ResearchPad - biomimetics https://www.researchpad.co Default RSS Feed en-us © 2020 Newgen KnowledgeWorks <![CDATA[Concept of an artificial muscle design on polypyrrole nanofiber scaffolds]]> https://www.researchpad.co/article/elastic_article_8464 Here we present the synthesis and characterization of two new conducting materials having a high electro-chemo-mechanical activity for possible applications as artificial muscles or soft smart actuators in biomimetic structures. Glucose-gelatin nanofiber scaffolds (CFS) were coated with polypyrrole (PPy) first by chemical polymerization followed by electrochemical polymerization doped with dodecylbenzensulfonate (DBS-) forming CFS-PPy/DBS films, or with trifluoromethanesulfonate (CF3SO3-, TF) giving CFS-PPy/TF films. The composition, electronic and ionic conductivity of the materials were determined using different techniques. The electro-chemo-mechanical characterization of the films was carried out by cyclic voltammetry and square wave potential steps in bis(trifluoromethane)sulfonimide lithium solutions of propylene carbonate (LiTFSI-PC). Linear actuation of the CFS-PPy/DBS material exhibited 20% of strain variation with a stress of 0.14 MPa, rather similar to skeletal muscles. After 1000 cycles, the creeping effect was as low as 0,2% having a good long-term stability showing a strain variation per cycle of -1.8% (after 1000 cycles). Those material properties are excellent for future technological applications as artificial muscles, batteries, smart membranes, and so on.

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<![CDATA[Low-resistive vibratory penetration in granular media]]> https://www.researchpad.co/article/5989db53ab0ee8fa60bdca0e

Non-cohesive materials such as sand, dry snow or cereals are encountered in various common circumstances, from everyday situations to industry. The process of digging into these materials remains a challenge to most animals and machines. Within the animal kingdom, different strategies are employed to overcome this issue, including excavation methods used by ants, the two-anchor strategy employed by soft burrowers such as razor-clams, and undulatory motions exhibited by sandfish lizards. Despite the development of technology to mimic these techniques in diggers and robots, the limitations of animals and machines may differ, and mimicry of natural processes is not necessarily the most efficient technological strategy. This study presents evidence that the resisting force for the penetration of an intruder into a dry granular media can be reduced by one order of magnitude with small amplitude (A ≃ 10 μm) and low frequency (f = 50 − 200 Hz) mechanical vibrations. This observed result is attributed to the local fluidization of the granular bed which induces the rupture of force chains. The drop in resistive force on entering dry granular materials may be relevant in technological development in order to increase the efficiency of diggers and robots.

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<![CDATA[Functional Reconstitution of a Voltage-Gated Potassium Channel in Giant Unilamellar Vesicles]]> https://www.researchpad.co/article/5989da2aab0ee8fa60b823fe

Voltage-gated ion channels are key players in cellular excitability. Recent studies suggest that their behavior can depend strongly on the membrane lipid composition and physical state. In vivo studies of membrane/channel and channel/channel interactions are challenging as membrane properties are actively regulated in living cells, and are difficult to control in experimental settings. We developed a method to reconstitute functional voltage-gated ion channels into cell-sized Giant Unilamellar Vesicles (GUVs) in which membrane composition, tension and geometry can be controlled. First, a voltage-gated potassium channel, KvAP, was purified, fluorescently labeled and reconstituted into small proteoliposomes. Small proteoliposomes were then converted into GUVs via electroformation. GUVs could be formed using different lipid compositions and buffers containing low (5 mM) or near-physiological (100 mM) salt concentrations. Protein incorporation into GUVs was characterized with quantitative confocal microscopy, and the protein density of GUVs was comparable to the small proteoliposomes from which they were formed. Furthermore, patch-clamp measurements confirmed that the reconstituted channels retained potassium selectivity and voltage-gated activation. GUVs containing functional voltage-gated ion channels will allow the study of channel activity, distribution and diffusion while controlling membrane state, and should prove a powerful tool for understanding how the membrane modulates cellular excitability.

