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Nanobiomaterial boosts neuronal growth in mice with spinal cord injuries

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Researchers from the Department of Orthopedics of Tongji Hospital at Tongji University in Shanghai have successfully used a nanobiomaterial called layered double hydroxide (LDH) to inhibit the inflammatory environment surrounding spinal cord injuries in mice, accelerating the regeneration of neurons and reconstruction of the neural circuit in the spine.

The researchers were also able to identify the underlying genetic mechanism by which LDH works. This understanding should allow further modification of the therapy, which, in combination with other elements, could finally produce a comprehensive, clinically applicable system for spinal cord injury relief in humans.

The research appeared in the American Chemical Society journal ACS Nano on February 2.

There is no effective treatment for spinal cord injuries, which are always accompanied by the death of neurons, breakage of axons or nerve fibers, and inflammation.

Even though the body continues to generate new neural stem cells, this inflammatory microenvironment (the immediate, small-scale conditions at the injury site) severely hinders the regeneration of neurons and axons. Worse still, the prolonged activation of immune cells in this area also results in secondary lesions of the nervous system, in turn preventing the stem cells from differentiating themselves into new cell types.

If this aggressive immune response at the injury site could be moderated, there is the possibility that neural stem cells could begin differentiation, and neural regeneration could occur.

In recent years, a raft of novel nano-scale biomaterials—natural or synthetic materials that interact with biological systems—have been designed to assist activation of neural stem cells, along with their mobilization and differentiation. Some of these “nanocomposites” are capable of delivering drugs to the injury site and accelerate neuronal regeneration.

These nanocomposites are especially attractive for spinal cord treatment due to their low toxicity. However, few have any ability to inhibit or moderate the immune reaction at the site, and so do not tackle the underlying problem. Moreover, the underlying mechanisms of how they work remain unclear.

Nanolayered double hydroxide (LDH) is a kind of clay with many interesting biological properties relevant to spinal cord injuries, including good biocompatibility (ability to avoid rejection by the body), safe biodegradation (breakdown and removal of the molecules after application), and excellent anti-inflammatory capability.

LDH has already been widely explored in biomedical engineering with respect to immune response regulation, but mainly in the field of anti-tumor therapy.

“These properties made LDH a really promising candidate for the creation of a much more beneficial microenvironment for spinal cord injury recovery,” says Rongrong Zhu of the Department of Orthopedics of Tongji Hospital, first author of the study.

Under the leadership of Liming Cheng, corresponding author of the study, the research team transplanted the LDH into the injury site of mice and found that the nanobiomaterial had significantly accelerated neural stem cells migration, neural differentiation, activation of channels for neuron excitation, and induction of action potential (nerve impulse) activation.

The mice also exhibited significantly improved locomotive behavior compared to the control group of mice. In addition, when the LDH was combined with Neurotrophin-3 (NT3), a protein that encourages the growth and differentiation of new neurons, the mice enjoyed even better recovery effects than the LDH on its own. In essence, the NT3 boosts neuronal development while the LDH creates an environment where that development is allowed to thrive.

Then, via transcriptional profiling, or analysis of gene expression of thousands of genes at once, the researchers were able to identify how the LDH performs its assistance.

They found that once LDH is attached to cell membranes, it provokes greater activation of the “transforming growth factor-β receptor 2” (TGFBR2) gene, decreasing the production of the white blood cells that enhance inflammation and increasing production of the white blood cells that inhibit inflammation.

Upon application of a chemical that inhibits TGFBR2, they found the beneficial effects were reversed.

The understanding of how LDH performs these effects should now allow the researchers to tweak the therapy to enhance its performance and to finally create a comprehensive therapeutic system for spinal cord injuries—combining these biomaterials with neurotrophic factors like NT3-that can be used in clinical application on people.

