Think the only zombies out there are the ones you see in science fiction movies?
Researchers in New Mexico say they've created zombie cells -- near-perfect replicas of mammalian cells that can perform many of the same functions despite the fact that they're not actually alive. But instead of pursuing and eating people as sci-fi zombies often do, these experimental cells may someday do our bidding -- finding use in commercial applications ranging from sensors to catalysts to fuel cells.
Not quite sure you understand? Think of the cells as a possible next step in nanotechnology, in which scientists create machines not from big hunks of metal but from individual atoms and molecules.
"It's very challenging for researchers to build structures at the nanometer scale," lead researcher Dr. Bryan Kaehr, a materials scientist at Sandia National Laboratories in Albuquerque, said in a written statement. "We can make particles and wires, but 3-D arbitrary structures haven't been achieved yet. With this technique, we don't need to build those structures -- nature does it for us."
The technique involves first depositing silica -- the stuff sand is made of -- onto the tiny structures inside living cells. Then the cells are heated to burn away the proteins they're made of, leaving behind the nonliving but structurally similar zombies.
And like the lumbering zombies dreamed up by Hollywood screenwriters, these cellular zombies are very hard to get rid of.
Dr. Jeffrey Brinker, a University of New Mexico professor and another member of the research team, said in the statement that the zombie cells exist in a "robust, three-dimensionally stable form that resists shrinkage even upon heating to over 500 degrees Centigrade [932 degrees Fahrenheit]. The refractoriness of these delicate structures is amazing."
Let's just hope these zombies don't swell up, sprout legs, and start following us around.
The research was published with the title "Cellular Complexity Captured in Durable Silica Biocomposites" in the Oct. 8, 2012 issue of Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.
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Take A Trip?
Psychedelics like lysergic acid diethylamide (LSD) have a complicated history of being used as potential treatments for mental illness. Researchers studied <a href="http://query.nytimes.com/gst/fullpage.html?res=950DE6DC1730F931A15757C0A9649D8B63">LSD therapy</a> in the 1950s and 1960s, and published numerous clinical papers involving more than 40,000 patients. The <a href="http://www.fda.gov/regulatoryinformation/legislation/ucm148726.htm">Controlled Substances Act</a> of 1970 then prohibited the drug's medical use.
The "<a href="http://articles.latimes.com/2007/feb/19/health/he-esoterica19">tapeworm diet</a>" appeared in the early 20th century. Once thought to be an effective way to lose weight, but some tapeworm species are linked with malnutrition, nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, anemia and other health risks.
The vibrator emerged as an "<a href="http://www.nytimes.com/books/first/m/maines-technology.html">electromechanical medical instrument</a>" at the end of the 19th century to treat so-called <a href="http://bigthink.com/ideas/18074">female hysteria</a>, of which symptoms included nervousness and trouble sleeping. Advertisements for vibrators could have even been seen in the pages of a Sears, Roebuck and Company catalog.
A make-it-yourself remedy to ease a sore throat once included the strange ingredient of Album graecum (which is dried dog dung), as written in the book "<a href="http://books.google.com/books?id=D7KFvTUAVhwC&pg=PA105&lpg=PA105&dq=Album+graecum+sore+throat&source=bl&ots=KMP7gLhMlE&sig=j1aBh7lzrNwhtH1un5A8jVcAEVI&hl=en&sa=X&ei=fJ5gUNOVOarHigK39ICoAQ&ved=0CDcQ6AEwAQ#v=onepage&q=Album graecum sore throat&f=false">The Popularization of Medicine, 1650-1850</a>."
Coca-Cola As 'Healthy?'
Coca-Cola was originally created by <a href="http://voices.yahoo.com/a-quick-history-coca-cola-pepsi-soft-drinks-537657.html" target="_hplink">Dr. John Pemberton around 1886</a> as a "medicinal" formula and marketed as a "health" drink (<a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2011/02/15/coke-recipe-found_n_823552.html">it once contained cocaine</a>, but the ingredient was later removed in 1903). Soda dispensers were even installed in some pharmacies in 1948.
Shock & Lobotomy?
<a href="http://www.nimh.nih.gov/health/topics/brain-stimulation-therapies/brain-stimulation-therapies.shtml">Electroconvulsive therapy</a> (which was first developed around 1938) and <a href="http://scienceblogs.com/neurophilosophy/2007/07/24/inventing-the-lobotomy/">lobotomy</a> (first performed on humans in the 1890s) were both procedures <a href="http://www.apa.org/monitor/2011/02/myth-buster.aspx">thought to "cure" homosexuality</a>. Of course, contemporary science does not classify homosexuality an illness. Electroconvulsive therapy is, however, still a legitimate treatment for severe depression.
