Can burrs offer a better repair of torn rotator cuffs?

Inspired by burrs from plants, new suturing schemes show promise for surgical reattachment of tendon to bone, report researchers.

Tendon-to-bone reattachment is required in many surgical procedures, perhaps most commonly in repairing torn rotator cuff tendons in the shoulder, a condition that will affect more than 30% of the population over 60. Current suturing methods fail to distribute stress evenly, leading to failure rates as high as 94% due to ineffective attachment and re-tearing of sutures.

A team of researchers led by Guy Genin, co-director of the Center for Engineering MechanoBiology (CEMB) and professor of mechanical engineering at the McKelvey School of Engineering at Washington University in St. Louis, has developed a new approach to suturing based on the mechanics and spacing of a hitchhiker plant’s attachment system.

Their strategies show promise for balancing forces across sutures, reducing the stress on healing tendons, and potentially doubling repair strength over current suturing schemes.

The findings appear in Proceedings of the Royal Society A.

“When the late, great Barbara Pickard, a pioneer of mechanobiology who helped found the CEMB, got these burrs on her socks during a walk through the desert, she didn’t simply discard them; she latched onto this idea that nature could provide novel solutions in unexpected places,” says Genin.

Decades after Pickard’s walk, she shared her experience with burrs—similar to the hitchhiker plants that inspired hook-and-loop fastener technology—with Genin and his graduate student, Ethan D. Hoppe, lead author of the new study. For Genin and Hoppe, this was a kind of “eureka” moment.

Genin, Hoppe, and their collaborators had been studying the surgical reattachment of tendon to bone for years. They wondered, could a burr’s method of balancing forces be used in the repair of tissues?

To test this, Hoppe set out to grow some of the hitchhiker plant Pickard had encountered, Harpagonella palermi, and analyze the unique array of hooks on its fruits. Unfortunately, H. palermi is only found in a few remote patches of southwestern desert. “Your local garden store doesn’t carry these,” Hoppe notes.

After a long search, the team found collaborator Matt Guilliams, a plant systematist and curator of the Clifton Smith Herbarium at the Santa Barbara Botanic Garden, which curates native California plant species. “After Matt sent us some of the fruits he had harvested and we were able to look at them closely, we knew that we had something interesting,” Hoppe says. “The spacing and stiffness of H. palermi‘s burrs were unusual, and we set out to model how they hold on to soft materials so reliably.”

The mathematical model the team developed pointed to a unique scheme that balances forces.

“When surgeons repair something like a rotator cuff, they remove all the body’s natural connectors, which have evolved for the complex task of transitioning from hard bone to soft tendon, and put in sutures that concentrate force in a tiny area. That’s what leads to the high failure rate we see for that procedure,” Hoppe says.

“Nature has already shown us how hard materials, like the stiff hooks on a burr, can attach very effectively to soft materials like socks or a dog’s fur. We just needed to do the stress analysis to figure out how burrs compare to sutures and how this natural solution might be applied in medical practice.”

Indeed, nature’s solution to a common attachment issue may prove effective in overcoming one of the greatest challenges in orthopedic surgery. The team found that H. palermi simply and effectively balanced forces across attachment points, even when the points of connection were relatively few and the materials were substantially different. Using the mathematical model they developed to assess changes in suturing procedure based on the mechanics of hitchhiker plants, the team is now evaluating new suturing methods.

Pre-clinical testing of the new suturing methods already is underway in the laboratory of coauthor Stavros Thomopoulos, professor at Columbia University and director of Carroll Laboratories for Orthopedic Surgery.

“We are very excited to implement this concept in a real-world surgical setting,” Thomopoulos says. “Current experiments in the laboratory are evaluating how suture spacing inspired by hitchhiker plants affects rotator cuff repair strength.”

Genin and Thomopoulos anticipate that these improved techniques may be in surgical practice in the next two years.

Funding for this research came in part from the NSF Science and Technology Center for Engineering MechanoBiology and the National Institutes of Health.

Source: Washington University in St. Louis


Texas man whose son helped dump mother's corpse convicted of killing wife, lover after catching them on camera

A Texas man was sentenced to life in prison after being convicted of killing his wife and her lover, then having his son dump his mother’s body. 

