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TSS特别报道—自然作为导师: 仿生学、医学和流行病学

TSS EXCLUSIVE – Nature As Mentor: Biomimicry, Medicine, and Epidemiology

by Vittorio Bollo

“Biomimicry is innovation inspired by nature…Unlike the Industrial Revolution, the Biomimicry Revolution introduces an era based not on what we can extract from nature, but on what we can learn from her.” Those are the words of Janine Benyus, biologist and co-founder of the Biomimicry Institute, words echoed by a host of other innovators and futurists worldwide.

“仿生学是受自然启发的创新……与工业革命并不同,仿生学革命开创了一个时代,它不是基于我们能从自然中提取什么,而是基于我们能从自然中学到什么。”这是生物学家、生物模拟研究所(Biomimicry Institute)联合创始人亚宁·贝努斯(Janine Benyus)说的话,世界各地的许多创新者和未来学家都赞同的话。

3.8 billion years: that’s the head-start that life on Earth has had over human technology. Organisms on this planet have evolved countless survival strategies over millennia in order to adapt to a host of divergent environments. It’s not a quantum leap to acknowledge that we have much to learn and mimic from nature for needed innovation. Biomimicry seeks solutions by emulating nature.

38亿年以来:这是地球上生命超越人类科技的起点;为了适应各种不同的环境,地球上的生物已经进化出了无数的生存策略;承认我们需要从大自然中学习和模仿很多东西来进行必要的创新,但这并不是一个巨大的飞跃。生物模拟(仿生)通过模仿自然来寻求解决方案。

The immense potential of biomimicry is already well-established in fields such as architecture and technology, including how termites helped inspired cooling solutions for an office building in Harare, Zimbabwe, or tiny robots developed by scientists at the University of Warsaw, Poland, that can carry ten times their weight and were inspired by caterpillars.

仿生的巨大潜力已经在多种领域建立了架构和技术,其中就包括白蚁如何帮助在哈拉雷,津巴布韦的一个办公大楼里启发冷却并解决方案,或还可以帮助为在大学的科学家们开发的微型机器人华沙,在波兰,都可以携带十倍体重和被毛毛虫启发的技术原理。

To what extent has biomimicry been adapted to medicine thus far? And, in light of the crushing coronavirus crisis of 2020, what is its potential in epidemiology and our ability to better combat epidemics now and in the future?

到目前为止,仿生到底在多大程度上被应用于医学?鉴于2020年的冠状病毒危机来看,它在流行病学方面的潜力以及我们现在和未来更好地抗击流行病的作用是什么

Biomimicry Applications in Medicine

仿生在医学上的应用

There have been a host of fascinating innovations in medicine to date that used biomimicry to provide cutting-edge solutions. Three of these bio-inspired healthcare solutions include:

到目前为止,在医学上已经有了许多令人着迷的创新原理和技术,它们利用仿生技术来提供前沿的解决方案;这些生物启发的医疗解决方案包括:

  • Sharklet™ is inspired by the unique properties of shark scales that prevent bacterial attachment to surfaces in healthcare settings. Interestingly, as the surface is a repellent rather than an antimicrobial, it means less risk of bacterial resistance, such as occurs when traditional antiseptics are used.
  • Sharklet的灵感来自于鲨鱼鳞片的独特属性,可以防止细菌附着在医疗环境的表面;有趣的是由于表面是一种驱虫剂,而不是一种抗菌剂,这就意味着细菌耐药性的风险更低,比如在使用传统防腐剂时所出现的风险。
  • Porcupine quills have been the basis for improved designs for surgical stapling or suturing, given their strong adherence during such procedures. They have also proven an ideal model for improved needles, since they have greater ease of entry than traditional injections and needles. Serrated needles inspired by these quills make for less painful needles that are easier to inject.
  • 豪猪刺一直都是改进设计的基础,它为外科吻合术或缝合,并鉴于他们的强烈坚持在这样的领域;它同时也被证明是改进针头的理想模型,因为它们比传统的注射和针头更容易进入;受这些刺的启发:锯齿状的针使得注射变得更加容易,同时疼痛也有所减少。
  • Cicada wings literally tear bacteria apart. The veined wings of the Clanger cicada are the first natural material known to decimate bacteria on contact. The potential application of this new antibacterial material in both medical and non-medical environments is enormous.
  • 蝉的翅膀会把细菌杀死,它是已知的第一种能杀死接触细菌的天然材料;这种新型抗菌材料在医疗和非医疗环境中的潜在应用是巨大的。

The True Potential of Biomimicry in Medicine

仿生在医学上的真正潜力

Even with some of the examples cited above, does biomimicry offer true potential for our future healthcare needs? Jeffrey Karp, a bioengineer at Brigham and Women’s Hospital (BWH) in Cambridge, MA, certainly believes so. Karp, who considers himself a ‘bioinspirationalist,’ has this to say: “every living creature that exists today is here because it tackled a number of challenges. And those that haven’t have quickly become extinct.”

