Earth’s Hottest January on Record, Can Ebola Virus Eliminate Brain Tumors? and Other Top Research News of the Week
Impact Insider – Weekly Round Up of Trending Research
Volume 1 | Issue 10
Tiny Brain Region Dictates the State of Consciousness
Philosophers and scientists have various definitions of human consciousness, but neurobiologists generally agree that it is a state of wakefulness and awareness of existence. However, the concept of consciousness still remains one of the greatest mysteries of the mind, especially since the brain regions that control consciousness were not known until now. Scientists finally managed to narrow down the exact region in the brain that is involved in wakefulness. In an experiment, they electrically stimulated multiple brain regions in monkeys that were awake, asleep, and anesthetized. They noted that a tiny area in the forebrain called the “central lateral thalamus” was the most involved in inducing wakefulness. Interestingly, when this region was activated using electrodes, even unconscious monkeys woke up and showed signs of consciousness. And when this electric activity was halted, they went right back to sleep. This is the first study confirming the exact brain region involved in conscious activities, opening up possibilities for treating patients in coma.
A Step towards a Greener Future: Generating Electricity from Water Vapor
Some political leaders of powerful nations might be in denial, but there is no disputing the fact that climate change is very real and, potentially, very destructive. Luckily, a few scientists haven’t given up and are constantly trying to find solutions. One solution is to find alternatives to fossil fuels, a major cause of global warming and climate change. A lab in the US has taken several steps in this direction. A few years ago, the scientists in this lab discovered that a type of bacteria, “Geobacter”, can conduct electricity using “protein nanowires.” They did not stop here: recently, they used this technology to develop a new device called “Air-gen,” which successfully generated electricity from water vapor! In their work, which was published in Nature this week, the scientists showed that a very thin coat of protein nanowires on the surface attracts water vapor, and a combination of the nanowires and electrodes generates electric currents. We should certainly hope to see a future in which this technology can largely replace fossil fuels—as this will be a much greener, sustainable future.
Ebola Virus Can Kill Brain Tumors
One of the deadliest viruses in the world can kill a very stubborn, lethal brain tumor, called glioblastoma, a new study finds. Scientists at Yale University realized that the majority of cancer cells cannot keep out viruses, so viruses could be used to kill cancer cells. But if doctors ever use this possible line of treatment, how can they keep the virus from infecting every other part of the body? To solve this problem, the scientists created a chimera virus containing only the one gene from the Ebola virus that hides it from the body’s immune system. They injected this chimera into the brains of mice with glioblastoma tumors. The chimera selectively killed cancerous cells without infecting any healthy cells. Theoretically, this method could be used in conjunction with surgery to eliminate glioblastomas. It takes a deadly thing to kill a deadly thing.
January 2020 Is Earth’s Hottest January on Record
Usually, the searing temperatures of central and east-central equatorial Pacific region are regulated by the El Niño climate phenomenon. But in January 2020, the global land and ocean surface temperature was warmer than the mean value, thereby creating the highest recorded monthly temperature departure in the absence of El Niño. In addition, the recorded global temperature across land and ocean surfaces was also the highest at 1.14°C, above the 20th century average of 12.0°C, breaking a 141-year record.
Temperature departure also dragged in minimal Polar ice coverage across Antarctica by 9.8% and very low snow coverage in Northern hemisphere. Australia had its third warmest January on record, which was evidently supported by the terrible case of bushfires. South America, Europe, Asia, and the Caribbean and Hawaiian regions had their second warmest January since 1910. All the above statistical data are backed by the scientists from National Centers for Environmental Information who study and monitor coastal and marine ecosystems and resources.
‘Climate Collage’ Credit: © NOAA
‘Human Brain’, ‘Light Bulb’, ‘Doctor’ by Shutterstock
Avantika Deo, Rachana Bhattacharjee, Indrani Das