Jordy Husein Suljanovic, 46, was found guilty Tuesday of fatally shooting his wife Adriana Perez, 41, and her 33-year-old boyfriend Omar Santamaria-Ruiz after he caught them on a hidden camera in their Houston home on Oct. 2, 2018.

After the murders, Suljanovic and his 21-year-old son, Jordy Suljanovic Jr., drove to Louisiana, where Santamaria-Ruiz’s body was dumped in the woods outside Natchitoches.

Suljanovic Jr. dumped his mother’s body near the Atchafalaya River outside of Baton Rouge, according to authorities. 


Jordy Husein Suljanovic, left, was convicted of killing his wife, Adriana Perez, in Texas.

Jordy Husein Suljanovic, left, was convicted of killing his wife, Adriana Perez, in Texas. (FOX 26 Houston KRIV)

He pleaded guilty last year to tampering with evidence, namely a corpse, in exchange for a five-year prison sentence. 

Suljanovic Sr., a Bosnian refugee who became a long-haul truck driver, reportedly sold his home and fled to Mexico City with his two young daughters, his son and his son’s 16-year-old girlfriend. 


The plan was to flee to Bosnia, but law enforcement arrested him in London after the first leg of their trip and extradited back to Houston. 

On Tuesday, Suljanovic was convicted of capital murder after an eight-day trial and automatically sentenced to lie in prison without parole.

Jordy Suljanovic Jr. admitted dumping his mother's corpse after his father killed her.

Jordy Suljanovic Jr. admitted dumping his mother’s corpse after his father killed her. (FOX 26 Houston KRIV)

Harris County District Attorney Kim Ogg said in a statement after the sentencing that Suljanovic “killed two people, including the mother of his children, and tried to flee the country to escape responsibility.”

“We know that domestic violence can escalate to murder, and that is why it is so important to seek justice for the victims in cases like this,” she said. 

Assistant District Attorney Lauren Bard, who prosecuted the case with ADA Kim Nwabeke, said Suljanovic had a history of abusive behavior toward his wife.


“She had been verbally and physically abused by him. And since she was born and raised in Mexico, she didn’t have citizenship of her own and probably didn’t feel like she could leave, she couldn’t go anywhere,” Bard said, according to FOX 26 Houston.

“I’m sure she felt trapped, and she also had two younger daughters and probably stayed in part because of the kids.”


Microsoft is bringing ChatGPT technology to Word, Excel and Outlook


Microsoft on Thursday outlined its plans to bring artificial intelligence to its most recognizable productivity tools, including Outlook, PowerPoint, Excel and Word, with the promise of changing how millions do their work every day.

At an event on Thursday, the company announced that Microsoft 365 users will soon be able to use what the company is calling an AI “Co-pilot,” which will help edit, summarize, create and compare documents. But don’t call it Clippy. The new features, which are built on the same technology that underpins ChatGPT, are far more powerful (and less anthropomorphized) than its wide-eyed, paperclip-shaped predecessor.

With the new features, users will be able to transcribe meeting notes during a Skype call, summarize long email threads to quickly draft suggested replies, request to create a specific chart in Excel, and turn a Word document into a PowerPoint presentation in seconds.

Microsoft is also introducing a concept called Business Chat, an agent that essentially rides along with the user as they work and tries to understand and make sense of their Microsoft 365 data. The agent will know what’s in a user’s email and on their calendar for the day as well as the documents they’ve been working on, the presentations they’ve been making, the people they’re meeting with, and the chats happening on their Teams platform, according to the company. Users can then ask Business Chat to do tasks such as write a status report by summarizing all of the documents across platforms on a certain project, and then draft an email that could be sent to their team with an update.

Microsoft’s announcement comes a month after it brought similar AI-powered features to Bing and amid a renewed arms race in the tech industry to develop and deploy AI tools that can change how people work, shop and create. Earlier this week, rival Google announced it is also bringing AI to its productivity tools, including Gmail, Sheets and Docs.

During a presentation to its customers on Thursday, Microsoft outlined its road map for how it plans to bring artificial intelligence to its Microsoft 365 services, including Outlook, Teams, PowerPoint, Excel and Word.

