Discovered: A whole new type of lab mouse; black mamba venom dulls pain better than morphine; drilling deep into the Earth; microbial diversity turned into jazz.
A palliative use for snake venom. Probably very few people would willfully put snake venom in their bodies. But if they knew that it would relieve terrible pain without any nasty side-effects, perhaps they'd be more willing to ingest black mamba venom. Researchers in France have isolated mambalgins in the snake's venom which can block pain in sensory nerves and inhibit the passage of pain signals through the central nervous system. Though their painkilling effects are on par with morphine, these mambalgins are "powerful, naturally occurring, analgesic peptides of potential therapeutic value" that "do not produce motor dysfunction, apathy, flaccid paralysis, convulsions or death upon central injections." That means that they could greatly alleviate pain without causing many of the nasty side effects involved in taking other painkillers. [Ars Technica]
Baby mice born from stem cells. Giving a whole new meaning to the term "lab mouse," scientists in Japan have fostered baby mice into being through stem cells. Kyoto University's Mitinori Saitou and colleagues were able to grow "reconstituted ovaries" from the stem cells. They then fertilized the eggs using in vitro technology. The baby mice that emerged were healthy and fertile, making this the first time scientists have successfully grown baby mice through stem cell research. "Our system serves as a robust foundation to investigate and further reconstitute female germline development in vitro, not only in mice, but also in other mammals, including humans," the researchers write. [The Guardian]