1. Cellular ageing was defeated
According to scientists, people born after 2000 will live for 100 years on average. At the same time, in the late stages of their life, their health will be much better than that of modern older people. Why so?
Humanity has been fighting ageing from the moment people realized their mortality. However, neither proper diet nor sport or miraculous cream and pills can stop the processes that take place on a cellular level. Despite the impossibility of this fact, a team of researchers said that they were able to rejuvenate human cells with the help of the mechanism used to create stem cells. The results showed that the method really eliminates the signs of aging and restores cell energy.
A scientist from Kyoto University, Shinya Yamanaka, a winner of the Nobel Prize in medicine, proved that it is possible to stop the ageing process by inducing the expression of four genes. Thus, the cell loses its identity and returns to the embryonic state.
Therefore, scientists set a new goal – to learn how to reprogram cells without erasing their identity. They extracted cartilage cells from patients with osteoarthrosis, a disease common for older people. With the help of Yamanaka’s technique, cells actually rejuvenated, retaining their properties. The same effect was achieved in relation to depleted muscle cells.
Of course, today, we are talking about experiments on individual cells and experimental animals. However, such studies give us hope that sooner or later, cell rejuvenation methods will be available to humanity. And even such methods will not be able to defeat death, they will at least delay it.
2. An implant will be able to return sight to blind people
Spanish scientists offer brain implants for blind people to restore vision. Researchers reported the successful completion of trials of the new device in humans. This device returns vision by affecting the brain instead of eyes or optic nerves.
The first patient was a 57-year-old woman who went blind 16 years ago due to optic neuropathy. In mild cases, this leads to vision impairment or loss of ability to distinguish colors. However, in her case, her vision was completely lost.
The device is an implant that jacks directly into the brain, and dark glasses equipped with a tiny camera. The device is connected to a computer that processes video in real time, converting it into electronic signals.
The experiment lasted six months, and the patient said that if she had a choice, she would prefer to keep the device. It has a very poor resolution of 10x10 pixels, but it is supplemented by a face recognition system based on machine learning. This allowed the woman to distinguish the outlines of objects, light, and even large letters.
To understand what kind of signal the retina generated, the researchers conducted experiments using the retina of people who had just passed away (it lasts for up to seven hours). Implants were repeatedly tested on animals. But, unfortunately, animals cannot tell what they see. Researchers in Spain have been working on this device for ten years. In the coming years, they expect to finalize the technology of implantation of electrodes into the brain, which will allow using the visual system for at least two to three years.
The very idea of transmitting electrical signals is not new, though. In 200, the first implant was created. The patient writhed in pain because too much current was used for stimulation. But the device even went on sale, although it turned out to be too bulky and imperfect.
Everyone wrote about another project last year. In the USA, chips were implanted into six people. As an experiment, they were shown a white square on a black screen, and most patients could see it.
3. Nature is reborn: new species of spiders were discovered in Australia
Bushfires in Australia started back in September 2019 and lasted for several months. Unique species of animals and plants were threatened with extinction, more than a thousand houses were destroyed, and dozens of Australians died. People from all over the world have helped minimize damage caused by the fire in a variety of ways.
It may take about 100 years for Australia to recover fully, and the smoke from fires can affect atmospheric conditions around the globe. But forces of nature did not stop Joseph Shubert. The Australian specialist managed to discover seven new species of peacock spiders. Previously, they were no seen in the southeast of the continent.
Peacock spiders in the Maratus genus are famous for their incredibly bright colors in males and peculiar mating dances, note arachnologists. These spiders are unique to Australia. They are poisonous but are completely harmless to humans. They prey on small flies and other small insects.
Shubert, who is a specialist in entomology and arachnology, once was afraid of spiders, but then began to keep them as pets to overcome his phobia. By now, he has documented a total of 12 new species of peacock spiders. His latest discovery – seven new species – brings the total number of known species of peacock spiders to 85.
This way, if it were not for the fires in Australis, then maybe these spiders would have never been in the southeast of the continent and would have gone unnoticed.
To find out what science news we covered in the previous Science Digest, read our article!