有上面提到的一些例子来看,仿生学是否能为我们未来的医疗需求提供了真正的潜力?马萨诸塞州剑桥市布里格姆妇女医院(BWH)的生物工程师杰弗里·卡普(Jeffrey Karp)肯定是这么认为的;卡普认为自己是一个“生物灵感主义者”,他说:“今天所存在的每一个生物都在这里,因为它解决了许多挑战;而那些没有绝迹的物种便很快就灭绝了。”

In the opinion of Karp, “we are surrounded by solutions. Evolution is truly the best problem-solver.”

在卡普看来:“我们被各种解决方案所充斥着,但进化确实是最好的问题解决者。”

The potential of biomimicry in a public health context was discussed by a panel titled The Role of Biomimicry in Tackling Biodiversity Loss and Public Health Challenges, held at the World Biodiversity Forum 2020 in Davos, Switzerland, in February 2020. The panel, which included members of the World Health Organization (WHO), Botanic Gardens Conservation International, Kew Royal Botanic Gardens, and the Johns Hopkins Center for a Livable Future, among others, agreed that biomimicry was an invaluable design tool for solving the critical health challenges facing the world today.

在2020年2月于瑞士达沃斯举行的2020年世界生物多样性论坛上,一个名为“生物模拟技术(仿生)在应对生物多样性的失去和在公共卫生挑战中的作用”的小组讨论了生物模拟技术(仿生)在公共卫生领域的潜力;专家组成员包括世界卫生组织(世卫组织)成员、国际植物园保护组织(Botanic Gardens Conservation Internationa)成员、英国皇家植物园(Kew Royal Botanic Gardens)成员、约翰·霍普金斯大学未来宜居中心(the Johns Hopkins Center for a Livable Future)的成员等;专家组一致认为,仿生学是解决当今世界面临的重大卫生挑战的宝贵设计工具。

The panel concluded that public health, sustainable development, and biodiversity solutions such as biomimicry were fundamentally interlinked in the quest for dynamic global public health solutions.

专家组的结论是:在寻求动态的全球公共卫生解决方案的过程中,公共卫生、可持续发展和仿生等生物多样性解决方案从根本上就是相互关联的

Biomimicry and Epidemiology

生物仿生与流行病学

But what of global public health crises such as the coronavirus / COVID-19 epidemic that went global in early 2020? This latest epidemic should force us to ask: are there not things in nature from which we can learn about how to prevent or contain a massive epidemic? What strides have there been in recent times regarding how biomimicry can be of value in epidemiology?

但对于全球公共卫生危机来说;如2020年初席卷全球的冠状病毒/ COVID-19的流行疾病,又该如何应对呢?这一最新的流行疾病应该迫使我们提出这样的问题:难道自然界中没有什么东西可以让我们学习如何预防或控制大规模流行疾病的传播吗?关于仿生在流行病学中的价值,近年来有哪些进展?

An encouraging development has been the use of biomimicry to more quickly detect epidemic outbreaks. An excellent example is the biosurveillance program formed in collaboration between Albuquerque-based Sandia National Laboratories, the University of New Mexico (UNM), and Atlanta-based Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).

一项令人振奋的进展则是利用生物模拟(仿生)技术更迅速地发现流行疾病的爆发;一个很好的例子就是由设在阿尔伯克基的桑迪亚国家实验室、新墨西哥大学(UNM)和设在亚特兰大的疾病控制和预防中心(CDC)合作建立的生物监测项目。

Sandia computer scientists Pat Finley and Drew Levin, together with researchers at UNM and the CDC, have been working on a biosurveillance system that alerts authorities to disease outbreaks. This is based on data collated by the CDC from emergency departments around the US with its National Syndromic Surveillance Program.

位于桑迪亚的计算机科学家帕特·芬利和德鲁·莱文,以及和来自新墨西哥大学和美国疾病控制与预防中心的研究人员,他们一直在研究一种生物监控系统,并向当局发出疾病暴发的警报;这是根据美国疾病控制和预防中心从美国各地的紧急部门和国家综合征监测项目中整理的数据从而得出的。

The program achieves its goals by mimicking the human immune system. How? Basically, the immune system comprises numerous T-cells that all operate independently. There is no ‘central immune system command center’ in the human body. Yet the T-cells remain extremely effective, for the most part, in detecting invasions by pathogens in the body. Using the same logic, the biosurveillance program detects possible indicators of breaking epidemics by analyzing disparate, seemingly atomized data from all over the US, rather than trying to ‘centralize’ and ‘make sense’ of all the data as a composite whole.

该程序通过模拟人体免疫系统来实现其目标;基本上,免疫系统由许多独立运作的T细胞组成;人体中没有“中央免疫系统指挥中心”;然而在大多数情况下,T细胞在检测体内病原体入侵方面仍然非常有效;使用相同的手段,Biosurveillance程序通过分析来自美国各地不同的、看似分散的数据,而不是试图将所有数据“集中”起来,并将其作为一个综合整体来“理解”,从而检测可能的疫情爆发指标。

According to Melanie Moses, a UNM professor of computer science and biology involved in the project, the immune system “provides inspiration for the design of other decentralized systems for surveillance and protection [of possible outbreaks of disease in the US]”. In this biosurveillance program, for example, the ‘synthetic T-cells’ include data as variables such as number of clinic visits, day of the year, and intake temperatures across emergency departments, which are then processed as algorithms to detect possible epidemiological trends.

