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Radhika Gupta verified badge
Electronics Engineer | Editor at The Surg
March 4, 2018 · 414 Reads

Top stories in science this week

A bacteria (Staphylococcus epidermidis) commonly found on skin produces a substance that may help protect against skin cancer

Science continues to peel away layers of the skin microbiome to reveal its protective properties. Researchers now report on a potential new role for some bacteria on the skin: protecting against cancer.The team discovered the S. epidermidis strain produces the chemical compound 6-N-hydroxyaminopurine (6-HAP). Mice with S. epidermidis on their skin that did not make 6-HAP had many skin tumors after being exposed to cancer-causing ultraviolet rays (UV), but mice with the S. epidermidis strain producing 6-HAP did not.

Reference: Science Advances

Scientists observe a new quantum particle with properties of ball lightning

Scientists have created, for the first time a three-dimensional skyrmion in a quantum gas. The skyrmion was predicted theoretically over 40 years ago, but only now has it been observed experimentally. In an extremely sparse and cold quantum gas, the physicists have created knots made of the magnetic moments, or spins, of the constituent atoms. The knots exhibit many of the characteristics of ball lightning, which some scientists believe to consist of tangled streams of electric currents. The persistence of such knots could be the reason why ball lightning, a ball of plasma, lives for a surprisingly long time in comparison to a lightning strike. The new results could inspire new ways of keeping plasma intact in a stable ball in fusion reactors.

Reference: Science Advances

Novel 3-D printing method embeds sense of touch, pressure, movement and temperature in Soft Robots

Inspired by our bodies’ sensory capabilities, researchers have developed a platform for creating soft robots with embedded sensors that can sense movement, pressure, touch, and even temperature. Researchers at Harvard University have built soft robots inspired by nature that can crawl, swim, grasp delicate objects and even assist a beating heart, but none of these devices has been able to sense and respond to the world around them.

Reference: Advanced Materials

Researchers have created a lifelike cancer environment out of polymer to better predict how drugs respond

Previous research has shown that most cancer deaths happen because of how it spreads, or metastasizes, in the body. A major hurdle for treating cancer is not being able to experiment with metastasis itself and knock out what it needs to spread. Studies in the past have used a 3-D printer to recreate a controlled cancer environment, but these replicas are still not realistic enough for drug screening.

Reference: Advanced Materials

A drug used to fight leukemia shows promise against a rare and aggressive type of ovarian cancer

Ponatinib was found in TGen-led drug screens and preclinical studies to significantly delay tumor growth and reduce tumor volume in SCCOHT. The findings suggest that ponatinib should be tested for use in SCCOHT patients in clinical trials. The statistics for SCCOHT are bleak. This rare and aggressive form of ovarian cancer has been diagnosed in women as old as 47, and as young as 14 months, with a median diagnosis of only 24 years of age. It has a dismal two-year survival rate of less than 35 percent.

Reference: Clinical Cancer Research

Scientists design new skin cell culture technique to study HPV infection

Most HPV infections cause no symptoms, but certain types of HPV are associated with cervical, throat, and other cancers. HPV infects skin cells known as keratinocytes before they have fully matured, or differentiated, and are still dividing into new cells. During the final stages of differentiation, uninfected cells cease division, but HPV makes infected cells keep dividing.

Reference: PLOS Pathogens

Improving trafficking of brain-cell proteins to reduce toxic buildup, holds possibilities for new therapies against Alzheimer’s disease

Researchers found that a compound that enhances the shuttling of proteins within cells reduced the production of forerunners of two proteins implicated in brain cell death. Damage to, and destruction of, brain cells underlies this common form of dementia. The disorder affects more than 5 million Americans. It causes loss of memory, thinking, way-finding and reasoning skills, and other debilitating problems. The disease tends to get worse with time. Aging is a major risk factor.

Reference: Stem Cell Reports

Scientists create complex transmembrane proteins from scratch

Molecular engineers have now show that it is possible to build complex, custom-designed transmembrane proteins from scratch. In the living world, transmembrane proteins naturally occur embedded in the membranes of cells and cellular organelles. They are essential for a number of functions, such as movement of signals or substances from inside or outside a living cell. The ability to design synthetic proteins to span membranes could allow scientists to build ones that can perform specific, useful tasks.

Reference: Science

Nerve damage in type 2 diabetes can be detected by examining the cornea of the eye with a special microscope

Although there is currently no cure, it’s always an advantage to detect changes in the nerves early. Therefore, it’s valuable to find a fast and safe diagnostic method. Type 2 diabetes can lead to impaired nerve function, half of those who have had type 2 diabetes for more than ten years have a decrease in nerve functions, which usually begins in their feet. The decrease may be expressed as reduced sensibility or pain and increases the risk of wounds. Sometimes the reduction can also cause the need for an amputation. There is currently no cure for this type of nerve damage, and the methods available so far at clinics to diagnose the condition are not entirely optimal.

Reference: Investigative Opthalmology & Visual Science

Scientists peek inside mammalian cells, producing intricately detailed, 3-D images of the tiny structures

The new microscope, which the researchers call TILT3D combines two new imaging techniques with super-resolution microscopy to capture very clear 3-D images of structures and individual molecules within a cell. One of the two new techniques, known as tilted light sheet illumination, addresses problems with focus and functionality that occur with existing illumination techniques.

Reference: Nature Communications

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