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Ajit Johnson
Cancer biologist, University of Edinburgh.
May 6, 2017 · 18 Reads

Top stories in science this week

1. Gene-editing strategy has eliminated HIV infection in living animals

For the first time, researchers have used gene-editing to eliminate HIV DNA from the genomes of three different animal models to ensure that replication of the virus was completely shut down.

The technique has been demonstrated in animals with both acute and latent HIV, and was successful in human immune cells transplanted into mice. The team calls it a “significant step” towards human clinical trials.

Reference: http://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S1525001617301107

2. World first: fusion reactor created its first plasma; on track to produce clean energy by 2018.

Tokamak Energy’s fusion reactor has achieved first plasma and is on track to produce temperatures of 100 million degrees Celsius (180 million degrees Fahrenheit) by 2018. Tokamak Energy CEO says to expect fusion energy “in years, not decades.”

Reference: http://www.tokamakenergy.co.uk/first-plasma-in-new-reactor-brings-the-uk-a-big-step-closer-to-fusion-energy/

3. Fungi discovered from a toxic lake produce new antibiotic that kills superbugs unlike anything seen before

Discovered in the poison waters of an abandoned well, two fungi brought together in a lab have developed a compound powerful enough to destroy antibiotic resistant strains of MRSA, strep, and even anthrax.

Reference: http://pubs.acs.org/doi/abs/10.1021/acs.jnatprod.7b00133

4. Scientists have found a way to extract ancient human DNA from 240,000-year-old dirt

German scientists just made a major breakthrough in sequencing the DNA of our ancient ancestors. While researchers have long relied on painstaking work and pure good luck to uncover the fossilized remains of our predecessors, a new technique has allowed scientists to pull DNA from something far more abundant: dirt.

Reference: https://www.nature.com/news/ancient-human-genomes-plucked-from-cave-dirt-1.21910

5. Scientists have developed the world’s first synthetic retina made of soft tissue

Researchers have created the world’s first artificial retina using soft synthetic tissue, which they say could be used to develop a new generation of less-invasive bionic eye implants in the future.

Made from a combination of water-based hydrogel droplets and light-sensitive proteins, the synthetic retina is designed to mimic the functionality of its biological counterpart while existing in harmony with the tissue that makes up the rest of the inner eye.

Reference: https://www.nature.com/articles/srep46585

6. New quantum materials can conduct electricity at nearly the speed of light

Physicists have been testing the properties of new 2D quantum materials that could usurp graphene as the ‘wonder materials’ of the future.

These materials, which can conduct electricity at nearly the speed of light, could replace silicon in the next generation of hyper-speed computers. One could even form the basis of a new “exotic superconductor” that could actually break time-reversal symmetry — or reverse the flow of time.

Reference: https://www.nature.com/nature/journal/vaop/ncurrent/full/nature22060.html

7. We just got back images from the first-ever dive through saturn’s rings

Scientists just got their first glimpse into the space between Saturn and its rings. And it’s pretty stunning. NASA space probe Cassini performed the first of 22 planned dives through the rings around the planet. No human-made object had ever ventured so far into those swirling bands of ice and dust particles.

Reference: https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/speaking-of-science/wp/2017/04/27/cassini-just-sent-back-images-from-its-first-ever-dive-through-saturns-rings/

8. Widespread vitamin D deficiency and chronic diseases are likely due to sunscreen use, study finds

Results from a clinical review find nearly 1 billion people worldwide may have deficient or insufficient levels of vitamin D due to chronic disease and inadequate sun exposure related to sunscreen use.

Reference: http://jaoa.org/article.aspx?articleid=2625276

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