Every year in the US there are some 600,000 knee replacement surgeries. But a team at Duke University might help some people avoid those surgeries with a hydrogel that can stand in for cartilage. Plus: engineers at NIKE develop a ball that can really soar.

From The Lab, The First Cartilage-Mimicking Gel That’s Strong Enough For Knees (Duke University)

NIKE’s new flight ball promises a ‘revolution in football aerodynamics’  (designboom)

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Every year in the US there are some 600,000 knee replacement surgeries.

They’re common and often very successful operations, but they’re also a pretty big process, and they can be expensive.

What if there was a way to put them off?

That’s what a team at Duke University appears to have found: a hydrogel that can stand in for cartilage.

Our cartilage, of course, is that useful, elastic stuff between our bones that helps support weight and also cushions our joints against impacts.

It’s great at a lot of things, but not great at healing itself (which helps explain all those knee replacements).

Hydrogels, meanwhile, have been around for decades and are also pretty versatile,

Scientists have long tried using them to create artificial cartilage.

These past efforts have been flexible enough, but not matched the strength of real cartilage.

The Duke researchers built up a complex mesh of cellulose fiber and polymers that could withstand the weight of a 100 pound kettlebell.

If it passes more testing, the artificial cartilage could help people avoid surgery AND regain mobility they might have lost, getting them on the move again.

And speaking of getting on the move, here’s something soccer players should note: the engineers at NIKE’s equipment innovation lab (which they have, it turns out) have developed a new ball that they say is significantly more aerodynamic than traditional models.

They put an intricate pattern of grooves and folds on the surface, and then tested the ball’s flight with a robotic leg! They say the ball has a 30 percent truer flight than previous models.

When I kick a ball, I need all the help I can get!