This week: Journey to Mars, treating brittle bone disease in the womb, digitizing the brain, transplanting pig organs in humans, and a universal wireless transmitter.
How We Get To Mars
NASA has released a detailed outline on the journey to Mars, “NASA’s Journey to Mars: Pioneering Next Steps in Space Exploration.”
“NASA is closer to sending American astronauts to Mars than at any point in our history,” said NASA Administrator Charles Bolden. “Today, we are publishing additional details about our journey to Mars plan and how we are aligning all of our work in support of this goal. In the coming weeks, I look forward to continuing to discuss the details of our plan with members of Congress, as well as our commercial and our international and partners, many of whom will be attending the International Astronautical Congress next week.”
Treating Embryonic Brittle Bone Disease with Stem Cells
Their bones are so brittle that they fracture while in the womb. Now a clinical trial of stem cell therapy in the womb aims to help babies born with brittle bone disease start life with stronger skeletons.
“To our knowledge, this is the first clinical trial using stem cells in the womb,” says Cecilia Götherström of the Karolinska Institute in Stockholm, Sweden, and coordinator of the Europe-wide trial. “A few cases have been done before, including by us, but there has been no proper trial.”
Brittle bone disease, or osteogenesis imperfecta, is caused by mutations in the gene for making collagen – a tough, flexible material that strengthens bone. Götherström and her colleagues will inject fetuses around 20 weeks old with stromal stem cells containing unmutated copies of the collagen gene.
Digital Version of Rat Brain Fires Like The Real Thing
The brain is going digital. A tiny piece of a rat’s brain has been reconstructed in minute detail in a computer. The digital piece of brain, which includes 31,000 neurons and their 37 million synapses, fires like the real thing, and is already revealing fresh clues as to how the brain works.
The simulation is the first significant achievement of the Blue Brain project, which was launched 10 years ago by Henry Markram at the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology in Lausanne, Switzerland. Today’s breakthrough represents the first step to a larger goal – creating a digital model of the entire human brain to probe consciousness itself.
Transplanting Pig Organs in Humans
To address the limited supply of organs available to a growing list of patients awaiting transplants, we might have to look outside our species.
Transplanting pig organs into humans, believe it or not, is one of the more promising options to address the dearth of organs available for those who need them. Pigs and humans share a number of physiological and anatomical similarities, but pigs also carry harmful viruses in their genome making pig-to-human transplants dangerous. Now, researchers say, they can simply remove the viruses native to pig cells, reviving the idea of xenotransplantation — using animal organs in humans.
Universal Wireless Charger Coming
A wireless charger that’s compatible with different consumer electronics from different brands is one step closer to becoming a reality thanks to research by electrical engineers at the University of California, San Diego.
Researchers have developed a dual frequency wireless charging platform that could be used to charge multiple devices, such as smartphones, smartwatches, laptops and tablets, at the same time—regardless of which wireless standard, or frequency, each device supports.
Know any interesting stories we missed?Let us know in the comments!