SciTech Briefs

Rats receive new engineered organ

Researchers stripped a rat’s kidney of its cells and repopulated it with new ones, showing that a bioengineered kidney can function in a similar manner to a normal one. Dr. Harald Ott of Harvard Medical School took the kidney of a rat cadaver and removed its cells by putting it in detergent. This process left behind only the extracellular matrix and collagen that acted as a scaffold for cells. Ott then repopulated the kidney with neonatal rat cells and human red blood cells. The bioengineered kidney was then reinserted into a live rat.

Source: ScienceDaily

Mystery surrounds Chinese bird flu

With 82 cases of a new bird flu in China, public health officials are trying to determine how the virus is spread. The virus, H7N9, has been detected in poultry, pigeons, chickens, and ducks. The World Health Organization, however, stresses that some of people infected have not had contact with birds. There is also little evidence that the virus is spread between humans.

The outbreak in China has killed 17 people and hospitalized many more with severe respiratory problems. Most of the human cases have occurred near Shanghai, although two isolated incidents have been found in Beijing.

Source: NPR

Mice and humans enjoy being carried

According to a report published in Current Biology, both human and mouse infants calm down simply by being held by their parents. The researchers believe that this calm may be advantageous for the survival of both the parent and infant; it is much easier for parents to escape a predator with a baby in a trance-like state.

The scientists attached a heart monitor to 12 human babies and observed them while their mothers sat them up, placed them in a crib, and carried them. The babies immediately relaxed when picked up by their mothers. Similarly, the mice infants relaxed and had a decreased heart rate when carried by their mothers.

Source: Science News

Scientists question cause of drought

Climate change was probably not the cause of the 2012 droughts in the U.S. midwest, according to a report released by the United States National Oceanic and Atmospheric Association (NOAA). Some climate scientists have questioned this conclusion.

The NOAA scientists ran computer simulations in order to determine why forecasts failed to predict the droughts. Their simulations inferred that the droughts would have occurred regardless of global warming, and instead blame it on natural variability in the atmosphere. Some climate scientists disagree, saying that the climate models used were insufficient.

Source: NewScientist