List

The most exciting phrase to hear in science, the one that heralds new discoveries, is not “Eureka” but “That’s funny…”
—Isaac Asimov (1920–1992)

Last week we made public our last results on understanding biological systems: we discovered that some vertebrates (amphibians and fishes, together accounting for half the vertebrates on earth) DO produce chitin. Even more, the disruption of that chitin production results on deformities of fish embryos, a result forcing us to revaluate the impact of chitin synthesis inhibitors.

We discovered however something more. During the analysis of chitin we discovered a strange signal in the background noise, not corresponding to chitin. A further study revealed that the signal was produced by synthetic polymers (i.e. plastic) and in particular we confirmed the presence of polystyrene. The presence of these polymers in fishes is a consequence of the extraordinary ability of their mucosa to capture hydrophobic particles, a phenomenon very well known in humans. This raises to a complete new level the impact of microplastic in animals.

Serendipity is defined as: “the phenomenon of finding valuable or agreeable things not sought for” and in science is basically “too keep the eyes open”. Some of the greatest scientific discovers are produced by unexpected results, and it is the role of the scientist to keep the mind and eyes open to them.

 

Huffington Post published a great article on our (unexpected) finding and its implications: http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2015/03/23/plastic-ocean-pollution-fish-health_n_6923872.html

The full article can be found here: http://www.cell.com/current-biology/abstract/S0960-9822(15)00090-1

 

(Photo: AP Photo/5gyres.org, Carolyn Box)

One Response to “Serendipity in Science: looking for chitin and finding plastic”

  1. Gabriella Pleasant

    Excuse me!

    I’m a part of the Sustainability Lab at the University of California Santa Cruz and I’m currently working on a project to aid in eliminating microplastics from the ocean. However! In order to print out the design of my machine I would need to introduce more plastic into the ocean, as the only 3D printing materials available to me are nonbiodegradable. I want to print my machines out of chitosan, but am unsure how to make it into what I need (I’m not a chemist).

    To get to the point, I was hoping I could purchase FLAM from you to use for the printing of my machines. Or, after reading this article, purchase chitosan from you if it’s already being implemented by a company that deals in 3D printing.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

  Posts

March 18th, 2020

We developed the link between urban waste and additive manufacturing: Bioinspired engineering was the missing piece for regional circular economies

Urban waste and bioinspired engineering provide key ingredients to 3D printed materials, allowing for global adoption of sustainable manufacturing processes. […]

April 2nd, 2019

Nano-cellulose for the encapsulation and delivery of cells

Tissue engineering is a medical solution that uses living cells to repair or replace structural tissue, such as blood vessels, […]

November 16th, 2018

The largest biological structure ever printed

Since its invention plastic has become central in our economy and way of life. If in the 1950’s we produced […]

September 8th, 2016

Our patent on Shrilk has been granted

The United States Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO) has issued a patent on our application for Shrilk. The patent “High […]

November 5th, 2015

Making Chitosan objects: A school activity

“Education is the most powerful weapon which you can use to change the world.” —Nelson Mandela (1918-2013)   Chitin is […]

March 25th, 2015

Serendipity in Science: looking for chitin and finding plastic

The most exciting phrase to hear in science, the one that heralds new discoveries, is not “Eureka” but “That’s funny…” […]

January 15th, 2015

Guide To The 3-D Printed Universe

Megan Molteni, from Popular Science, has produced a graphical review of the present and upcoming 3D technologies. She include our […]

This website uses cookies to ensure you get the best experience on our website more information

The cookie settings on this website are set to "allow cookies" to give you the best browsing experience possible. If you continue to use this website without changing your cookie settings or you click "Accept" below then you are consenting to this.

Close