Discovered: Blind mole rats can kill cancer; battery-less pacemakers; a prosthetic leg amputees can control with their minds; heart-related deaths rise in winter regardless of temperature.
Learning about cancer from the blind mole rat. Blind mole rats are ugly little critters, and on top of that they can't see. But they have one advantage over their cuter peers—the ability to nip the growth of cancer cells in the bud. New Yorker and Israeli researchers have studied the subterranean rodent, discovering that they don't use the cell-suicide method of apoptosis. They've adapted to oxygen-deprived underground habitat with a cancer-fighting protein called p53. The findings hold promise for cancer research, and University of Texas Health Science Center researcher Steven Austad comments, "there are probably many ways to prevent the out-of-control growth of cancer." [ScienceNews]
Self-powered pacemakers. Developments in biotech have made it likely that pacemakers of the future won't need batteries, instead relying on electricity generated by the natural beating of the human heart for power. The team led by University of Michigan researcher M. Amin Karami has engineered a energy harvesting device that converts the heart's vibrations into electrical energy. The researchers hope this will do away with the need to replace pacemaker batteries every five to seven years. "If we had a mechanism to generate this small amount of power, you’d never have to recharge it," says Karami, who presented his work at this year's American Heart Association's Scientific Sessions 2012 in Los Angeles. [Los Angeles Times]