This week in science | 3 March 2017

SpaceX announces a plan to send two citizens around the moon in 2018

It seems that humans are going back to the Moon. Here's what you need to know about this new revelation and what it means in relation to humanity's journey into the cosmos.

Gene therapy can treat and cure cancer after just a single round

  • Gene therapy has been shown in clinical trials to not just treat cancer, but possibly cure it.
  • The treatments have risks — including death — so additional research is needed before they could become widely available.

Reference: Kite Pharma

Fossils discovered containing the oldest evidence of life on earth

  • Researchers have discovered what they believe to be fossils of microbes that existed 3.77 billion years ago, which, if confirmed, would be the oldest fossil evidence on record.
  • These microbes would have lived when the Earth was very young and very chaotic, so their confirmation would force us to reconsider what we think of as the conditions for life.

Reference: Nature Journal

Boston Dynamics unveil a terrifying new Robot that can jump and is impressive flexible

  • Boston Dynamics' agile new robot Handle is six feet tall, has two front legs and a pair of hind wheels, and can travel roughly 15 miles on a single charge.
  • With its impressive flexibility and balance, Handle is a striking example of how far we have come in the field of robotics.

Reference: Boston Dynamics

MIT's new ultra thin fibers that mimic brain tissue revolutionize brain implants

  • Researchers have developed fibers roughly 200 micrometers across that mimic the flexibility of brain tissue and can be used to manipulate electrical, chemical, or optical signals.
  • Previous devices were specialized, so these small, all-in-one fibers could allow us to do more in neuroscience research, which could lead to breakthroughs in medical treatments and BCIs.

Reference: Nature Neuroscience Journal

A new method safely thaws cryopreserved tissues for organ transplants

  • Current methods for keeping organs viable for transplant only last a few hours — and half of donated hearts and lungs are thrown out each year because they don’t make it to patients in time.
  • A new technique using nanoparticles to heat the tissues at an equal rate means ice crystal formation — which ruins tissue — is avoided.

Reference: Science