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January 15, 2008

5 O'Clock


By Tibor Kalman.


January 15, 2008 at 05:00 PM | Permalink | Comments (1) | TrackBack

BehindTheMedspeak: Printing a new heart


Or kidney, liver, eye or whatever structure needs replacing.

Sound far-fetched?

Remember my contention: If you can envision it, it's possible.

But I digress.

Scientists at the University of Missouri-Columbia put a liquid containing organ cells into an ink jet printer and "printed" a tissue by layering cells on specially treated paper.

"Most of the cells survived the process and proceeded to arrange themselves to make a functional organ, without any help from the scientists," wrote John Blinke in the January, 2008 issue of the Mensa Bulletin.

He continued, "In the case of an experiment with heart cells, the cells even synchronized their beating spontaneously."

Sure, stem cells are the new new thing — but don't count out left-field technologies like this one.

Here's a report on the work from the November 6, 2007 Physorg.com news.

    Research team makes progress toward 'printing' organs

    Each year, pharmaceutical companies invest millions of dollars to test drugs, many of which will never reach the market because of side effects found only during human clinical trials. At the same time, the number of patients waiting for organ transplants continues to increase. In the past 10 years, this number has nearly doubled. Now, a new study led by a University of Missouri-Columbia physics researcher might present new solutions to both problems with the help of a very special printer.

    For the past four years, Gabor Forgacs, the George H. Vineyard Professor of Physics in the MU College of Arts and Science, has been working to refine the process of “printing” tissue structures of complex shape with the aim of eventually building human organs. In the latest study, a research team led by Forgacs determined that the process of building such structures by printing does not harm the properties of the composing cells and the process mimics the naturally occurring biological assembly of living tissues.

    In the study, the team used bio-ink particles, or spheres containing 10,000 to 40,000 cells, and assembled, or “printed,” them on to sheets of organic, cell friendly “bio-paper.” Once printed, the spheres began to fuse in the bio-paper into one structure, much the same way that drops of water will fuse to form a larger drop of water.

    “If you wait for a long time, eventually all the small spheres will fuse into one large sphere,” Forgacs said. “To prevent that from happening, we can remove the bio-paper and stop the fusion process once the desired shape has formed. Through this bio-printing process, we were able to build, for the first time, functional tissue structures.”

    In the past, there have been two concerns with printing extended tissue structures using large amounts of cells. First, scientists needed to determine how to get specific cells to the correct locations within the structures. Second, even though the right cells might be in the right place within the structure, there was a problem of function. How do you make an organ start working?

    As the Mizzou research team found in the study, there appears to be no need to worry about either of these concerns. As the tissue structure begins to form, the cells go through a natural process called “sorting,” which is nature’s way of determining where specific cells need to be. For example, an artery has three specific types of cells – endothelial cells, smooth muscle cells and fibroblast cells, each type needing to be in a specific location in the artery. As thousands and thousands of cells are added to the bio-paper under controlled conditions, the cells migrate automatically to their specific locations to make the structure form correctly.

    The team also found that nature was the answer to the second question. In the study, scientists took cells from a chicken heart and used them to form bio-ink particles, which were then printed on to thick sheets. Heart cells must be synchronized for the heart to beat properly. When the bio-ink particles were first printed, the cells did not beat in unison, but as the cellular spheroids fused, the structure eventually started beating just as a heart does.

    “This study shows that we can use multiple cell types and that we do not have to control what happens when the cells fuse together,” Forgacs said. “Nature is smart enough to do the job.”

    The study is being published in an upcoming edition of Tissue Engineering and was funded by a $5 million grant from the National Science Foundation. Forgacs also has become involved with a company, Organovo, Inc., which is interested in licensing the technology. He also plans to work with drug companies to provide them with tissues they can use to test drugs, prior to human clinical trials.

    Currently, drugs are tested first on animals and then go through a human clinical stage. Because of the major differences in biological function, humans often have different reactions than animals. Forgacs believes that providing human tissue structures that resemble organs to the drug companies will make drug testing cheaper and much more efficient.


Here's a link to the research group's organ printing page, with more on the particulars of this promising technology.

January 15, 2008 at 04:01 PM | Permalink | Comments (1) | TrackBack

Spaghetti Tester – Episode 2: Al Dente Rising


Episode 1 back on December 27, 2007 featured a multipurpose tool which measured your portion before testing its firmness.