The news also comes two days after OpenAI, the company behind Microsoft’s artificial intelligence technology and the creator of ChatGPT, unveiled its next-generation model, GPT-4. The update has stunned many users in early tests and a company demo with its ability to draft lawsuits, pass standardized exams and build a working website from a hand-drawn sketch.

OpenAI said it added more “guardrails” to keep conversations on track and has worked to make the tool less biased. But the update, and the moves by larger tech companies to integrate this technology, could add to challenging questions around how AI tools can upend professions, enable students to cheat, and shift our relationship with technology. Microsoft’s new Bing browser has already been using GPT-4, for better or worse.

A Microsoft spokesperson said 365 users accessing the new AI tools should be reminded the technology is a work in progress and information will need to be double checked. Although OpenAI has made vast improvements to its latest model, GPT-4 has similar limitations to previous versions. The company said it can still make “simple reasoning errors” or be “overly gullible in accepting obvious false statements from a user,” and does not fact check.

Still, Microsoft believes the changes will improve the experience of people at work in a significant way by allowing them to do tasks easier and less tedious, freeing them up to be more analytical and creative.


Dry cleaning chemical may be invisible Parkinson’s cause

A common and widely used chemical may be fueling the rise of Parkinson’s disease, the world’s fastest growing brain condition, researchers say.

For the past 100 years, trichloroethylene (TCE) has been used to decaffeinate coffee, degrease metal, and dry clean clothes. It contaminates the Marine Corps base Camp Lejeune, 15 toxic Superfund sites in Silicon Valley, and up to one-third of groundwater in the US.

TCE causes cancer, is linked to miscarriages and congenital heart disease, and is associated with a 500% increased risk of Parkinson’s disease.

In a hypothesis paper in the Journal of Parkinson’s Disease, researchers, including University of Rochester Medical Center neurologists Ray Dorsey, Ruth Schneider, and Karl Kieburtz, postulate that TCE may be an invisible cause of Parkinson’s. They detail the widespread use of the chemical, the evidence linking the toxicant to Parkinson’s, and profile seven individuals, including a former NBA basketball player , a Navy captain, and a late US Senator, who developed Parkinson’s disease either after likely working with the chemical or being exposed to it in the environment.

Massive TCE contamination

TCE was a widely used solvent used in a number of industrial, consumer, military, and medical applications, including to remove paint, correct typewriting mistakes, clean engines, and anesthetize patients.

Its use in the US peaked in the 1970s, when more than 600 million pounds of the chemical—or two pounds per American—were manufactured annually. Some 10 million Americans worked with the chemical or other similar industrial solvents. While domestic use has since fallen, TCE is still used for degreasing metal and spot dry cleaning in the US.

TCE contaminates countless sites across the country. Half of the most toxic Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) Superfund sites contain TCE. Fifteen sites are in California’s Silicon Valley where the chemicals were used to clean electronics and computer chips. TCE is found in numerous military bases, including Camp Lejeune in North Carolina. From the 1950s to the 1980s a million Marines, their families, and civilians that worked or resided at the base were exposed to drinking water levels of TCE and perchloroethylene (PCE), a close chemical cousin, that were up to 280 times above what is considered safe levels.

Soil, water, and air

The connection between TCE and Parkinson’s was first hinted at in case studies more than 50 years ago. In the intervening years, research in mice and rats has shown that TCE readily enters the brain and body tissue and at high doses damages the energy-producing parts of cells known as mitochondria. In animal studies, TCE causes selective loss of dopamine-producing nerve cells, a hallmark of Parkinson’s disease in humans.

Individuals who worked directly with TCE have an elevated risk of developing Parkinson’s. However, the authors warn that “millions more encounter the chemical unknowingly through outdoor air, contaminated groundwater, and indoor air pollution.”

The chemical can contaminate soil and groundwater leading to underground rivers, or plumes, that can extend over long distances and migrate over time. One such plume associated with an aerospace company on Long Island, New York, is over four miles long and two miles wide, and has contaminated the drinking water of thousands. Others are found everywhere from Shanghai, China to Newport Beach, California.

Beyond their risks to water, the volatile TCE can readily evaporate and enter people’s homes, schools, and workplaces, often undetected. Today, this vapor intrusion is likely exposing millions who live, learn, and work near former dry cleaning, military, and industrial sites to toxic indoor air. Vapor intrusion was first reported in the 1980s when radon was found to evaporate from soil and enter homes and increase the risk of lung cancer. Today millions of homes are tested for radon, but few are for the cancer-causing TCE.