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<![CDATA[New Insights into Mutable Collagenous Tissue: Correlations between the Microstructure and Mechanical State of a Sea-Urchin Ligament]]> https://www.researchpad.co/article/5989da8aab0ee8fa60b9d980

The mutable collagenous tissue (MCT) of echinoderms has the ability to undergo rapid and reversible changes in passive mechanical properties that are initiated and modulated by the nervous system. Since the mechanism of MCT mutability is poorly understood, the aim of this work was to provide a detailed morphological analysis of a typical mutable collagenous structure in its different mechanical states. The model studied was the compass depressor ligament (CDL) of a sea urchin (Paracentrotus lividus), which was characterized in different functional states mimicking MCT mutability. Transmission electron microscopy, histochemistry, cryo-scanning electron microscopy, focused ion beam/scanning electron microscopy, and field emission gun-environmental scanning electron microscopy were used to visualize CDLs at the micro- and nano-scales. This investigation has revealed previously unreported differences in both extracellular and cellular constituents, expanding the current knowledge of the relationship between the organization of the CDL and its mechanical state. Scanning electron microscopies in particular provided a three-dimensional overview of CDL architecture at the micro- and nano-scales, and clarified the micro-organization of the ECM components that are involved in mutability. Further evidence that the juxtaligamental cells are the effectors of these changes in mechanical properties was provided by a correlation between their cytology and the tensile state of the CDLs.

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<![CDATA[A Simple State-Determined Model Reproduces Entrainment and Phase-Locking of Human Walking]]> https://www.researchpad.co/article/5989da20ab0ee8fa60b7ebb0

Theoretical studies and robotic experiments have shown that asymptotically stable periodic walking may emerge from nonlinear limit-cycle oscillators in the neuro-mechanical periphery. We recently reported entrainment of human gait to periodic mechanical perturbations with two essential features: 1) entrainment occurred only when the perturbation period was close to the original (preferred) walking period, and 2) entrainment was always accompanied by phase locking so that the perturbation occurred at the end of the double-stance phase. In this study, we show that a highly-simplified state-determined walking model can reproduce several salient nonlinear limit-cycle behaviors of human walking: 1) periodic gait that is 2) asymptotically stable; 3) entrainment to periodic mechanical perturbations only when the perturbation period is close to the model's unperturbed period; and 4) phase-locking to locate the perturbation at the end of double stance. Importantly, this model requires neither supra-spinal control nor an intrinsic self-sustaining neural oscillator such as a rhythmic central pattern generator. Our results suggest that several prominent limit-cycle features of human walking may stem from simple afferent feedback processes without significant involvement of supra-spinal control or a self-sustaining oscillatory neural network.

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<![CDATA[Engineering Amyloid-Like Assemblies from Unstructured Peptides via Site-Specific Lipid Conjugation]]> https://www.researchpad.co/article/5989da34ab0ee8fa60b85b8d

Aggregation of amyloid beta (Aβ) into oligomers and fibrils is believed to play an important role in the development of Alzheimer’s disease (AD). To gain further insight into the principles of aggregation, we have investigated the induction of β-sheet secondary conformation from disordered native peptide sequences through lipidation, in 1–2% hexafluoroisopropanol (HFIP) in phosphate buffered saline (PBS). Several parameters, such as type and number of lipid chains, peptide sequence, peptide length and net charge, were explored keeping the ratio peptide/HFIP constant. The resulting lipoconjugates were characterized by several physico-chemical techniques: Circular Dichroism (CD), Attenuated Total Reflection InfraRed (ATR-IR), Thioflavin T (ThT) fluorescence, Dynamic Light Scattering (DLS), solid-state Nuclear Magnetic Resonance (ssNMR) spectroscopy and Electron Microscopy (EM). Our data demonstrate the generation of β-sheet aggregates from numerous unstructured peptides under physiological pH, independent of the amino acid sequence. The amphiphilicity pattern and hydrophobicity of the scaffold were found to be key factors for their assembly into amyloid-like structures.

