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Scientists 3D Print Mini Arteries and Hearts

You can make a lot of crazy things with a 3D printer: buildings, teeth, animal models. A new technological advance suggests that even organs could be 3D printed. In the latest issue of the journal Science Advances, Carnegie Mellon University researchers report that they are able to 3D print soft biological structures, like arteries and hearts. 

While it’s fairly easy to 3D print something out of hard plastic, it’s much harder to create a stable 3D-printed object from softer materials. Things printed with gel, for instance, tend to collapse under their own weight. 

The Carnegie Mellon researchers used soft protein and carbohydrate hydrogels to create structures based on femur bones, arteries, embryonic hearts, and brains. The printed material is suspended in a second hydrogel made with gelatin, kind of like a supportive Jell-O. This gelatinous support bath is thermoreversible, meaning that it can be melted away with heat after the gel artery or heart structure sets. 

The researchers tested their concept on small-scale models of arteries, hearts, and other organs, but they’re not quite ready to print working organs just yet. The tests proved that the technique is capable of producing complex, hollow biological structures, but they’ll still need to work on growing living heart cells, for instance, on the 3D-printed gel scaffold to create working tissue. 

[h/t: Livescience via Stat]

Banner image from Hinton et al., Science Advances (2015)

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26 Facts About LEGO Bricks

Since it first added plastic, interlocking bricks to its lineup, the Danish toy company LEGO (from the words Leg Godt for “play well”) has inspired builders of all ages to bring their most imaginative designs to life. Sets have ranged in size from scenes that can be assembled in a few minutes to 5000-piece behemoths depicting famous landmarks. And tinkerers aren’t limited to the sets they find in stores. One of the largest LEGO creations was a life-sized home in the UK that required 3.2 million tiny bricks to construct.

In this episode of the List Show, John Green lays out 26 playful facts about one of the world’s most beloved toy brands. To hear about the LEGO black market, the vault containing every LEGO set ever released, and more, check out the video above then subscribe to our YouTube channel to stay up-to-date with the latest flossy content.

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Of Buckeyes and Butternuts: 29 States With Weird Nicknames for Their Residents
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Tracing a word’s origin and evolution can yield fascinating historical insights—and the weird nicknames used in some states to describe their residents are no exception. In the Mental Floss video above, host John Green explains the probable etymologies of 29 monikers that describe inhabitants of certain states across the country.

Some of these nicknames, like “Hoosiers” and “Arkies” (which denote residents of Indiana and Arkansas, respectively) may have slightly offensive connotations, while others—including "Buckeyes," "Jayhawks," "Butternuts," and "Tar Heels"—evoke the military histories of Ohio, Kansas, Tennessee, and North Carolina. And a few, like “Muskrats” and “Sourdoughs,” are even inspired by early foods eaten in Delaware and Alaska. ("Goober-grabber" sounds goofier, but it at least refers to peanuts, which are a common crop in Georgia, as well as North Carolina and Arkansas.)

Learn more fascinating facts about states' nicknames for their residents by watching the video above.

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