Personal stories of Parkinson’s and TCE

The piece profiles seven individuals where TCE may have contributed to their Parkinson’s disease. While the evidence linking TCE exposure to Parkinson’s disease in these individuals is circumstantial, their stories highlight the challenges of building the case against the chemical. For these individuals, decades have often passed between exposure to TCE and the onset of Parkinson’s symptoms.

The case studies include the professional basketball player Brian Grant, who played for 12 years in the NBA and was diagnosed with Parkinson’s at age 36. Grant was likely exposed to TCE when he was three years old and his father, then a Marine, was stationed at Camp Lejeune. Grant has created a foundation to inspire and support people with the disease.

Amy Lindberg was similarly exposed to the contaminated drinking water at Camp Lejeune while serving as a young Navy captain and would go on to be diagnosed with Parkinson’s disease 30 years later.

The piece details others whose exposure was the result of living close to a contaminated site or working with the chemical, including the late US Senator Johnny Isakson, who stepped down from office after a Parkinson’s diagnosis in 2015. Fifty years earlier, he served in the Georgia Air National Guard, which used TCE to degrease airplanes.

End the use of TCE

The authors note that “for more than a century, TCE has threatened workers, polluted the air we breathe—outside and inside—and contaminated the water we drink. Global use is waxing, not waning.”

The authors propose a series of actions to address the public health threat TCE poses. They note that contaminated sites can be successfully remediated and indoor air exposure can be mitigated by vapor remediation systems similar to those used for radon. However, the US alone is home to thousands of contaminated sites and this process of cleaning and containment must be accelerated.

They argue for more research to better understand how TCE contributes to Parkinson’s and other diseases. TCE levels in groundwater, drinking water, soil, and outdoor and indoor air require closer monitoring and this information needs to be shared with those who live and work near polluted sites.

In addition, the authors call for finally ending the use of these chemicals in the US. PCE is still widely used today in dry cleaning and TCE in vapor degreasing. Two states, Minnesota and New York, have banned TCE, but the federal government has not, despite findings by the EPA as recently as 2022 that the chemicals pose “an unreasonable risk to human health.”

Additional coauthors are from Harvard University; Radboud University Medical Centre in the Netherlands; the University of California, San Francisco; the University of Alabama at Birmingham; and the University of Rochester.

Source: University of Rochester


Garcetti clears Senate hurdle with help from GOP, on track to be ambassador to India

Former Los Angeles mayor Eric Garcetti was confirmed by the Senate on Wednesday to be Ambassador to India with a vote of 52-42, thanks to help from seven Republicans, more than 600 days since he was first nominated by President Joe Biden.

GOP senators Bill Cassidy, La.; Roger Marshall, Kan.; Lindsey Graham, S.C.; Steve Daines, Mont.; Susan Collins, Maine; Bill Hagerty, Tenn.; and Todd Young, Ind. voted to confirm Garcetti.

Democrats Mark Kelly, D-Ariz., Sherrod Brown, D-Ohio, and Mazie Hirono, D-Hawaii, voted with 39 Republicans against Garcetti.

Garcetti became controversial after reports surfaced that he ignored sexual harassment allegations against his former chief of staff in Los Angeles. Sen. Marco Rubio, R-Fla., placed a hold on the nomination last month, and said Garcetti “has ignored credible sexual assault accusations in his prior office.”


Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti delivers State of the City Address from the under-construction Sixth Street Viaduct on Thursday, April 14, 2022, in Los Angeles. (Gary Coronado / Los Angeles Times via Getty Images)

Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti delivers State of the City Address from the under-construction Sixth Street Viaduct on Thursday, April 14, 2022, in Los Angeles. (Gary Coronado / Los Angeles Times via Getty Images) (Gary Coronado / Los Angeles Times via Getty Images)

Biden first nominated Garcetti in July 2021. After clearing his first committee hurdle, Garcetti failed to earn a full Senate vote after new revelations about a sexual harassment lawsuit involving his former top adviser came to light.