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<![CDATA[Increased Asymmetric and Multi-Daughter Cell Division in Mechanically Confined Microenvironments]]> https://www.researchpad.co/article/5989dafcab0ee8fa60bc50ec

As the microenvironment of a cell changes, associated mechanical cues may lead to changes in biochemical signaling and inherently mechanical processes such as mitosis. Here we explore the effects of confined mechanical environments on cellular responses during mitosis. Previously, effects of mechanical confinement have been difficult to optically observe in three-dimensional and in vivo systems. To address this challenge, we present a novel microfluidic perfusion culture system that allows controllable variation in the level of confinement in a single axis allowing observation of cell growth and division at the single-cell level. The device is capable of creating precise confinement conditions in the vertical direction varying from high (3 µm) to low (7 µm) confinement while also varying the substrate stiffness (E = 130 kPa and 1 MPa). The Human cervical carcinoma (HeLa) model with a known 3N+ karyotype was used for this study. For this cell line, we observe that mechanically confined cell cycles resulted in stressed cell divisions: (i) delayed mitosis, (ii) multi- daughter mitosis events (from 3 up to 5 daughter cells), (iii) unevenly sized daughter cells, and (iv) induction of cell death. In the highest confined conditions, the frequency of divisions producing more than two progeny was increased an astounding 50-fold from unconfined environments, representing about one half of all successful mitotic events. Notably, the majority of daughter cells resulting from multipolar divisions were viable after cytokinesis and, perhaps suggesting another regulatory checkpoint in the cell cycle, were in some cases observed to re-fuse with neighboring cells post-cytokinesis. The higher instances of abnormal mitosis that we report in confined mechanically stiff spaces, may lead to increased rates of abnormal, viable, cells in the population. This work provides support to a hypothesis that environmental mechanical cues influences structural mechanisms of mitosis such as geometric orientation of the mitotic plane or planes.

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<![CDATA[Evaluation of Early and Late Effects into the Acute Spinal Cord Injury of an Injectable Functionalized Self-Assembling Scaffold]]> https://www.researchpad.co/article/5989da15ab0ee8fa60b7acf8

The complex physiopathological events occurring after spinal cord injury (SCI) make this devastating trauma still incurable. Self-assembling peptides (SAPs) are nanomaterials displaying some appealing properties for application in regenerative medicine because they mimic the structure of the extra-cellular matrix (ECM), are reabsorbable, allow biofunctionalizations and can be injected directly into the lesion. In this study we evaluated the putative neurorigenerative properties of RADA16-4G-BMHP1 SAP, proved to enhance in vitro neural stem cells survival and differentiation. This SAP (RADA16-I) has been functionalized with a bone marrow homing motif (BMHP1) and optimized via the insertion of a 4-glycine-spacer that ameliorates scaffold stability and exposure of the biomotifs. We injected the scaffold immediately after contusion in the rat spinal cord, then we evaluated the early effects by semi-quantitative RT-PCR and the late effects by histological analysis. Locomotor recovery over 8 weeks was assessed using Basso, Beattie, Bresnahan (BBB) test. Gene expression analysis showed that at 7 days after lesion the functionalized SAP induced a general upregulation of GAP-43, trophic factors and ECM remodelling proteins, whereas 3 days after SCI no remarkable changes were observed. Hystological analysis revealed that 8 weeks after SCI our scaffold increased cellular infiltration, basement membrane deposition and axon regeneration/sprouting within the cyst. Moreover the functionalized SAP showed to be compatible with the surrounding nervous tissue and to at least partially fill the cavities. Finally SAP injection resulted in a statistically significant improvement of both hindlimbs' motor performance and forelimbs-hindlimbs coordination. Altogether, these results indicate that RADA16-4G-BMHP1 induced favourable reparative processes, such as matrix remodelling, and provided a physical and trophic support to nervous tissue ingrowth. Thus this biomaterial, eventually combined with cells and growth factors, may constitute a promising biomimetic scaffold for regenerative applications in the injured central nervous system.

