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Gizmorama - May 16, 2018

Good Morning,

The first story had me at tractor beams and artificial cells. This is an amazing breakthrough. You have to read about the research being done. It's remarkable!

Learn about this and more interesting stories from the scientific community in today's issue.

Until Next Time,

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*-- Scientists use mini tractor beam to build tissue out of artificial cells --*

Scientists have constructed unique tissue-like structures using artificial cells and a tractor beam. The technology could eventually be used to create complex networks of artificial cells.

Researchers at Imperial College London and Loughborough University were able to alter the artificial cell membranes to promote connectivity, causing cells to stick together like "stickle bricks."

"Artificial cell membranes usually bounce off each other like rubber balls," ICL chemist Yuval Elani said in a news release. "By altering the biophysics of the membranes in our cells, we got them instead to stick to each other like stickle bricks."

Researchers used a miniature tractor beam, or "optical tweezers," to drag and drop the artificial cells into positions, causing them to adhere to each other and form unique structures. The structures could then be moved as an entire unit and combined without structures.

Scientists were able to build simple cell networks capable of approximating biological functions.

"By reinserting biological components such as proteins in the membrane, we could get the cells to communicate and exchange material with one another," Elani said. "This mimics what is seen in nature, so it's a great step forward in creating biological-like artificial cell tissues."

Researchers also engineered a less rigid connection mechanism, a tether that links two cells without directly connecting them. The two connection mechanisms allowed scientists to build 2D and 3D structures, including long chains of cells and pyramid-like shapes.

The team of biochemists were also able to connect two cells and merge them into one. Scientists coated the membranes of the cells with gold nanoparticles and then blasted their junction with the optical tweezer's laser beam. When the nanoparticles vibrated, the membrane broke down and then two cells fused together.

Scientists could potentially use the fusion technique to trigger intercell chemical reactions. When the two cells fuse and reform, their insides mix. The technology could be used to deliver drugs or alter a cell's primary function.

The new cell architecture and cell manipulation techniques were detailed Monday in the journal Nature Communications.

"Connecting artificial cells together is a valuable technology in the wider toolkit we are assembling for creating these biological systems using bottom-up approaches," said ICL chemist Oscar Ces. "We can now start to scale up basic cell technologies into larger tissue-scale networks, with precise control over the kind of architecture we create."

*-- New model to help producers meet global emission reduction targets --*

How much more fossil fuel can be extracted and burned by the globe's biggest producers without pushing global warming across the threshold of 2 degrees Celsius?

Researchers at the University of Queensland have developed a new model, the first of its kind, to track extraction rates and how they impact the ability of major fossil fuel producers to meet global emission reduction targets.

Though there is still much scientists don't understand about climate change, researchers have confirmed a safe limit to greenhouse gas concentration in Earth's atmosphere. Scientists have also established a carbon budget, the amount of carbon that can be burned without exceeding the greenhouse gas limit and pushing global warming beyond the 2 degree threshold.

But how can the remaining budget be allocated across fossil fuel producers? To help make the obligations of major producers more transparent, Queensland researchers established fossil fuel budgets for each producers.

The model set 40-year budgets for the world's 20 largest producers. Each budget is allocated for the years 2011 through 2050 and is based on fossil fuel reserves and production rates recorded in 2010.

As revealed in a new a paper describing the model, published this week in the journal Nature Climate Change, different methods for divvying up the global carbon budget yield different "winners and losers."

Despite the problem of winners and losers, researchers argue assigning individual budgets is essential to bringing corporate reduction targets in line with the targets established by climate scientists.

"One of the challenges is that the current measures of corporate sustainability don't necessarily map to science-based targets," researcher Jacquelyn Humphrey said in a news release.

Previous research has provided the path forward for curbing global warming: cuts in carbon emissions and adoption of sustainability energy technologies.

By scaling down global sustainability indicators, policy makers may be able to do a better job of holding major fossil fuels accountable.

"Future research could refine the [burnable fossil fuel allowance] to account for equity, cost-effectiveness and emissions intensity," researchers wrote in their paper.


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