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A silver lining for extreme electronics

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Home > Press > A silver lining for extreme electronics

MSU researchers developed a process to create more resilient circuitry, which they demonstrated by creating a silver Spartan helmet. The circuit was designed by Jane Manfredi, an assistant professor in the College of Veterinary Medicine. Credit: Acta Materialia Inc./Elsevier
MSU researchers developed a process to create more resilient circuitry, which they demonstrated by creating a silver Spartan helmet. The circuit was designed by Jane Manfredi, an assistant professor in the College of Veterinary Medicine. Credit: Acta Materialia Inc./Elsevier

Abstract:
Tomorrow’s cutting-edge technology will need electronics that can tolerate extreme conditions. That’s why a group of researchers led by Michigan State University’s Jason Nicholas is building stronger circuits today.

A silver lining for extreme electronics


East Lansing, MI | Posted on April 30th, 2021

Nicholas and his team have developed more heat resilient silver circuitry with an assist from nickel. The team described the work, which was funded by the U.S. Department of Energy Solid Oxide Fuel Cell Program, on April 15 in the journal Scripta Materialia.

The types of devices that the MSU team is working to benefit — next-generation fuel cells, high-temperature semiconductors and solid oxide electrolysis cells — could have applications in the auto, energy and aerospace industries.

Although you can’t buy these devices off the shelf now, researchers are currently building them in labs to test in the real world, and even on other planets.

For example, NASA developed a solid oxide electrolysis cell that enabled the Mars 2020 Perseverance Rover to make oxygen from gas in the Martian atmosphere on April 22. NASA hopes this prototype will one day lead to equipment that allows astronauts to create rocket fuel and breathable air while on Mars.

To help such prototypes become commercial products, though, they’ll need to maintain their performance at high temperatures over long periods of time, said Nicholas, an associate professor in the College of Engineering.

He was drawn to this field after years of using solid oxide fuel cells, which work like solid oxide electrolysis cells in reverse. Rather than using energy to create gases or fuel, they create energy from those chemicals.

“Solid oxide fuel cells work with gases at high temperature. We’re able to electrochemically react those gases to get electricity out and that process is a lot more efficient than exploding fuel like an internal combustion engine does,” said Nicholas, who leads a lab in the Chemical Engineering and Materials Science Department.

But even without explosions, the fuel cell needs to withstand intense working conditions.

“These devices commonly operate around 700 to 800 degrees Celsius, and they have to do it for a long time — 40,000 hours over their lifetime,” Nicholas said. For comparison, that’s approximately 1,300 to 1,400 degrees Fahrenheit, or about double the temperature of a commercial pizza oven.

“And over that lifetime, you’re thermally cycling it,” Nicholas said. “You’re cooling it down and heating it back up. It’s a very extreme environment. You can have circuit leads pop off.”

Thus, one of the hurdles facing this advanced technology is rather rudimentary: The conductive circuitry, often made from silver, needs to stick better to the underlying ceramic components.

The secret to improving the adhesion, the researchers found, was to add an intermediate layer of porous nickel between the silver and the ceramic.

By performing experiments and computer simulations of how the materials interact, the team optimized how it deposited the nickel on the ceramic. And to create the thin, porous nickel layers on the ceramic in a pattern or design of their choosing, the researchers turned to screen printing.

“It’s the same screen printing that’s used to make T-shirts,” Nicholas said. “We’re just screen-printing electronics instead of shirts. It’s a very manufacturing-friendly technique.”

Once the nickel is in place, the team puts it in contact with silver that’s melted at a temperature of about 1,000 degrees Celsius. The nickel not only withstands that heat — its melting point is 1,455 degrees Celsius — but it also distributes the liquified silver uniformly over its fine features using what’s called capillary action.

“It’s almost like a tree,” Nicholas said. “A tree gets water up to its branches via capillary action. The nickel is wicking up the molten silver via the same mechanism.”

Once the silver cools and solidifies, the nickel keeps it locked onto the ceramic, even in the 700 to 800 degree Celsius heat it would face inside a solid oxide fuel cell or a solid oxide electrolysis cell. And this approach also has the potential to help other technologies, where electronics can run hot.

