Worms Frozen for 42,000 Years in Siberian Permafrost Wriggle to Life

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Worms Frozen for 42,000 Years in Siberian Permafrost Wriggle to Life

What Causes Static Electricity?

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What Causes Static Electricity?

Scientists discover largest bacteria-eating virus. It blurs line between living and nonliving.

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Scientists discover largest bacteria-eating virus. It blurs line between living and nonliving.

A Mysterious New Form of DNA Was Just Discovered in Human Cells

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A Mysterious New Form of DNA Was Just Discovered in Human Cells

By Yasemin Saplakoglu April 23, 2018

new DNA, i-motif

An artist’s impression of the i-motifs (shown in white and green) with white, Y-shaped antibodies binding to them.
(Image: © Chris Hammang)

When you think of DNA, odds are, you picture the famous double helix, a ladder-like structure elegantly twisted like a corkscrew.

But DNA doesn’t always assume this form. The existence of one shape of DNA in humans, in particular — a four-stranded knot of genetic code — has been controversial among scientists for years. Because this so-called i-motif loves acidic environments (a condition that scientists can create in the lab but doesn’t naturally occur in the body), many scientists thought that it couldn’t possibly exist in human cells.

But in recent years, studies have pointed to the possibility that this bizarre form of DNA could, in fact, exist in living humans. Now, a new study published today (April 23) in the journal Nature Chemistry provides the first direct evidence that it does exist and that it may play an important role in regulating our genes. [Unraveling the Human Genome: 6 Molecular Milestones]

“Before this, it was kind of an academic idea that DNA could [fold like this], but it wasn’t known at all what it meant for biology,” said senior study author Marcel Dinger, head of the Kinghorn Centre for Clinical Genomics at the Garvan Institute of Medical Research in Sydney. Watching these i-motifs appear in living human cells “was pretty spectacular,” he said.

To spot the i-motifs, Dinger and his team designed an antibody — a protein that targets foreign invaders in the body — to specifically find and latch onto i-motifs. They tagged these antibodies with a fluorescent dye and then injected them into human cells in the lab. Using powerful microscopes, they spotted a bunch of tiny, glowing, green dots — colored antibodies holding onto elusive i-motifs.

According to Dinger, the hardest part about publishing this paper was proving that the antibody latched only onto i-motifs and not onto other shapes of DNA. They did this by testing how the antibody interacted with other forms of DNA, such as the classic double helix and a better-studied structure related to the i-motif, called the G4 quadruplex. Sure enough, the antibody proved faithful — it didn’t bind to either of these other forms.

“This is a very exciting discovery,” said Zoe Waller, a senior lecturer in chemical biology at the University of East Anglia in the United Kingdom who was not involved with the study. “This work is the icing on what is now quite a large cake of evidence that these [forms of DNA] do exist in vivo and are worthy of further study.”

A role in regulation

What really fascinated the team, Dinger told Live Science, was not only that these i-motifs existed in living cells but that these green lights twinkled on and off — meaning the i-motifs folded into existence and then unfurled, repeatedly. In particular, the researchers found that the DNA folded into i-motifs at higher rates during a specific stage of transcription — the process that kicks off the translation of genes into proteins — when the DNA was just beginning to actively transcribe. Later, the DNA unfolded back into its usual form, and the i-motifs disappeared. According to Dinger, this probably means the i-motifs play a very specific role in regulating the transcription process.

Indeed, this study supports previous research in lab dishes that these folds occur in areas that regulate genes. These areas include the very ends of chromosomes called “telomeres” that are thought to play a role in aging and regions called promoters which are tasked with turning genes on and off.

But despite knowing some of the regions in which these folds can appear, the researchers don’t yet know which genes the folds control or what happens when you disturb the cell so that it can’t form these structures.

“There’s so much of the genome that we don’t understand, probably like 99 percent of it,” Dinger said.  Seeing DNA folded like this in living cells “makes it possible to decode those parts of the genome and understand what they do.”

Indeed, these weird folds are probably present in every one of our cells, Dinger said. And because the genome has fewer folds like this compared with regularly shaped DNA, drugs that target DNA may be able to bind more specifically, compared with non-folded regions, he said.