Those accusations are highlighted in a pending lawsuit against Rick Jacobs, Garcetti’s former chief of staff. Jacobs is being accused of sexual harassment in the form of inappropriate comments, unwanted kissing and touching, and sexual advances against a male LAPD officer assigned to Garcetti’s security detail, a male reporter and other whistleblowers.


Senior Republican Sen. Chuck Grassley of Iowa opened an investigation last year into the matter and conducted interviews with 15 witnesses and examined 26 depositions and other documentary evidence, including emails and text messages. Grassley’s investigative staff concluded that Garcetti “likely knew, or should have known, that his former senior adviser was sexually harassing and making racist remarks toward multiple individuals.”

Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti speaks a press conference at the new West Gates at Tom Bradley International Terminal at Los Angeles International Airport Monday, May 24, 2021, in Los Angeles. (AP Photo/Ashley Landis)

Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti speaks a press conference at the new West Gates at Tom Bradley International Terminal at Los Angeles International Airport Monday, May 24, 2021, in Los Angeles. (AP Photo/Ashley Landis) (AP Photo/Ashley Landis)

“Nobody is that brazen to engage in this type of outrageous behavior against other people unless they know that they have a powerful enabler protecting them. Based on the facts and the evidence, that enabler is Mayor Eric Garcetti,” Grassley said last year.

The White House called that investigation a “hit job” and said President Biden has maintained full support in his nominee who is “well qualified to serve in this vital role.”

Libby Liu, CEO of Whistleblower Aid, which represented Garcetti’s former communications director and a whistleblower who testified to sexual abuse at Los Angeles City Hall, said in a statement Wednesday:

“Today’s confirmation flies in the face of what 19 courageous whistleblowers, victims and witnesses came forward to bear witness to the Senate: that Eric Garcetti enabled, tolerated and covered up years of sexual abuse his top aide at Los Angeles City Hall.”


Garcetti cleared a Senate hurdle Wednesday despite allegations that he ignored a charge of inappropriate behavior by a former staffer.

Garcetti cleared a Senate hurdle Wednesday despite allegations that he ignored a charge of inappropriate behavior by a former staffer. ((Gary Coronado/Los Angeles Times via AP, Pool, File))

“This appalling behavior from an elected public leader should be disqualifying for any official position,” she said. “This will have a chilling effect on future attempts to hold enablers and perpetrators to account and cause victims and witnesses to think twice about the risks they are taking in coming forward.”

One Republican said it was critical for the Senate to confirm an ambassador to India after nearly two years of delay.


“For more than two years, the Biden administration and Senate Democrats have failed to get a Senate-confirmed Ambassador to India — the world’s largest democracy, a rising economic power, and one of our most important strategic partners in the Indo-Pacific,” said Sen. Hagerty. “As a former U.S. Ambassador to Japan, I know firsthand that this is a critical U.S. diplomatic position.”


Imran Khan greets supporters outside home after Pakistan police arrest operation ends in chaos

Islamabad, Pakistan

Former Pakistani Prime Minister Imran Khan greeted supporters outside his Lahore residence Wednesday, after police were ordered to suspend an operation to arrest him amid a violent standoff around the compound.

Khan was pictured in one video wearing a gas mask as he spoke to and took pictures with those who had gathered outside his property.

Police in Lahore had been attempting to arrest Khan for not showing up to court on corruption charges.

Officers were ordered to suspend the operation until 10 a.m. local time on Thursday, after clashes between police and supporters of the embattled opposition leader stretched into a second day.

The intervention from the Lahore High Court Wednesday was made due to security concerns around a high-profile cricket match taking place in the city, with the judge citing the need to “maintain peace,” two Pakistani government officials familiar with the matter told CNN.

Police and paramilitary troops had arrived at Khan’s residence on Tuesday afternoon, the day after an arrest warrant was issued by the Islamabad High Court to force him to appear on Saturday. Khan’s supporters then camped outside his home, announcing they would not let the arrest happen.

Imran Khan greets supporters outside his residence in Lahore on Wednesday.

Khan faces allegations of illegally selling gifts given to him by foreign dignitaries while he was in office, which he has rejected as “biased.”

The former prime minister, who was ousted in a parliamentary no-confidence vote last April, has since led a popular campaign against the current government, accusing it of colluding with the military to remove him from office.

