Health

Nabbing an Iron Bandit

Some pathogenic bacteria -- including strains that cause diseases like tuberculosis and leprosy -- get their daily dose of iron by swiping the essential nutrient from their host. To enact the heist, these bacteria spit out molecules called siderophores, shown here in light orange, that grab iron, shuttle it back to the bacterial membrane, and dole out the precise amount to keep the bacteria strong and healthy.

Awakening a Sleeping Organ

The green ring of cells lining this fruit fly’s digestive tract normally lie dormant, but after injury they spring into action, growing and copying their DNA to help the fly’s gut heal. To repair damage, organs either make new cells to replace those that were lost, or enlarge the cells that remain.

A Blood Cell's Journey

Biomedical Engineer Amanda Randles is building models to simulate how individual blood cells travel throughout the human body. But running these simulations is no small feat; even powerful supercomputers struggle to calculate fluid flows that include pulsing heartbeats, webs of blood vessels, and trillions of cells. To speed up the simulations, Randles’ algorithms divide each vessel into smaller regions, and calculate the blood flow in each region separately.

Sticky Proteins Carry Vaccines

Successful vaccines and immune therapies contain more than just bits of harmful bugs; they also contain components that guide our immune response, making them more effective. Duke engineer Joel Collier and his group are hacking proteins’ natural ability to bend, fold, and assemble to create precisely blended vaccines. His team attaches important proteins (modeled here as red, cyan, and green) to short nanofiber segments (grey).

A Heart's Fresh Start

The muscle cells of a zebrafish heart, called cardiomyocytes and colored red in this image, are able to re-grow after an injury, something cell biologist Ken Poss and cardiologist Ravi Karra would like to teach human heart cells to do. This image comes from 2015 paper in PNAS, in which their team identified a gene transcription factor that is key to the regeneration program activated in cardiomyocytes after an injury.

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