These types of drugs could be helpful for cancer treatment, for example. One problem with certain cancer treatments is that they aren’t selective enough in targeting the problematic stretches of DNA, said Laurence Hurley, a professor at the University of Arizona and the chief scientific officer of Reglagene, a company that designs therapeutic molecules to target four-stranded DNA like i-motifs. Instead, cancer drugs may attach to other parts of DNA as well, leading to possibly harmful side effects, said Hurley, who was not part of the new study.

“I’ve been waiting for a paper like this to come out for a long time,” Hurley told Live Science. “This provides a firm foundation for a major therapeutic effort around these new structures, and it takes away the doubt that people have had [about] whether these structures were real and had any biological significance.”

Originally published on Live Science.

Amazing Images: The Best Science Photos of the Week

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Amazing Images: The Best Science Photos of the Week

By LiveScience Staff 2 days ago

Each week we find the most interesting and informative articles we can and along the way we uncover amazing and cool images. Here you’ll discover incredible photos and the stories behind them.

Ice cracks

(Image credit: ESA, CC BY-SA 3.0 IGO)

In October 2019, two huge cracks split across the edge of Pine Island Glacier — one of the fastest-shrinking glaciers in Antarctica (seen here). Earlier this week, those cracks finally met. A chunk of ice with twice the area of Washington, D.C., split off of the glacier and spilled into the sea. The city-sized slab won’t raise sea levels (it was already floating in the water to begin with), but it does continue an alarming trend at Pine Island Glacier, which is seeing its edges retreat much faster than fresh ice can form. Scientists worry the whole glacier could collapse, and the neighboring Thwaites glacier could be close behind. The two regions hold enough ice to raise the ocean by 4 feet (1.2 meters).

[Read full story: One of Antarctica’s fastest-shrinking glaciers just lost an iceberg twice the size of Washington, D.C.]

Epic mouse battle

Two mice fight over a scrap of food on a London subway platform

(Image credit: Sam Rowley)

Two mice dance the tango after a romantic night out in London… is what we wish this photo was about. Actually, this incredible action shot taken by UK-based photographer Sam Rowley shows two of the London Underground’s 500,000 resident mice fighting over a scrap of food on a subway platform. Earlier this week, the photo won the people’s choice award for the London Natural History Museum’s Wildlife Photographer of the Year competition. Hopefully that’s just desserts for Rowley; to get the shot, he spent a week’s-worth of nights scouting around various subway platforms — on his stomach.

[Read full story: Epic battle between 2 subway mice takes people’s choice prize at wildlife photography competition]

Bombarding Mars

(Image credit: SwRI/Marchi)

The surreal-looking brown and green spheres flowing around Mars in this image depict particles from a projectile’s core and mantle, respectively. These particles would have assimilated into the Martian mantle.

A new computer simulation suggests that planetesimals (projectiles) likely slammed into Mars as the Red Planet was just forming. These impacts would have carried “iron-loving” elements — such as tungsten, platinum and gold — to Mars, something that would have influenced how fast the planet matured into the chilly, terrestrial orb we know and love today. From this simulation, the researchers at the Southwest Research Institute think Mars formed more slowly than was previously thought.

Jaguar duo snag anaconda

(Image credit: Michel Zoghzoghi)

Lebanon-based photographer Michel Zoghzoghi was filming jaguars in Brazil when he saw an unexpected case of cross-species coordination. Two jaguars — a mother and her baby — stepped out of a nearby river carrying a large, spotted anaconda between their teeth. Because the snake’s pattern closely matched the jaguars’, Zoghzoghi titled this photo “Matching outfits.” The photo was selected as a runner-up in the people’s choice award category of the London Natural History Museum’s Wildlife Photographer of the Year contest.

Enormous turtle

(Image credit: Jaime Chirinos)

The largest complete turtle shell on record belongs to Stupendemys geographicus, a beast that lived 8 million years ago. The shell is nearly 8 feet (2.4 meters) long, meaning its owner weighed an estimated 2,500 lbs. (1,145 kilograms), twice that of the largest living turtle, the marine leatherback (Dermochelys coriacea). A new look at S. geographicus revealed that the males had pointed horns near their necks, which likely helped them in combat.