The doorstep of Khan’s home in the eastern city was a battleground earlier Wednesday as riot police swarmed the wider Zaman Park neighborhood.

Khan’s supporters hurled stones and projectiles at police while people inside his residence lit fires after officers fired tear gas into the compound.

Police also used water cannons in an effort to disperse them, footage shared by Khan’s Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) party and local media showed.

Supporters of former Prime Minister Imran Khan chant anti government slogans as they gather outside his residence, in Lahore on Wednesday.

Paramilitary troops take position as riot police officer fire tear gas to disperse the supporters of Imran Khan.

Police later cut the electricity supply to Khan’s home and turned street lights off in the neighborhood, according to Khan’s spokesperson and other backers.

Early on Wednesday morning, a Pakistani police official told CNN that a total of 69 people had been injured in the violence in Lahore, including 34 police officers. The official, speaking on condition of anonymity, added that people inside Khan’s residence were armed with guns.

Amid the standoff, Khan on Wednesday signed a surety bond stating he would appear at the Islamabad High Court on Saturday. However, the handwritten note did not say whether he would appear in person or send a representative.

Protests had also broken out in major cities across Pakistan on Tuesday in support of Khan, who released a video on social media asking his followers to “come out” in support of his movement if he was detained.

Following the order to halt the operation, CNN’s stringer on the ground in Lahore said police were clearing the area outside Khan’s residence and retreating. Police confirmed to CNN they were doing so on the orders of the Lahore High Court.

PTI Senior Party Leader Asad Umar said in a video message posted on Twitter that despite the order, police could still remain in nearby areas, and instructed PTI members to stay near Khan’s residence.

The cricket legend turned politician has accused Pakistani authorities of attempting to arrest him to remove him from upcoming by-elections in April and a general election scheduled for October.

“[The government], they’re petrified that if I come into power, I will hold them accountable,” Khan told CNN on Tuesday. “They also know that even if I go to jail, we will swing the elections no matter what they do.”

The former leader says the charges against him are politically motivated and has warned that attempts to arrest him could lead to a dangerous escalation in political violence in the country. He also believes that Pakistan’s ruling coalition might eventually use a “pretext of violence” to delay the upcoming votes.

In a statement to CNN, Pakistan’s information minister denied any political involvement in the case.

“The government has nothing to do with the arrest (of Khan), and the arrest has nothing to do with elections. The police is only complying with the orders of the court,” Marriyum Aurangzeb said.

“Instead of cooperating with law enforcement officials, Imran Khan is breaking the law, defying court orders and using his party workers as human shields to evade arrest and stoke unrest,” she added.

Police use water cannons to disperse supporters of former Prime Minister Imran Khan during clashes, in Lahore on Wednesday.

Imran Khan backers throw stones at riot police officers firing tear gas on Wednesday.

In an interview that aired Tuesday in the United States, Pakistan’s Foreign Minister Bilawal Bhutto Zardari said Khan faced arrest “because of his ego.”

Speaking to Comedy Central’s “The Daily Show,” Zardari said Khan had repeatedly refused to appear in court and fight his case, often reasoning that he’s “too important” to face trial.

“What we’ve seen over the past couple of weeks have been a complete mockery of the judicial system in Pakistan, of rule of law, of the constitution in Pakistan – where had he gone to court, there was probably no reason he had to face imminent arrest,” Zardari said. “He’s violated court orders time and time again.”

Imran Khan, Pakistan's former prime minister, is pictured in Lahore on Jan. 24, 2023.

Khan’s lawyers have argued he has previously failed to appear in court because he cannot leave his residence in Lahore due to security concerns. He can only make appearances via video link, according to his legal team.

The political upheaval comes at a time when Pakistan’s government waits for a delayed bailout from the International Monetary Fund, which will help with the country’s cost of living crisis and ailing economy.

Khan has only been arrested once in 2007 by then President and military ruler Pervez Musharraf, who died earlier this year.

But he told CNN Tuesday that he was “mentally prepared to spend the night in a cell.”

“I want a proper warrant of arrest and I want to see that, my lawyers want to see the warrant,” Khan said.

“It’s a matter of time. I’m convinced they will come in and arrest me, I’m prepared for it,” he said, adding: “I know what the intention is. They want to get me out of the race. They want to get me out of the match so that they can win the elections.”