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Saturday, October 4, 2008

You heard it last night--apparently I'm being cloned!

I would like to thank those of you who came out to my talk at Parkland Planetarium last night about stem cells.  You were a great audience, laughing at the right places and seemingly engaged in the topic. I appreciate your kind attentiveness. If you are visiting my site because you wanted to take a look at the powerpoint presentation I gave, you will find it on the stem cell/tissue engineering page.  It is the only thing there for now.  I have so much info on these topics that I could share that I'm never sure where to start, so that page has been quiet--for now.  With any luck, I will try to videostream the talk on this site.  No guarantees, but thanks to Marina Miletic (my Chemical Engineering counterpart for the GAMES camp) for filming it for me last night!


And, I think I inadvertently signed up to be cloned!  I have oocytes (eggs), skin cells, and an adventurous spirit! Surely there is an easier way to have another generation with someone who loves science as much as I do!!!


Please don't hesitate to contact me if you have further questions. Thanks to David Leake at Parkland for inviting me out to talk.  I had a wonderful time!


Kindly, Joanne



Sat, October 4, 2008 | link 

Tuesday, September 30, 2008

Engineering bone and tendon together. And keeping a few squirrels on the planet a little longer.

In the ultimate in procrastination, I should be working on my stem cell talk for Friday or studying for my French quiz, but I'm not.  I'm reading science stories! And, so many thanks to all of you who have told me how much you like my email note announcing the talk. Hopefully I can make the talk as enjoyable as the note.  I was challenged to deliver the talk while hula-hooping, but I think I just couldn't do it, although that might increase the crowd size a bit.

Take a look at this histological image:tendon_bone.jpg It comes from my favorite text and atlas, Wheater's Functional Histology.  What this image shows is tendon inserting into bone.  The bone is the dark pink in the lower portion of the image (it's pink because acid was used to get rid of the calcified matrix so it could be sectioned...this acid attracts the pink stain to it.) The tendon is the lighter pink fibrous material at the top (that's pink because collagen fibers also attract the same stain).  The other end of the tendon is then inserted into a muscle (not shown).  If you note, the tendon has little insertions INTO the bone, it is not just sitting on top of it, making for a more stable structure.  (SF= sharpey's fibers--check out my Eponymously Yours ppt on the Famous Scientists page if you want to know more).


Until recently, tissue engineers have not really been able to create a bone replacement that allows for tendon to grow into it.  Finally, someone has jumped that hurdle.  Science Daily reports that researchers at Georgia Tech (they do lots of tissue engineering there) have been able to create a blend of cells that mimic this type of interface.

080829104945.jpg   Ah, us scientists love glowing things! Blue are skin cells and the green is a protein added to collagen to help them stick. (poly-D-lysine, for those who know what this is.) 

From one of the researchers: “One of the biggest challenges in regenerative medicine is to have a graded continuous interface, because anatomically that’s how the majority of tissues appear and there are studies that strongly suggest that the graded interface provides better integration and load transfer,” said Andres Garcia, professor in the George W. Woodruff School of Mechanical Engineering at the Georgia Institute of Technology.


I am continually amazed at how complex we really are and how difficult it is to engineer exact replacements! Then I am pleased at how clever we are at coming up with solutions!


And, for the squirrels.  We all know that squirrel fatalities are a pressing issue.  Mostly because we are the main cause of squirrel deaths, except for maybe these guys making the internet and chain email rounds...they seem fairly savvy.

jedi.squirrels.jpgWe run them over with our cars, feel guilty for a while and then drive past the road kill for days, reminding us of what cruel creatures we are for smooshing cute, furry mammals. (Some of us, anyway).  Why don't they know better in order to get out of the way?  Think of it this way.  Normal squirrel predators do not approach them at 35-40 mph...well, I haven't seen a dog or a cat who can do that, nor are they a ton or two in weight. Our only hope is to provide these squirrels a safe path to cross the roads.  I've seen them use electrical wires, but in the UK, wildlife conservationists have built rope bridges for the squirrels to use in order to cross, and they have data to prove the squirrels use them!  See Science Daily for the full story. And, in Spain, they have set up special road crossing to reduce other types of road kill.  This story from just about two weeks ago, again from Science Daily.

I'm sure these animals appreciate that we think of them!

Kindly, Joanne

Tue, September 30, 2008 | link 

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