[Read full story: This may be the biggest turtle that ever lived]

Pollen-coated bee

(Image credit: George Poinar Jr., OSU College of Science.)

A primitive female bee got trapped in sticky resin some 100 million years ago. That resin hardened into an amber tomb that preserved the bee’s last moments as if frozen in time. Several pollen grains are still clinging to the bee’s body, indicating the insect had likely just visited one or more flowers, the researchers who identified the bee said. This mid-Cretaceous fossil, which was discovered in Myanmar, is considered the oldest record of a bee with pollen, said George Poinar Jr. of Oregon State University. Poinar found that the bee fits into a new family, genus and species, he reported in the journal BioOne Complete. Attached to the bee are four beetle parasites, which plague bees to this day

Mucus bombs

(Image credit: Allen Collins and Cheryl Ames)

Scientists finally discovered the source of mysterious “stinging water” that zaps the skin of people swimming in tropical lagoons around the world: A mix of jellyfish mucus and venom-filled “bombs.” The upside-down jellyfish (Cassiopea xamachana) rests top-down on the ocean floor and secretes viscous mucus into the water above. When researchers examined the snot under the microscope, they saw tiny spheres spinning around in the fluid. Stinging cells coat the spheres and deposit venom on creatures that run into them. Unwary swimmers develop an irritating itch after touching the toxin, while tiny animals like brine shrimp perish on contact.

[Read full story: Upside-down jellyfish release venom-filled ‘bombs’ in their snot]

Mating millipedes

Two millipedes are mating under UV light. The millipedes, in the Pseudopolydesmus genus, don’t have an affinity to ultraviolet light.

(Image credit: Stephanie Ware, Field Museum)

At first glance, this image might look more psychedelic than scientific, but take a closer look and you’ll see: Two millipedes are mating under UV light. The millipedes, in the Pseudopolydesmus genus, don’t have an affinity to ultraviolet light. Rather, scientists wanted to understand details of the millipedes’ genitals, which start glowing under black light. With that imaging combined with other techniques such as CT scanning, the researchers were able to see, for the first time, pairs’ sexual organs interact. They described the findings in the journal Arthropod Structure and Development.

[Read full press release on the Field Museum in Chicago site]

Coronavirus images released


(Image credit: NIAID-RML)

This is one of the first-ever images of SARS-CoV-2, the coronavirus that has sickened tens of thousands of people and killed over 1,000 in an outbreak that began in Wuhan, China. Researchers at the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases’s Rocky Mountain Laboratories (RML) imaged samples of the virus and cells taken from a U.S. patient infected with COVID-19, the disease caused by SARS-CoV-2.

[Read full story: Images of new coronavirus just released]

Reaper of death

(Image credit: Julius Csotonyi)

The infamous Tyrannosaurus rex has a new cousin! And this beast may have been just as fierce. Partial skulls and jaws of the 79.5-million-year-old species were discovered in Alberta, Canada. From those bones, paleontologists think the beast would have sported a monstrous face with a mouthful of serrated teeth, each more than 2.7 inches (7 centimeters) long. They named the tyrannosaur Thanatotheristes degrootorum, or “reaper of death” — “Thanatos” is the Greek god of death and “theristes” is Greek for “reaper.” When alive, the dinosaur would have been quite a sight, measuring 26 feet (8 meters) long from snout to tail, the researchers estimated.

[Read full story: ‘Reaper of death,’ newfound cousin of T. rex, discovered in Canada]

Originally published on Live Science.


The Most Interesting Science News Articles of the Week

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The Most Interesting Science News Articles of the Week

By Live Science Staff 2 days ago

Each week we uncover the most interesting and informative articles from around the world, here are some of the coolest stories in science this week.

Flu Vs. Coronavirus

The coronavirus particle as a crown of spikes on its surface. (Image credit: Alfred Pasieka/Science Photo Library via Getty Images)

How does the new coronavirus compare with the seasonal flu, and which should you most worry about? [Read more about the similarities.]

Treating the Outbreak

(Image credit: Shutterstock)

Some of the prime candidates are drugs that were originally developed to treat other infections. [Read more about the plan.]

