Psychedelic yeast, loving lemurs, clearing the air, and more
Published April 17, 2020
Start at the very beginningInjured brain cells can regenerate, but they do it in a totally funky way: They revert to their embryonic state and regrow all their connections — like a giant RESET button. And when we say “revert,” we mean “the entire set of genes in an adult brain cell resets itself.”
“[W]hen an adult brain cell of the cortex is injured, it reverts (at a transcriptional level) to an embryonic cortical neuron. And in this reverted, far less mature state, it can now regrow axons if it is provided an environment to grow into.”
Grandma’s bread will never be the sameThose shifty Danes have found a way to make simple yeast produce psilocybin — the “magic” compound of magic mushrooms. So yeah, that means just what you think it means. Next up, we assume, is using CRISPR to make kudzu produce THC….
Johnny Appleseed’s cousinsIt’s called the Lost Apple Project. What members do: scour the Pacific Northwest for long-forgotten apple orchards and look for new varieties of apples. This year they found a whopping 10 — that’s 10 kinds of apples people haven’t eaten in a century, “from 140-year-old orchards tucked into small canyons or hidden in forests that have since grown up around them.” They’re going to take cuttings from the trees to graft onto existing plants*, and eventually sell branches to farmers to bring back those old varieties.
Botanists from the Temperate Orchard Society identified them by comparing the collected apples to watercolor illustrations created by the U.S. Department of Agriculture in the 1800s and early 1900s and by poring over written descriptions in old botany textbooks and reference guides, some of them more than 150 years old.(No, you can’t plant seeds. