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Artificial retina grown in the lab from stem cells; Strange signal in particle accelerator; Naming colours expands the brain and the effect of language on how we perceive colours

Artificial retina grown in lab
In a significant step forward in stem cell science, scientists in Japan have created an artificial retina from embryonic mouse stem cells in the lab. The retina is the back part of the eye, which has photosensitive cells, which react with light and allow us to see. The artificial retina is only at an early developmental stage. But it could be used as a tool for disease modelling. And in future, if the same process can be done using stem cells from the patient, the retina could be used to harvest these photosensitive cells for transplant. There are 150 single gene mutations that affect the retina, including age-related macular degeneration which affects 10% of patients aged 66 to 74.

Strange signal at Fermilab
It might the most significant discovery in physics in 50 years – a new elementary particle or even a new force of nature. Or, it might not! Scientists at the Fermi National Accelerator Laboratory in the US say they’ve seen a strange signal in their data, and have ruled out all the possible explanations they can think of including the Higgs Boson or so-called ‘God’ Particle. But what could it be evidence of?

Space X’s Falcon Heavy Rocket
Private aerospace company – Space X has announced the final design for their new rocket and it’s huge. The Falcon Heavy Rocket is hoped to be completed at the end of the year and should be able to carry more cargo than a fully-laden Boeing 737 aircraft. It will be the largest rocket since the Apollo-era Saturn V.

Seeing colour expands the brain
Learning new names for colours can actually cause the brain to increase its grey matter, and it happens very quickly. In a test, adult participants were asked to learn nonsense names for various shades of blue and green. MRI scans showed that the visual cortex in the brain increased in volume. The tests that took less than two hours over a few days increased the grey matter in the brain by a measurable amount. This shows that the adult brain is able to grow by being trained.

The language you think in affects colour choice
When deciding which shade is closer to being blue or green, researchers found that people who spoke two languages (bilingual) chose differently depending on how long they had been speaking their non-native language. The people tested spoke either German or English or both. The effect depended on which part of the visual field the colours appeared. This led the researchers to speculate that the left side of the brain which deals with language is also involved in processing colours in the right visual field

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Sun 10 Apr 2011 22:32GMT


Gravitational Waves

Gravitational Waves

Gravity and ripples in the fabric of space time - what do these mean for us?