This Week in Weird Science: Scientists learn that mussels’ slimy discharge probably makes an amazing face cream, capable of removing scars. Next, researchers out of Sweden confirm that “beauty sleep” exists, and, because this is Sweden, those who looked “tired” were rated a meager 8/10 on the looks scale. Finally, scientists have finally designed functioning human exoskeletons, which means we’re one step closer to Iron Man.
Deadpool could probably use some mussel gloop
Mussel “gloop,” also known as “that slimy shit in my moules frites,” may hold the secret to eliminating scars, thanks to Hyung Joon Cha and his colleagues at Pohang University of Science and Technology in South Korea.
Scars are formed as a result of “broken” collagen, and, when collagen fibers regrow, they grow in a different pattern compared to the rest of your skin. This pattern results in the scar. This mere existence of scars has resulted in a billion-dollar industry that has people lasering off their skin, dousing their face in creams and gels, and even bathing in raw honey—which doesn’t work, if you’re curious. The only known, 100-percent effective solution was decorin, a natural protein produced by the skin that organizes collagen to reduce scarring.
Because decorin is nearly impossible to recreate in a lab, the researchers found a way to synthesize a simplified version of decorin. They then combined the decorin with a collagen-binding molecule and some gooey mussel secretions to create a slatherable paste capable of removing a scar.
The researchers took their paste to some scarred rats and found that, within 11 days of using the paste, the wounds on the rats were 99 percent closed, and, by day 28, the wounds were healed and scarless. More importantly, though, the collagen weave that normally results in a scar had actually returned to its original pattern.
Cha and his team say the results are promising, but, because rats have looser skin, which tends not to scar as easily, than humans, it’s uncertain how humans would react to the mussel gloop. Maybe Deadpool would actually resemble Ryan Reynolds.
You do actually need your beauty sleep
We all know that a few nights without sleep ignites the panda eyes and a look of gaunt exhaustion eerily similar to that of a heroin addict. We know we look unapproachable, but do we need science backing it up?
A study out of Sweden recently confirmed that those sleepless nights put people off socializing with you, even going so far as to rating tired faces “significantly” more ugly than their less sleepy counterparts.
Using 25 university students as guinea pigs, the researchers asked the student volunteers to get a good night sleep for two consecutive nights, and then the following week restrict themselves to four hours of sleep for two nights in a row. Between the sleep-filled and sleep-deprived tests, the researchers took make-up-free pictures of the participants.
Next, the group asked 122 Stockholmers to rate the attractiveness, health, and trustworthiness, as well as asking them: “How much would you like to socialize with this person in the picture?”
As it just so happens, “Sleeping Beauty” and “beauty sleep” are very, very much real. Strangers perceived those who had more sleep to be healthier, more attractive, and more open to social engagement. In the case of the sleep-deprived, ain’t nobody got time for that. The study suggested that “naturalistic sleep loss can be detected in a face and that people are less inclined to interact with a sleep-deprived individual.” Perhaps that’s because tired, unhealthy-looking faces activates an evolutionary adaptation to avoid what the subconscious perceives as disease? Or perhaps tired people just look angry?
“I don’t want to worry people or make them lose sleep over these findings though,” said lead researcher Dr. Tina Sundelin. “Most people can cope just fine if they miss out on a bit of sleep now and again.”
But a year of insomnia? Looks like you’ll be forever alone.
Old people will soon be wearing exoskeletons
Those unconvinced that humans will soon look like superheros need to see the latest innovation out of Italy: A human exoskeleton. Check out this video.
Designed specifically to prevent elderly people from falling, the Active Pelvis Orthosis (APO) is a robotic exoskeleton wraps around the user’s pelvis and thighs, acting as a balancing brace to “assist hip flex-extension during walking” and identify points of unbalance to prevent wearers from slipping. In non-sciency terms, it can almost instantaneously sense an impending fall and apply the necessary torque to the faltering limb.
“This is critical, since it allows these people to enjoy social relationships, experience emotional benefits, and avoid a sedentary lifestyle and its more dangerous consequences,” said Vito Monaco, a bioroboticist who contributed to the research, in an interview with ResearchGate.
Falling is the number one cause of fatal and non-fatal injuries among elderly Americans, causing 95-percent of hip fractures and most traumatic brain injuries.
The skeleton works by monitoring a person’s movements, creating an algorithm to figure out the individual’s gait. From there, the robot merely ensures the person doesn’t step out of place.
“In this situation, it is necessary to develop ecological and symbiotic solutions able to help only when necessary,” the authors wrote.
For now, testing on the new exoskeleton has proved promising, and wearers have been impressed and comforted with the robot’s capabilities. Fulvio Bertelli, a 69-year-old man who tested the device at a Florence hospital enjoyed the protection the APO ensures, “I feel more confidence when I wear the exoskeleton,” he said. Now, we just need to wait for the day science creates a fully-functioning Iron Man exoskeleton. That’ll be the day.
Top photo courtesy of Mike Mozart / Flickr CC BY SA 2.0
Tommy Burson is a travel writer, part-time hitchhiker, and he’s currently trying to imitate Where in the World is Carmen San Diego but with more sunscreen and jorts.