Now comes a tool dedicated to answering just one question: how al dente is your spaghetti?

Bonus: It was designed by Tobias Huys.

From the website:

    Al Dente Spaghetti Tester

    Anyone can cook spaghetti.

    Nonetheless it demands a certain skill.

    Particularly if you wish your spaghetti to be neither chewy nor starchy, but rather to enjoy it the only possible way: al dente.

    The fine line between hard and soft, firm to the bite and a perfect vehicle for the sauce.

    The Al Dente spaghetti tester is a beautiful object which is more reliable than any recommended cooking time on the packet.

    8.5" long.


January 15, 2008 at 03:01 PM | Permalink | Comments (4) | TrackBack

Call for submissions


You may have noticed that over the past several days breaking news has appeared here twice.

Both times it was the result of my being tipped in advance of MSM, in one case by Steve Fox and in the other by Elux Troxl.

Wait a minute... aren't those two the same guy?

Never mind.

Like the button on my fridge says, "I'm not myself today — maybe I'm you."

But I digressed, didn't I?


It's a character flaw so deeply ingrained that to remove it would be to destroy the place in which it resides.

Can't have that, can we?

I mean, who's gonna post here?

Which brings me around to the point I was starting to make when I got distracted.

Where else can something of interest find its way onto the world's big stage within hours of its leaking?

Seven days a week, the bookofjoe media center is open and monitoring the world.

Consider that the next time you're deciding where to leak something major.

I may not be the New York Times or Slate but what I lack in size (and advertising, intervening layers between you and publication and all the rest) I make up for by being a mile wide and an inch deep.

And no, that's not original with me.

Rather, it's the motto of Surface magazine.


Along with Italian Vogue it's one of the two magazines I can count on to make any plane trip enjoyable.

Genius can strike anywhere, at any time.

Throw yours my way, what?

January 15, 2008 at 02:01 PM | Permalink | Comments (1) | TrackBack

Finally, a good analogy for why TV commercials are zombie technology


Zombie in the classic sense, i.e., something dead given the semblance of life.

Companies don't have a clue what to do with all their advertising millions other than continue to burn them in 30 second chunks of boredom, idiocy and irrelevance.

TV commercials as a group are no more unwatchable than they ever were — but the milieu in which they compete has changed irrevocably and continues to accelerate in another direction entirely.

Now that computers and the web give us control of what we see, being forced to sit there and absorb the same commercial over and over and over again — oftimes in successive breaks — becomes increasingly irritating.

The analogy: You know how a great joke makes you laugh?

Well, consider how funny you'd find it if the same person told it to you every ten minutes for the next hour.

Bet by the fifth go-around you wouldn't be laughing very hard.

Maybe not at all.

TV commercials are like CDs — old technology that's still around but with a terminal case of the dwindles.

January 15, 2008 at 12:01 PM | Permalink | Comments (1) | TrackBack

Secret Litter Box


Hide it in plain sight.

From the website:

    Hidden Litter Pan

    Litter box crowding the bath?

    Put it in any room!

    What looks like a potted plant is actually a litter box in disguise.

    And, thanks to the filter hidden under the faux plant, guests won't guess its true purpose.

    With the door towards the wall, nobody but kitty will know that this potted plant hides the litter box.

    The top half lifts off so you can change the litter.

    No need for a separate pan — the bottom half is an easy-to-clean litter pan.

    50" high overall; 19" diameter.


January 15, 2008 at 11:01 AM | Permalink | Comments (1) | TrackBack

'The best web-retail site I've ever seen'


So wrote Ray Earhart in an email this past Sunday about the website of Hema, a Dutch company.

He continued, "I don't know how practical this is, but what an intro. I want a storefront like that!"

It reminds me of those great Honda TV ads from a couple years ago where one thing led to another in a similar dynamic fashion.

January 15, 2008 at 10:01 AM | Permalink | Comments (2) | TrackBack

Beetle Mouse — Because Beatlejuice is so over


What the hey?

From the website:

    Beetle Mouse

    Never suffer from boring computer mice again thanks to this creepy-crawly computer peripheral, with a real beetle perfectly preserved in crystal-clear acrylic.

    Mac and PC compatible, the optical mouse has a convenient 58" cord and to-the-pixel precision function.


January 15, 2008 at 09:01 AM | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack

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