Bionic Fingers

A study published this week in eLife described how amputees are soon going to be able to feel the world around them.  In this proof-of-concept study, an amputee was surgically implanted with an electrode array that provided an interface between a prosthetic finger and the nervous system.  This allowed the participant to touch and feel different surfaces – and could actually discriminate between them more successfully that intact volunteers using a temporary version of the electrode array.

Methane on Mars?

Today saw the launch of a new probe searching for signs of life on Mars.  The European-Russian mission lifted off from Kazakhstan today to examine the atmosphere of Mars for traces of methane gas.  Evidence of methane on Mars was first found over a decade ago, but until now it has not been possible to determine the source – whether it came from normal geological processes or from microbes.

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Sticky T cells

Our major defence against cancer is our own immune system, which tumours try to block by secreting suppressive factors like TGFβ.  Unfortunately TGFβ is so important for proper functioning of the immune system it’s not a good drug target.  However, researchers this week showed that both mice and human T cells lacking an adhesion molecule, PECAM-1, were much less sensitive to TGFβ-induced immune suppression that PECAM-1-positive T cells.  As PECAM-1 is a surface protein it can easily be blocked using antibodies and may be a useful drug target to treat cancer.

Written by: Victoria Swann