System to rid space station of astronaut exhalations inspires Earth-based CO2 removal

Image credit - NASA/Mark Garcia

When astronauts aboard the International Space Station (ISS) exhale carbon dioxide (CO2), it’s removed from the air and pumped into space. Could an Earth-based version help remove greenhouse gas emissions from our atmosphere? In order to limit global warming to 1.5˚C above pre-industrial levels and avoid some of the worse impacts of climate change, it … Read more

Root architecture discoveries could help breed drought-resistant crops

A freesia's root architecture helps the plant store food to survive seasonal weather conditions.

We should breed new varieties of crops based on their root architecture rather than just focusing on the top half of the plant, according to scientists looking at how to cultivate plants that use water more efficiently and better withstand drought conditions. Yellow, parched fields were a common sight in Europe this summer. The severe … Read more

Genetic error led humans to evolve bigger, but more vulnerable, brains

The skull of a Australopithecus sediba, a species of Australopithecines, who were our ancestors and whose brains started to grow two to three million years ago. Image credit - Australopithecus sediba by Brett Eloff, courtesy Profberger and Wits University is licensed under CC BY-SA 4.0

Newly-discovered genes that helped supersize human brains along with DNA retrieved from extinct humans, which can still be found in people living today, are expanding scientists’ understanding of how our species evolved. One of the major features that distinguish humans from other primates is the size of our brains, which underwent rapid evolution from about … Read more

Mini-brains offer hope in search for new drugs for brain disorders

Cerebral organoids allow scientists to test new drugs on human brain tissue in labs.

Miniature brains grown in laboratory dishes could overcome some of the problems testing drugs on animals and help researchers identify new ways to treat very human, and incurable, conditions like Alzheimer’s disease and epilepsy. Most new drugs are developed and tested using mice as models. However, with brain disorders such as Alzheimer’s, the animals never … Read more

Study of DNA flags could reignite centuries-old evolution debate

Charles Darwin (left) and Jean-Baptiste Lamarck (right) are the faces of the earliest debate about evolutionary research.

Evolution could be partly based on environmental adaptation and not just random mutations, re-opening a centuries-old debate between Charles Darwin and Jean-Baptiste Lamarck, according to Professor Thomas Carell from Ludwig Maximilian University in Munich, Germany. He studies the way our genes are switched on and off over our lifetimes – a process known as epigenetics. How has … Read more