This Week’s Top 3 Science News aims to shine a light on the three most exciting nuggets of science that have been in the press during the week. Because excitement is a rather subjective feeling, we aim to have it written by a different PhD student every week! We would also love to hear what you think about the science that’s been in the news. Let us know in the comments below! 

No. 3: A new version of the Virtual Fly Brain is up!

You don’t have to be a neurobiologist or even a scientist at all to appreciate how cool this is! The Virtual Fly Brain allows you to browse around every part of a 3D fly brain and explore its connections and gene expression patterns. It’s really useful if you are a student and are trying to get your head around the anatomy of the brain (pun genuinely not intended), or if you are just even mildly curious about what neuroscience looks like. Plus, it’s really beautiful to look at!

No. 2: Venus Fly traps are now even more terrifying

Venus fly traps shut down if the small, sensitive hairs on the surface of the trap are touched more than twice. Scientists from Wu¨rzburg, Germany have shown that the plant keeps on counting the number of times the hairs are pushed after the trap is shut. Rather horrifyingly, this identifies live, struggling prey that would be a good source of nutrients. This prompts the plant to secrete digestive enzymes that are then used to digest the prey and acquire its precious nutrients.

No. 1: Zika Virus is now officially associated with microcephaly

Zika Virus (or ZIKV) is a mosquito-carried flavivirus that has been making the news headlines for the past few months due to a potentially dangerous outbreak in South America. In particular, Brazil has been especially affected with over 1 million cases reported in December 2015 alone. Part of the reason why the outbreak has caused such concern both locally and internationally was its suspected connection with microcephaly in newborns whose mothers were infected by the virus. This week, a team from Slovakia has identified viral particles in the brain of a newborn whose mother was infected during her first trimester. As the authors mention in the paper, the international scientific community is under great pressure to come together to understand how the Zika virus causes disease and to develop a cure. In fact, important voices in science have already spoken out to encourage the free sharing of data regarding the virus to help solve this crisis faster.

Written by: Gaia Cantelli