Australian scientists have given a red blood cell the world’s tiniest mustache.
The microscopic ‘mo’, measuring just 5 microns, was designed to raise awareness of the vital role blood donation plays in men’s health.
The Mr. Potato Head-style ‘tache was the idea of the Australian Red Cross Lifeblood organization and in support of the global men’s health charity, Movember.
It was placed on a single blood cell by The Australian National Fabrication Facility’s Melbourne Centre for Nanofabrication (MCN) and the Ramaciotti Centre for Cryo-Electron Microscopy at Monash University.
The Australian Red Cross Lifeblood organization says they teamed up with “some very clever Australian scientists” to create a mustache so tiny it cannot be seen with the naked eye.
Once Lifeblood collected the cell from a volunteer blood donor in Melbourne (every blood donation contains 2.3 billion cells) the team at MCN set to work to capture the image of the minuscule masterpiece using a remarkable instrument called a FIB-SEM.
Bernie Orelup, Engineering & Operations Manager at the Melbourne Centre for Nanofabrication, explains: “FIB-SEM is capable of imaging structures as small as 1/10,000th of the width of a human hair, by employing high-energy beams of metal ions to etch and deposit tiny structures.
“The process to make the mustache is akin to constructing a miniature ‘Mr. Potato Head’ accessory, we meticulously crafted the tiny ‘Mo’ by layering 3D printed polymer resin on a tiny stalk and delicately attaching it to a single red blood cell using a micromanipulator.
“The intricate process, using state-of-the-art nanofabrication techniques, allowed us to create a symbol of support for men’s health that’s invisible to the naked eye but carries a powerful message.”
Before being placed in the microscope, the red cell was fixed to a gold-coated slide and coated with a layer of metal about 15 nanometers thick.
This November Lifeblood is uniting with global men’s health charity Movember to champion men’s health and inspire millions of men across the country to donate blood or plasma.
Lifeblood spokesperson Alison Gould says: “Some of the top leading causes of illness for men in Australia – heart disease, lung and throat cancers, and blood clots (including strokes) — often require billions of blood cells just like this one during treatment.
“Blood donation isn’t just a way of helping your mates, it is also a great way to get to know your own health while saving a life, with every donation including a check of your heart rate, blood pressure, and we also check iron store levels in new male donors.
“While this mustache is small, we’re hoping it can make a big impact and inspire a few men (and women) out there to give blood and do their bit for men’s health.”
Bernie Orelup, Engineering & Operations Manager at the Melbourne Centre for Nanofabrication, says: “Our work at MCN often involves exploring the unseen world of nanoscale structures, and this project presented a unique challenge in making the invisible visible.
“The focused ion-beam scanning electron microscope (FIB-SEM) was our key to unlocking the secrets of this tiny ‘Mo.’ It allowed us to reveal a world that is usually hidden from view, emphasizing the importance of advanced scientific tools in unraveling mysteries on a miniature scale.
“We joined forces with Lifeblood and the team at Monash University to create the world’s tiniest ‘Mo’ because we saw an opportunity to merge our expertise in nanofabrication with a noble cause.
“Supporting Movember and raising awareness about the importance of blood donation in men’s health aligns perfectly with our mission to use nanotechnology for positive change.”
Travis Garone, Movember Co-Founder, adds: “Just when I thought I’d seen it all, a group of scientists come along and plant the world’s tiniest mustache on a red blood cell.
What a brilliant campaign to show the critical role that blood donation plays in men’s health – and what a huge testament to the creativity and dedication of those who continue to fly the flag for men’s health.
“I’m honestly in awe of the innovation. It’s proof that the human spirit, when fuelled by purpose, knows no bounds. I hope that this tiny Mo raises some much-needed awareness and sparks some important actions for men’s health this Movember.”
Produced in association with SWNS Talker
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