Weekly News Bites: Artificial spider silk, plastistones, and a half-winged dinosaur

Asia Research News monitors the latest research news in Asia. Some highlights that caught our attention this week are a closer step towards artificial spider silk, rocks made from plastic, and why a flightless dinosaur developed small wings.

Spider silk is an amazing material that scientists have often tried to copy. However, it has been difficult to find the right recipe to produce the tough-yet-flexible material. RIKEN used a precise microfluidic system housed in an “artificial gland” to get closer to achieving that goal. An artificial spider silk could have numerous applications in industries such as the textile industry and for medical use.  

Plastic pollution strikes again, international researchers unveil the existence of "plastistones", rocks formed from plastic pollution. The structures are not only unsightly but could also leach microplastics into the environment as they are eroded. Tsinghua University scientists looked at these rocks in their study and say that these findings highlight the impact of humans on the environment, urging intensified efforts for sustainable solutions.

Time to hear some good news. Trials in China, including institutions such as Fudan University, and the US report hearing restoration in children born with inherited deafness. Using gene therapy targeting a rare genetic condition allowed researchers to observe significant hearing improvement in five out of six children. While these trials are small, they hold great promise in treating deafness in those who want.

What’s better than half a wing? A full wing obviously! That’s why Seoul National University built a robot: to see how a dinosaur used its small “half-wings”. The researchers performed experiments using this robo-dinosaur to see whether these wings could have been used to startle prey.

Published: 26 Jan 2024


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