DNA editing partially restores sight

Blind animals have had their vision partially restored using a revolutionary DNA editing technique that scientists say could in future be applied to a range of devastating genetic diseases.

The study shows that a gene editing tool called Crispr can be used to replace faulty genes with working versions in the cells of adults – in this case adult rats.

Previously, the powerful procedure, in which strands of DNA are snipped out and replaced, had been used only in dividing cells but the latest advance paves the way for Crispr to be used to treat a range of incurable illnesses, such as muscular dystrophy, haemophilia and cystic fibrosis, by overwriting faulty genes.

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Wireless link used to bypass spinal cord

Researchers have restored some leg movement to a monkey that was paralysed in one leg due to a damaged spinal cord. The team used an implant in the brain to wirelessly send instructions to the nerves controlling leg movement. It is hoped that this technology will be ready for human trials within 10 years

 

Trump and Climate Change

This is worth reading, from Oliver Milman, US Environment Correspondent

Obama’s climate legacy is set to be torn apart by Trump once he enters the White House. Contentious oil pipelines such as Keystone and Dakota Access will likely be approved. Clean energy funding will be slashed. The world’s second largest greenhouse gas emitter will look to prop up coal, rather than renewables, to power its future.

This could prove catastrophic for the world’s climate, as well as international diplomacy, as American leadership is transformed into an excuse to slack off in cutting emissions. Already, the 2C threshold looks in severe peril. 8 November could be the day when tens of millions of people were condemned to an unlivable environment. A Trump u-turn on this matter, at least, would be welcomed by those most at risk.

 

Our Individual Contribution to Global Warming

Research, published in the journal Science, analysed the declining extent of Arctic sea ice from 1953 to 2015 and found it tracked the emissions of CO2 from fossil fuel burning and other human activities. The relationship fits well with the underlying physics.

As a result, it is possible to calculate how much Arctic sea ice is lost as a result of an individual’s emissions. The average annual emissions of a citizen of the 35 rich nations in the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) is 10 tonnes per year, leading to 30 sq m of ice being lost. Citizens of the US, Canada and Australia have a higher carbon footprint – about 16 tonnes – each causing almost 50 sq m of ice loss per year. In the UK, the average emissions are 7.5 tonnes per year, meaning 22.5 sq m of ice loss.

So we should all do our best to reduce our carbon footprint, every little helps.

Dangers of smoking

People who smoke a pack of cigarettes each day for a year develop on average 150 extra mutations in their DNA in every lung cell, and nearly 100 more DNA mutations than usual in each cell of the voice box, researchers found. More still build up in the mouth, bladder, liver and other organs. Some 70 chemicals in tobacco smoke are known to cause cancer, some damaging DNA directly or changing the ways cells function, but the more mutations in the DNA, the more likely the cell could turn cancerous.

 

Kidney stones? Try a roller coaster ride!

Two researchers in the US rode a theme park roller coaster with a mock-up of a kidney to test if thrill rides can dislodge kidney stones! They did this after several people reported that  they had passed a kidney stone after one of these rides, and yes, the fake kidney did pass a stone – after the 20th ride!

 

Beware the Death Cap mushroom!

Be very careful when you forage for mushrooms; there’s one particular menace this autumn: the death cap mushroom.It is Britain’s deadliest mushroom and it’s been reported in unusually large numbers in the run of mild, damp weather. It’s been estimated that as little as half a death cap mushroom is enough to kill an adult and, worldwide, this species has caused more deaths than any other mushroom. Worse still, death caps have been reported to taste quite pleasant, and symptoms of poisoning may not appear for up to 24 hours after they have been eaten. It’s easy to mistake the death cap for some edible mushrooms. They can be distinguished by a pale green cap, a bulbous ring at the bottom of the stalk and a ring-like collar. Make sure you can tell the difference!

Clever spiders in your garden!

They are creepy, crawly and, for some, a source of irrational fear. Now scientists at Oxford University have found that spiders can hear you from across a room and when you are near them on their garden webs.

The discovery came as a surprise because, technically, spiders do not have ears. However, the latest research shows that the hairs on spiders’ legs are so sensitive that they can detect human speech from several metres away.

They can also control the tension and stiffness of their webs to optimise their sensory powers, helping them locate and identify prey as well as partners.