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Scientists Grow Human Heart Cells in Spinach Leaves

Don't let that headline give you any crazy ideas: this isn’t about some kind of horror-inspired Frankensalad. Scientists are simply capitalizing on plants’ robust natural vein structure, which may someday let them grow human heart tissue for transplant. The researchers published their findings online in the journal Biomaterials.

The organ transplant process in use today needs some serious improvement. We need more organs and tissue than we have, and patients who do get transplants face a lifetime of immune system–suppressing drugs and the risk that their bodies might reject the new organ. So scientists around the world have been brainstorming ways to fill organ- and tissue-shaped scaffolding with patients’ own cells.

Some groups have turned to 3D printing to build the scaffolding, while others see a future in recycling existing organs.

And then there are the plant people. The new paper’s first author, Joshua Gershlak, is a biomedical engineer at Massachusetts' Worcester Polytechnic Institute. He had done scaffolding experiments before, perfusing, or filling, the cellular skeletons of human hearts with new cells. The light-bulb moment came for him when he noticed a familiar structure in the green leaves on his plate.

“When I looked at the spinach leaf,” he said in a statement, “its stem reminded me of an aorta. So I thought, let’s perfuse right through the stem.”

Gershlak and his colleagues used chemical detergents to rinse away most of the spinach’s plant matter, leaving behind a translucent scaffold. Then they pumped cell-like fluids and microbeads through the ghostly veins and perfused them with human endothelial cells. The cells took to their new home and began growing.

Next steps will include trying the same process in other common crops.

Corresponding author Glen Gaudette of WPI says his team’s findings are “... very promising. Adapting abundant plants that farmers have been cultivating for thousands of years for use in tissue engineering could solve a host of problems limiting the field.”

All images courtesy of Worcester Polytechnic Institute.

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The North Face
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Design
The North Face's New Geodesic Dome Tent Will Protect You in 60 mph Wind
The North Face
The North Face

You can find camping tents designed for easy set-up, large crowds, and sustainability, but when it comes to strength, there’s only so much abuse a foldable structure can take. Now, The North Face is pushing the limits of tent durability with a reimagined design. According to inhabitat, the Geodome 4 relies on its distinctive geodesic shape to survive wind gusts approaching hurricane strength.

Instead of the classic arching tent structure, the Geodome balloons outward like a globe. It owes its unique design to the five main poles and one equator pole that hold it in place. Packed up, the gear weighs just over 24 pounds, making it a practical option for car campers and four-season adventurers. When it’s erected, campers have floor space measuring roughly 7 feet by 7.5 feet, enough to sleep four people, and 6 feet and 9 inches of space from ground to ceiling if they want to stand. Hooks attached to the top create a system for gear storage.

While it works in mild conditions, the tent should really appeal to campers who like to trek through harsher weather. Geodesic domes are formed from interlocking triangles. A triangle’s fixed angles make it one of the strongest shapes in engineering, and when used in domes, triangles lend this strength to the overall structure. In the case of the tent, this means that the dome will maintain its form in winds reaching speeds of 60 mph. Meanwhile, the double-layered, water-resistant exterior keeps campers dry as they wait out the storm.

The Geodome 4 is set to sell for $1635 when it goes on sale in Japan this March. In the meantime, outdoorsy types in the U.S. will just have to wait until the innovative product expands to international markets.

[h/t inhabitat]

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Jonathan How, MIT
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technology
New MIT Technology to Help Drones Dodge Obstacles May Make Deliveries Easier
Jonathan How, MIT
Jonathan How, MIT

New technology developed by MIT’s Computer Science and Artificial Intelligence Laboratory (CSAIL) may help drones dodge collisions as they fly, making things like drone pizza delivery a whole lot more plausible on a large scale.

Whether you’re a human or a drone, moving through a city always involves a certain amount of uncertainty. Will that light turn green as you approach? Will a pedestrian bump into you? Will a pigeon fly in your face? Will there be a sudden road closure for a parade, or a newly installed crane at a construction site? And if there’s one thing that machines tend to be bad at, it’s dealing with uncertainty. For a fast-flying drone, navigating with a static map just won’t cut it in the real world.

So CSAIL researchers created NanoMap, a new system that can model uncertainty, taking into account that, as a drone flies, the conditions around it might change. The technology helps the drone plan for the fact that it probably doesn’t know precisely where it is in relation to everything else in the world. It spends less time calculating the perfect route around an obstacle, relying instead on a more general idea of where things are and how to avoid them, allowing it to process and avoid potential collisions more quickly.

It features depth sensors that constantly measure the distance between the drone and the objects around it, creating a kind of image for the machine of where it has been and where it is going. “It’s kind of like saving all of the images you’ve seen of the world as a big tape in your head,” MIT researcher Pete Florence explains in a press release. “For the drone to plan motions, it essentially goes back into time to think individually of all the different places that it was in.”

In testing, the NanoMap system allowed small drones to fly through forests and warehouses at 20 miles per hour while avoiding potential collisions with trees and other obstacles.

The project was funded in part by the Department of Defense’s DARPA, so it could be used as part of military missions, but it would also be helpful for any kind of drone-based delivery—whether it’s ferrying relief supplies to combat zones or your latest Amazon Prime package.

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