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<![CDATA[Bioactive Polymeric Nanoparticles for Periodontal Therapy]]> https://www.researchpad.co/article/5989db3aab0ee8fa60bd495f

Aims

to design calcium and zinc-loaded bioactive and cytocompatible nanoparticles for the treatment of periodontal disease.

Methods

PolymP-nActive nanoparticles were zinc or calcium loaded. Biomimetic calcium phosphate precipitation on polymeric particles was assessed after 7 days immersion in simulated body fluid, by scanning electron microscopy attached to an energy dispersive analysis system. Amorphous mineral deposition was probed by X-ray diffraction. Cell viability analysis was performed using oral mucosa fibroblasts by: 1) quantifying the liberated deoxyribonucleic acid from dead cells, 2) detecting the amount of lactate dehydrogenase enzyme released by cells with damaged membranes, and 3) by examining the cytoplasmic esterase function and cell membranes integrity with a fluorescence-based method using the Live/Dead commercial kit. Data were analyzed by Kruskal-Wallis and Mann-Whitney tests.

Results

Precipitation of calcium and phosphate on the nanoparticles surfaces was observed in calcium-loaded nanoparticles. Non-loaded nanoparticles were found to be non-toxic in all the assays, calcium and zinc-loaded particles presented a dose dependent but very low cytotoxic effect.

Conclusions

The ability of calcium-loaded nanoparticles to promote precipitation of calcium phosphate deposits, together with their observed non-toxicity may offer new strategies for periodontal disease treatment.

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<![CDATA[GFP Facilitates Native Purification of Recombinant Perlucin Derivatives and Delays the Precipitation of Calcium Carbonate]]> https://www.researchpad.co/article/5989dab7ab0ee8fa60bad2f0

Insolubility is one of the possible functions of proteins involved in biomineralization, which often limits their native purification. This becomes a major problem especially when recombinant expression systems are required to obtain larger amounts. For example, the mollusc shell provides a rich source of unconventional proteins, which can interfere in manifold ways with different mineral phases and interfaces. Therefore, the relevance of such proteins for biotechnological processes is still in its infancy. Here we report a simple and reproducible purification procedure for a GFP-tagged lectin involved in biomineralization, originally isolated from mother-of-pearl in abalone shells. An optimization of E. coli host cell culture conditions was the key to obtain reasonable yields and high degrees of purity by using simple one-step affinity chromatography. We identified a dual functional role for the GFP domain when it became part of a mineralizing system in vitro. First, the GFP domain improved the solubility of an otherwise insoluble protein, in this case recombinant perlucin derivatives. Second, GFP inhibited calcium carbonate precipitation in a concentration dependent manner. This was demonstrated here using a simple bulk assay over a time period of 400 seconds. At concentrations of 2 µg/ml and higher, the inhibitory effect was observed predominantly for HCO3 as the first ionic interaction partner, but not necessarily for Ca2+. The interference of GFP-tagged perlucin derivatives with the precipitation of calcium carbonate generated different types of GFP-fluorescent composite calcite crystals. GFP-tagging offers therefore a genetically tunable tool to gently modify mechanical and optical properties of synthetic biocomposite minerals.

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<![CDATA[Relating the Chondrocyte Gene Network to Growth Plate Morphology: From Genes to Phenotype]]> https://www.researchpad.co/article/5989da98ab0ee8fa60ba2b27

During endochondral ossification, chondrocyte growth and differentiation is controlled by many local signalling pathways. Due to crosstalks and feedback mechanisms, these interwoven pathways display a network like structure. In this study, a large-scale literature based logical model of the growth plate network was developed. The network is able to capture the different states (resting, proliferating and hypertrophic) that chondrocytes go through as they progress within the growth plate. In a first corroboration step, the effect of mutations in various signalling pathways of the growth plate network was investigated.

