SciTech Briefs

Researchers determine origin of Perissodactyla

While working in an Indian coal mine, Johns Hopkins University researchers have determined the origins of the biological group Perissodactyla, a group including odd-toed animals with distinctive digestive systems like horses and rhinos. Ken Rose, a professor of functional anatomy and evolution at Johns Hopkins, originally led the team to explore Eocene sediments in Western India due to the proposal that Perissodactyla may have originated there. The team uncovered 54.5 million-year-old bones in an open-pit coal mine northeast of Mumbai, and determined the bones belonged to Cambaytherium thewissi, an animal intermediate between Perissodactyla and more primitive animals. This discovery may also provide clues about India’s geological separation from Madagascar and collision with Asia, according to Rose.

Source: Science Daily

New blood test could provide early Alzheimer’s diagnosis

New research published in the Federation of American Societies for Experimental Biology Journal suggests that a blood test detecting Alzheimer’s disease a decade before diagnosis might be possible. Researchers found a way to measure insulin resistance in the brain, which is a symptom indicative of Alzheimer’s disease. Although the sample size was small, researchers examined the blood of living Alzheimer’s patients and their blood samples taken up to ten years before their diagnosis. Based on an insulin receptor called IRS-1, researchers could tell which samples came from Alzheimer’s patients. Researchers hope to replicate these findings with a larger sample size. Commercial tests are not yet available.

The results of this research were presented at the Society for Neuroscience in Washington, D.C.

Source: TIME

Scientists compare genomes of mice and humans

An international group of researchers has found strong evidence as to why certain processes in a mouse, such as its immune system, metabolism, and stress response, are different from those in humans while other processes are extremely similar. In a report published Nov. 19, the group detailed their findings, examining the genetics and biochemistry involved in regulating human and mouse genomes. The researchers compared gene transcription (how the genes are read) and chromatin (a protein that controls access to DNA) modification in both mice and humans. They found that there were differences in specific tissue and cell types. Now that they know which genes are conserved between mice and humans, geneticists say that a mouse is an excellent model for certain aspects of human biology.

Source: Science Daily

Stanford and Brown students create biodegradable drone

Students primarily from Stanford University and Brown University teamed up with NASA to create a biodegradable drone made out of fungi. Made from mycelium, which is the vegetative part of a fungus, the body of the drone takes a week to grow in a special mold in the lab before being outfitted with motors and a circuit board. Currently, only the Styrofoam-like body is biodegradable, eventually turning into a gooey substance. However, the team is in the process of building a fully biodegradable circuit board with biodegradable motors and propellers. The hope is that these drones can be piloted into areas unsafe for humans — such as fire sites and nuclear reactors — and collect data. If the drone crashed, it would not create any waste since it is biodegradable, therefore leaving the environment unaffected.

Source: Forbes

CERN discovers two new subatomic particles

This week, CERN physicists announced the discovery of two new subatomic particles, labeled Xi_b’- and Xi_b*-, containing three quarks bound together by the strong force, making them a part of the baryon family. The particles were discovered thanks to roughly 750 scientists from around the world and the Large Hadron Collider (LHC), which has been running proton collisions since 2008. Previously, the quark model predicted the existence of these particles, but this is the first physical evidence of their existence. This discovery can help scientists further confirm the Standard Model of particle physics, which has become the indisputable model since the discovery of the Higgs boson.

Source: Universe Today