, 2016

Johns Hopkins scientists track metabolic pathways to find drug combination for pancreatic cancer August 25th, 2016

50 years after the release of the film 'Fantastic Voyage,' science upstages fiction: Science upstages fiction with nanorobotic agents designed to travel in the human body to treat cancer August 25th, 2016

Research partnerships

New electrical energy storage material shows its power: Nanomaterial combines attributes of both batteries and supercapacitors August 25th, 2016

New theory could lead to new generation of energy friendly optoelectronics: Researchers at Queen's University Belfast and ETH Zurich, Switzerland, have created a new theoretical framework which could help physicists and device engineers design better optoelectronics August 23rd, 2016

A new way to display the 3-D structure of molecules: Metal-organic frameworks provide a new platform for solving the structure of hard-to-study samples August 21st, 2016

Researchers watch catalysts at work August 19th, 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