“There are a wide variety of electronic applications that require circuit boards that can withstand high temperatures or high power,” said Jon Debling, a technology manager with MSU Technologies, Michigan State’s tech transfer and commercialization office. “These include existing applications in automotive, aerospace, industrial and military markets, but also newer ones such as solar cells and solid oxide fuel cells.”

As a technology manager, Debling works to commercialize Spartan innovations and he’s working to help patent this process for creating tougher electronics.

“This technology is a significant improvement — in cost and temperature stability — over existing paste and vapor deposition technologies,” he said.

For his part, Nicholas remains most interested in those cutting-edge applications on the horizon, things like solid oxide fuel cells and solid oxide electrolysis cells.

“We’re working to improve their reliability here on Earth — and on Mars,” Nicholas said.

###

Also contributing to the project were Spartan engineering researchers Assistant Professor Hui-Chia Yu, Professor Timothy Hogan and Professor Thomas Bieler. Graduate student researchers on the project included Genzhi Hu, Quan Zhou, Aiswarya Bhatlawande, Jiyun Park, Robert Termuhlen and Yuxi Ma (Zhou, Bhatlawande and Ma have since graduated).

One of the project’s coleaders at Brown University, Professor Yue Qi, also has ties to MSU. She served as faculty and the inaugural associate dean of inclusion and diversity in the College of Engineering through 2020.

####

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Caroline Brooks

@MSUnews

Copyright © Michigan State University

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Simple robots, smart algorithms

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When sensors, communication, memory and computation are removed from a group of simple robots, certain sets of complex tasks can still be accomplished by leveraging the robots' physical characteristics, a trait that a team of researchers led by Georgia Tech calls "task embodiment." CREDIT
Shengkai Li, Georgia Tech
When sensors, communication, memory and computation are removed from a group of simple robots, certain sets of complex tasks can still be accomplished by leveraging the robots’ physical characteristics, a trait that a team of researchers led by Georgia Tech calls “task embodiment.” CREDIT
Shengkai Li, Georgia Tech

Abstract:
Anyone with children knows that while controlling one child can be hard, controlling many at once can be nearly impossible. Getting swarms of robots to work collectively can be equally challenging, unless researchers carefully choreograph their interactions — like planes in formation — using increasingly sophisticated components and algorithms. But what can be reliably accomplished when the robots on hand are simple, inconsistent, and lack sophisticated programming for coordinated behavior?

Simple robots, smart algorithms


Atlanta, GA | Posted on April 30th, 2021

A team of researchers led by Dana Randall, ADVANCE Professor of Computing and Daniel Goldman, Dunn Family Professor of Physics, both at Georgia Institute of Technology, sought to show that even the simplest of robots can still accomplish tasks well beyond the capabilities of one, or even a few, of them. The goal of accomplishing these tasks with what the team dubbed “dumb robots” (essentially mobile granular particles) exceeded their expectations, and the researchers report being able to remove all sensors, communication, memory and computation — and instead accomplishing a set of tasks through leveraging the robots’ physical characteristics, a trait that the team terms “task embodiment.”

The team’s BOBbots, or “behaving, organizing, buzzing bots” that were named for granular physics pioneer Bob Behringer, are “about as dumb as they get,” explains Randall. “Their cylindrical chassis have vibrating brushes underneath and loose magnets on their periphery, causing them to spend more time at locations with more neighbors.” The experimental platform was supplemented by precise computer simulations led by Georgia Tech physics student Shengkai Li, as a way to study aspects of the system inconvenient to study in the lab.

Despite the simplicity of the BOBbots, the researchers discovered that, as the robots move and bump into each other, “compact aggregates form that are capable of collectively clearing debris that is too heavy for one alone to move,” according to Goldman. “While most people build increasingly complex and expensive robots to guarantee coordination, we wanted to see what complex tasks could be accomplished with very simple robots.”