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<![CDATA[A Microfluidic Pump/Valve Inspired by Xylem Embolism and Transpiration in Plants]]> https://www.researchpad.co/article/5989db4cab0ee8fa60bdaa22

In plants, transpiration draws the water upward from the roots to the leaves. However, this flow can be blocked by air bubbles in the xylem conduits, which is called xylem embolism. In this research, we present the design of a biomimetic microfluidic pump/valve based on water transpiration and xylem embolism. This micropump/valve is mainly composed of three parts: the first is a silicon sheet with an array of slit-like micropores to mimic the stomata in a plant leaf; the second is a piece of agarose gel to mimic the mesophyll cells in the sub-cavities of a stoma; the third is a micro-heater which is used to mimic the xylem embolism and its self-repairing. The solution in the microchannels of a microfluidic chip can be driven by the biomimetic “leaf” composed of the silicon sheet and the agarose gel. The halting and flowing of the solution is controlled by the micro-heater. Results have shown that a steady flow rate of 1.12 µl/min can be obtained by using this micropump/valve. The time interval between the turning on/off of the micro-heater and the halt (or flow) of the fluid is only 2∼3 s. This micropump/valve can be used as a “plug and play” fluid-driven unit. It has the potential to be used in many application fields.

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<![CDATA[Regulation of Epithelial Cell Morphology and Functions Approaching To More In Vivo-Like by Modifying Polyethylene Glycol on Polysulfone Membranes]]> https://www.researchpad.co/article/5989daf7ab0ee8fa60bc36d4

Cytocompatibility is critically important in design of biomaterials for application in tissue engineering. However, the currently well-accepted “cytocompatible" biomaterials are those which promote cells to sustain good attachment/spreading. The cells on such materials usually lack the self-assembled cell morphology and high cell functions as in vivo. In our view, biomaterials that can promote the ability of cells to self-assemble and demonstrate cell-specific functions would be cytocompatible. This paper examined the interaction of polyethylene glycol (PEG) modified polysulfone (PSf) membranes with four epithelial cell types (primary liver cells, a liver tumor cell line, and two renal tubular cell lines). Our results show that PSf membranes modified with proper PEG promoted the aggregation of both liver and renal cells, but the liver cells more easily formed aggregates than the renal tubular cells. The culture on PEG-modified PSf membranes also enhanced cell-specific functions. In particular, the cells cultured on F127 membranes with the proper PEG content mimicked the in vivo ultrastructure of liver cells or renal tubules cells and displayed the highest cell functions. Gene expression data for adhesion proteins suggest that the PEG modification impaired cell-membrane interactions and increased cell-cell interactions, thus facilitating cell self-assembly. In conclusion, PEG-modified membrane could be a cytocompatible material which regulates the morphology and functions of epithelial cells in mimicking cell performance in vivo.

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<![CDATA[Silk Film Topography Directs Collective Epithelial Cell Migration]]> https://www.researchpad.co/article/5989d9d2ab0ee8fa60b647e5

The following study provides new insight into how surface topography dictates directed collective epithelial cell sheet growth through the guidance of individual cell movement. Collective cell behavior of migrating human corneal limbal-epithelial cell sheets were studied on highly biocompatible flat and micro-patterned silk film surfaces. The silk film edge topography guided the migratory direction of individual cells making up the collective epithelial sheet, which resulted in a 75% increase in total culture elongation. This was due to a 3-fold decrease in cell sheet migration rate efficiency for movement perpendicular to the topography edge. Individual cell migration direction is preferred in the parallel approach to the edge topography where localization of cytoskeletal proteins to the topography’s edge region is reduced, which results in the directed growth of the collective epithelial sheet. Findings indicate customized biomaterial surfaces may be created to direct both the migration rate and direction of tissue epithelialization.

