How to Speed up Bone Implant Recovery

An international research team led by Monash University has uncovered a new technique that could speed up recovery from bone replacements by altering the shape and nucleus of individual stem cells. The research collaboration involving Monash University, the Melbourne Centre for Nanofabrication, CSIRO, the Max Planck Institute for Medical Research and the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology in Lausanne, developed micropillar arrays using UV nanoimprint lithography that essentially ‘trick’ the cells to become boneNanoimprint lithography allows for the creation of microscale patterns with low cost, high throughput and high resolution.

When implanted into the body as part of a bone replacement procedure, such as a hip or knee, researchers found these pillars – which are 10 times smaller than the width of a human hair – changed the shape, nucleus and genetic material inside stem cells. Not only was the research team able to define the topography of the pillar sizes and the effects it had on stem cells, but they discovered four times as much bone could be produced compared to current methods.

Novel micropillars, 10 times smaller than the width of a human hair, can change the size, shape and nucleus of individual stem cells and ‘trick’ them to become bone

What this means is, with further testing, we can speed up the process of locking bone replacements with surrounding tissue, in addition to reducing the risks of infection,” Associate Professor Jessica Frith from Monash University’s Department of Materials Science and Engineering said. “We’ve also been able to determine what form these pillar structures take and what size they need to be in order to facilitate the changes to each stem cell, and select one that works best for the application.

Researchers are now advancing this study into animal model testing to see how they perform on medical implants. Engineers, scientists and medical professionals have known for some time that cells can take complex mechanical cues from the microenvironment, which in turn influences their development.

However, Dr Victor Cadarso from Monash University’s Department of Mechanical and Aerospace Engineering says their results point to a previously undefined mechanism where ‘mechanotransductory signalling’ can be harnessed using microtopographies for future clinical settings. “Harnessing surface microtopography instead of biological factor supplementation to direct cell fate has far-reaching ramifications for smart cell cultureware in stem cell technologies and cell therapy, as well as for the design of smart implant materials with enhanced osteo-inductive capacity,” Dr Cadarso said.

The findings were published in Advanced Science.

Source: https://www.monash.edu/

Algorithms Boost Cell Therapy

Cellular therapy is a powerful strategy to produce patient-specific, personalised cells to treat many diseases, including heart disease and neurological disorders. But a major challenge for cell therapy applications is keeping cells alive and well in the lab.

That may soon change as researchers at Duke-NUS Medical School, Singapore, and Monash University, Australia, have devised an algorithm that can predict what molecules are needed to keep cells healthy in laboratory cultures. They developed a computational approach called EpiMogrify, that can predict the molecules needed to signal stem cells to change into specific tissue cells, which can help accelerate treatments that require growing patient cells in the lab.

Computational biology is rapidly becoming a key enabler in cell therapy, providing a way to short-circuit otherwise expensive and time-consuming discovery approaches with cleverly designed algorithms,” said Assistant Professor Owen Rackham, a computational biologist at Duke-NUS, and a senior and corresponding author of the study, published today in the journal Cell Systems.

In the laboratory, cells are often grown and maintained in cell cultures, formed of a substance, called a medium, which contains nutrients and other molecules. It has been an ongoing challenge to identify the necessary molecules to maintain high-quality cells in culture, as well as finding molecules that can induce stem cells to convert to other cell types.

The research team developed a computer model called EpiMogrify that successfully identified molecules to add to cell culture media to maintain healthy nerve cells, called astrocytes, and heart cells, called cardiomyocytes. They also used their model to successfully predict molecules that trigger stem cells to turn into astrocytes and cardiomyocytes. “Research at Duke-NUS is paving the road for cell therapies and regenerative medicine to enter the clinic in Singapore and worldwide; this study leverages our expertise in computational and systems biology to facilitate the good manufacturing practice (GMP) production of high-quality cells for these much needed therapeutic applications,” said Associate Professor Enrico Petretto, who leads the Systems Genetics group at Duke-NUS, and is a senior and corresponding author of the study.