Strange Remains

Divers discovered the ancient woman’s remains in the Chan Hol cave, near Tulum, Mexico. The underwater survey was led by Jerónimo Avilés, a speleologist (cave explorer and researcher) at the Museum of the Desert of Coahuila. (Image credit: Eugenio Acevez)

This woman, whose remains were found in an underwater cave in Mexico, lived about 9,900 years ago, just as the last ice age was ending. [Read more about the find.]

Revealing the Unseen

(Image credit: R. Hurt/Caltech-JPL)

This is a radical new design compared to the world’s most sensitive gravitational wave detectors. [Read more about the theory.]

Odd Burials

A satellite view of Aylesbury-Vale district in Buckinghamshire, England shows the site where the skeletons were found, at a farm near a graveyard (top center).   (Image credit: Getmapping PLC/Infoterra & Blueslky/Maxar/Google Maps)

Skeletal remains of 42 people were recently unearthed at a farm in December 2019, but the construction company that found the bodies has yet to release a report. [Read more about the discovery.]

Weird, Theoretical Particles

(Image credit: Shutterstock)

These supremely stable particles could explain dark matter. [Read more about the possibility.]

More UFO Reports

The U.K.’s official government investigation of UFOs can be traced to a group formed in 1950: the Flying Saucer Working Party. (Image credit: Shutterstock)

The U.K.’s Ministry of Defense announced that it will soon release formerly classified government files about UFO encounters. [Read more about the files.]


(Image credit: Shutterstock)

A woman in Italy had an extremely rare condition in which she grew eyelash-like hairs in her mouth. [Read more about the case.]

Icy Mystery

This satellite view of an ice ring on Lake Baikal is so impressive. Is it the one true ring to rule them all?

This satellite view of an ice ring on Lake Baikal is so impressive. Is it the one true ring to rule them all? (Image credit: MODIS/NASA)

Eddies under the ice appear to be causing these mysterious rings on Lake Baikal. [Read more about the sight.]

Archeology on Trial

One artifact was said to show the earliest depiction of the Christian crucifixion, but experts said its iconography was much later than its supposed date in the third century A.D.

One artifact was said to show the earliest depiction of the Christian crucifixion, but experts said its iconography was much later than its supposed date in the third century A.D. (Image credit: DFA/AFA)

A criminal trial has begun of an archaeologist accused of forging a trove of Roman artifacts that allegedly show a third-century depiction of Jesus’ crucifixion, Egyptian hieroglyphics and the early use of the Basque language. [Read more about the event.]

Follow Live Science @livescience, Facebook & Google+.

Amazing Images: The Best Science Photos of the Week

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Amazing Images: The Best Science Photos of the Week

By LiveScience Staff 4 hours ago

Each week we find the most interesting and informative articles we can and along the way we uncover amazing and cool images. Here you’ll discover incredible photos and the stories behind them.

Titanium cat

(Image credit: Kirill Kukhmar/TASS/Getty)

A hardy grey feline in Russia got a new lease on life after suffering from frostbite. The female cat, named “Dymka” (Russian for “mist”) was found in 2018, buried in the Siberian snow, with four frostbitten paws, ears and a tail.

The frostbite was so extensive that veterinarians had to amputate those limbs. But researchers at the Tomsk Polytechnic University (TPU) in Tomsk, Russia created specially-designed titanium paws for the cat, then fused them to her leg bones. The cyborg-like appendages combine titanium rods with flexible black “feet” with textured, grippy bottoms. The new limbs were implanted in July 2019. Just 7 months-later, scientists posted adorable video of Dymka stretching, playing and strolling.

[Read the full story: Cat with 4 frostbitten paws gets new feet made of titanium]

Extreme close-up of the sun

The Daniel K. Inouye Solar Telescope's first published image of the sun is the highest-resolution image of our star to date.

(Image credit: NSO/NSF/AURA)

The world’s largest telescope just took the highest resolution picture ever of our home star, and it looks just like caramel corn. The incredibly detailed image revealed details about the sun’s roiling magnetic field that previously only showed up as tiny specks. This gorgeous image of the sun was captured with the Daniel K. Inouye Solar Telescope (DKIST), perched high on the Haleakala mountain on the Hawaiian island of Maui.

