‘’Your weekly informant’’
1. Ocean water samples yield a gold mine of RNA virus information
Ocean water samples gathered all over the world have given a wealth of new information about RNA viruses, opening up new avenues for ecological research and changing our knowledge of how these small but important submicroscopic particles arose. An international team of researchers used machine-learning analyses and traditional evolutionary trees to find 5,500 new RNA virus species that represent all five known RNA virus phyla, implying that at least five new RNA virus phyla are needed to capture them. The phylum Taraviricota was coined by the researchers as a homage to the source of the 35,000 water samples that permitted the analysis: the Tara Seas Consortium, an ongoing global study of the impact of climate change on the world’s oceans conducted on board the schooner Tara.
2. According to recent findings, prehistoric ancestors made art using firelight
An analysis of 50 carved stones found in France shows that our forefathers most likely created beautiful artwork by firelight. According to the current study, the stones were etched with creative designs around 15,000 years ago and feature patterns of heat damage that imply they were chiseled near the flickering light of a fire. Researchers from the Universities of York and Durham examined a collection of inscribed stones called plaquettes that are currently housed at the British Museum. They were most likely produced with stone tools by Magdalenians, a prehistoric hunter-gatherer culture that lived between 23,000 and 14,000 years ago.
3. Tumors that have been partially eliminated by sound do not return
Noninvasive sound technology created at the University of Michigan breaks down liver tumors in rats, kills cancer cells, and stimulates the immune system to prevent further spread — a breakthrough that could improve human cancer outcomes. The immune systems of the rats were able to clear away the remaining after only killing 50 percent to 75 percent of the liver tumor volume, with no evidence of recurrence or metastasis in more than 80 percent of the animals. The medication also activated the rats’ immunological responses, which may have contributed to the final regression of the untargeted area of the tumor and the prevention of cancer spread. Histotripsy is a non-invasive treatment that uses ultrasonic pulses to mechanically damage target tissue with millimeter precision.
4. A new miniaturized heart could aid in the treatment of heart disease
There’s no safe method to gain a close-up view of the human heart at work: you can’t just take it out, look at it, and put it back in. Scientists have tried a variety of approaches to get past this fundamental obstacle, including attaching lab-grown heart tissues to springs to watch them expand and contract, and hooking up cadaver hearts to machinery to encourage them to pump again. Each method has drawbacks: reanimated hearts can only beat for a few hours, and springs can’t simulate the forces at work on a real muscle. However, gaining a deeper understanding of this crucial organ is critical: according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, someone in America dies of heart disease every 36 seconds. Now, an interdisciplinary group of engineers, biologists, and geneticists has created a small duplicate of a heart chamber using nanoengineered parts and human heart tissue. There are no springs or external power sources; it just beats on its own, powered by live heart tissue generated by stem cells, much like the genuine thing. Researchers may be able to follow how the heart grows in the embryo, investigate the impact of disease, and test the potential effectiveness and side effects of new medicines using the device, all without putting patients in danger and without leaving the lab.