Tag Archives: science

Design and function of biomimetic multilayer water purification membranes

Multilayer architectures in water purification membranes enable increased water throughput, high filter efficiency, and high molecular loading capacity. However, the preparation of membranes with well-organized multilayer structures, starting from the nanoscale to maximize filtration efficiency, remains a challenge. We report a complete strategy to fully realize a novel biomaterial-based multilayer nanoporous membrane via the integration of computational simulation and experimental fabrication. Our comparative computational simulations, based on coarse-grained models of protein nanofibrils and mineral plates, reveal that the multilayer structure can only form with weak interactions between nanofibrils and mineral plates. We demonstrate experimentally that silk nanofibril (SNF) and hydroxyapatite (HAP) can be used to fabricate highly ordered multilayer membranes with nanoporous features by combining protein self-assembly and in situ biomineralization. The production is optimized to … Read the rest

Fast-moving soft electronic fish

Soft robots driven by stimuli-responsive materials have unique advantages over conventional rigid robots, especially in their high adaptability for field exploration and seamless interaction with humans. The grand challenge lies in achieving self-powered soft robots with high mobility, environmental tolerance, and long endurance. We are able to advance a soft electronic fish with a fully integrated onboard system for power and remote control. Without any motor, the fish is driven solely by a soft electroactive structure made of dielectric elastomer and ionically conductive hydrogel. The electronic fish can swim at a speed of 6.4 cm/s (0.69 body length per second), which is much faster than previously reported untethered soft robotic fish driven by soft responsive materials. The fish shows consistent performance in a wide temperature range … Read the rest

Evolutionary dynamics of CRISPR gene drives

The alteration of wild populations has been discussed as a solution to a number of humanity’s most pressing ecological and public health concerns. Enabled by the recent revolution in genome editing, clustered regularly interspaced short palindromic repeats (CRISPR) gene drives—selfish genetic elements that can spread through populations even if they confer no advantage to their host organism—are rapidly emerging as the most promising approach. However, before real-world applications are considered, it is imperative to develop a clear understanding of the outcomes of drive release in nature. Toward this aim, we mathematically study the evolutionary dynamics of CRISPR gene drives. We demonstrate that the emergence of drive-resistant alleles presents a major challenge to previously reported constructs, and we show that an alternative design that selects against resistant … Read the rest

Normal sleep requires the astrocyte brain-type fatty acid binding protein FABP7

Sleep is found widely in the animal kingdom. Despite this, few conserved molecular pathways that govern sleep across phyla have been described. The mammalian brain-type fatty acid binding protein (Fabp7) is expressed in astrocytes, and its mRNA oscillates in tandem with the sleep-wake cycle. However, the role of FABP7 in regulating sleep remains poorly understood. We found that the missense mutation FABP7.T61M is associated with fragmented sleep in humans. This phenotype was recapitulated in mice and fruitflies bearing similar mutations: Fabp7-deficient mice and transgenic flies that express the FABP7.T61M missense mutation in astrocytes also show fragmented sleep. These results provide novel evidence for a distinct molecular pathway linking lipid-signaling cascades within astrocytes in sleep regulation among phylogenetically disparate species.… Read the rest

Nanoparticles that do not adhere to mucus provide uniform and long-lasting drug delivery to airways following inhalation

Mucoadhesive particles (MAP) have been widely explored for pulmonary drug delivery because of their perceived benefits in improving particle residence in the lungs. However, retention of particles adhesively trapped in airway mucus may be limited by physiologic mucus clearance mechanisms. In contrast, particles that avoid mucoadhesion and have diameters smaller than mucus mesh spacings rapidly penetrate mucus layers [mucus-penetrating particles (MPP)], which we hypothesized would provide prolonged lung retention compared to MAP. We compared in vivo behaviors of variously sized, polystyrene-based MAP and MPP in the lungs following inhalation. MAP, regardless of particle size, were aggregated and poorly distributed throughout the airways, leading to rapid clearance from the lungs. Conversely, MPP as large as 300 nm exhibited uniform distribution and markedly enhanced retention compared to size-matched … Read the rest

The economic value of grassland species for carbon storage

Carbon storage by ecosystems is valuable for climate protection. Biodiversity conservation may help increase carbon storage, but the value of this influence has been difficult to assess. We use plant, soil, and ecosystem carbon storage data from two grassland biodiversity experiments to show that greater species richness increases economic value: Increasing species richness from 1 to 10 had twice the economic value of increasing species richness from 1 to 2. The marginal value of each additional species declined as species accumulated, reflecting the nonlinear relationship between species richness and plant biomass production. Our demonstration of the economic value of biodiversity for enhancing carbon storage provides a foundation for assessing the value of biodiversity for decisions about land management. Combining carbon storage with other ecosystem services affected … Read the rest

The memory remains: Understanding collective memory in the digital age

Recently developed information communication technologies, particularly the Internet, have affected how we, both as individuals and as a society, create, store, and recall information. The Internet also provides us with a great opportunity to study memory using transactional large-scale data in a quantitative framework similar to the practice in natural sciences. We make use of online data by analyzing viewership statistics of Wikipedia articles on aircraft crashes. We study the relation between recent events and past events and particularly focus on understanding memory-triggering patterns. We devise a quantitative model that explains the flow of viewership from a current event to past events based on similarity in time, geography, topic, and the hyperlink structure of Wikipedia articles. We show that, on average, the secondary flow of attention … Read the rest