This week in SCIENCE

Some of these may not be exactly in this week’s timeframe.

Guess what? Lungs make blood!

Playground for Platelets

 

Using video microscopy in the living mouse lung, UC San Francisco scientists have revealed that the lungs play a previously unrecognized role in blood production. As reported online, in Nature, the researchers found that the lungs produced more than half of the platelets – blood components required for the clotting that stanches bleeding – in the mouse circulation. “What we’ve observed here in mice strongly suggests the lung may play a key role in blood formation in humans as well”,says one of the researchers, Mark R. Looney.

In another surprise finding, the scientists also identified a previously unknown pool of blood stem cells capable of restoring blood production when the stem cells of the bone marrow, previously thought to be the principal site of blood production, are depleted.

 

NASA’s “Ocean Worlds” discoveries

The announcement streamed live on Thursday on NASA TV, but you can watch the replay here.

The gist of the announcement: NASA has found the most compelling evidence yet that the ocean underneath the icy crust of Enceladus, Saturn’s sixth-largest moon, could contain life. In the past, the Cassini spacecraft has observed jets of water containing organic chemicals streaming from Enceladus. This latest finding adds a key ingredient for life to the mix: hydrogen. The presence of hydrogen in the jets makes NASA scientists suspect there are geothermal geysers on Enceladus’s ocean floor. Like the geothermal vents deep within Earth’s oceans, these could be home to microbes that use the chemical energy of hydrogen and carbon dioxide to produce methane and energy for life.

NASA also announced that it has collected more (not-yet-conclusive) evidence that there are also water vapor plumes emanating from Europa, Jupiter’s icy moon.

 

Spinach leaves turned into beating heart tissue

Using the plant like scaffolding, scientists built a mini version of a working heart, which may one day aid in tissue regeneration.

 

 

 

 

 

Left: A decellularized spinach leaf is pictured before dye is added to test its ability to filter blood through tissue. Right: Picture of a spinach leaf after it successfully demonstrated red dye could be pumped through its veins, simulating the blood, oxygen and nutrients human heart tissue needs to grow.

The study, published this month by the journal Biomaterials, offers a new way to grow a vascular system, which has been a roadblock for tissue engineering. Scientists have already created large-scale human tissue in a lab using methods like 3D printing, but it’s been much harder to grow the small, delicate blood vessels that are vital to tissue health.

“The main limiting factor for tissue engineering … is the lack of a vascular network,” says study co-author Joshua Gershlak, a graduate student at Worcester Polytechnic Institute (WPI) in Massachusetts, in a video describing the study. “Without that vascular network, you get a lot of tissue death.”

One of the defining traits of a leaf is the branching network of thin veins that delivers water and nutrients to its cells. Now, scientists have used plant veins to replicate the way blood moves through human tissue. The work involves modifying a spinach leaf in the lab to remove its plant cells, which leaves behind a frame made of cellulose, which acts as the vascular network.

The Great Barrier Reef is officially “terminal”

Another example of man’s destructive powers

The Great Barrier Reef in Australia is recognized as the biggest living structure on Earth. Unfortunately, it’s dying—with many portions facing no hope for recovery—thanks to back to back mass bleaching events.

Why care about reefs? In a word—biodiversity. The reef is home to 3,000 varieties of mollusks, over a hundred types of jellyfish, 1,625 species of fish, hundreds of shark and ray species, and over 30 kinds of whales and dolphins. These sea creatures call the soft and hard corals that make up the reef “home.” And without it, many of them will die. If that’s not enough, it has the distinction of being the largest living structure on the planet.

Mass bleaching, a phenomenon caused by global warming, is prompted when the water warms to a point that corals begin ejecting the symbiotic algae in their tissue, essential for their survival. Throughout history, there have only been four instances of this occurrence, and after such an event, it will take decades to recover.

“This is the fourth time the Great Barrier Reef has bleached severely – in 1998, 2002, 2016, and now in 2017. Bleached corals are not necessarily dead corals, but in the severe central region we anticipate high levels of coral loss,” said researcher James Kerry, from James Cook University’s ARC Centre of Excellence for Coral Reef Studies, in an official statement. He clarifies why the 2017 bleaching is significant: “It takes at least a decade for a full recovery of even the fastest growing corals, so mass bleaching events 12 months apart offers zero prospect of recovery for reefs that were damaged in 2016.”

 

Thanks for reading and being a part of promoting science. Hopefully, you learnt something new and are aware of things happening around us.

Please let me know what you think and any suggestions on how I can improve are welcome.

Quote of the day:

Of all the animals, man is the only one that is cruel. He is the only one that inflicts pain for the pleasure of doing it.

– Mark Twain

 

 

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