The new telescope isn’t even fully completed yet, but when it comes online, it will delve into one of the sun’s biggest mysteries: Why the sun’s outer layer, called the corona, is hotter than its visible surface. Researchers unveiled the image during a news conference on Friday, Jan. 24.

[Read the full story: The sun looks like caramel corn in highest resolution ever image of our star]

Tiniest dinosaur

(Image credit: Chung-Tat Cheung)

Asking what’s the world’s tiniest dinosaur is a bit of a trick question. (Hint: birds are actually dinosaurs). But the tiniest known extinct dino was the wee feathered creature known as Ambopteryx longibrachium. This pint-sized specimen, found in northeastern China, measured a mere 13 inches (32 centimeters) long and weighed just 11 ounces (306 grams).

The Jurassic era creature sported thin, membranous wings like a bat. And it may not have prowled Jurassic skies alone; another bat-winged dino, Yi qi, also known the “dark knight” of the Jurassic, was also discovered in China. Yi qi had a wingspan of 23 inches (60 cm) and a weight of 13 ounces (380 grams).

[Read the full story: What’s the smallest dinosaur?]

Sky dunes

(Image credit: Kari Saari)

When skygazers in Finland trained their eyes on the heavens in 2018, they never expected to discover an entirely new phenomenon. But that’s exactly what happened when they noticed eerie, undulating waves of glowing green light.

The enthusiasts were part of a Facebook group dedicated to cataloguing and discussing aurora, and contacted an expert about the luminous light shows — Minna Palmroth, a professor of computational space physics at the University of Helsinki. When Palmroth saw images of these mesmerizing green dunes, she soon realized they had identified an entirely new type of aurora.

These gorgeous light shows, known as “the dunes,” occur when disturbances in the upper atmosphere, known as gravity waves, interact with aurora. Gravity waves move the molecules in the atmosphere around, creating alternating folds of oxygen-rich and oxygen-depleted sky. As charged particles from the sun slam into the atmosphere, the areas with more oxygen glow green, creating the alternating stripes characteristic of the dunes.

[Read the full story: Glowing green ‘dunes’ in the sky mesmerized skygazers. They turned out to be a new kind of aurora.]

Radioactive dino

(Image credit: Bordy et al, 2020)

Paleontologists in Utah uncovered the missing skull of a towering, meat-eating dinosaur.

The skeleton of this massive carnivore was first found in a hunk of rock so huge they needed explosives to excavate it and a helicopter to transport it. But when first discovered, the skeleton was missing its head. Scientists only found the skull later, using a radiation detector.

Dubbed Allosaurus jimmadseni, after paleontologist James Madsen Jr. (1932-2009), the primeval monster had horns over its eyes and 80 razor-sharp teeth.The fearsome predator grew up to 29 feet long (9 meters) and weighed 4,000 lbs. (1.8 metric tons). A. jimmadseni is the oldest allosaurs known to paleontologists, predating the other North American species by 5 million years. Researchers described the allosaurus in a Jan. 24 study in the journal PeerJ.

[Read the full story: Towering dinosaur with radioactive skull identified in Utah]

Doomsday Glacier

(Image credit: Rob Robbins/USAP Diver)

A torpedo-like robot named Icefin has ventured to Antarctica’s most dangerous glacier, and found something extremely troubling. The Thwaites glacier, nicknamed the Doomsday glacier because it is melting so fast, is bathing its underbelly in a sea of surprisingly warm water.

The water at the sea’s boundary is more than 3.6 degrees Fahrenheit (2 degrees Celsius) warmer than freezing, according to news reports. That’s even worse than climate scientists expected, and spells trouble because Thwaites glacier not only accounts for a huge amount of sea level rise, but its floating ice sheets also keep the rest of the glacier from flowing into the sea.

[Read the full story: Surprisingly warm water found on underside of Antarctica’s ‘Doomsday Glacier’]

Mummies of Egyptian priests

(Image credit: Egyptian Ministry of Antiquities and Tourism)

A massive ancient Egyptian burial ground, filled not only with the mummies of high priests, but also the thousands of their “servants”, was found at the site of Tuna-el-Gebel.

