The Art of Origami is Now A Key Tool That Helps Doctors Save Lives – Nature World News

Posted: December 25, 2019 at 6:44 am

Dec 23, 2019 05:03 AM EST

Origami's new role in the field of science and technology has definitely taken a turn for the better in the recent decade. Better known as origami engineering, the practice is used to reduce structures or maximize space and function.

Origami engineering has made great strides in the medical field in particular. The same principles used in origami, when applied to medical devices, allows implants to be folded to minuscule sizes and then unfolded to its actual size. The reverse is also applicable, where like toothpaste tubes, can be fully de-compressed.

Folding techniques could transform flat objects with wrinkles to increase resilience, shock-absorbance, strength, or rigidity. Origami provides a unique insight into how single pieces could sustainably be packaged without cutting, welding, or riveting, allowing for cheaper manufacturing costs and easier assembly.

The utility of origami engineering has captured the attention of people such as Rebecca Taylor, assistant professor at Carnegie Mellon University's Department of Mechanical Engineering. Taylor specializes in microfabrication and biomechanics, a study that has helped her fabricate microscale sensors to reliably assess cardiomyocytes derived from stem cells. A natural inclination to similar practice, Dr. Taylor has developed an origami-based DNA synthetic cardiac contractile protein, which allowed her to observe merging mechanics in multiprotein, acto-myosinc contractile systems.

As a professor, Taylor expands on the utilization of DNA origami in medicine. This technique (also referred to by Dr. Taylor as "bottom-up manufacturing"), allows improvement in nanomanufacturing and nanomechanics of multiprotein systems, paving the way for heart stents that could unfold in a very precise location.

The problem, however, is on how to deploy these structures in a 100% fault-free way. To illustrate this, a common problem that impedes the creation of pop-up tents that could self-assemble at the press of the button is when the folds of the tent get stuck during the folding process on occasion.

Understandably, this raises some concern among those who are keen to use self-folding nanomachines in medicine.

So this is where origami comes in.

According to University of Chicago scientists, the limits of self-folding structures could be intrinsic in that so-called "sticking points" seem to be unavoidable.

Previously thought possible to engineer around, the researchers observed the capacity of foldable structures by creating mathematical models. During the experiment, the team had designed structures capable of self-folding, such as paper origami and nanobots, and creating creases in them beforehand. The result was that when more pre-creases were added to the folds, the more branches in the next folding process could form and the more likely the self-folding mechanism is to get stuck.

Origami engineering is a relatively new innovation. Its application is vast and can be of use to not only technology but to medicine as well. The development of the field itself, then, needs to pick up at a faster pace in order to cater to the intelligent design of foldable structures and materials. But while there are creases in the field that needs to be smoothed out, the greater promise of origami engineering has brought about several research papers in its wake.

RELATED ARTICLE: Swallowed a Battery? Ingestible Origami Robot Made from Pig Gut Can Remove It,Stop Stomach Bleeding

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