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Radhika Gupta verified badge
Electronics Engineer | Editor at The Surg
August 25, 2017 · 430 Reads

Top stories in science this week

Researchers found that stress hormone is crucial for brain to function and grow

There’s no shortage of evidence linking brain function to the composition of our gut bacteria, but just how that relationship works is still something of a mystery. Now, a team has uncovered what looks like a communication channel between gut microbes and the brain, and they’re theorising that the operation of this pathway may ultimately help explain how autism develops. The researchers have specifically found that cortisol – often called the ‘stress hormone’ – could act as a messenger to chemicals in our heads. These chemicals – called brain metabolites or neurometabolites – are crucial for helping the brain to function and grow.

Reference: Gut Microbes


Scientists created first ever 3D printer that can do construction in space-like conditions

One manufacturing company just made history by successfully using a special 3D printer in extreme, space-like conditions. The team printed polymer alloy parts in a super-high vacuum, and hope their new tech will allow the design and manufacture of much more ambitious spacecraft and space-based telescopes. The company has already demonstrated the ability to print 3D parts in a zero-g environment.

Research: Scientific American

Scientists discovered that adult brain can produce new cells in an unexpected area

Scientists have discovered for the first time that adult mouse brains produce new cells in the amygdala, a finding that could eventually lead to better treatments for conditions like anxiety and depression, as well as a better understanding of the brain overall. The amygdala handles a lot of our emotional responses, especially those relating to fear, and broken connections inside it can lead to anxiety disorders such as post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD).

Reference: Molecular Psychiatry

Physicists discovered impossible limits of electron superconductivity in graphene

Electrons have been caught flowing through graphene like a liquid, reaching limits physicists thought were fundamentally impossible.This type of conductance is known as ‘superballistic’ flow, and this new experiment suggests it could revolutionise the way we conduct electricity.If that’s not crazy enough, the super-fast flows actually occur as a result of electrons bouncing off each other, something that high school physics tells us should slow conductivity down.

Reference: Nature Physics

Scientists have identified 22 genes linked with intelligence

An international team of scientists analyzed the DNA sequences of 78,308 people. They were seeking out correlations between genes and intelligence using IQ scores as a proxy for intelligence. Their goal was to identify any single nucleotide polymorphisms (SNPs) that significantly correlate with IQ scores. SNPs are regions on chromosomes that vary from person to person; although we all have the same region, we have different versions of nucleotides along the region, which is what makes up the SNP. In that way, SNPs are similar to genes, but they’re much smaller sequences.

Reference: Nature

Researchers have discovered the mechanism for the retrieval of episodic memories

New research suggests that the subiculum, a part of the hippocampus that is rarely studied, is central to the memory retrieval process. This work also indicates that memory formation and memory recall follow different neural circuits. According to the team of researchers, this work represents the first identification of this recall circuit in vertebrates, although scientists did identify a similar mechanism in Caenorhabditis elegans, a roundworm.

Reference: Cell

Scientists have discovered a cancer drug that can be used to treat HIV

One of the biggest hurdles in HIV treatment is the nature of the virus itself. Aside from its ability to quickly replicate, HIV can also remain latent in the cells of a patient’s body. This means HIV is never really cured, as it could resurface the moment a patient stops taking medications. Scientists have been working on ways to combat latent HIV, either through “a shock and kill” method where the virus is reactivated and then destroyed, or by silencing it for good. A team of researchers from the Gladstone Institutes want to combine both approaches, and they’ve found a potential key to doing this in an anti-cancer drug called JQ1.

Reference: Molecular Cell

Scientists show how bacteria use micro-swords to survive inside amoebae

After years of research, scientists have worked out how some bacteria are able to survive inside amoebae – by stabbing them with microscopic daggers to prevent digestion. This miniature game of biological swordplay was discovered through a new method where amoebae are frozen to minus 180°C (minus 292°F) and then gradually chiselled with a focussed ion beam, revealing the bacteria like a fossil buried in the earth.

Reference: Science

Researchers have designed a sponge filled syringe to prevent deaths caused by blood loss

The syringe design of the XStat 30 makes it capable of plugging deep and narrow wounds in a matter of seconds. Each of the devices contains small cellulose sponges that expand to up to 15 times their original size when brought into contact with blood. These sponges can form a barrier to prevent blood from flowing out of the body by assisting with the clotting process and applying pressure to the wound. Each of the tiny sponges is outfitted with a small marker that can be detected via x-ray, which helps with surgical removal.

Research: RevMedx

Scientists say lithium in tap water could protect people from dementia

A nation-wide study in Denmark has unearthed a surprising new link between the levels of naturally occurring lithium in drinking water and the incidence of dementia. Dementia is one of the biggest causes of disability in elderly people worldwide, with 9.9 million new cases happening every year, but there’s still a lot we don’t know about what causes the syndrome and how to prevent it. These new results suggest that adding lithium to tap water could be a future health intervention.

Reference: JAMA Psychiatry

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