Excerpts from science, technology, environment and health reports from around the web.
A few of the world's religions have a simple answer to mankind's origin: clay. Now science might actually back this up. New research from Cornell University suggests that life could have started in wet, wet clay. The study suggests that clay might have provided the perfect protective environment for life to materialize. Mystery surrounds how biological molecules ever reacted with each other before they joined forces within Earth's first cell.
Researchers at the University of Iowa have created a bio patch to regenerate missing or damaged bone by putting DNA into a nano-sized particle that delivers bone-producing instructions directly into cells.
The bone-regeneration kit relies on a collagen platform seeded with particles containing the genes needed for producing bone. In experiments, the gene-encoding bio patch successfully regrew bone fully enough to cover skull wounds in test animals. It also stimulated new growth in human bone marrow stromal cells in lab experiments.
Twenty-five years after it was dispatched, wild poliovirus is back and circulating widely in Israel but, surprisingly, there have been no cases. Like many other wealthy countries, Israel relies on the inactivated polio vaccine, or IPV, to protect against this crippling disease. Paradoxically, Israel's very high vaccination rate is what has allowed the virus to circulate silently for months.
On February 15, 2013, people near Chelyabinsk, Russia felt the ground shake, smelled the sour stench of sulfur, heard windows shatter into sprays of glass and had to look away from a fireball in the sky so bright it hurt their eyes. The meteor that caused all this havoc largely dissolved into a cloud of dust during its passage through Earth’s atmosphere, so scientists are turning to clues on the ground and the memories of eyewitnesses to piece together what happened that day. Around 1,500 people were injured, although no one was killed. In the city of Chelyabinsk alone, more than 3,500 buildings were damaged, and the researchers found shockwave destruction as far as 100 kilometers away from the impact site.
In January 2012, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration approved Kalydeco, the first drug to treat the underlying cause of cystic fibrosis, after just three months of review. It was one of the fastest approvals of a new medicine in the agency’s history. Vertex Pharmaceuticals, which discovered and developed the drug, priced Kalydeco at $294,000 a year, which made it one of the world’s most expensive medicines. The company also pledged to provide it free to any patient in the United States who is uninsured or whose insurance won’t cover it. Doctors and patients enthusiastically welcomed the drug because it offers life-saving health benefits and there is no other treatment. Insurers and governments readily paid the cost.