The top three news stories of the week, as chosen by our resident students. This week’s top stories include micro-robots, crime-solving using genetics and experimental treatment to help paralysed patients.

By Federica Ferrentino

Micro-robots for drug delivery

A team of scientists from Egypt, Netherlands and Germany developed a new kind of “micro-robots” that can be controlled by using a weak magnetic field. The “MagnetoSperms”, the name given due to their sperm-like appearance, could be used for enhancing drug delivery, cleaning clogged arteries and helping in in-vitro fertilisation.

These sperm-like robots are just 322 µm long and made of a special polymer (Su-8) that reacts to an oscillating magnetic field which is less powerful than a refrigerator magnet, allowing the movement in the desired direction.

In the near future, the team is planning to further scale-down the size of the MagnetoSperms by finding new, magnetics nanofibers. Their interesting research has been published in the journal Applied Physics Letters.

Read more about this study here!


Time of death revealed by your genes

A recent article in Nature Communications shows that during the first 24 hours after human death, cells still show a transcriptional activity. This creates a post-mortem transcriptional pattern that can be used to predict the time of death.

The researchers analysed gene activity and degradation in 36 different human tissues, thanks to the support of more than 500 donors that passed away for up to 29 hours. It seems that molecular processes can continue until the necessary chemical components, mostly enzymes, run out.

A bioinformatics approach identified a conserved pattern of activity across all the tissues and allowed to develop an algorithm to determine a reliable time of death. If you want more details, have a look at their publication here.

slippery foot dangerous fall
Photo by Pixabay on

Man paralysed walks again

111 yards, 331 footsteps, 16 minutes of walk. They are the records of a paraplegic patient who recovered the erect posture and a notable ability of independent deambulation.

Jered Chinnock, now 29 years old, walked by himself since his snowmobile accident five years ago. Chosen in 2016 for the experimentation of a new methodic, Chinnock received, from the group of Dr Kendall Lee, a neurosurgeon and director of Mayo Clinic’s Neural Engineering Laboratories in Rochester, his electrode implant after 22 weeks of physical therapy.

The implant sits in the epidural space that covers the spinal cord and It is connected to a pulse generator implanted just below the skin of his abdomen. Thanks to a wireless program, researchers can provide specific electrical stimulation to the spinal cord. The patch does not repair the damage but circumvents it by stimulating nerves lower down in the spinal cord. This appears to allow signals from the brain to reach the target muscles so the person can voluntarily control their own movements again.

Read more about this study here!

adult ball close up view daylight
Photo by Matthias Zomer on