Medical application of 'graphene foam' in neural stem cell therapy

Neural stem cell (NSC) based therapy holds promise for treating numerous neurological disorders. In this treatment, NSCs require scaffolds to provide micro-environments for their growth and differentiation. In 2011, Korean researchers had reported that graphene sheets can support the required growth and differentiation of NSCs. Now, for the first time, Chinese researchers have come up with application of graphene foam as efficient NSC scaffolds.

This novel in vitro (arranged in artificial conditions outside body) technique uses three-dimensional (3D) porous graphene foam. The study also found that while acting as scaffolds, these foams can also control NSCs electrically. Using cyclic voltammetry, researchers explored electrical characteristics of graphene foam. They found that NSCs can be stimulated through capacitive charge injection, just like 2D graphene film electrode. Although, because the 3D graphene foam covers larger surface area, it can inject a much stronger charge than 2D graphene sheets and thereby improve electrical stimulation performance of the conductive scaffold.

Using a Nickle foam template, graphene foams were synthesized by chemical vapor deposition method. The resultant graphene skeleton had width around 100-200 μm whereas whole porous structure averaged 100-300 μm, observations under electron microscope revealed. The surface chemistry of 3D-GFs was further characterized by the X-ray photoelectron spectroscopy (XPS).

NSC adhesion and proliferation on 3D-GF scaffold. Credit: Scientific Reports, doi:10.1038/srep01604


The NSCs are self-renewing and multipotent cell population in the central nervous system. Stem cells are characterized by their capability to differentiate into multiple cell types via exogenous stimuli from their environment. Regenerative NSCs are used in cell replacement therapy to tackle cell death which causes acute Central Nervous System (CNS) disorders and neurodegenerative disease. Patient with these disorders suffer from lack of regenerative abilities for cell replacement and repair. Provided that graphene foam can not only house the NSCs, but also control them electrically, it stands in competition with existing substrates for neural cell based therapy like glass or polymer PDMS.

Potentially, graphene foam has widespread application, ranging from gas sensors to Helium substituteGraphene itself is a biodegradable, which gives it an edge over many toxic substances it aims to substitute. In addition to this medical application of graphene foam, recent advancements in graphene research have been tantalizing and promise to revolutionize our technology while keeping our progress sustainable.

New study: GMOs linked to blood cell disorders, leukemia


Widespread industry claims that the altered traits of genetically-modified organisms (GMOs) do not persist in food and are thus harmless to humans have once again been proven to be false. A new study published in the open-access, peer-reviewed Journal of Hematology & Thromboembolic Diseases has revealed that GMOs indeed damage and toxify human blood cells, and can consequently lead to the development of deadly blood diseases like anemia and leukemia.

Researchers from the Department of Genetics and Morphology and the Institute of Biological Sciences at the University of Brasilia learned this after feeding test mice various doses of Cry proteins, or Cry toxins, which are insect-killing agents purposely engineered into many GM crops. After administering just one dose of these toxins, the team observed the development of a number of different blood abnormalities, many of which became progressively worse in the week following the single dose.

Even at the lowest dose tested, Cry toxins were observed to induce damage to bone marrow cells and cause anemia, the latter of which is marked by a lack of red blood cells and hemoglobin in the system. And this was in vertebrate mammals, a species that Monsanto and the rest of the biotechnology cabal has long claimed is not affected by Bt toxin and its resultant toxic byproducts. In the end, damage caused by Cry toxin exposure was found to result in severe hematological malignancies such as leukemia, a deadly type of blood cancer.

“[O]ur study demonstrated that Bt spore-crystals genetically modified to express individually Cry1Aa, Cry1Ab, Cry1Ac or Cry2A induced hematotoxicity, particularly to the erythroid lineage,” wrote the authors. “This finding corroborates literature that demonstrated that alkali-solubilized Bt spore-crystals caused in vitro hemolysis in cell lines of rat, mouse, sheep, horse, and human erythrocytes and suggested that the plasma membrane of susceptible cells (erythrocytes, in this case) may be the primary target for these toxins.”

Long-term exposure to GM toxins proven to cause systemic damage to human health

Beyond their inherent toxicity to humans, Cry toxins were also found to activate this toxicity much more easily than previously believed. Rather than have to be exposed to an alkaline pH in the digestive tract of a susceptible species in order to become active, Cry toxins were found to elicit their adverse effects after merely being exposed to distilled water. Cry toxins were also found to bioaccumulate in the body over time, causing progressively more damage in the long term.

“Taking into account the increased risk of human and animal exposures to significant levels of these toxins, especially through diet, our results suggest that further studies are required to clarify the mechanism involved in the hematotoxicity found in mice, and to establish the toxicological risks to non-target organisms, especially mammals, before concluding that these microbiological control agents are safe for mammals,” added the authors.

In other words, there is no sound scientific basis for the use of such toxins in food products consumed by humans, as they are clearly unsafe. Put another way, if independent studies such as this one had been required to be conducted prior to the approval of GM crops with Bt traits, such crops never would have been approved in the first place, as it would have been abundantly evident from the start that they are not safe for human consumption.

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Searching for quantum physics in all the right places

Searching for quantum physics in all the right placesA ‘quantum witness’ plot of the quantum state of a biological pigment–protein complex—the FMO complex from green sulfur bacteria. Positive values (blue to red) indicate that the system’s dynamics cannot be described classically, indicating that it is in a quantum state.

An improved method for measuring quantum properties offers new insight into the unique characteristics of quantum systems.

The properties of  physical systems are fundamentally different to those of classical systems in a way that makes them attractive for applications such as computing and communications. However, it is often difficult to determine whether a system is in a quantum or classical physical state. Franco Nori and colleagues from the RIKEN Center for Emergent Matter Science, together with collaborators in Taiwan, have now developed a mechanism that permits the reliable detection of —even in complex systems1.

The unique behavior of quantum states arises from the  of different states—a property known as quantum coherence. The physicist Erwin Schrödinger famously compared the concept of quantum coherence to a theoretical experiment in which a cat is sealed in a box with a vial of poison to be released by a random quantum mechanism. Without looking inside the box, it cannot be known whether the cat is dead or alive; the cat is therefore in a quantum coherent state. While some quantum states are used for computing, they also occur in nature—in certain , for example.

Measuring the properties of  is important to further their technological utility. Unfortunately, existing measurement methods are impractical due to their complexity and the constraints they place on the quantum states that can be detected.

“Our main goal was to devise an unambiguous test that is easy and practical to implement, and which relies on as little ‘foreknowledge’ of the system as possible, to determine its quantum properties,” explains Neill Lambert, a member of the research team.

The detection scheme developed by Nori, Lambert and colleagues involves the introduction of two ‘quantum witnesses’ that allow the comparison of two runs of an experiment: one in which the state of a system is observed twice, and one where it is only observed once. This procedure effectively sums the results of multiple random experiments to test whether there is any deviation from the expected classical values, which would provide evidence for a  (Fig. 1). For Schrödinger’s cat, such a deviation would suggest that the cat is neither dead nor alive but is instead in a quantum combination of both states.

Among the many possible quantum systems to which this method could be applied, experiments involving biological molecules are particularly interesting, says Nori. “The question of whether quantum coherence exists in biological organisms, for example in a photosynthetic complex, has triggered a surge of interest into the relationship between  and biological function.”