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1. Lymphatic vessels found to extend into the brain

Contrary to popular belief, lymphatic vessels do extend into the brain, according to Kari Alitalo, a scientist at the University of Helsinki in Finland.

Alitalo intended to develop a more precise map of the lymphatic system. He genetically modified mice's lymphatic vessels to glow when illuminated by a particular wavelength of light.

Upon viewing the modified mice under the light, Aleksanteri Aspelund, a medical student in Alitalo's laboratory made the discovery. What was thought to be an error was dismissed when they repeated the experiment and obtained the same results.

Two networks were found: the lymphatic system for the brain, system where vessels that lead into and surround the brain, and the glymphatic system—the vessels within the brain. Glymphatic vessels carry cerebrospinal fluid and immune cells into the brain, removing cellular waste from it.

This presents major implications for a wide variety of brain diseases, including Alzheimer's multiple sclerosis, stroke and traumatic brain injury.

2. Healthy baby mice born from freeze-dried sperm in space

The space pups grew into healthy adult mice. Photo credit: PNAS Journal
The space pups grew into healthy adult mice. Photo credit: PNAS Journal

Japanese researchers from the University of Yamanshi, have succeeded in using space-freeze-dried sperm to produce healthy baby mice. The experiment on the International Space Station (ISS) provides evidence that transporting sperm away from Earth is possible.

The researchers suggested that sperm banks could even be made on the Moon as a back-up for Earth disasters. However, it is unclear if this experiment proves that humans are able to populate space.

The experiment was a success because on the ISS, radiation is more than 100 times higher than on Earth. The average daily dose of 0.5mSv from the cosmic rays is enough to damage DNA in living cells. Microgravity also has an effect on sperm where it manages to swim faster.

The freeze-dried mouse sperm samples were stored on the ISS for nine months before returning to Earth and thawed at room temperature. The DNA was slightly damaged by the trip, but fertilisation and birth rates were found to be similar to healthy "ground control" mice.

The researchers believe that the sperm DNA damage was repaired by the egg upon fertilisation. The pups also managed to grow and become parents themselves.

This study provides a better understanding for scientists who are studying if mammals, including humans, can permanently live and procreate in space.

3. Stick-on patch notifies wearers when to reapply sunblock

A stick-on patch that can notify wearers when to reapply sunblock has been developed by researchers at the University of Southern California.

The patch comprises a smart material sandwiched between two thin layers of silicone. The smart materials contain small molecules that split in half in response to UV and turns the patch orange—letting the user know when it is time to reapply sunblock or seek for shade.

Researchers can also tune the response rate to cater to people who are more UV sensitive. The strips could also be used for drug space, as some medications have to be packed and shipped in UV-proof containers. The smart strip could ensure quality control upon the drug's arrival at its final destination.

4. Automated drill speeds up cranial surgery times

The automatic drill developed for cranial drilling. Photo credit: Couldwell et al./University of Utah.
The automatic drill developed for cranial drilling. Photo credit: Couldwell et al./University of Utah.

An automated drill that can drill bones 50 times faster than manual drills has been developed by researchers at the University of Utah.

The drill could soon be used in delicate medical procedures such as cranial surgery, significantly reducing surgery time and the incidence of infections, human errors and surgical costs. Currently brain surgeries require skilled surgeons to tediously hand drill openings.

The drill has an "A to B" path based on a CT scan of the patients' skill and surgeons can add safety barriers around the most sensitive areas. If the drill approaches any of these barriers, it will turn itself off.

The tech was successfully tested on a translabyrinthine procedure and the team is now looking to make the drill more usable for other procedures such as hip replacement.

5. International consensus for more transparent and unbiased research

The world's largest funders of medical research and international non-governmental organisations (NGOs) have reached a consensus on new standards requiring all clinical trials they fund or support to be registered and results made public.

The joint statement was issued by the UK Medical Research Council, Indian Council of Medical Research, Norwegian Research Council, the Médecins Sans Frontières research arm Epicentre, PATH, the Coalition for Epidemic Preparedness Innovations (CEPI), Institut Pasteur, the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, and the Wellcome Trust.

Currently, 50% of clinical trials go unreported as results are negative. The organisations will develop and implement the policies within the next 12 months and insist that all results will be disclosed on the registry and/or by publication in a scientific journal by an agreed deadline.

This is to avoid an incomplete and potentially misleading picture of the risks and benefits of vaccines, drugs and medical devices, that could lead to the use of suboptimal or even harmful products, according to the WHO. MIMS

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