Their work, as reported April 23, 2021 in the journal Science Advances, was inspired by a theoretical model of particles moving around on a chessboard. A theoretical abstraction known as a self-organizing particle system was developed to rigorously study a mathematical model of the BOBbots. Using ideas from probability theory, statistical physics and stochastic algorithms, the researchers were able to prove that the theoretical model undergoes a phase change as the magnetic interactions increase — abruptly changing from dispersed to aggregating in large, compact clusters, similar to phase changes we see in common everyday systems, like water and ice.

“The rigorous analysis not only showed us how to build the BOBbots, but also revealed an inherent robustness of our algorithm that allowed some of the robots to be faulty or unpredictable,” notes Randall, who also serves as a professor of computer science and adjunct professor of mathematics at Georgia Tech.

###

The collaboration is based on experiments and simulations also designed by Bahnisikha Dutta, Ram Avinery and Enes Aydin from Georgia Tech, as well as on theoretical work by Andrea Richa and Joshua Daymude from Arizona State University, and Sarah Cannon from Claremont McKenna College, who is a recent Georgia Tech graduate.

This work is part of a Multidisciplinary University Research Initiative (MURI) funded by the Army Research Office (ARO) to study the foundations of emergent computation and collective intelligence.

Funding: This work was supported by the Department of Defense under MURI award no. W911NF-19-1-0233 and by NSF awards DMS-1803325 (S.C.); CCF-1422603, CCF-1637393, and CCF-1733680 (A.W.R.); CCF-1637031 and CCF-1733812 (D.R. and D.I.G.); and CCF-1526900 (D.R.).

####

About Georgia Institute of Technology
The Georgia Institute of Technology, or Georgia Tech, is a top 10 public research university developing leaders who advance technology and improve the human condition. The Institute offers business, computing, design, engineering, liberal arts, and sciences degrees. Its nearly 40,000 students, representing 50 states and 149 countries, study at the main campus in Atlanta, at campuses in France and China, and through distance and online learning. As a leading technological university, Georgia Tech is an engine of economic development for Georgia, the Southeast, and the nation, conducting more than $1 billion in research annually for government, industry, and society.

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Tracey A. Reeves
404-660-2929

Jess Hunt-Ralston
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(404) 385-5207

@GeorgiaTech

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Polarization-sensitive photodetection using 2D/3D perovskite heterostructure crystal

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Home > Press > Polarization-sensitive photodetection using 2D/3D perovskite heterostructure crystal

(a) Schematic structure of polarized light detector. (b) Photoconductivity parallel and perpendicular to the interface. (c) Photoconductivity anisotropy versus excitation power. (d) Angle-resolved photocurrent as a function of polarization angle measured at 405 nm under zero bias. (e) Experimental polarization ratios of some reported polarized light detectors. (f) Angle-dependent photocurrent of the present device measured at different temperature. CREDIT
@Science China Press
(a) Schematic structure of polarized light detector. (b) Photoconductivity parallel and perpendicular to the interface. (c) Photoconductivity anisotropy versus excitation power. (d) Angle-resolved photocurrent as a function of polarization angle measured at 405 nm under zero bias. (e) Experimental polarization ratios of some reported polarized light detectors. (f) Angle-dependent photocurrent of the present device measured at different temperature. CREDIT
@Science China Press

Abstract:
Polarization-sensitive photodetectors, based on anisotropic semiconductors, have exhibited wide advantages in specialized applications, such as astronomy, remote sensing, and polarization-division multiplexing. For the active layer of polarization-sensitive photodetectors, recent researches focus on two-dimensional (2D) organic-inorganic hybrid perovskites, where inorganic slabs and organic spacers are alternatively arranged in parallel layered structures. Compared with inorganic 2D materials, importantly, the solution accessibility of hybrid perovskites makes it possible to obtain their large crystals at low cost, offering exciting opportunities to incorporate crystal out-of-plane anisotropy for polarization-sensitive photodetection. However, limited by the absorption anisotropy of the material structure, polarization sensitivity of such a device remains low. Thus, a new strategy to design 2D hybrid perovskites with large anisotropy for polarization-sensitive photodetection is urgently needed.

