Thursday 17 May 2018

Dr Karl Visits Petrosains

On Friday, 9th February 2018, a well-known Australian scientist and science communicator, Dr Karl Kruszelnicki shared his deep affection for science with about 80 secondary crème de la crème students we invited from Sekolah Sultan Alam Shah, SBPI Rawang, SBPI Gombak and Sekolah Menengah Sains Hulu Selangor. The engagement sessions titled “Great Moments in Science” were arranged by Petrosains, in collaboration with the Australian High Commission with the objective of encouraging and embarking young audiences on the STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics).  Here are some of his sharing that I found very interesting that I further dug about. 

Who are you, a scientist or an engineer? Dr Karl discussed the difference between scientist and engineer where a scientist is a person who works on discovering something that no one has discovered before. On the other hand, an engineer is a person that designs and fix something to work better. The main key to innovating and to invent is Top down, Bottom up that refer to when we want to do a thing, we need to start from something big to small or vice versa. An example of good engineering invention is 3D Printer which adds values to our life. The printer can help us to customize things ourselves instead of purchasing bulk-produced items such as toys and even a house! Do you know that we do have an in-house 3D printers running in our Maker Lab in Petrosains?

Are you surprised to know that our trachea looks just like a vacuum cleaner or a washing machine hose? A strong cartilage is essential to our respiratory system as it prevents the trachea to collapse. Back in 2012, an adorable baby Garrett Peterson was born with a defective windpipe. His condition, known as Tracheobronchomalacia, left his trachea so weak the littlest thing could make it collapse, cutting off his ability to breathe. 

Two experts from the University of Michigan Dr Glenn Green, an associate professor of pediatric otolaryngology and biomedical engineer Scott Hollister, had gotten emergency clearance from the US Food & Drug Administration (FDA) to carry out the treatment on the baby. After doing a CT scan of Garrett's trachea and bronchi, Hollister used a 3D printer to create a splint out of a biopolymer called polycaprolactone; PCL. PCL is malleable; it can be designed into all kinds of intricate structures. When a splint is created using PCL, it becomes a sort of biological placeholder, braces the structures while the body heals around it. 

As time passes, PCL degrades and is excreted out of the body, hopefully leaving behind a healed organ. A splint was placed around Garrett's right and left bronchi to expand his airway, and while it acts as support it also helps the defected organ to heal optimally with less stress. The doctors say the splint will be absorbed by Garrett's body during the next three years as his airways grow stronger. In the meantime, Garrett is breathing easier and needs less help from the ventilator. 

The audience was beamed with incredible flows of information and actively responded with out of the box questions and queries. One of the issues that have been brought to attention by the audience is if the person chose to be immortal, does the person will still be ageing and change (read: deteriorate *chuckles*) physically? There is a more interesting issue was discussed during this session hence I will meet you in my next write up on cloning our organs! 

I. Splint - a strip of rigid material used for supporting and immobilizing a broken bone when it has been set.
II. Otolaryngology - surgical subspecialty within medicine that deals with conditions of the ear, nose, and throat (ENT) and related structures of the head and neck.

Reference & further readings:

Shared by Hani Nordin
Guest Blogger

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