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Recently, scientists discovered a new species of orangutan, now called Pongo tapanuliensis. This species is critically endangered and only 800 such animals exist in the world at the moment.  (credit: Courtesy of Tim Laman via Wikimedia Creative Commons) Recently, scientists discovered a new species of orangutan, now called Pongo tapanuliensis. This species is critically endangered and only 800 such animals exist in the world at the moment. (credit: Courtesy of Tim Laman via Wikimedia Creative Commons)

New orangutan species could go extinct soon

Until recently, scientists believed there to be only two species of orangutan — Sumatran and Bornean. However, a new species of orangutan has been discovered, called Pongo tapanuliensis.

They were discovered in Batang Toru forest in Sumatra, Indonesia. While the two known species of orangutan are already on the endangered species list, this new species is estimated to only contain 800 individuals.

“The Batang Toru orangutans appear to be direct descendants of the initial orangutans that had migrated from mainland Asia, and thus constitute the oldest evolutionary line within the genus Pongo,” said study co-author Alexander Nater of the University of Zurich, in a statement to The Verge.

“Great apes are among the best-studied species in the world,” said study co-author Erik Meijaard of the Australian National University.

“If after 200 years of serious biological research we can still find new species in this group, what does it tell us about all the other stuff that we are overlooking: hidden species, unknown ecological relationships, critical thresholds we shouldn’t cross?”

Source: The Verge

New artificial cells can produce insulin for diabetic people

People with diabetes are unable to produce insulin in their own body due to dysfunctional beta islet cells in the pancreas, which naturally produce insulin.
In the October 2017 online version of Nature Chemical Biology, researchers published a study called “Synthetic beta cells for fusion-mediated dynamic insulin secretion” about cells they synthetically made in the lab that produce insulin similar to how beta islet cells do. The cells were injected into diabetic mice. The experiment showed that the cells can regulate blood sugar for up to five days.

Diabetes affects more than 400 million people worldwide. According to the American Diabetes Association, around 30 million people in the United States have diabetes. Currently, people with diabetes have to check their blood sugar level several times a day and manually inject insulin. With this study, artificial cells can provide a viable treatment for patients in the future and have a lot of possibility. According to Science News, “unlike transplanted beta cells — or other types of real cells genetically engineered to release insulin for diabetes treatment — these artificial cells could be mass-produced and have a much longer shelf life than live cells.”

Source: Science News

Planetary system may be closer than previously believed

The closest star to our Sun is called Proxima Centauri. Since 2010, researchers have known that Proxima Centauri is orbited by a terrestrial planet, Proxima Centauri b.
Recently, an observatory in Chile has discovered a dust cloud around Proxima Centauri, signaling the possibility of a planetary system.

“The dust around Proxima is important because, following the discovery of the terrestrial planet Proxima Centauri b, it’s the first indication of the presence of an elaborate planetary system, and not just a single planet, around the star closest to our Sun,” said lead author Guillem Anglada.

“This result suggests that Proxima Centauri may have a multiple planet system with a rich history of interactions that resulted in the formation of a dust belt. Further study may also provide information that might point to the locations of as yet unidentified additional planets.”

There are rudimentary plans in place to explore the this planetary system, primarily a project called Starshot. Starshot, which has support from famous scientists like Stephen Hakwing, plans to send probes to Proxima Centauri on tiny, ultralight spacecraft powered by solar sails.

Source: Science Daily