Polarization-sensitive photodetection using 2D/3D perovskite heterostructure crystal


Beijing, China | Posted on May 4th, 2021

Heterostructures provide a clue to address this challenge. On the one hand, construction of heterostructures can improve the optical absorption and free-carrier densities of the composite. On the other hand, the built-in electric field at the heterojunction can spatially separate the photogenerated electron-hole pairs, significantly reducing the recombination rate and further enhancing the sensitivity for polarization-sensitive photodetectors. Therefore, constructing single-crystalline heterostructures of anisotropic 2D hybrid perovskites would realize devices with high polarization sensitivity.

In a new research article published in the Beijing-based National Science Review, scientists at the Fujian Institute of Research on the Structure of Matter, Chinese Academy of Sciences create a 2D/3D heterostructure crystal, combining the 2D hybrid perovskite with its 3D counterpart; and achieve polarization-sensitive photodetection with record-high performance. Different from the previous work, devices based on the heterostructure crystal deliberately leverage the anisotropy of 2D perovskite and the built-in electric field of heterostructure, permitting the first demonstration of a perovskite heterostructure-based polarization-sensitive photodetector that operates without the need for external energy supply. Notably, the polarization sensitivity of the device surpasses all of the reported perovskite-based devices; and can be competitive with conventional inorganic heterostructure-based photodetectors. Further studies disclose that the built-in electric field formed at the heterojunction can efficiently separate those photogenerated excitons, reducing their recombination rate and therefore enhancing the performance of the resulting polarization-sensitive photodetector.

“High polarization sensitivity is successfully achieved in self-driven polarization-sensitive photodetector based on a single-crystalline 2D/3D hybrid perovskite heterostructure which is grown via a delicate solution method,” the author claims, “This innovative study broadens the choice of materials that can be used for high-performance polarization-sensitive photodetectors, and correspondingly, the design strategies.”

###

This research received funding from the the National Natural Science Foundation of China, the Key Research Program of Frontier Sciences of the Chinese Academy of Sciences (CAS), the Natural Science Foundation of Fujian Province, the Strategic Priority Research Program of the CAS and the Youth Innovation Promotion of CAS.

####

About Science China Press
The National Science Review is the first comprehensive scholarly journal released in English in China that is aimed at linking the country’s rapidly advancing community of scientists with the global frontiers of science and technology. The journal also aims to shine a worldwide spotlight on scientific research advances across China.

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Contacts:
Junhua Luo

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A silver lining for extreme electronics

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MSU researchers developed a process to create more resilient circuitry, which they demonstrated by creating a silver Spartan helmet. The circuit was designed by Jane Manfredi, an assistant professor in the College of Veterinary Medicine. Credit: Acta Materialia Inc./Elsevier
MSU researchers developed a process to create more resilient circuitry, which they demonstrated by creating a silver Spartan helmet. The circuit was designed by Jane Manfredi, an assistant professor in the College of Veterinary Medicine. Credit: Acta Materialia Inc./Elsevier

Abstract:
Tomorrow’s cutting-edge technology will need electronics that can tolerate extreme conditions. That’s why a group of researchers led by Michigan State University’s Jason Nicholas is building stronger circuits today.

A silver lining for extreme electronics


East Lansing, MI | Posted on April 30th, 2021

Nicholas and his team have developed more heat resilient silver circuitry with an assist from nickel. The team described the work, which was funded by the U.S. Department of Energy Solid Oxide Fuel Cell Program, on April 15 in the journal Scripta Materialia.

The types of devices that the MSU team is working to benefit — next-generation fuel cells, high-temperature semiconductors and solid oxide electrolysis cells — could have applications in the auto, energy and aerospace industries.

Although you can’t buy these devices off the shelf now, researchers are currently building them in labs to test in the real world, and even on other planets.

For example, NASA developed a solid oxide electrolysis cell that enabled the Mars 2020 Perseverance Rover to make oxygen from gas in the Martian atmosphere on April 22. NASA hopes this prototype will one day lead to equipment that allows astronauts to create rocket fuel and breathable air while on Mars.

