This month in science

No time to catch up on the latest science headlines? No problem.

An Anxious Scientist brings you a neat summary of all the best bits. 

July 2017

The risk of schistosomiasis could be increasing as pesticides wipe out insects that eat snails, the host of the parasite during part of its life cycle. 

A pre-existing vaccine for meningitis B might protect against an antibiotic-resistant strain of gonorrhoea after it was found that those already vaccinated were 31% less likely to develop the disease.

In a display of commitment to the Paris climate change agreement, France has pledged to stop the sale of new petrol or diesel cars by 2040. 

A study of over 40,000 people suggests that serious head injuries could greatly increase the risk of developing dementia, a concern in sports such as rugby and boxing. 

CRISPR has been used to encode a GIF of a galloping horse into the DNA of a population of bacteria.

Galloping horses. Shipman et al. (2017). CRISPR-Cas encoding of a digital movie into the genomes of a population of living bacteria. Nature.

Children who sleep less have shorter telomeres, which may increase their risk of developing cancer or cognitive issues later in life.

Healthy bile duct cells grown in the lab have been implanted into mice where they formed a functioning organ, raising hope for those who suffer from bile duct issues.

The death toll from Yemen’s current outbreak of cholera has reached 1500. The ongoing civil war is thought to be a major cause of the spread.

Artificially inducing a loss of smell in lab mice prevents them from becoming obese on a high fat diet, with their weight 16% lower than their wild-type counterparts.

Mitochondrial DNA from a Neanderthal alive approximately 100,000 years ago has been sequenced and analysis suggests that it has similarities from that one modern humans. 

June 2017

Females may not be receiving optimal drug treatment after it was uncovered that male and female mice respond to therapeutics differently; most trials are done on male rodents to avoid fluctuations in the hormone cycle. 

A type of insecticide called neonicotinoids affect certain types of bee in different ways, with some suffering from its toxicity and others remaining unaffected, possibly dependent on the original health of the colony. 

Bacteriophage, a type of virus, have been engineered to kill antibiotic-resistant bacteria but its potential as a therapy is still in its infancy.

Analysis of fossilised hippo teeth suggests that a huge expansion of the species is linked closely to changes in food availability.

A 100 million year old baby bird that would have lived during the dinosaur era has been discovered preserved in amber.

A new combination therapy has improved the health of children with cystic fibrosis by increasing the amount of oxygen they can take in.

Scanning the brain of babies may allow doctors to predict the likelihood that they will go on to develop autism later in childhood.

Xing Lida_accessed New Scientist 220617
A baby bird preserved in amber. Image Xing Lida. Accessed New Scientist 22-06-2017.

A huge study has declared that approximately a third of the world’s population are now classed as overweight.

The anti-HIV PrEP has been categorised as an essential medicine by the World Health Organisation despite it being too expensive for the NHS to provide as a preventative.

Theresa May has looked to the Democratic Unionist Party to help her minority Conservative government, but some are concerned about the DUP’s view on evolution and the environment.

Donald Trump has announced that he will pull the US out of the Paris climate agreement, sparking concerns that this will affect the efforts to slow down global warming.

The antibiotic vancomycin has been modified successfully, rendering it potent against formally resistant strains of bacteria.

Many clinical studies may contain incorrect data after a study highlighted discrepancies that seem unlikely to have occurred by chance.

A promising new drug for ovarian cancer treatment has reduced the size of tumours in seven women out of a trial of 15.

Consuming even a small amount of alcohol during pregnancy could affect the baby’s facial features as well as their behaviour and IQ.

Blocking noradrenaline may provide a new way to treat people with obsessive compulsive disorder by boosting confidence in decision making.

May 2017

Being ‘fat but fit’ is a myth. People with obesity are more likely to develop cardiovascular disease than their slim counterparts, regardless of whether they show the characteristic red flags.

AlphaGo, Google’s AI, has beaten the world’s best Go player, Ke Jie. It will now be pitted against a team of expert players.

An outbreak of Ebola has been announced in the Democratic Republic of Congo, but it is hoped that a rapid response will keep it under control.

It could be that flamingos sleep on one leg because it uses less energy than standing on two, possibly due a passive locking of their knee joints.

Male cuttlefish have been videoed fighting over their mates, demonstrating behaviours thought previously to be beyond their mental capabilities.

Super hardy morning glory seeds are potential candidates for a trip to Mars after they were shown to resist very high levels of ultraviolet radiation.

Noise pollution in the US is threatening even secluded spots which could have an impact on the survival of animals by altering their behaviour.

The US National Institutes of Health plans to limit the amount of funding individual scientists can receive in an attempt to even up the playing field for early career researchers.

Changes in the immune profile of tumours have been identified, providing potential targets for personalised therapy.

April 2017

Thousands turned out in cities across the world to March for Science as fears of a ‘post-truth era’ grow.

A group of lambs are progressing normally after spending part of their fetal life in an artificial womb, raising hopes that the Biobag could save the lives of babies born prematurely.

Last Friday the UK went entirely coal-free for 24 hours, the first time this has happened since the Industrial Revolution.

A caterpillar may provide a novel way to reduce plastic waste after a certain species was found to eat its way through a carrier bag, converting it to a compound found in antifreeze.

A study of over 250 000 adults suggests that smoking may increase the genetics-based susceptibility to obesity.

Naked mole rats can survive for over 18 minutes without oxygen, possibly by switching their sugar usage from glucose to fructose, slowing down their metabolism or by having a lower body temperature.


Sources – Science, Nature, New Scientist