WBEZ | mussels http://www.wbez.org/tags/mussels Latest from WBEZ Chicago Public Radio en Clever Apes #27: Breaking the fossil record http://www.wbez.org/blog/clever-apes/2012-03-08/clever-apes-27-breaking-fossil-record-96971 <img typeof="foaf:Image" src="http://llnw.wbez.org/blog/photo/2012-March/2012-03-07/Orgel2.JPG" alt="" /><p><p><img alt="Joseph Orgel holds his sample of T. rex tissue. (WBEZ/Michael De Bonis)" class="caption" height="450" src="http://llnw.wbez.org/blog/insert-image/2012-March/2012-03-07/Orgel2.JPG" title="Joseph Orgel holds his sample of T. rex tissue. (WBEZ/Michael De Bonis)" width="600"></p><p>Dinosaurs loom large in our imaginations not just because they were in fact enormous, but also they are so ridiculously old. There has always been a big, impenetrable curtain separating us from prehistoric life. Sure, we have some ancient bones, but those had long since turned to stone. Any actual tissue, the stuff of flesh-and-blood creatures, is irrevocably lost, lasting only a few tens of thousands of years in most cases. Maybe a few stray organic molecules could persist for a few million if, say, they were frozen deep within primeval ice.</p><p>So, needless to say, it came as something of a shock when Mary Schweitzer <a href="http://www.sciencemag.org/content/307/5717/1952.abstract">discovered that she had some 68-million-year-old dinosaur tissue </a>on her hands.</p><p><img alt="Researchers at Argonne lab use tricycles to get around the Advanced Photon Sourc" class="caption" src="http://llnw.wbez.org/blog/insert-image/2012-March/2012-03-05/Orgel trike.jpg" style="margin: 10px; width: 350px; float: right; height: 267px;" title="Researchers at Argonne lab use tricycles to get around the Advanced Photon Source. (WBEZ/Michael De Bonis)">The find was and is controversial. <a href="http://genome.fieldofscience.com/2009/06/dinosaur-proteins-from-t-rex-and.html">Many scientists are skeptical or outright dismissive </a>of the idea that tissue could have persisted inside the partially fossilized thigh bone of a T. rex. But since then Schweitzer and her collaborators have gradually built up evidence that the find is real. And most recently, <a href="http://www.iit.edu/csl/bio/faculty/orgel_joseph.shtml">Joseph Orgel of the Illinois Institute of Technology </a>has begun to understand how mummified dino-flesh could possibly have survived a thousand times longer than was thought possible.</p><p>Orgel used <a href="http://aps.anl.gov/">x-ray diffraction</a>, a kind of molecular imaging technique, to understand how the dinosaur tissue is structured in detail. The particular stuff they have in hand is collagen, a material found in our bones, tendons, blood vessels and skin. It is itself a hardy molecule, and Orgel found that the protein sequences preserved in their fossils came from the innermost, protected part of the collagen fiber. So it’s possible that <a href="http://www.plosone.org/article/info%3Adoi%2F10.1371%2Fjournal.pone.0020381">collagen’s tough, ropelike structure preserved a tender bit of dinosaur jerky inside.</a></p><p>Keep in mind, this is not DNA. We will not be cloning Barney from this stuff. But understanding how these proteins can be shielded from decay for so long could hold practical lessons for modern medicine. If you’re repairing, say, a bone or cartilage, you might be able to leverage or mimic nature’s ability to make durable organic materials that don’t degrade, in effect, forever.<img alt="Phillip Messersmith designed a medical glue based on the blue mussel's natural a" class="caption" src="http://llnw.wbez.org/blog/insert-image/2012-March/2012-03-05/Messersmith.jpg" style="margin: 10px; width: 250px; float: left; height: 333px;" title="Phillip Messersmith designed a medical glue based on the blue mussel's natural adhesive. (WBEZ/Michael De Bonis)"></p><p>Also in today’s episode, we consider another example of design inspired by biology. <a href="http://biomaterials.bme.northwestern.edu/mussel.asp">Dr. Phillip Messersmith’s muse is the blue mussel </a>– a bivalve that secretes a unique adhesive to stick itself to rocks or boat hulls or wherever it feels like sticking. (They form their connective threads and tacky pads through a kind of shellfish injection-molding process. The video below, provided by the Messersmith lab, captures an amazing example.) This stuff turns out to have some key qualities that a surgeon would envy. It starts as a liquid and solidifies quickly, it functions well under water and it’s sticky as hell.</p><p>That’s a big advantage over the medical glues out there that doctors use to attach or repair tissues. The safest ones are too weak. The strongest ones (basically, super glue) are toxic. <a href="http://biomaterials.bme.northwestern.edu/">Messersmith and his lab-mates at Northwestern University </a>are using the fundamentals of the mussel glue to design their own version, which they demonstrated for us on some sausage casing.