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My few questions that I have for the scientists at UCSB are dealing with biomimetics of the human body. My first question is what other man made structures were modeled after the way that the human body is built besides from the Eiffel tower. I also want to know how the air pumps work. I sort of know how they work now but I would also want more of the basic information like, what is it trying to mimic of the human body? How did they come up with the idea to make airpumps? It would be great if you could answer my questions whenever you could so I can complete my power point presentation for my 8th grade science project. Sincerely, Denise
Question Date: 2003-01-28
Answer 1:

It sounds like you have an exciting science project on biomimetics. I didn't know that the Eiffel Tower and air pumps are biomimetic. There is a lot of work to develop things like artificial skin and bone and teeth and organs that are related to human biomimetics. We want materials that we can use to repair damaged skin or bone or teeth that will work like our skin, bone, and teeth, and we want organs for transplant into people. Check out the mechanical artificial heart that has been used for at least one person who lived for a while with it. I read recently that pigs are being genetically engineered to not have the specific pig cell-surface protein that causes the biggest problem in organ transplants from pigs. My mother-in-law got some heart-valve transplants, and someone told her pig heart valves worked better than the artificial valves. That was 10 or 20 years ago. And there is kidney dialysis to do the work of the kidney for people who are waiting for a kidney transplant.

The biomimetics research I know about at UCSB is about understanding how to make materials like abalone shells and natural sponges, not human biomimetics.

This interdisciplinary team, headed by Daniel Morse and Galen Stucky, is discovering the proteins, genes and molecular mechanisms that control the biological nanofabrication of natural materials (like the abalone shell in the image above), and using them to develop new routes for synthesis of high-performance composites needed for the technologies of tomorrow. Potential applications include new optoelectronic, microelectronic and catalytic devices and improved biosensors.

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