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Ajit Johnson
Cancer biologist, University of Edinburgh.
June 2, 2017 · 4 Reads

Top stories in science this week

1. Gene therapy has been used to ‘switch off’ asthma symptoms in animal trials

Scientists have used gene therapy to ‘switch off’ the immune response that causes asthma, and are hopeful that the same technique could be used to target other severe allergies to peanuts, bee venom, and shellfish, keeping them at bay for life.

Reference: JCI Insight

2. Scientists discover a sixth sense on the tongue

For millennia, scientists have been trying to figure out if the mammalian tongue can specifically taste water, or if our brains are responding to the after-effects of something we tasted earlier. Now, we might finally have an answer, because researchers have located what appears to be a sixth sense on the tongue that’s evolved to perceive water.

Reference: Nature Neuroscience.

3. LIGO has detected gravitational waves for the third time

The Laser Interferometer Gravitational-wave Observatory (LIGO) has done it again, detecting gravitational waves rippling away from a cosmic collision between a pair of black holes. Only this time, the pair met around 3 billion light-years away.

Reference: Physical Review Letters.

4. Vaginal bacteria has been found to neutralise a drug used for the prevention of HIV

A study on the vaginal bacteria of South African women has revealed that a certain type of bacteria is able to break down a common drug used for the prevention of HIV.

Reference: Science.

5. A brand new type of neuron has been discovered

A new type of neuron has been discovered in rats’ brains and scientists colloquially called the neuron, seated in the perirhinal cortex, the ‘neighbourhood cell’ because it deals with the ability to tell the difference between general areas of an environment. The cells work in conjunction with ‘hippocampal place cells’, which provide more fine-grained assessments of location.

Reference: Nature communication.

6. The world’s largest floating solar plant is now online

The largest floating solar power plant in the world is now online in China. Floating where coal used to be mined, the installation is helping China transition toward renewables and making the most of its surroundings.

Reference: cleantechnica.com.

7. Scientists have created nanobots that can communicate with each other

Researchers have found a way around one of nanotechnology’s biggest stumbling block in developing workable nanabots. They created artificial nanoparticles that can communicate with each other using chemical signals.

Reference: Nature Communications.

8. NASA has unveiled its next big mission to “touch the sun”

Parker Solar Probe, NASA

NASA has released new details about its solar probe and renamed it the Parker Solar Probe. In 1958, astrophysicist Eugene Parker first suggested the presence of a solar wind, which is the primary object of study for this historic mission to the Sun.

Reference: NASA.

9. Study shows an extra cup of coffee a day can reduce the risk of liver cancer

British researchers have found that the amount of coffee you drink correlates to your chances of developing liver cancer. The research claims the same applies for Decaf, but don’t drink it all day just yet.

Reference: BMJ Journals

10. Curiosity Rover findings indicate stratified lake on ancient Mars

A long-lasting lake on ancient Mars provided stable environmental conditions that differed significantly from one part of the lake to another, according to a comprehensive look at findings from the first three-and-a-half years of NASA’s Curiosity rover mission. While previous work had revealed the presence of a lake more than three billion years ago in Mars’ Gale Crater, this study defines the lake’s chemical conditions and uses Curiosity’s powerful payload to determine that the lake was stratified.

Reference: Science.

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