Smoke For Your Health?
Before anti-smoking ads became commonplace, there were pro-smoking ads. During the late 19th and early 20th centuries, the inhalation of fumes from burning tobacco was a <a href="http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2844275/">suggested therapy for asthma</a>.
The troubling myth that someone infected with a STD can transfer the disease by having sex with a virgin, thus curing themselves, dates back to at least <a href="http://www.thelancet.com/journals/lancet/article/PIIS0140-6736(04)16288-0/fulltext">the 16th Century</a>, when the practice was first documented in relation to syphilis and gonorrhea in Europe. <a href="http://articles.cnn.com/2009-06-04/living/cnnheroes.betty.makoni_1_young-girls-raped-youngest-girl?_s=PM:LIVING">The myth continues</a> in some parts of Africa, leading to many cases of reported child rape.
Heroin As Cough Medicine?
Heroin, chemically known as diacetylmorphine, was once prescribed to treat common ailments such as coughs, colds and pain--the drug was manufactured for such treatment by Bayer starting in 1898, according to <em><a href="http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/uk_news/magazine/4647018.stm">BBC News</a></em>.
Ketchup As Medicine?
In the late 1830s, <a href="http://books.google.com/books?id=e82QWB89_sIC&pg=PA107&lpg=PA107&dq=Dr.+Miles+tomato&source=bl&ots=arnopqhZJW&sig=blTANCDmjbAfY57zjYck2G4dFbU&hl=en&sa=X&ei=supgUITVCYfxiwLb_oDABQ&ved=0CCAQ6AEwAA#v=onepage&q=Dr.%20Miles%20tomato&f=false">Dr. Archibald Miles</a> claimed to have extracted a substance from tomatoes to help ailments such as diarrhea and indigestion. The pills named "<a href="http://www.cleveland.com/taste/index.ssf/2008/08/post.html">Dr. Miles' Compound Extract of Tomato</a>" were later declared a hoax.
The drug <a href="http://www.drugabuse.gov/publications/research-reports/mdma-ecstasy-abuse/brief-history-mdma">MDMA</a> (commonly known as ecstasy) dates back to the early 20th century. During the 1970s, some psychiatrists even suggested using the drug for psychotherapy. Even though the drug is now controlled, proponents of <a href="http://healthland.time.com/2011/02/18/ecstasy-as-therapy-have-some-of-its-negative-effects-been-overblown/">ecstasy therapy have reemerged</a> in recent years.
An advertisement that touts preparing radioactive drinking water at home was one of many promotions for radiation therapy around 1913. Now radium is understood to be a <a href="http://www.epa.gov/rpdweb00/radionuclides/radium.html#affecthealth">health hazard</a>--for example, long-term exposure increases the risk of developing several diseases.
Throughout history, <a href="http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/15926663">bloodletting</a> (sometimes with the aid of a leech) was practiced to both cure and prevent illness. But this treatment wasn't all bad--<a href="http://www.msnbc.msn.com/id/5319129/ns/health-health_care/t/fda-approves-leeches-medical-devices/#.UGH6QaRSTox">medical leeches</a> are now sometimes suggested <a href="http://articles.baltimoresun.com/2011-01-23/health/bs-hs-medical-leeches-20110116_1_leeches-medical-devices-medical-science">to help with blood circulation or draining blood</a> during surgeries.
Across medieval Europe and the Middle East, corpses were ground into powder and used as medicine. This "<a href="http://www.aol.com/video/mummy-powder-/517406504/">mummy powder</a>" was thought to cure common ailments, such as <a href="http://io9.com/5917027/powdered-mummy-gladiator-blood-and-other-historical-medicines-made-from-human-corpses">headaches and stomach ulcers</a>.
Mercury To Treat Syphilis?
Mercury was used as a <a href="http://ocp.hul.harvard.edu/contagion/syphilis.html">treatment for syphilis</a> until the early 20th century. Side effects of such mercury treatments could include tooth loss, ulcerations, neurological damage or even death.
Shark Cartilage To Treat Cancer?
The suggestion of using shark cartilage to treat cancer emerged around the 1950s, stemming from research by <a href="http://www.nytimes.com/1998/09/29/nyregion/john-f-prudden-78-surgeon-and-researcher.html">Dr. John Prudden</a>. But recent studies have found no health effects in taking shark cartilage, according to the <a href="http://www.cancer.gov/cancertopics/pdq/cam/cartilage/HealthProfessional/page5">National Cancer Institute</a>.
Mrs. Winslow's "<a href="http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/11806256">soothing syrup</a>" was a popular formula that emerged in the late 1800s to help ease the teething process for young children. What was in this special syrup? Alcohol and morphine sulfate. The syrup was taken off the market in the 1930s.