The Plastic Brain

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Scientists Use Cells to Fold Origami

Picture a gingerbread house. Without the frosting that glues its walls and windows together, it would be nothing but a disorganized pile of cookies and candy. The “glue” makes it all possible. 

So it is with our bodies. We are a carefully organized cellular panoply of dozens of cell types, from muscle to bone to nerve, but without connective tissue, we’d just be a pile of cellular mush. Much of our cellular glue is created by a type of cell called a “fibroblast”, which secretes a sticky web called the extracellular matrix that those muscle, bone, nerve and other cells use as a sort of structural scaffold. These fibroblasts, as anyone who’s ever seen them under a microscope knows, are known for their spiky, tentacle-like arms, allowing them to move and squeeze into our the nooks and crannies that make up … well, the inside of us.

The fibroblast cells in this video were placed on the hinges of microscopic origami patterns. When their sticky, prehensile arms pull on those hinges, they are able to fold them into 3D shapes, using the same structural goop and scaffolds that hold our bodies together!

Very cool. Let’s see them make a crane.

(via PsiVid)

Author: Rogan Tinsley

Biology, science and maths teacher with a PhD in Neuroscience and passion for education.

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