Scientists turn spinach into human heart tissue

March 28, 2017 by  
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Popeye was right: spinach really is good for the muscles, and not just the ones in your biceps. In fact, scientists have discovered a way to use the leafy stuff, which has a vascular system not dissimilar to ours, to grow layers of working heart muscle, according to a paper published this month in the journal Biomaterials . The new technique, a collaboration between Worcester Polytechnic Institute , the University of Wisconsin-Madison , and Arkansas State University-Jonesboro , marks a breakthrough in the field of human tissue regeneration, which has hitherto been stymied by scale. To wit, although current bioengineering methods can recreate cellular scaffolding on a large scope, fabricating branching networks of tiny blood vessels has proven far trickier. But then scientists noticed that plants and animals evolved parallel means of distributing water and nutrients to their respective cells. “Plants and animals exploit fundamentally different approaches to transporting fluids, chemicals, and macromolecules, yet there are surprising similarities in their vascular network structures,” the authors wrote. “The development of decellularized plants for scaffolding opens up the potential for a new branch of science that investigates the mimicry between plant and animal.” To test their theory, the researchers stripped a bunch of spinach leaves of their cells, leaving behind a network of cellulose. They then seeded the spinach veins with beating human-heart cells. With the leaf fully networked, the team pumped fluids and microbeads through their pint-size proto-heart, mimicking the flow of human cells through our own arterial system. Related: Engineers build artificial muscles from onion skin and gold So far, so successful. “We have a lot more work to do, but so far this is very promising,” said Glenn Gaudette, professor of biomedical engineering at WPI and corresponding author of the paper. And it’s not just spinach that’s up for the job. Other decellularized plants could help deliver oxygen to damaged tissue in victims of heart attacks or other kinds of cardiac trauma. Even better, bioengineers could tweak different plant species to repair a range of tissues in the body. Spinach might work best for highly vascularized cardiac tissue, for instance, but the cylindrical hollow structure of something like jewelweed might be more appropriate for an arterial graft. Similarly, the vascular columns of wood could one day play a role in healing human bones. “Adapting abundant plants that farmers have been cultivating for thousands of years for use in tissue engineering could solve a host of problems limiting the field,” Gaudette added. + Worchester Polytechnic Institute Via National Geographic

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Scientists turn spinach into human heart tissue

Is a carbon tax on consumption the happy medium we’ve been looking for?

February 14, 2017 by  
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Here’s a better way to regulate carbon — and change the tired environment-versus-economy debate.

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Is a carbon tax on consumption the happy medium we’ve been looking for?

America will soon surpass the clean energy standards Trump wants to kill

February 9, 2017 by  
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Barack Obama’s Clean Power Plan , first announced in 2015, caused no end of political controversy in conservative circles for its ambitious carbon-cutting goals. By February 2016, the Supreme Court halted enforcement of the regulations due to complaints from 29 mostly Republican-led states. Opponents argued that the plan would cause massive layoffs in the energy sector. Now, a new report shows the US is actually poised to surpass the Clean Power Plan’s federal requirements – quite a different picture from the one Trump and his cabinet are painting. The new data comes from the 2017 Sustainable Energy in America Factbook , published by Bloomberg New Energy Finance and the Business Council for Sustainable Energy. The report notes: “Within the power sector, the progress is even more noteworthy: in 2016, greenhouse gas emissions from US power plants dropped 5.3% in just one year. Since 2005, the power sector has shrunk its carbon footprint by 24% – in other words, the US is 75% of the way to the Clean Power Plan’s “32% by 2030” headline target, with 14 additional years left to go.” Part of the reason for the lowered emissions is the fact that coal is losing its share of the energy market. Right now it only comprises 30% of the electricity grid in the US – the lowest percentage in the last 70 years. The rise in solar energy is another contributing factor – the solar industry grew by 51,000 jobs last year and seemed poised to continue growing until at least 2022, with the encouragement of the solar energy tax credit. Related: Supreme Court freezes Obama’s plan to cut CO2 emissions This report shows that the transformation in America’s energy market was in effect before the CPP was even on the table. While Obama’s clean energy policies surely accelerated it and made it easier for businesses to make the switch to renewable energy, the change was well underway. Trump’s administration may be expressing interest in repealing the rule , but it’s unlikely to stop the clean energy revolution that’s already underway. Via Gizmodo Images via Wikimedia Commons ( 1 , 2 )

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America will soon surpass the clean energy standards Trump wants to kill

Beyond politics: The Clean Power Plan will benefit the economy

September 27, 2016 by  
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“We can no longer afford a patchwork approach to clean energy.”

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Beyond politics: The Clean Power Plan will benefit the economy

Obama renews goal to bring solar to low-income housing

July 22, 2016 by  
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This week Obama focused on the Clean Energy Savings for All Initiative to bring solar power to low-income communities while training for solar jobs.

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Obama renews goal to bring solar to low-income housing

Clean energy continues to grow as emissions decline

July 15, 2016 by  
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As the presence of industrial power declines, clean energy dents carbon emissions.

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Clean energy continues to grow as emissions decline

The US could realize its 2030 emissions targets as early as this year

July 5, 2016 by  
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After analyzing recent Energy Information Administration (EIA) data, a professor from Rice University realized the U.S. could potentially realize its 2030 emissions targets as early as this year. Coal’s downslide combined with warmer winter temperatures have led to less carbon emissions so far. If coal doesn’t rebound, we could be on track to meet the 2030 goals over a decade early. In 2016, coal production tanked 29 percent compared to the same timeframe in 2015. Associate Professor of Civil and Environmental Engineering Daniel Cohan said if coal production remains so low, America could see a 32 percent carbon emissions reduction from 2005 levels. That’s the exact goal established in the Clean Power Plan (CPP). Related: The good and the bad of the EIA’s International Energy Outlook report Cohan told Forbes, “If we end up just a few percent away from the 2030 target this year, it becomes tough to argue that CPP is unattainable or too costly.” Coal production has dipped due in part to cheap prices for natural gas . While natural gas is still a fossil fuel , and not a longterm solution, when burned natural gas emits about half the carbon as coal. The EIA doesn’t think we’ll reach the 2030 targets, but they have lowered emissions estimates multiple times as they received more data on coal use. The agency has overestimated coal use and the price of renewables in the past. Their most recent data even indicates there was a larger stockpile of coal than usual in March due to the warmer winter. The warm winter and low natural gas prices aren’t the only factors that account for the promising trend to reach the 2030 goals. Cohan said diverse renewable energy technologies have also played a part in changing energy markets. He said, “Common sense can recognize that coal-laden trains from Wyoming, or even gas fracked from shale fields, will struggle to compete with direct-delivered breezes and sunshine as renewable technologies cheapen.” Via Forbes Images via Jennifer Woodard Maderazo on Flickr and Wikimedia Commons

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The US could realize its 2030 emissions targets as early as this year

What missing a Supreme Court justice means for climate change

April 29, 2016 by  
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The D.C. Circuit Court or even the Senate could wind up deciding the fate of the Clean Power Plan if a ninth Supreme Court Justice is not named before the high court takes up the plan’s challenge.

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What missing a Supreme Court justice means for climate change

Cities battle states over the Clean Power Plan

April 6, 2016 by  
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Cities say their annual costs from coastal storm damage is expected to climb from $3 billion to as high as $35 billion by the 2030s.

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Cities battle states over the Clean Power Plan

The State of Green Business: Sustainability becomes an employee perk

April 6, 2016 by  
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Your corporate sustainability practices can help to gain and keep talent.

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The State of Green Business: Sustainability becomes an employee perk

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