Fixing Nerve Damage, "Terminator"-Style
Tsinghua University researchers are working on a liquid metal that, when used to connect the severed ends of nerves, conduct electrical impulses almost as effectively.
Kecia Lynn has worked as a technical writer, editor, software developer, arts administrator, summer camp director, and television host. A graduate of Case Western Reserve University and the Iowa Writers' Workshop, she is currently living in Iowa City and working on her first novel.
What's the Latest Development?
Researchers at Beijing's Tsinghua University are borrowing from the popular Terminator series of movies for their latest project: They have created an alloy of gallium, indium and selenium that, when used on the severed sciatic nerves of bullfrogs, conducted electrical impulses almost as well as an undamaged nerve. Because the alloy is liquid at room temperature, it can be removed from the body with a syringe once the nerve ends have reconnected.
What's the Big Idea?
The healing process for severed nerves is slow, and current methods of assistance, such as the use of grafting scaffolds, can carry serious risks. Also, if the corresponding muscles are unable to receive electrical impulses, they could atrophy. Expert Mei Zhang says that while the concept of using liquid metal is innovative, it too could be dangerous: "If it gets into your bloodstream, in the worst case you could be poisoned." Tsinghua's Jing Liu agrees. "[T]remendous evaluations about the safety of the material are needed....This is a brand new trial in its initial stage."
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- Antimicrobial-resistant pathogens are one of the largest threats to global health today.
- As we get older, our immune systems age, increasing our risk of life threatening infections. Without reliable antibiotics, life expectancy could decline for the first time in modern history.
- If antibiotics become ineffective, common infections could result in hospitalization or even death. Life-saving interventions like cancer treatments and organ transplantation would become more difficult, more often resulting in death. Routine procedures would become hard to perform.
- Without intervention, resistant pathogens could result in 10 million annual deaths by 2050.
- By taking a multi-faceted approach—inclusive of adherence to good stewardship, surveillance and responsible manufacturing practices, as well as an emphasis on prevention and treatment—companies like Pfizer are fighting to help curb the spread.
Journalism got a big wake up call in 2016. Can we be optimistic about the future of media?
- "[T]o have a democracy that thrives and actually that manages to stay alive at all, you need regular citizens being able to get good, solid information," says Craig Newmark.
- The only constructive way to deal with fake news? Support trustworthy media. In 2018, Newmark was announced as a major donor of two new media organizations, The City, which will report on New York City-area stories which may have otherwise gone unreported, and The Markup, which will report on technology.
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