Zika virus can also attack adult brains and cause memory deficits

The Zika virus, which in recent years has attracted attention not only in the scientific field, has been the subject of research by a group of neuroscientists at the Federal University of Rio de Janeiro, in Brazil.

Zika virus can also infect adult human tissue

Researchers exposed small fragments of adult human brain tissue to the Zika virus in turn isolated from an infected patient. The researchers found that the virus can infect not only immature neurons in the developing brain but can also infect and deposit in adult human tissue. In this way, it can produce new copies and thus infect even larger areas.

Zika virus produces memory deterioration

They then injected the Zika virus into mice’ brains and noticed a deterioration in memory, which persisted even after the virus had been defeated by the body. This thing, moreover, as reported by Claudia P. Figueiredo and Sergio T. Ferreira, who conducted the research together with the virologist Andrea Da Poian, shows that the main areas where the Zika virus replicates in the brain are those responsible for learning and memory processing.

Zika virus causes inflammatory response in the brain

The same researchers have finally shown that infection with the Zika virus causes a strong inflammatory response in the brain of mice and this caused the activation of the microglia, ie the immune cells in the brain.

Fernanda Barros-Arag√£o, one of the authors of the study, explains this inflammatory response as follows: “Neurons communicate through highly specialized regions called synapses. Surprisingly, we found that the microglia that aberrantly activates on infection from a ZIKV attack attacks and swallows the synapses. This compromises communication between neurons and thus the formation of new memories. Interestingly, when the animals were treated for about a week with anti-inflammatory drugs that could block the activation of the microglia, they recovered their memory.”




Gene identified that makes cereal plants resistant to drought

A gene that is considered to be responsible for the drought resistance of cereal plants has been identified by a group of scientists at Heriot-Watt University.

According to the press release, this discovery could lead to “future-proof cereals”, i.e. cereals that can better withstand the ongoing climate changes that are expected to lead to increasingly frequent droughts in cultivation.

The study, published in the Journal of Plant Physiology and Biochemistry, describes how researchers over nearly five years have identified the HvMYB1 gene.

This gene manages stress tolerance in various cereal plants, including barley itself. This is the first study that associates the HvMYB1 gene with a plant’s resistance to drought.

Peter Morris of the Institute of Earth and Life Sciences at Heriot-Watt University explains the meaning of the research he has carried out: “As climate change is accelerating and we are experiencing more extreme seasons, it is essential to maintain continuity of supply. This is significant for key sectors such as Scotch whisky, one of the UK’s major export items. Our project focused specifically on barley; one of the three ingredients used in the production of Scotch whisky.

It was not an easy task considering that barley has more than 39,000 genes, twice as many as human genes.



Birds that can fly higher than Everest exist: tests confirm it

Special wind tunnel experiments on 19 Indian geese (Anser indicus) were carried out by researchers to understand how high they can fly.

The researchers trained the geese to fly in a wind tunnel wearing various sensors that recorded various types of data including heart rate and blood oxygen level. The same researchers simulated in the wind tunnel the same conditions that can occur at a certain altitude.

These birds have a better heart and lungs than the rest of the birds. Their large, thin lungs allow deep breathing, while the heart allows more oxygen to be pumped into the muscles. Simulating an attitude level similar to the one at the top of Mount Everest, with 7% oxygen, the heart rate and wing beat rate of these animals remained the same.

These birds are able to cool their blood and absorb more oxygen, which compensates for the very fine air level. The birds flew under these reduced metabolic conditions for a few minutes, which shows that they can fly at certain altitudes similar to those above the tip of Everest, although of course the real conditions could be different since it still takes several hours to get to that altitude even by the birds.

However, this research shows that what some mountaineers said when they climbed the summit of Everest, that is to say that they saw birds flying far above their heads, above an altitude of around 6 miles, can be considered a real thing.



Study confirms that humans have shaped dogs brains

New research gives new prominence to the theory that human beings, reproducing in a highly selective way certain behaviors of dogs and promoting the birth and survival of those specimens best suited to their needs, have literally shaped the brain of these animals.

The study was conducted by the researcher Erin Hecht and her colleagues who performed magnetic resonance scans of the brains of 30 breeds of dogs. In addition to confirming large variations in the brain structure of these dogs, the researchers found that the differences were not only related to body size or head shape.

They then created maps of six brain networks each with different functions ranging from social bonding to movement and each associated with at least one behavioral characteristic.

According to the same researchers, studying and understanding the neuroanatomic changes caused by evolution in dogs offers a unique opportunity to understand the relationship between brain structure and behavior.



Indian spacecraft Chandrayaan-2 ready to release landers and rovers on the Moon

The Indian probe Chandrayaan-2 is practically ready to release the lander that will land on the Moon. The probe, which has been orbiting the moon for several weeks, has completed its fifth and final orbit maneuver and the same ground engineers checked that all parameters were normal, which then occurred as stated by the Indian space agency in a press release.

Now all that remains is to move on to the next operation, namely the detachment of the lander, called Chandrayaan-2, from the spacecraft, an event that should take place around 10 a.m. tomorrow morning. After this detachment, further maneuvers will be carried out by the lander in order to prepare for the landing that should take place in the south pole of our natural satellite.

The motorized descent to the lunar ground should take place on Friday, September 6 and the final touchdown on the same day around 10 p.m. (Italian time), excluding of course any problems that might occur.

The Chandrayaan-2 spacecraft was launched by the Indian Space Agency on 22 July.

This is the agency’s second mission to the Moon after Chandrayaan-1, a mission that however saw the landing of an impactor irreparably damaged after contact with the surface of the lunar south pole, as also planned after the controlled descent.

The Chandrayaan-2 mission should instead see the use of a real rover, the Pragyan, which is located inside the lander and which should become operational after the landing.