Tag Archives: Duke

Invisibility cloaks: Out of science fiction and into reality

iStock_000042489660LargeInvisibility cloaks are becoming one step closer to reality, thanks to cephalopods. Octopuses, squid, and cuttlefish have the ability to change the color and texture of their skin to match their surroundings, and by studying these animals, researchers at MIT and Duke University have created a material that can change color and texture on demand.

In cephalopods, muscle contractions change the shapes of pigment sacs and skin texture into a large variety of colors and patterns. This new octopus-inspired material works by using voltage changes to activate molecules in the elastomer. Essentially, you’d use a remote control to change color and texture. When you turn it off, it returns to its original state. Watch the video in the link here.

Besides being very popular with Harry Potter fans, this technology is really important. A system that can modify its camouflage with a touch of a button could be extremely useful, and even life-saving. Researchers are interested in developing anti-fouling coating for ships, and military camouflage could be revolutionized. Can you think of other applications where changing the texture or color of an object could be useful? Post your ideas in the comments below!

https://newsoffice.mit.edu/2014/material-changes-color-texture-octopus-0916

See some other ways the octopuses are awesome: http://fbresearch.org/octopuses-are-awesome-see-why/

Premature infants and the benefits of massage

iStock_000013183519LargeThe health of premature infants has been helped considerably by researchers who have been working on a study in rats that started in 1979. The research shows that the health conditions of premature infants can be improved significantly by introducing certain massage techniques.

Using these stimulation techniques, it’s been found that premature infants have been able to be released from the ICU an average of six days earlier than when these techniques weren’t used. Not only is this beneficial for infant health, it’s also a significant cost savings for insurance companies- a win-win for everyone.

Interestingly enough, when the research study started, the original questions that were being asked had nothing to do with premature infants. Instead, researchers were trying to determine how applying moderate pressure to rats could affect a particular brain growth enzyme. Later, it was found that this stimulation also improved brain growth in premature infants. This isn’t the first time that research studies have led to results that led scientists in a different direction. Read about more research with unexpected results here- including Viagra and new medication to improve recovery after heart attacks.

This research has earned a Golden Goose Award, which will be awarded near the end of September 2014. This is a great recognition- and also a reminder that the support of basic research is extremely important! Who knows where it could lead next?

Read more about it here: http://www.dukechronicle.com/articles/2014/09/11/golden-goose-award-presented-duke-researchers-rat-study

Drug could protect against deadly doses of radiation

iStock_000021920206SmallUnfortunately, the nuclear disasters in Chernobyl and Fukushima have shown us just how catastrophic radiation can be. But what if there was a way to intervene in the 24 hours after radiation exposure, limiting damage to the human body? Researchers are optimistic that they’ve discovered a promising treatment.

Normally, radiation exposure affects the integrity of the intestines, which can lead to radiation-induced gastrointestinal syndrome (RIGS). There is no cure for RIGS, but now, there might be a way to prevent it. But by administering a compound (DMOG) that blocks certain proteins, researchers found that in mice, tissues were modified in a way that allowed them to repair and regenerate.

A potential treatment for those exposed to radiation is really good news. The survival rate in mice was greatly increased after this therapy, and there’s a possibility that this could also have an impact on patients receiving radiation during cancer treatments. While it’s too early to tell whether or not cancer patients could benefit from this drug, the good news is that it’s already in clinical trials to treat a blood disorder, so safety assessments are already in the works. Read more about the research here:

http://news.sciencemag.org/health/2014/05/drug-could-protect-against-radiation-exposure