Biology

A group of scientists led by Professor Jean-Michel Claverie and Dr. Chantal Abergel of the French University of Aix-Marseille (Aix-Marseille Université) has discovered a previously unknown virus. Called Pithovirus sibericum, it’s very special because it’s gigantic by the standards of the viruses and was revived after being hibernated in the Siberian permafrost for more than 30,000 years.

Dr. Dennis Morrison with the Microencapsulation Electrostatic Processing System used on the International Space Station (Photo NASA)

A process called microencapsulation could allow a major step forward in therapies against various forms of cancer. It consists in the production of micro-balloons containing specific combinations of anti-cancer drugs that can be injected into specific parts of the patient’s body to administer therapies targeted with very strong limitations of the side effects. The experiments that allowed the development of this process were carried out on the International Space Station.

Specimen of Pikaia exposed at at the Smithsonian in Washington

The Burgess Shale is an area in Canada very well known in the world of paleontology because it represents an extraordinary reservoir of fossils from the Middle Cambrian, which is about five hundred million years ago. In 2012, in Kootenay National Park, about 40 km from the original site, a new deposit of fossils was discovered described in a paper just published in the journal “Nature Communications”.

Fossil of Tiktaalik in the Field Museum, Chicago

A team of paleontologists led by Professor Neil Shubin from the University of Chicago published in the journal “Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences” the results of a research on Tiktaalik roseae. It’s a species that lived during the Devonian period, about 375 million years ago, which is a transitional form between fish and legged animals. This research highlights the adaptation of the hind fins of this animal, showing that it had already started in fish.

Flowers of Amborella trichopoda

The sequencing of the genome of the amborella trichopoda (photo ©Scott Zona) helped solve the mystery of the appearance of flowering plants during the Cretaceous. Charles Darwin called it an abominable mystery due to the difficulty of understanding how plants evolved to result in the birth of the flowers. The Amborella Genome Project, which also published online the DNA sequences of this plant, has uncovered a horizontal gene transfer from other organisms.