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Gizmorama - June 13, 2018

Good Morning,

Scientists are getting into the whole 3D craze! At the Singapore University of Technology and Design, scientists have mapped the nucleus of the cell... in 3D. Things are gonna get interesting.

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

Until Next Time,

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*-- Scientists sustainably 3D print large objects out of cellulose --*

Scientists have developed a way to sustainably 3D print large objects using cellulose, a feat previously complicated by a variety of scaling issues and environmental concerns.

Because cellulose is one of the most abundant commercially available compounds, material scientists have been trying to find ways to use it in additive manufacturing. But previous methods yielded too many toxic byproducts, required the use plastics and cost too much.

Scientists at the Singapore University of Technology and Design were able to avoid previous problems using a new method for growing cellulose. Researchers introduced small amounts of chitin, a derivative of glucose, to fibers of cellulose. The technique yielded what scientists call fungal-like adhesive materials, or FLAM.

According to researchers, FLAM is completely biodegradable and requires no synthetic plastics to produce. It's also much cheaper to grow than tradition filaments used in 3D printing.

"This reproduction and manufacturing with the material composition found in the oomycete wall, namely unmodified cellulose, small amounts of chitosan -- the second most abundant organic molecule on earth -- and low concentrated acetic acid, is probably one of the most successful technological achievements in the field of bioinspired materials," Javier Gomez Fernandez, an assistant professor at SUTD, said in a news release.

Buoyed by their success, scientists developed a unique additive manufacturing method to accompany their new cellulose material.

Researchers detailed their breakthrough in the journal Scientific Reports.

"We believe the results reported here represent a turning point for global manufacturing with broader impact on multiple areas ranging from material science, environmental engineering, automation and the economy," SUTD researcher Stylianos Dritsas said.

Researchers now hope to partner with industrial collaborators to bring their technology from the lab to the factory, and to develop real-world applications for FLAM.

*-- Nucleus of the cell mapped in 3D --*

The nucleus of the cell is where the action happens, but it's not easy to analyze the behavior of a massive genome inside an area 50 times smaller than the width of a human hair.

Now, for the first time, researchers have mapped the cell nucleus in 3D, revealing the packaging and organization of a cell's DNA in unprecedented detail.

Inside each cell is the same massive chain of DNA. But most of the coding lies dormant. The combination of genetic sequences within in the chain that are turned off or on -- and expressed via RNA -- determines the role and functionality of each cell.

The power of the genome relies on its unique organization, its ability to packaged within such a small space while still being easily accessible, so that genes can be appropriately turned on and off.

As showcased by the new 3D maps, the genome that is the six feet of DNA is joined in the nucleus by nuclear bodies, the cellular machinery designed to survey and augment the reams of genetic coding.

These nuclear bodies are able to efficiently sort through the multitudes of nucleic acids thanks to the genome's unique 3D structures, which make some genes more accessible -- and easier to ramp up or down the expression of -- and others harder to mess with.

The new 3D maps -- published this week in the journal Cell -- have allowed scientists to understand how DNA occupies space within the nucleus, as well as the ways different chromosomal regions interact with the surrounding cellular machinery.

To build the maps, scientists used an analytical technique called SPRITE, or Split-Pool Recognition of Interactions by Tag Extension. SPRITE involves the tagging of different regions within the nucleus with molecular barcodes. All the molecules within a single complex receive the same barcode, while all of the different complexes receive unique barcodes.

Later, after the cell is allowed to function as it would, the complexes are broken open and scientists examine the molecular barcodes to see which complexes are interacting with each other and where.

The mapping efforts showed molecules associated with inactive genes tend to interact with a part of the nucleus called the nucleolus, which features proteins that represses DNA and keeps genes turned off. Conversely, molecules associated with active genes tend to interact with a nuclear body called the nuclear speckle, a piece of cellular machinery that produces molecules that help express genes, or convert codes into proteins.

"With SPRITE, we were able to see thousands of molecules -- DNAs and RNAs -- coming together at various 'hubs' around the nucleus in single cells," Sofia Quinodoz, a grad student at the California Institute of Technology, said in a news release.

Previously, many scientists thought each section of the nucleus and each chromosome were quarantined in their own area.

"But now we see that multiple genes on different chromosomes are clustering together around these bodies of cellular machinery," Quinodoz said. "We think these 'hubs' may help the cell keep DNA that are all turned on or turned off neatly organized in different parts of the nucleus to allow cellular machinery to easily access specific genes within the nucleus."


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