This week, we’ve learned how scientists are gathering insights from sharks on regenerating human teeth, using cotton candy machines to spin out artificial tissue and teaching a man to wiggle prosthetic fingers solely with the power of his thoughts. Take a look.
Researchers studying mice reported that running “has been found to double or even triple the number of new neurons that appear afterward in the animals’ hippocampus, a key area of the brain for learning and memory, compared to the brains of animals that remain sedentary.” according to the New York Times. The story says that “scientists believe that exercise has similar impacts on the human hippocampus.
A young epilepsy patient at Johns Hopkins University with an implanted brain electrode was able to wiggle the fingers on a prosthetic arm with his mind. “We believe this is the first time a person using a mind-controlled prosthesis has immediately performed individual digit movements without extensive training,” said Nathan Crone, senior author of the study and professor of neurology at the Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine.
Scientists at MIT reversed autism-like symptoms in mice by switching on a gene that can restore typical behavior in the animals later in their lives. “This suggests that even in the adult brain we have profound plasticity to some degree,” Guoping Feng, an MIT professor of brain and cognitive sciences told MIT News. “There is more and more evidence showing that some of the defects are indeed reversible, giving hope that we can develop treatment for autistic patients in the future.”
Scientists at the University of Sheffield studying how sharks generate their fearsome rows of teeth say their research could also help humans. “The study has identified a network of genes that enables sharks to develop and regenerate their teeth throughout their lifetime,” they reported. “The genes also allow sharks to replace rows of their teeth using a conveyer belt-like system.” The team wrote that humans also possessed the set of cells that facilitate the production of replacement teeth, but we lose the ability only after taking two turns. “The Jaws films taught us that it’s not always safe to go into the water, but this study shows that perhaps we need to in order to develop therapies that might help humans with tooth loss,” they wrote.
Scientists at Vanderbilt University made artificial tissue with a cotton candy machine. They used it to “spin out networks of tiny threads comparable in size, density and complexity to the patterns formed by capillaries – the tiny, thin-walled vessels that deliver oxygen and nutrients to cells and carry away waste.”
“Some people in the field think this approach is a little crazy,” said Leon Bellan, assistant professor of mechanical engineering at Vanderbilt, who was involved in the project. “But now we’ve shown we can use this simple technique to make microfluidic networks that mimic the three-dimensional capillary system in the human body in a cell-friendly fashion.”