The Latest Scientific Breakthroughs and What They Mean to Us

Discovery of Lena horse

A group of scientists from the Mammoth Museum at the North-Eastern Federal University in Yakutsk, Russia has discovered and excavated a 42,000-year-old foal preserved in Siberian permafrost. The Lena horse (Equus caballus lenensis) foal may have lived in the Paleolithic period for only two months before possibly drowning in mud and dying. Its carcass contains the oldest liquid blood on record. Usually, blood evaporates and may turn into powder despite the icy permafrost. Other than its liquid blood, the urine, gut contents, and organs of the carcass have been well-preserved and are now under study along with the samples of permafrost where the foal had been found. This group of scientists is also responsible in studying an excavated body of mammoth with the goal of cloning it by using its DNA. With this new discovery, they are also looking into possibly cloning and reviving the foal. If these scientists become successful in cloning these ice age creatures, then it will not be a far cry from reality that us humans may also be able to clone and revive dead people or that we ourselves may be cloned after we are long gone (kind of like the Be Right Back episode of Netflix’s Black Mirror).

Dead Pigs’ Brain Cell Activity Restoration

According to a study published in the journal Nature, scientists from Yale School of Medicine in New Haven, Connecticut were able to restore circulation and cell activity in the brains of dead pigs, hours after they were slaughtered. The discovery is contradictory to what we know about brain activity after death, in which brain cells die in a short span of time and that the damage is irreversible, leaving no capacity for restoration. However, this does not mean that the brain will be as good as a ‘living’ brain; the brain cannot function normally and it may lack awareness or consciousness. Further studies may still have to be conducted, though. In the meantime, this breakthrough opens doors towards research that may help scientists better understand and find probable cure to brain diseases and brain injuries.

Discovery of New Human Species

Scientists have discovered a new human species called Homo luzonensis, recovered from the Callao Cave in Luzon island, northern Philippines. The samples recovered were seven teeth and six bones of at least three members of the said species and were dated from 50,000 to 67,000 years ago. An analysis conducted on the samples concluded that these bones were never seen before and did not match any other species from the Homo family. According to the study, the H.luzonensis might have lived alongside other Homo members such as the Neanderthals, Denisovans from Siberia, and Flores from Indonesia. The discovery tells us how little we still know of our own genus and that there are still a lot to learn about our origins, which in turn will tell us who we are.

Gene Therapy Curing ‘Bubble Boy Disease’

Thanks to an experimental gene therapy, eight infants with ‘bubble boy disease,’ a severe immune disorder, were cured. Those with the said disorder, which is caused by a specific gene mutation, have little to no immune protection, which makes them vulnerable to life-threatening infections. The scientists genetically engineered altered versions of HIV, a virus which typically attacks the immune system but which in this case does the opposite. Sixteen months after the therapy, the infants have yet to experience serious side effects and are actually developing normally. They will still be monitored for a longer period for any long-term side effects. The technique used in this study can be used in other gene therapies for other blood disorders.

3D Printed Tiny Heart from Human Cells

3D printing continues to make its mark in the scientific world. The latest development is 3D printing a tiny heart from human cells done by researchers at Tel Aviv University in Israel. It is much smaller than the normal human heart and more research will be done to improve its functionality and size. But it is a great start in addressing the problem of shortage in transplant organs available to patients. Once it becomes fully-developed and made available to the public, the 3D-printed organs will also be ‘personalized’ or customized to each patient, eliminating the risk of complications with transplanting foreign tissues in the body.

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