The site includes at least 20 stone sarcophagi, 700 amulets and 10,000 “shabti” figurines, which were meant to serve the dead during the afterlife.

Officials with the Egyptian ministry of antiquities announced the finding on Thursday (Jan. 30) and they expect that many other mummies could be unearthed.

[Read the full story: Mummies of ancient Egyptian priests found buried with thousands of afterlife ‘servants’]

Farewell, Spitzer

Few cosmic vistas excite the imagination like the Orion Nebula, an immense stellar nursery some 1,500 light-years away.

(Image credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech)

NASA’s best infrared eye in the sky, the Spitzer Space Telescope, was officially turned off on Thursday (Jan. 30) It winked on in 2003 and was meant to run for only 2.5 years, but ran more than a decade longer than that. During its 16-year run, the iconic telescope captured stunning images of the cosmos, discovered never-before seen rings around Saturn, and spotted exoplanets circling around the cool, red-dwarf star known as Trappist-1.

One of its most gorgeous snapshots is this ethereal image of the Orion nebula, taken in 2006.

This massive star factory, located 1500 light-years away from Earth, shows young hot stars glowing in red, along with still forming stars in a reddish hue.

Puffs of smoke

(Image credit: NASA Earth Observatory)

A camera onboard the Landsat-8 satellite captured this gorgeous image of ash and steam billowing out of Japan’s Nishinoshima volcanic island, about 600 miles (1,000 kilometers) south of Tokyo, NASA’s Earth Observatory reported. During this recent activity, seen on Jan. 26, lava oozed into the ocean and sent steam plumes into the air near the coastline. Emissions from the volcanic island continued from Jan. 15 to Jan. 21. The tiny island is actually the submerged caldera (a volcanic depression) of the northern Volcano Islands of Japan. Calderas form as a result of giant eruptions, when loads of magma from below come to the surface and the land once held up by that mass sinks under its own weight.

Neon green spider

(Image credit: Anatoliy Ozernoy)

Scientists recently discovered a brilliant-green spider that uses math to weave its web. Because of the stunningly precise geometry of its webs, the team decided to name it after the “Lady Gaga of mathematics.”

The newly discovered spider, Araniella villanii, got its moniker from French mathematician Cédric Villani. Villani, who won math’s prestigious Fields medal in 2010, is known not only for his genius, but also for his sense of style.

The researchers who discovered the neon green spider decided to honor Villani in part because he always wears a spider pin on his lapel. The bright new spider was described Jan. 22 in the journal ZooKeys.

[Read the full story: Newly discovered neon-green spider named after the ‘Lady Gaga of mathematics’]

Tonga reefs

Scientists on the Global Reef Expedition conducted extensive research on the health and resiliency of coral reefs in the Kingdom of Tonga.

(Image credit: KSLOF/Ken Marks)

The Khaled bin Sultan Living Oceans Foundation just released a report on the health of coral reefs along the Kingdom of Tonga, a Polynesian archipelago made up of some 170 South Pacific islands. Many of the islands are uninhabited and surrounded by coral reefs. The extensive survey found that those reefs are “moderately healthy,” but the reef fish and the communities of invertebrates are in need of attention.

The scientists found that although the fish species appeared diverse, most were small, with very few large, commercially valuable fish, the researchers said in a statement. The teams also made recommendations, including the education of local fishermen about the importance of specially managed areas, as well as better documentation of fish catch and the fostering of sustainable fishing practices.

Brain balls

Fluorescent images illustrating cell types in brain organoids.

(Image credit: Pasca Lab, Stanford University)

Researchers reporting in the journal Science on Jan. 24 have created essentially mini brains, more specifically 3D models showing the development of the human forebrain (the front part of the brain that includes the thalamus and hypothalamus). They created these cool-looking models to study a process involving chromatin, which is the stuff our chromosomes are made of. They also looked at how genes were expressed in the forebrain. Their results mapped out the genetic risk of neurodevelopmental disease in certain cells during development.

[Read more about the research in the journal Science.]

Originally published on Live Science.