Zika Kills Cells Crucial to Brain Development; Did Volcanoes Cause Mars to Tilt?

Posted March 7th, 2016 at 4:20 pm (UTC-5)
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In an image released on 1/18/16, a female Aedes aegypti mosquito is seen drawing a blood meal from the arm of a researcher at the Biomedical Sciences Institute in the Sao Paulo's University in Sao Paulo, Brazil. This mosquito species can spread the Zika virus, which is spreading in parts of Latin America and the Caribbean. (AP)

In an image released on 1/18/16, a female Aedes aegypti mosquito is seen drawing a blood meal from the arm of a researcher at the Biomedical Sciences Institute in the Sao Paulo’s University in Sao Paulo, Brazil. This mosquito species can spread the Zika virus, which is spreading in parts of Latin America and the Caribbean. (AP)

Study: Zika Virus Infects and Kills Fetal Cerebral Cortex Cells

This birth defect can cause babies to be born with an unusually small head and inhibited brain development.

The scientists, who made their findings based on experiments performed with lab-grown human stem cells, discovered that the Zika virus is attracted to and infects the cells that go on to form the brain’s outer layer, known as the cerebral cortex.

While they admit their findings do not provide absolute proof of a link between Zika and microcephaly, the researchers say that discovering vulnerability of the cortex forming cells to the virus is significant.

A connection between Zika and microcephaly arose from last year’s spread in the virus throughout the Americas and a significant increase in the cases of microcephaly, especially in Brazil.

The planet Mars in late spring as imaged by the Hubble Space Telescope (NASA/JPL/California Institute of Technology)

The planet Mars in late spring as imaged by the Hubble Space Telescope (NASA/JPL/California Institute of Technology)

Huge Volcanic Structure Behind Mars Tilt

French scientists have found that a massive volcanic structure caused the surface of Mars and not the rotational axis of Mars to tilt between 20 and 25 degrees over 3 billion years ago.

The scientists say that enormous amounts of lava that pumped out of the solar system’s largest volcanoes for over several hundred million years formed a volcanic dome in the Tharsis region of Mars.

In a paper published by the journal Nature, the research team, which included geomorphologists, geophysicists and climatologists, suggest that because it’s so incredibly enormous, the dome caused the Red Planet’s crust and mantle to rotate around its core.

It’s thought that the Tharsis volcanic dome, which is said to have a mass of a billion billion metric tons, started to form at a Martian latitude of about 20° north, over 3.7 billion years ago.

But the eventual surface shift that took place may explain why the volcanic plateau now sits on the Red Planet’s equator.

This close-up picture shows a ceramic-like refractory inclusion (pink inclusion) still embedded into the meteorite in which it was found. (Origins Lab, University of Chicago)

This close-up picture shows a ceramic-like refractory inclusion (pink inclusion) still embedded into the meteorite in which it was found. (Origins Lab, University of Chicago)

Rare Element in Meteorite Provides Clues to Solar System Origin

Scientists have found evidence of the rare element curium in a carbon-rich meteorite.

This radioactive element is not known to occur naturally on Earth but instead is manufactured or is produced as a side-effect of a nuclear explosion.

Curium, named after Pierre and Marie Curie, wasn’t discovered until 1944.

That’s when Glenn Seaborg and his colleagues at the University of California, Berkeley, created the element after bombarding the atoms of plutonium with alpha particles, which are the fast moving equivalent of a helium atom’s nucleus.

The researchers, who detail their discovery in the journal Science Advances, suggest that that the curium wound up in the meteorite during the formation of the solar system, after a gaseous cloud that went on to create the sun condensed.

The researchers say that they believe that finding this rare material in a meteorite may cause scientists to reconsider current models of stellar evolution and nucleosynthesis, which is a change in the chemical composition of a star.

This image shows the position of the most distant galaxy discovered so far. The remote galaxy GN-z11, shown in the inset, existed only 400 million years after the Big Bang (NASA, ESA, and P. Oesch (Yale University))

This image shows the position of the most distant galaxy discovered so far. The remote galaxy GN-z11, shown in the inset, existed only 400 million years after the Big Bang (NASA, ESA, and P. Oesch (Yale University))

Astronomers Find Most Distant Galaxy

An international team of astronomers, led by researchers at Yale University in New Haven, Connecticut, say they have found the most distant galaxy in the universe.

Light from this newly discovered faraway galaxy, called GN-z11, took 13.4 billion years to reach Earth, which is thought to be about 400 million years after the Big Bang.

Last September, astronomers at Caltech announced the discovery of what was then the most distant galaxy when they found EGS8p7 whose light traveled for 13.2 billion light years before being seen on Earth.

Detailing their discovery in the Astrophysical Journal, the researchers say that the newly found GN-z11 galaxy is “surprisingly bright,” and is located in the direction of the constellation of Ursa Major.

Using the Wide Field Camera 3 on NASA’s Hubble Space telescope, the researchers were able get a precise measurement of the distance to the galaxy spectroscopically, by separating the incoming light into its component colors.

Rick Pantaleo
Rick Pantaleo maintains the Science World blog and writes stories for VOA’s web and radio on a variety of science, technology and health topics. He also occasionally appears on various VOA programs to talk about the latest scientific news. Rick joined VOA in 1992 after a 20 year career in commercial broadcasting.

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