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Ajit Johnson
Cancer biologist, University of Edinburgh.
June 16, 2017 · 18 Reads

Top stories in science this week

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1. MIT has developed colour-changing tattoo ink that monitors your health in real time

Researchers have developed a new colour-changing tattoo ink that responds to changes in the body, such as blood sugar and sodium levels. Using a liquid with biosensors instead of traditional ink, scientists want to turn the surface of the human skin into an “interactive display” — an idea that makes this proof-of-concept an exciting one to watch. Technology like this could become a revolutionary new way to monitor health.

Reference: MIT

2. Olive oil compound stimulates anti-cancer molecule & may help prevent brain cancer

Research into oleic acid — the primary ingredient in olive oil — has shown how it can help prevent cancer-causing genes from functioning in cells. Read more about the research as explained by the lead scientist here.

Reference: Journal of Molecular Biology

3. Astronomers have found ingredients of life around a distant star

IRAS 16293–2422 is a multiple system of very young stars which is about 400 light-years away. New results from ALMA (Atacama Large Millimeter/submillimeter Array) show that methyl isocyanate gas surrounds each of these young stars. Methyl isocyanate is a prebiotic molecule — a potential building block of life. It has a structure that is chemically similar to a peptide bond, which is what holds amino acids together in proteins. The finding suggests that quite complex organic molecules may be created very early in the evolution of star systems.

Reference: Monthly Notices of the Royal Astronomical Society, Monthly Notices of the Royal Astronomical Society.

4. Researchers have identified how a frog’s wounded skin heals without scarring

When a Xenopus frog is deeply wounded, its skin can regenerate without scarring. Researchers have found that cells under the skin contribute to this regeneration after an excision injury. Characterizing the subcutaneous cells that contribute to skin regeneration in amphibians may lead to insights on how to coax human cells to replace damaged skin without scarring. This could have important implications for improving quality of life after serious skin wounds from traumatic injuries, burns, surgeries, and diseases.

Reference: Developmental Dynamics

5. Study clarifies how we can tell where a sound is coming from

A new UCL and University of Nottingham study has found that most neurons in the brain’s auditory cortex detect where a sound is coming from relative to the head, but some are tuned to a sound source’s actual position in the world.

The researchers monitored ferrets while they moved around a small arena surrounded by speakers that emitted clicking sounds. Electrodes monitored the firing rates of neurons in the ferrets’ auditory cortex, while LEDs were used to track the animals’ movement. Among the neurons under investigation that picked up sound location, the study showed that most displayed egocentric orientations by tracking where a sound source was relative to the animal’s head, but approximately 20% of the spatially tuned neurons instead tracked a sound source’s actual location in the world, independent of the ferret’s head movements. The researchers also found that neurons were more sensitive to sound location when the ferret’s head was moving quickly.

Reference: PLOS Biology

6. Researchers have developed a solar paint that can absorb water vapour and generate clean energy

The paint contains a newly developed compound that acts like silica gel, which is used in sachets to absorb moisture and keep food, medicines and electronics fresh and dry. But unlike silica gel, the new material, synthetic molybdenum-sulphide, also acts as a semi-conductor and catalyses the splitting of water atoms into hydrogen and oxygen. This system can also be used in very dry but hot climates near oceans. The sea water is evaporated by the hot sunlight and the vapour can then be absorbed to produce fuel.

Reference : ACS Nano

7. Scientists have engineered a fungus to fight malaria

A mosquito-killing fungus genetically engineered to produce spider and scorpion toxins could serve as a highly effective biological control mechanism to fight malaria-carrying mosquitoes, scientists report. The fungus is specific to mosquitoes and does not pose a risk to humans. Further, the study results suggest that the fungus is also safe for honey bees and other insects.

Reference: Scientific Reports

8. Scientists have discovered a new form of carbon that’s hard as a rock, but stretches like rubber

By heating carbon to an intimidating 1,000 degrees Celsius (1,800 degrees Fahrenheit), scientists have discovered a brand new elemental form that’s ultra-strong and ultra-light, but also elastic like rubber and electrically conductive. This new form of carbon not only offers up a range of extraordinary properties — the method used to find it could lead to the discovery of entire classes of materials we’ve never seen before.

Reference: Science Advances

9. Scientists discover that our brains can process the world in 11 dimensions

Neuroscientists have used a classic branch of maths in a totally new way to peer into the structure of our brains. What they’ve discovered is that the brain is full of multi-dimensional geometrical structures operating in as many as 11 dimensions. We’re used to thinking of the world from a 3-D perspective, so this may sound a bit tricky, but the results of this new study could be the next major step in understanding the fabric of the human brain — the most complex structure we know of.

Reference: Frontiers of Computational Neuroscience

10. Brain cells from pigs implanted into human brains to treat parkinson’s

Researchers have used transplanted choroid plexus brain cells from pigs to treat people with Parkinson’s disease with promising results. Placebo-controlled trials have now begun in what may be the a step toward a treatment for millions of people.

Reference: New Scientist

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