By Angela Beggs
It’s enough to make any fashionista cringe. Even I can tell you that when it comes to outerwear, synthetic is less than desirable.
Luckily our stem cell researchers have a different view. Synthetics are now playing a lead role in the field of regenerative medicine – in a slightly different form than we currently know them of course.
Our researchers are hard at work developing new ways to grow stem cells using synthetic materials. Scientists are now able to create cell therapies for the treatment of chronic diseases and produce replacement cells for transfusions and transplantation. Thanks to advancements in stem cell technologies, we’re anticipating a range of big medical breakthroughs – and it’s all thanks to our artificial friend.
Synthetic material gives researchers greater control of stem cell growth, makes it safer to use stem cell therapies in humans, and decreases the cost of growing cells.
Go to the surface initiated polymerisation website to find out more.
In the seventies a TV show called the Six Million Dollar Man introduced the idea of implanting bionic parts to give people super strength. While this might have been fantasy at the time, the reality of creating extra strong body parts is now here – and making them is almost as easy as pressing ‘print’ on your computer.
We have just announced a new facility which can create bespoke body parts made out of titanium. So far, we have used it to create hip joints and skull plates. What makes titanium so special is that it is bio-compatible and muscle and bone naturally graft to it.
The potential of this technology is the creation of made-to-measure parts, not just for medical applications, but also aerospace and automotive manufacturing. The reason we’re investing in this work is that Australia is one of the richest sources of titanium ore in the world.
CSIRO has developed a new biodegradable weed mat which could put a stop to nasty weeds and transform the future of Australia’s agriculture and farming industries.
Made from linseed straw, the CSIRO mat is 100 per cent organic, and unlike conventional black plastic matting, completely biodegrades.
The mat has been developed as part of the Australian Government’s National Weeds and Productivity Research Program, managed by the Rural Industries Research and Development Corporation (RIRDC).
Sixty million square metres of plastic weed mats are used in horticulture, gardens and parks, and homes across Australia each year but most will never completely decompose, according to environmental consulting group AgEconPlus, a partner in the research program.
Recent trials of the CSIRO weed mat showed that it safely biodegrades. Tests also show that because the linseed material retains moisture, the soil under the mat stays healthy and encourages worm activity.
The matting is made using high pressure water jets tha link the fibres together to form a compact fabric. Researchers believe it could also be made using other agricultural waste materials, such as hemp or banana fibre.
Preliminary testing by CSIRO Materials Science and Engineering in Geelong showed that the weed mat degraded over a few months, allowing the mat to be absorbed into the soil.
“Other benefits of the weed mat were that it effectively retains moisture, allows rainfall to soak into the soil, reduces evaporation, and boosts beneficial worm activity,” Research Program Leader Dr Stuart Lucas said.
“We believe the CSIRO mat will encourage much healthier soil. Unlike other black polyethylene weed mats, which can remain underground for years, the CSIRO mat is made from plant material and will disintegrate and compost into the soil at the end of its life,” he added.
CSIRO Researcher Dr Malcolm Miao said that the technology could be a major benefit to growers involved with organic and biodynamic production across the horticultural sector as well as manufacturers and suppliers of agricultural and garden products.
“In addition to weed mats, this type of fabric may have a number of other end uses which could potentially benefit other industries. For example, we feel this fabric could be used to create the eco shopping bags of the future, minimising the use of synthetics which reusable shopping bags are currently made from,” he said.
The weed mat was one of more than 50 research projects funded under the National Weeds and Productivity Research Program, which ended on 30 June 2012.
The RIRDC Weeds Program invested A$12.4 million in research aimed at improving the knowledge and understanding of weeds, as well as providing land managers with new tools to control weeds and reduce their impact on agriculture and biodiversity.
The biodegradable weed mat development requires further trialling to establish broad acre applications for a range of crops. It is not commercially available at this time.
Media: Angela Beggs. Ph: +61 3 9545 2977 E: Angela.Beggs@csiro.au
A little while ago we told you about some of our scientists who are helping to wipe out diarrhoea by making antibodies. Well, we went and checked out their lab to see how they do it.
In this video you will meet George, Tram and Tam as they go through the process of growing antibodies in cells.
Personally, I really want one of their white lab jumpsuits.