Source: https://www.duke-nus.edu.sg/

Electric Cars Soon Less Expensive Than Petrol Vehicles

An international research team has pioneered and about to patent a new filtration technique that could one day slash lithium extraction times and change the way the future is powered. The world-first study, published today in the journal Nature Materials, presents findings that demonstrate the way in which Metal-Organic Framework (MOF) channels can mimic the filtering function, or ‘ion selectivity’, of biological ion channels embedded within a cell membrane.

Inspired by the precise filtering capabilities of a living cell, the research team has developed a synthetic MOF-based ion channel membrane that is precisely tuned, in both size and chemistry, to filter lithium ions in an ultra-fast, one-directional and highly selective manner. This discovery, developed by researchers at Monash University, CSIRO, the University of Melbourne and the University of Texas at Austin, opens up the possibility to create a revolutionary filtering technology that could substantially change the way in which lithium-from-brine extraction is undertaken. This technology is the subject of a worldwide patent application filed in 2019. Energy Exploration Technologies, Inc. (EnergyX) has since executed a worldwide exclusive licence to commercialise the technology.

Based on this new research, we could one day have the capability to produce simple filters that will take hours to extract lithium from brine, rather than several months to years,” said Professor Huanting Wang, co-lead research author and Professor of Chemical Engineering at Monash University. “Preliminary studies have shown that this technology has a lithium recovery rate of approximately 90 percent – a substantial improvement on 30 percent recovery rate achieved through the current solar evaporation process.”

Professor Benny Freeman from the McKetta Department of Chemical Engineering at The University of Texas at Austin, commented: “Thanks to the international, interdisciplinary and collaborative team involved in this research, we are discovering new routes to very selective separation membranes. “We are both enthusiastic and hopeful that the strategy outlined in this paper will provide a clear roadmap for resource recovery and low energy water purification of many different molecular species.”

Associate Professor (Jefferson) Zhe Liu from The University of Melbourne explained: “The working mechanism of the new MOF-based filtration membrane is particularly interesting, and is a delicate competition between ion partial dehydration and ion affinitive interaction with the functional groups distributed along the MOF nanochannels. “There is significant potential of designing our MOF-based membrane systems for different types of filtration applications, including for use in lithium-from-brine extraction.”

Source: https://www.monash.edu/

Nano Flexible Touchscreens Printed Like Newspaper

Researchers have developed an ultra-thin and ultra-flexible electronic material that could be printed and rolled out like newspaper, for the touchscreens of the future. The touch-responsive technology is 100 times thinner than existing touchscreen materials and so pliable it can be rolled up like a tube.

To create the new conductive sheet, an RMIT University-led team used a thin film common in mobile phone touchscreens and shrunk it from 3D to 2D, using liquid metal chemistry. The nano-thin sheets are readily compatible with existing electronic technologies and because of their incredible flexibility, could potentially be manufactured through roll-to-roll (R2R) processing just like a newspaper. Lead researcher Dr Torben Daeneke said most mobile phone touchscreens were made of a transparent material, indium-tin oxide, that was very conductive but also very brittle.

We’ve taken an old material and transformed it from the inside to create a new version that’s supremely thin and flexible,” said Daeneke, an Australian Research Council DECRA Fellow at RMIT. “You can bend it, you can twist it, and you could make it far more cheaply and efficiently than the slow and expensive way that we currently manufacture touchscreens. “Turning it two-dimensional also makes it more transparent, so it lets through more light. “This means a mobile phone with a touchscreen made of our material would use less power, extending the battery life by roughly 10%.

The research, with collaborators from UNSW, Monash University and the ARC Centre of Excellence in Future Low-Energy Electronics Technologies (FLEET), is published in the journal Nature Electronics.

Source: https://www.rmit.edu.au/