THANKS TO A 3D PRINTED BEAK A BALD EAGLE COMES BACK TO LIFE

In 2005 in Alaska, an adult female Bald Eagle was found, emaciated, without almost all of the right side of her beak, probably because of a poacher’s shot.
The eagle, called Beauty, was brought to Birds of Prey Northwest, a nonprofit organisation located near Coeur d’Alene (Idaho), where some volunteers nourished her daily, at first, with liquified food through a tube, and later, with solid food by forceps.

During this recovery time her beak didn’t grow back because the bone was too badly damaged. The raptor specialist Jane Fink Cantwell, refusing to euthanize Beauty, began to share the eagle’s story in order to attract the attention of scientists and specialists.

After hearing Beauty’s vicissitudes, the mechanical engineer Nate Calvin (founder of the Kinetic Engineering Group) was inspired and determined to help Jane.

The Beauty's beak before and after the implant

He made a mold of Beauty’s shattered upper mandible, laser-scanned it, fine-tuned it in a 3D modeling program, and created a prosthetic beak from a nylon-based polymer, using the so called 3D printing technology.

Computer model of Beauty's prosthetic upper mandible

With the help of researchers, engineers and medical specialists this prosthetic beak was implanted onto a titanium mount fitted onto the remaining part of eagle’s beak.

Thanks to the efforts of these many volunteers, from then on Beauty drinks water on her own and can feed herself and preen her feathers. Although, unfortunately, the prosthesis is not anchored securely enough to return Beauty to the wild.

This striking story – that join together love for animals and cutting edge technologies – has been told in the following video (shot and edited by Keith Bubach) which won the 2008 Emmy award:

Beauty and the Beak from Keith Bubach on Vimeo.

Advertisements

BIOENGINEERING AT HARVARD UNIVERSITY AND CALTECH: FROM SILICONE AND CARDIAC MUSCLE CELLS TO “JELLYFISH”

Nature Biotechnology recently published a paper about a method for building a tissue-engineered “jellyfish, starting from inanimate silicone and living cardiac muscle cells.

The research team – primarily composed of Kevin Kit Parker (Professor of Bioengineering and Applied Physics at the Harvard School of Engineering and Applied Sciences), Janna Nawroth (a doctoral student in biology at California Institute of Technology – Calthech) and her adviser John Dabiri (Professor of Aeronautics and Bioengineering at Caltech) – worked to advance tissue engineering field.

For this purpose, jellyfishes were an ideal subject, since they use muscles to pump their way through the water and their basic morphology is similar to that of a beating human heart.

Therefore, the team incorporated a silicone polymer into a thin membrane that resembles a small jellyfish, with eight armlike appendages and then was able to quantitatively match the subcellular, cellular, and supracellular architecture of the jellyfish musculature with the rat heart muscle cells.

At last, the artificial construct (dubbed “Medusoid”) was placed in a container of oceanlike saltwater and shocked into swimming with synchronized muscle contractions that mimic those of real jellyfish, basing on the principle that the muscle cells started to contract a bit on their own even before the electrical current is applied.

Watch the Caltech and Harvard official video to learn more about the design of muscular pumps and enjoy the harmonic motion of the artificial jellyfish:

These researchers are persuaded the design strategy will be broadly applicable to the reverse engineering of muscular organs in humans. So, they aim to evolve the “Medusoid” in an environment responsive and self-sufficient creature.