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Insect Engineering Roundup

December 11, 2009

Insects inspire innovations in cell biology and medicine.


Some useful engineering bugs. I’m Bob Hirshon and this is Science Update.

A butterfly uses its long, thin proboscis to drink nectar from flowers. Physicist Konstantin Kornev at Clemson Universityhas found that the proboscis isn’t like a straw, sucking out the nectar, but actually soaks it up along tiny channels. He’s now developing an artificial butterfly proboscis so small that it could draw fluid from inside microscopic cells. That way, scientists can study the chemistry in the cells, without destroying them.

In another example of useful insect ideas, biochemist Kent Walters at the University of Notre Dame has found a new kind of antifreeze inside an Alaskan beetle. The insect can survive temperatures as cold as minus sixty celsius thanks to a molecule that binds to water and keeps ice crystals from growing. The work could lead to better ways to preserve organs for transplantation. I’m Bob Hirshon for AAAS, the Science Society.