Scientists make strides in developing tissue

The movement of an eel inspired the breakthrough.
The movement of an eel inspired the breakthrough.
It sounds like a film pitch: A group of Army-funded researchers discover material that could form the basis of autonomous soft robotics. But this is not Blade Runner, the classic science fiction film in which androids and humans are indistinguishable.   

    It is reality: Researchers at Brandeis University have engineered next-generation soft materials with “embedded chemical networks that mimic the behavior of neural tissue,” according to a U.S. Army news release.
    The research, led by Seth Fraden, professor of physics at Brandeis, sought to explore whether engineers could use chemicals to create materials that were similar to those found in living organisms -- without using motors and electronics.
    Fraden specifically studied the neural network of an eel and the way it produces “waves of chemical pulses that propagate down the eel's spine to rhythmically drive swimming muscles,” the news release explains.
    The team constructed a device that produces the same neural activation patterns. The control system runs on chemical power, as in biology.
    The study, "Engineering Reaction–Diffusion Networks with Properties of Neural Tissue," by Brandeis University researchers Thomas Litschel,  Michael M. Norton, Vardges Tserunyan and Fraden, was published in the journal Lab on a Chip.

THE COMING HEAT WAVES: Get ready for heat -- and soon.
    Human-driven climate change will bring about extreme summer heat waves in the western U.S., including California and the Southwest, as soon as 2020, according to research led by scientists at the Cooperative Institute for Marine and Atmospheric Studies at the University of Miami, Florida.
    The rest of the country won’t be far behind. Man-made climate change will prompt heat waves in the Great Lakes region by 2030, and in the northern and southern plains by 2050 and 2070, respectively, according to the university.
    The research is important: Heat waves are the top cause of weather-related deaths in the U.S. In studying man-made climate change, scientists focus on increased carbon dioxide and other human sources of emissions in the atmosphere that impact the climate.
     See more about the study on the university’s website.


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