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Saturday, September 25, 2021

This Week in Science

Cancer:
How do we stop ovarian cancer? We bling the ovaries, obviously. Researchers from the Mayo Clinic have recently discovered that gold (nano) particles can prove quite effective in killing cancerous ovarian cells. By limiting the uptake of calcium into the ovarian cells’ mitochondria, the gold particles become far more toxic than normal, killing the normally resistant cancer cells. Do not take this as an excuse to go stock up on Goldschlager.

Climate and Culture:
According to researchers at Cardiff University’s School of Earth and Ocean Sciences, the University of Barcelona and the London Natural History Museum, early human cultural innovation increased exponentially during the Middle Stone Age about 80,000 years ago — a period of massive climate change. By measuring the dates of these climatic events and correlating them with archaeological finds, the researchers found that there were major societal changes around the same time that rainfall dramatically increased and when rainfall dramatically decreased. This indicates that it is not just humans that affect the environment, but it is also the environment that affects human evolution.

Type 1 Diabetes:
Type 1 diabetes is a condition in which the body’s immune cells attack the body’s cells that produce insulin. The insulin cells, or islet cells, are killed by a specific immune cell. Researchers from the Hall Institute of Medical Research in Australia have found that the immune cells, or T-cells, that attack the islet cells are in turn regulated by a different immune cell, called a regulatory T-cell. By increasing the activity of these regulatory T-cells, the researchers limited the number of normal T-cells in the system, and in turn dramatically reduced the lost number of islet cells.

Alzheimer’s:
This prevalent disease is caused by neuron death in the brain. Researchers from Cambridge’s Chemistry Department have been able to identify the mechanism that causes this neuron death, which has brought them one step closer to a cure. The researchers are focusing on how proteins in the brain “misfold,” causing aberrations that cause many neurodegenerative disorders, including Alzheimer’s.

Regeneration:
Salamanders are fortunate in that when a predator takes a limb, or two, or three, or four, those limbs can grow back and be perfectly functional. Salamanders are the only vertebrate that can repair their heart, tail, spinal cord and brain. This ability is essentially the “holy grail” of human longevity. Researchers from Monash University in Australia have recently identified a “scavenging immune system cell” that helps salamanders accomplish this amazing feat. By identifying the cells and process responsible for regeneration, we are now closer to developing this ability for human medicine.

Tornados:
Back in the 1980s, tornado hotspots only had about five minutes of warning before the tornado struck. Nowadays, that alert time has increased to 13 minutes, giving people invaluable extra time to prepare or escape the tornado’s path. By analyzing weather and satellite data from hundreds of past tornados, meteorologists from the Severe Storms Research Center have developed prediction algorithms that compare current conditions to those that existed before other tornados, and can determine an accurate timeframe in which the tornado can occur.

HUDSON LOFCHIE can be reached at science@theaggie.org.

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