To help such prototypes become commercial products, though, they’ll need to maintain their performance at high temperatures over long periods of time, said Nicholas, an associate professor in the College of Engineering.

He was drawn to this field after years of using solid oxide fuel cells, which work like solid oxide electrolysis cells in reverse. Rather than using energy to create gases or fuel, they create energy from those chemicals.

“Solid oxide fuel cells work with gases at high temperature. We’re able to electrochemically react those gases to get electricity out and that process is a lot more efficient than exploding fuel like an internal combustion engine does,” said Nicholas, who leads a lab in the Chemical Engineering and Materials Science Department.

But even without explosions, the fuel cell needs to withstand intense working conditions.

“These devices commonly operate around 700 to 800 degrees Celsius, and they have to do it for a long time — 40,000 hours over their lifetime,” Nicholas said. For comparison, that’s approximately 1,300 to 1,400 degrees Fahrenheit, or about double the temperature of a commercial pizza oven.

“And over that lifetime, you’re thermally cycling it,” Nicholas said. “You’re cooling it down and heating it back up. It’s a very extreme environment. You can have circuit leads pop off.”

Thus, one of the hurdles facing this advanced technology is rather rudimentary: The conductive circuitry, often made from silver, needs to stick better to the underlying ceramic components.

The secret to improving the adhesion, the researchers found, was to add an intermediate layer of porous nickel between the silver and the ceramic.

By performing experiments and computer simulations of how the materials interact, the team optimized how it deposited the nickel on the ceramic. And to create the thin, porous nickel layers on the ceramic in a pattern or design of their choosing, the researchers turned to screen printing.

“It’s the same screen printing that’s used to make T-shirts,” Nicholas said. “We’re just screen-printing electronics instead of shirts. It’s a very manufacturing-friendly technique.”

Once the nickel is in place, the team puts it in contact with silver that’s melted at a temperature of about 1,000 degrees Celsius. The nickel not only withstands that heat — its melting point is 1,455 degrees Celsius — but it also distributes the liquified silver uniformly over its fine features using what’s called capillary action.

“It’s almost like a tree,” Nicholas said. “A tree gets water up to its branches via capillary action. The nickel is wicking up the molten silver via the same mechanism.”

Once the silver cools and solidifies, the nickel keeps it locked onto the ceramic, even in the 700 to 800 degree Celsius heat it would face inside a solid oxide fuel cell or a solid oxide electrolysis cell. And this approach also has the potential to help other technologies, where electronics can run hot.

“There are a wide variety of electronic applications that require circuit boards that can withstand high temperatures or high power,” said Jon Debling, a technology manager with MSU Technologies, Michigan State’s tech transfer and commercialization office. “These include existing applications in automotive, aerospace, industrial and military markets, but also newer ones such as solar cells and solid oxide fuel cells.”

As a technology manager, Debling works to commercialize Spartan innovations and he’s working to help patent this process for creating tougher electronics.

“This technology is a significant improvement — in cost and temperature stability — over existing paste and vapor deposition technologies,” he said.

For his part, Nicholas remains most interested in those cutting-edge applications on the horizon, things like solid oxide fuel cells and solid oxide electrolysis cells.

“We’re working to improve their reliability here on Earth — and on Mars,” Nicholas said.

###

Also contributing to the project were Spartan engineering researchers Assistant Professor Hui-Chia Yu, Professor Timothy Hogan and Professor Thomas Bieler. Graduate student researchers on the project included Genzhi Hu, Quan Zhou, Aiswarya Bhatlawande, Jiyun Park, Robert Termuhlen and Yuxi Ma (Zhou, Bhatlawande and Ma have since graduated).

One of the project’s coleaders at Brown University, Professor Yue Qi, also has ties to MSU. She served as faculty and the inaugural associate dean of inclusion and diversity in the College of Engineering through 2020.

####

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Contacts:
Caroline Brooks

@MSUnews

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