Nanotechnology limits damage and boosts healing in severely affected tissues
People who spend a lot of time in the frigid outdoors face a risk of frostbite — potentially devastating tissue damage. But a new gel may offer protection against that.
Article includes Power Words
cell: The smallest structural and functional unit of an organism. Typically too small to see with the unaided eye, it consists of a watery fluid surrounded by a membrane or wall. Depending on their size, animals are made of anywhere from thousands to trillions of cells.
cell membrane: A structure that separates the inside of a cell from the outside of it. Some particles are permitted to pass through the membrane.
clinical trial: A research trial that involves people.
clot: (in medicine) A collection of blood cells (platelets) and chemicals that collect in a small region, stopping the flow of blood.
core: Something — usually round-shaped — in the center of an object.
develop: To emerge or come into being, either naturally or through human intervention, such as by manufacturing.
engineering: The field of research that uses math and science to solve practical problems.
expedition: A journey (usually relatively long or over a great distance) that a group of people take for some defined purpose, such as to map a region’s plant life or to study the local microclimate.
free radical: A charged molecule (typically highly reactive and short-lived) having one or more unpaired outer electrons. It will attempt to steal electrons to make itself whole again through a process known as oxidation.
frostbite: Damage caused to skin and other tissue when it freezes.
gel: A gooey or viscous material that can flow like a thick liquid.
hydrophilic: Strongly attracted to (or readily dissolving in) water.
hydrophobic: Repelling (or not absorbing) water.
immune: (adj.) Having to do with the immunity. (v.) Able to ward off a particular infection. Alternatively, this term can be used to mean an organism shows no impacts from exposure to a particular poison or process. More generally, the term may signal that something cannot be hurt by a particular drug, disease or chemical.
inflammation: (adj. inflammatory) The body’s response to cellular injury and obesity; it often involves swelling, redness, heat and pain. It also is an underlying feature responsible for the development and aggravation of many diseases, especially heart disease and diabetes.
liver: An organ of the body of animals with backbones that performs a number of important functions. It can store fat and sugar as energy, break down harmful substances for excretion by the body, and secrete bile, a greenish fluid released into the gut, where it helps digest fats and neutralize acids.
materials science: The study of how the atomic and molecular structure of a material is related to its overall properties. Materials scientists can design new materials or analyze existing ones. Their analyses of a material’s overall properties (such as density, strength and melting point) can help engineers and other researchers select materials that are best suited to a new application.
membrane: A barrier which blocks the passage (or flow through) of some materials depending on their size or other features. Membranes are an integral part of filtration systems. Many serve that same function as the outer covering of cells or organs of a body.
nano: A prefix indicating a billionth. In the metric system of measurements, it’s often used as an abbreviation to refer to objects that are a billionth of a meter long or in diameter.
nanotechnology: Science, technology and engineering that deals with things and phenomena at the scale of a few billionths of a meter or less.
nutrient: A vitamin, mineral, fat, carbohydrate or protein that a plant, animal or other organism requires as part of its food in order to survive.
organ: (in biology) Various parts of an organism that perform one or more particular functions. For instance, an ovary is an organ that makes eggs, the brain is an organ that makes sense of nerve signals and a plant’s roots are organs that take in nutrients and moisture.
peptide: A short chain of amino acids (usually fewer than 100).
risk: The chance or mathematical likelihood that some bad thing might happen. For instance, exposure to radiation poses a risk of cancer. Or the hazard — or peril — itself. (For instance: Among cancer risks that the people faced were radiation and drinking water tainted with arsenic.)
tissue: Made of cells, it is any of the distinct types of materials that make up animals, plants or fungi. Cells within a tissue work as a unit to perform a particular function in living organisms. Different organs of the human body, for instance, often are made from many different types of tissues.
toxic: Poisonous or able to harm or kill cells, tissues or whole organisms. The measure of risk posed by such a poison is its toxicity.