Science Saturday: Neuroscience, cancer detection and space exploration


In this week’s Science Saturday, we look at science news ranging from neuroscience to space exploration.

Revolutionizing Neuroscience

Researchers have constructed the first-ever map showing each neuron and how they are wired together in the brain of a fruit fly larva. The Molecular Biology Laboratory of the Medical Research Council and the University of Cambridge conducted this groundbreaking research. This map contains over 3,000 neurons that make up the larva’s brain, and its neural circuitry in detail. It marks a milestone for neuroscience, one that will ultimately help us understand the basic principles by which signals travel through the brain at the neural level and cause behavior and learning.

detect cancer

Researchers at the University of Technology Sydney have developed a new device that can detect and analyze cancer cells in blood samples. This will allow doctors to avoid invasive biopsy surgeries and monitor treatment progress. Called a static droplet microfluidic device, it is able to rapidly detect circulating tumor cells that have detached from a primary tumor and entered the bloodstream. The device differentiates tumor cells from normal blood cells using a unique metabolic signature that cancer cells carry. This new technology is designed to facilitate research in clinical laboratories lacking high-end equipment and trained operators.

space exploration

Four space station astronauts returned to Earth on March 11 after a quick SpaceX flight. Their capsule crashed in the Gulf of Mexico, just off the coast of Florida near Tampa. The American-Russian-Japanese crew spent five months on the International Space Station. In addition to dodging space debris, the astronauts had to contend with a pair of leaking Russian pods docked at the orbiting outpost and the urgent delivery of a replacement craft. Remaining on the space station are three Americans, three Russians and one from the United Arab Emirates.

Data transmission record

Researchers have set a new data transmission record. Using a small computer chip, they moved 1.84 petabits of data per second. That equates to 122 million high-definition movies being streamed at the same time. To send a large amount of data at once, multiple beams of laser light must be transmitted through a single fiber optic cable with high precision, which easily limits the transmission speed. By using a special technology called microcombs to replace the traditional laser light mechanism, the researchers were able to lift the speed limits. Previously, such a feat would have required many more chips and consumed much more power.

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