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<![CDATA[Cell Wall Trapping of Autocrine Peptides for Human G-Protein-Coupled Receptors on the Yeast Cell Surface]]> https://www.researchpad.co/article/5989d9faab0ee8fa60b71837

G-protein-coupled receptors (GPCRs) regulate a wide variety of physiological processes and are important pharmaceutical targets for drug discovery. Here, we describe a unique concept based on yeast cell-surface display technology to selectively track eligible peptides with agonistic activity for human GPCRs (Cell Wall Trapping of Autocrine Peptides (CWTrAP) strategy). In our strategy, individual recombinant yeast cells are able to report autocrine-positive activity for human GPCRs by expressing a candidate peptide fused to an anchoring motif. Following expression and activation, yeast cells trap autocrine peptides onto their cell walls. Because captured peptides are incapable of diffusion, they have no impact on surrounding yeast cells that express the target human GPCR and non-signaling peptides. Therefore, individual yeast cells can assemble the autonomous signaling complex and allow single-cell screening of a yeast population. Our strategy may be applied to identify eligible peptides with agonistic activity for target human GPCRs.

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<![CDATA[Genetic PEGylation]]> https://www.researchpad.co/article/5989da12ab0ee8fa60b7a1a3

Polyethylene glycol (PEG) was genetically incorporated into a polypeptide. Stop-anticodon-containing tRNAs were acylated with PEG-containing amino acids and were then translated into polypeptides corresponding to DNA sequences containing the stop codons. The molecular weights of the PEG used were 170, 500, 700, 1000, and 2000 Da, and the translation was confirmed by mass spectrometry. The PEG incorporation ratio decreased as the molecular weight of PEG increased, and PEG with a molecular weight of 1000 Da was only slightly incorporated. Although improvement is required to increase the efficiency of the process, this study demonstrates the possibility of genetic PEGylation.

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<![CDATA[A Biomimetic Membrane Device That Modulates the Excessive Inflammatory Response to Sepsis]]> https://www.researchpad.co/article/5989dae5ab0ee8fa60bbd439

Objective

Septic shock has a clinical mortality rate approaching fifty percent. The major clinical manifestations of sepsis are due to the dysregulation of the host's response to infection rather than the direct consequences of the invading pathogen. Central to this initial immunologic response is the activation of leukocytes and microvascular endothelium resulting in cardiovascular instability, lung injury and renal dysfunction. Due to the primary role of leukocyte activation in the sepsis syndrome, a synthetic biomimetic membrane, called a selective cytopheretic device (SCD), was developed to bind activated leukocytes. The incorporation of the SCD along an extracorporeal blood circuit coupled with regional anticoagulation with citrate to lower blood ionized calcium was devised to modulate leukocyte activation in sepsis.

Design

Laboratory investigation.

Setting

University of Michigan Medical School.

Subjects

Pigs weighing 30-35 kg.

Interventions

To assess the effect of the SCD in septic shock, pigs were administered 30×1010 bacteria/kg body weight of Escherichia coli into the peritoneal cavity and within 1 hr were immediately placed in an extracorporeal circuit containing SCD.

Measurements and Main Results

In this animal model, the SCD with citrate compared to control groups without the SCD or with heparin anticoagulation ameliorated the cardiovascular instability and lung sequestration of activated leukocytes, reduced renal dysfunction and improved survival time compared to various control groups. This effect was associated with minimal elevations of systemic circulating neutrophil activation.

Conclusions

These preclinical studies along with two favorable exploratory clinical trials form the basis of an FDA-approved investigational device exemption for a pivotal multicenter, randomized control trial currently underway.

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<![CDATA[Neuromechanism Study of Insect–Machine Interface: Flight Control by Neural Electrical Stimulation]]> https://www.researchpad.co/article/5989dafaab0ee8fa60bc4400

