A weekly round up of the Ten Top STEM News from around the world, including,
Lab-grown human beta cells have blocked diabetes in mice for good
For the first time, researchers have converted induced pluripotent stem cells – cells capable of turning into any other type of cell – into fully functioning pancreatic beta cells, and when transplanted into diabetic mice, they blocked the disease altogether.
While the process has yet to be tested in humans, the results are exciting, because the hallmark of diabetes is a loss of functioning beta cells. If we can figure out how to transplant new, healthy beta cells into diabetes patients, we’re looking at an actual cure, not just a treatment.
Giant rats sniff out TB in Mozambique and Tanzania
A technology that relies on trained African giant pouched rats — named HeroRATS — to sniff out tuberculosis (TB) and diagnose the disease faster than conventional diagnostic methods is helping save lives in Mozambique and Tanzania.
This tiny device is 12 times more effective at treating pancreatic cancer
A small, implantable device could transform the treatment of pancreatic cancer, with researchers announcing that in tests carried out on mice, the thin film was up to 12 times more effective than standard chemotherapy treatments, which usually involve the intravenous injection of drugs.
Part of the problem in tackling pancreatic cancer is the difficulty in getting chemo drugs to the pancreas, which is located deep within the abdomen. A better treatment option could have a huge impact – pancreatic cancer is the third leading cause of cancer-related deaths in the US.
Pioneering sun protection
Pioneering sun protection before the patch If a few years ago someone had told you that some day a blue and white heart-shaped sticker 2.5 cm across would one day help protect you from UV rays, you’d probably have told them they’d been sitting in the sun too long. Yet that day has arrived: this January at CES in Las Vegas, Guive Balooch, global vice president of L’Oréal’s Technology Incubator unveiled La Roche-Posay’s My UV Patch. Just half the thickness of a strand of hair — about 50 microns — this ultra-thin stretchable sensor contains photosensitive dyes that change colour depending on how much UV radiation it’s exposed to.
New protein injection reverses Alzheimer’s symptoms in mice
Researchers have discovered that an injection of a protein called IL-33 can reverse Alzheimer’s-like symptoms and cognitive decline in mice, restoring their memory and cognitive function to the same levels as healthy mice in the space of one week.
Mice bred to develop a progressive Alzheimer’s-like disease as they aged (called APP/PS1 mice) were given daily injections of the protein, and it appeared to not only clear out the toxic amyloid plaques that are thought to trigger Alzheimer’s in humans, it also prevented more from forming.
Fructose alters hundreds of brain genes and could trigger diseases
Consuming fructose, a sugar that’s common in the Western diet, alters hundreds of genes that may be linked to many diseases, life scientists report. However, they discovered good news as well: an important omega-3 fatty acid known as DHA seems to reverse the harmful changes produced by fructose.
Need to remember something? Better draw it, study finds
Researchers have found that drawing pictures of information that needs to be remembered is a strong and reliable strategy to enhance memory.
“We discovered a significant recall advantage for words that were drawn as compared to those that were written,” said Wammes. “Participants often recalled more than twice as many drawn than written words. We labelled this benefit ‘the drawing effect,’ which refers to this distinct advantage of drawing words relative to writing them out.”
Mental illness burden and care: Facts and figures
Mental disorders such as anxiety, depression and suicide attempts are a reality for the poor as much as they are for the rich, even though they are often overlooked. Data from the WHO’s Mental health atlas 2014 show that suicide rates can be very similar between countries as different in income status as Vietnam and the United Kingdom, with five and six suicides per 100,000 people, respectively.  But few people in the developing world get the mental healthcare they need, and many patients are treated inhumanelyor offered treatments that do more harm than good.
Battery tech with off-the-charts charging capacity
Researchers have invented nanowire-based battery material that can be recharged hundreds of thousands of times, moving us closer to a battery that would never require replacement. The breakthrough work could lead to commercial batteries with greatly lengthened lifespans for computers, smartphones, appliances, cars and spacecraft.
Mice flown in space show nascent liver damage
In a discovery with implications for long-term spaceflight and future missions to Mars, researchers have found that mice flown aboard the space shuttle Atlantis returned to Earth with early signs of liver disease.