参与该项目的新墨大计算机科学和生物学教授梅勒妮•摩西(Melanie Moses)表示,免疫系统“为设计其他(针对美国可能爆发的疾病)的分散监控和保护系统提供了灵感”;例如在这个生物监测项目中,“合成T细胞”包括作为变量的数据:如诊所就诊次数、一年中的某一天和急诊部门的摄入温度,然后作为算法进行处理,以检测出可能的流行病学趋势。

Biosurveillance methodologies could be used worldwide in an effort to better detect an emerging global pandemic such as COVID-19. These methodologies could surely be very helpful in detecting outbreaks of regional diseases like Lyme disease and Hantavirus in the US, and ebola and Marburg in Central and West Africa, for example.

生物监测方法可在全世界范围内使用,以便更好地监测正在出现的全球流行病,如COVID-19;这些方法对于检测美国的莱姆病和汉坦病毒、中非和西非的埃博拉病毒和马尔堡病毒等区域性疾病的暴发是非常有用的。

The Gap That Needs To Be Bridged

需要弥补的差距

But what can biomimicry offer beyond detection? What about learning from nature regarding how best to respond to an epidemic once it emerges? Unfortunately, the literature is lacking in this regard.. This is somewhat surprising, given that we essentially live in an ‘age of epidemics’. It’s also rather disconcerting, given the sheer disruption and loss of life that major epidemics can wreak on regional and global populations.

但是除了检测之外,仿生学还能提供什么呢?从自然中学习如何最好地应对一旦出现的流行病怎么样?遗憾的是这方面的文献还很缺乏;这可能有点令人惊讶,因为我们基本上生活在一个“流行病时代”;考虑到重大流行病可能对部分区域和全球人口所造成的严重破坏和生命损失,但这也使人相当不安。

There have been some, limited explorations of how we can mimic nature in order to better respond to public health crises such as outbreaks and epidemics. Some researchers point to how social insect colonies, such as harvester ants, react in a time of crisis. Ordinarily, these ants work cohesively and communally, essentially as one unit. However, when there is major disruption, for example, when their nest is disturbed, each ant becomes autonomous and the ‘genius of the individual’ takes over. That is how these ant colonies build resistance, or what is ecologically and socially termed as ‘resilience’. The key takeaway is not that of instant autonomy or individuality but, rather, of flexibility within a community. Could that approach be mimicked in human society, especially given our propensity to be innately self-interested?

为了更好地应对诸如疾病爆发和流行病等公共卫生危机,我们在如何模拟自然方面进行了一些有限的探索;一些研究人员指出了群居的昆虫群体:例如收获蚁(注:收集种子和叶的数种不同属蚁类的俗称;寿命长,工蚁可生存几星期至3-10年),在危机时刻是如何反应的;通常这些蚂蚁团结一致地工作,本质上是一个整体。然而,当出现重大破坏时,例如当它们的巢穴被破坏时,每只蚂蚁都变得自治,“个体的天才”接管了一切;这就是这些蚂蚁群体如何建立抵抗,或者什么是生态和社会上称所为的“弹性”。关键的团结不是即时的自主或个性,而是社区内的灵活性;这种方法在人类社会中会被模仿吗,尤其是考虑到我们天生的自私倾向?

Time For Our ‘Mutations’?

“突变”(遗传学)时刻?

What of mimicking nature in the prevention of epidemics? After all, prevention is always better than cure. Marilyn Cornelius offers an interesting analogy: she is of the opinion that pathogens are merely mutations that have their antidotes in nature, often in very close proximity. Therefore, in her opinion, a means by which humans could prevent future epidemics is by means of our own ‘mutations,’ i.e., by changing the very habits that are causing the epidemics in the first place.

在预防流行病方面,模仿自然又如何呢?毕竟预防总是比治疗好;Marilyn Cornelius提供了一个有趣的类比:她的观点是病原体仅仅是在自然界中有解毒剂的突变体,它们通常很接近;因此在她看来,人类预防未来流行病的一种手段是通过我们自己的“突变”——基因突变;首先通过改变那些导致流行病的习惯。

That is of course easier said than done, but the analogy provided by Cornelius is compelling. It’s simple: our habits need to change. For example, a moratorium placed on the logging of the rainforests of Central and West Africa, Southeast Asia, and Brazil in order to offset carbon emissions will also ensure that many species are preserved from which we can potentially learn. Doing that represents just one way in which we can better hope to harness nature-inspired solutions for our collective, future health.

当然,这说起来容易做起来难,但科尼利厄斯提供的类比却令人信服;很简单:我们的习惯需要改变;例如为抵消碳排放而暂停砍伐中非、西非、东南亚和巴西的热带雨林,也将确保许多物种得以保存,我们有可能会从中学到东西;这样做只是我们更好地希望利用自然启发的解决方案来实现我们共同的、未来的健康的一种方式。

翻译:SGCS翻译组

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