The insect–machine interface (IMI) is a novel approach developed for man-made air vehicles, which directly controls insect flight by either neuromuscular or neural stimulation. In our previous study of IMI, we induced flight initiation and cessation reproducibly in restrained honeybees (Apis mellifera L.) via electrical stimulation of the bilateral optic lobes. To explore the neuromechanism underlying IMI, we applied electrical stimulation to seven subregions of the honeybee brain with the aid of a new method for localizing brain regions. Results showed that the success rate for initiating honeybee flight decreased in the order: α-lobe (or β-lobe), ellipsoid body, lobula, medulla and antennal lobe. Based on a comparison with other neurobiological studies in honeybees, we propose that there is a cluster of descending neurons in the honeybee brain that transmits neural excitation from stimulated brain areas to the thoracic ganglia, leading to flight behavior. This neural circuit may involve the higher-order integration center, the primary visual processing center and the suboesophageal ganglion, which is also associated with a possible learning and memory pathway. By pharmacologically manipulating the electrically stimulated honeybee brain, we have shown that octopamine, rather than dopamine, serotonin and acetylcholine, plays a part in the circuit underlying electrically elicited honeybee flight. Our study presents a new brain stimulation protocol for the honeybee–machine interface and has solved one of the questions with regard to understanding which functional divisions of the insect brain participate in flight control. It will support further studies to uncover the involved neurons inside specific brain areas and to test the hypothesized involvement of a visual learning and memory pathway in IMI flight control.

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<![CDATA[Why Do Woodpeckers Resist Head Impact Injury: A Biomechanical Investigation]]> https://www.researchpad.co/article/5989da9fab0ee8fa60ba54fa

Head injury is a leading cause of morbidity and death in both industrialized and developing countries. It is estimated that brain injuries account for 15% of the burden of fatalities and disabilities, and represent the leading cause of death in young adults. Brain injury may be caused by an impact or a sudden change in the linear and/or angular velocity of the head. However, the woodpecker does not experience any head injury at the high speed of 6–7 m/s with a deceleration of 1000 g when it drums a tree trunk. It is still not known how woodpeckers protect their brain from impact injury. In order to investigate this, two synchronous high-speed video systems were used to observe the pecking process, and the force sensor was used to measure the peck force. The mechanical properties and macro/micro morphological structure in woodpecker's head were investigated using a mechanical testing system and micro-CT scanning. Finite element (FE) models of the woodpecker's head were established to study the dynamic intracranial responses. The result showed that macro/micro morphology of cranial bone and beak can be recognized as a major contributor to non-impact-injuries. This biomechanical analysis makes it possible to visualize events during woodpecker pecking and may inspire new approaches to prevention and treatment of human head injury.

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<![CDATA[Seed Predation by the Shore Crab Carcinus maenas: A Positive Feedback Preventing Eelgrass Recovery?]]> https://www.researchpad.co/article/5989da9aab0ee8fa60ba3680

There is an increasing interest to restore the ecosystem services that eelgrass provides, after their continuous worldwide decline. Most attempts to restore eelgrass using seeds are challenged by very high seed losses and the reasons for these losses are not all clear. We assess the impact of predation on seed loss and eelgrass establishment, and explore methods to decrease seed loss during restoration in the Swedish northwest coast. In a laboratory study we identified three previously undescribed seed predators, the shore crab Carcinus maenas, the hermit crab Pagurus bernhardus and the sea urchin Strongylocentrotus droebachiensis, of which shore crabs consumed 2–7 times more seeds than the other two species. The importance of shore crabs as seed predators was supported in field cage experiments where one enclosed crab caused 73% loss of seeds over a 1-week period on average (~ 21 seeds per day). Seedling establishment was significantly higher (14%) in cages that excluded predators over an 8-month period than in uncaged plots and cages that allowed predators but prevented seed-transport (0.5%), suggesting that seed predation constitutes a major source of seed loss in the study area. Burying the seeds 2 cm below the sediment surface prevented seed predation in the laboratory and decreased predation in the field, constituting a way to decrease seed loss during restoration. Shore crabs may act as a key feedback mechanism that prevent the return of eelgrass both by direct consumption of eelgrass seeds and as a predator of algal mesograzers, allowing algal mats to overgrow eelgrass beds. This shore crab feedback mechanism could become self-generating by promoting the growth of its own nursery habitat (algal mats) and by decreasing the nursery habitat (seagrass meadow) of its dominant predator (cod). This double feedback-loop is supported by a strong increase of shore crab abundance in the last decades and may partly explain the regime shift in vegetation observed along the Swedish west coast.

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