</p><p>So someday, maybe they’ll be able to install a dino-inspired bone patch in your body, and lock it down with some mussel glue. Until then, don’t forget to subscribe to our <a href="http://itunes.apple.com/us/podcast/wbezs-clever-apes/id379051174" target="_blank" title="http://feeds.feedburner.com/CleverApesPodcast">podcast</a>, follow us on&nbsp;<a href="http://twitter.com/#%21/cleverapes" target="_blank" title="http://twitter.com/#!/cleverapes">Twitter</a>, and find us on&nbsp;<a href="http://www.facebook.com/pages/Clever-Apes-on-WBEZ/118246851551412" target="_blank" title="http://www.facebook.com/pages/Clever-Apes-on-WBEZ/118246851551412">Facebook</a>.</p><p><iframe allowfullscreen="" frameborder="0" height="451" mozallowfullscreen="" src="http://player.vimeo.com/video/38034455?color=ff0179" webkitallowfullscreen="" width="601"></iframe></p></p> Wed, 07 Mar 2012 16:30:00 -0600 http://www.wbez.org/blog/clever-apes/2012-03-08/clever-apes-27-breaking-fossil-record-96971 A bit of Belgium comes to Chicago Avenue http://www.wbez.org/blog/steve-dolinsky/bit-belgium-comes-chicago-avenue <img typeof="foaf:Image" src="http://llnw.wbez.org/pretzel.jpg" alt="" /><p><p style="text-align: center;"><img height="299" width="400" src="http://llnw.wbez.org/blog/insert-image/2011-January/2011-01-06/moules.JPG" title="" alt="" />&nbsp;</p><p style="text-align: left;">Last night we met some friends at <a href="http://leopoldchicago.com/">Leopold</a>, a brand new Belgian-style restaurant on Chicago Avenue, in the space that used to house the Relax Lounge (the neon green &quot;+&quot; sign is still out front, and no, it's not a pharmacy). &nbsp;The restaurant has only been open a couple of days - they're still waiting for the liquor license - so I brought over a 750 ml bottle of Chimay and went searching for some mussels.</p><p style="text-align: left;">Those moules + frites actually come one of two ways: either steamed with white wine, madras curry and a touch of cream, or steamed with a tripel karmeliet beer, bits of bacon and shredded leeks. &nbsp;Both versions arrive with a small pot of onion aioli for dipping the wonderful frites into. &nbsp;At $12, this heaping bowl was more than enough for two of us; the mussels plump and the shells intact, with the broth beneath a pool of earthy, hoppy aroma. &nbsp;We were dying for a slice or two of bread just to soak it up, but the fries were fine in a pinch.</p><p style="text-align: center;"><img height="299" width="400" src="http://llnw.wbez.org/blog/insert-image/2011-January/2011-01-06/poutine.jpg" title="" alt="" /></p><p style="text-align: left;">Poutine is more a product of Quebec than Belgium, but hey, the French have influence in both countries, so why not? &nbsp;Leopold's version begins with those hand-cut fries as a base, then gets a mild shower of lamb sausage gravy and a blob of cheese curds that actually melted into an oozy mess from the heat of the frites. &nbsp;As much as this would have made great alcohol-soaking fare at 2 a.m., our group had no trouble polishing it off at the lame-o hour of 6 p.m. (which is when the room started getting busy, so better make reservations).</p><p style="text-align: center;"><img height="536" width="400" src="http://llnw.wbez.org/blog/insert-image/2011-January/2011-01-06/pretzel.jpg" title="" alt="" /></p><p style="text-align: left;">The hearty pretzel comes from La Farine Bakery, across the street. &nbsp;We loved the currant mustard - simultaneously sweet and tart, but also assertive; a fine companion to the chewy, salty snack. &nbsp;I kept imagining how great these kinds of dishes are going to go with the ambitious Belgian beer list. &nbsp;We also tried some prime steak tartare, dressed with a bit of sea salt, shallot and capers, it arrives with a single egg yolk the color of the sun, as well as a crunchy frisee salad and a few slices of toast. &nbsp;Another odd but satisfying item: the homemade pierogi plate. &nbsp;Five large Polish dumplings arrived, stuffed with farmer's cheese and coated in brown butter, making <a href="http://www.kasiasdeli.com/">Kasia's</a> versions seem a little, well, pedestrian. &nbsp;We also tried some smoked rabbit, which had some mustard spaetzle beneath it, and a plate of braised short rib that arrived with a starchy companion in the form of <em>stoemp</em> - a kind of root vegetable cake that was actually a lot more interesting than simple mashed potatoes. &nbsp;The highlight, however, was dessert:</p><p style="text-align: center;"><img height="299" width="400" src="http://llnw.wbez.org/blog/insert-image/2011-January/2011-01-06/dessert.jpg" title="" alt="" /></p><p style="text-align: left;">The dessert list is brief - just two items, both for $5 - with a special of Belgian waffles offered as a third option. &nbsp;But if they're carrying the baked apple embedded with currants, showered in hazelnut and served above a pool of salted caramel, served with some allspice gelato from Black Dog, don't even hesitate. &nbsp;This combination of salt, sweet, fruit, crunch and savory/herby/creaminess was literally fought over until the last bite. &nbsp;I'm looking forward to seeing how the beer list matches the menu, and will undoubtedly be back to Leopold very soon.&nbsp;</p></p> Fri, 07 Jan 2011 12:00:00 -0600 http://www.wbez.org/blog/steve-dolinsky/bit-belgium-comes-chicago-avenue