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Medical Scientist | Pharmacist to be | Editor at The Surg
August 27, 2018 · 399 Reads

Top stories in science this week

Scientists confirmed the presence of water ice on the Moon’s surface

For the first time, scientists have directly observed evidence of ice on the Moon poles where sunlight never reaches these regions. Water ice detected using NASA’s Moon Mineralogy Mapper (M3) instrument which was equipped to collect data that not only picked up the reflective properties expected from ice but was able to measure the distinctive way its molecules absorb infrared light so that it can differentiate between liquid water or vapour and solid ice. The water ice deposits might be used as a resource in future trips to explore and even stay on the Moon.

Reference: PNAS

Researchers identified a new genetic material of regeneration

By studying the heart regeneration stages in the zebrafish, a common aquarium fish that is one of nature’s heroes of regeneration. Scientists have discovered new genetic material in the cell, that was previously thought to be ‘junk’, likely plays a role in regulating genetic pathways responsible for regeneration in highly regenerative animals. This discovery may one day lead to inventing drug therapies that can trigger regeneration in humans hence treating many chronic and degenerative disorders which are characterised by an inadequate capacity to repair and regenerate damaged tissues.

Reference: Nature

Scientists successfully substituted freshwater with seawater for bioethanol fuel production

Global warming and petrol high cost, has led to the search for alternative sources of energy. Bioethanol has been considered one of the best fuel alternatives because it is a liquid fuel with similar characteristics to petrol. However, there are concerns over the use of the freshwater and food crops of sugar cane and maize for its production. Researchers have found that seawater can replace freshwater without compromising the production efficiency of bioethanol. Their study also revealed that marine yeast is a potential candidate for use in the bioethanol industry. The fermentation process using seawater also produces salt and freshwater as secondary products adding to economic benefits of the process.

Reference: Nature

Using painless spinal stimulation scientists restored bladder control

A high proportion of patients with spinal cord injury (SCI) lose the ability to urinate voluntarily. Therefore, they use a catheter several times daily to drain urine. Neuroscientists tested the hypothesis of a new approach that could enhance patients’ quality of life and reduce health risks associated with the catheter use. Their study showed that non-invasive magnetic spinal cord stimulation using a magnetic device at the lower spinal cord significantly recover urination control for up to four weeks in patients with SCI. As the research conducted over a few numbers of patients, scientists consider conducting larger scale study for further evaluation.

Reference: Nature

Researchers found a new therapy that could reverse type 1 diabetes

Type 1 diabetes affects human and pets including dogs and cats. In this type of diabetes the immune system attacks insulin-producing cells in the pancreas, so the body is no longer able to produce insulin or produce only a little amount of it. Researchers’ therapy involved injecting a collagen solution mixed with pancreatic cells underneath the skin where it integrates with the body allowing for sensing of glucose and secretion of insulin. The result showed normal glucose levels and maintain insulin independence for at least 90 days in mice with diabetes. Scientists aim to further research this cell therapy in dogs and humans with type 1 diabetes in the future.

Reference: Endocrinology and Metabolism

Researchers discovered rare fossils of alvarezsaurs, the bird-like dinosaurs

In 1993, researchers described the first well-known alvarezsaur, Mononykus. They were amazed by its mole-like arms and roadrunner-like body. However, alvarezsaurs did not always look this way. Early members of the group had relatively long arms with strong-clawed hands and meat-eating teeth. The new discovery of Xiyunykus and Bannykusnew that share many obvious characteristics with birds fills the missing link in the evolutionary transition of the alvarezsaurs and allows the researchers to uncover an essential shift in how the specialised features of the alvarezsaurs evolved.

Reference: Current Biology

Scientists sighted a new micro-organ responsible for immunological memory

Using advanced 3D microscopy, the researchers reveal the existence of thin, flattened structures extending over the surface of lymph nodes in mice and inside sections of lymph nodes in human patients. These structures, which they named the SPF, appear only when needed to fight an infection against which the animal has previously been exposed. SPF has all the ingredients assembled in one place to make antibodies, so it remarkably fights the re-infection fast. Professors said that the discovery is an important step towards understanding how to make better vaccines.

Reference: Nature

Scientists found an association between gene malfunctioning and an arthritic condition

Ankylosing spondylitis (AS) is a chronic autoimmune disorder, mainly affects the hips and spines of young teens. Endoplasmic Reticulum Aminopeptidase 1 (ERAP1), is a gene associated with AS but how the gene contributes to this condition has remained somewhat of a mystery. A new study in mice found that loss of proper ERAP1 activity correlates with loss of specific immune cells known as regulatory T-cells, which are directly responsible for controlling excessive immune responses that can attack healthy body tissues. The scientists now focus on testing cells in human blood samples in human trials.

Reference: Nature

Researchers bioprinted complex tubular tissues to replace dysfunctional ones

Researchers have developed a 3-D bioprinting technique which allows them to bioprint complex tubular structures that mimic native vessels and ducts in the in the human body with higher fidelity than previous methods. The team intends to continue their studies to optimise the bio-ink composition and 3D-printing parameters before testing for safety and effectiveness.

Reference: Advanced Materials

Scientists identified the signalling cascade that repairs damaged nerve cells

In a study of roundworm nerve cells with severed axons, scientists identified the series of molecules involved in the regeneration of damaged nerves, showing that it largely overlaps with the signals that usually promote the natural removal system to take up and process dying cells. The findings shed light on a fundamental feature of nerve repair, which is limited in the central nervous system in humans, and thus could provide a range of targets for drug therapies to treat conditions like the brain and spinal cord injuries.

Reference: Nature

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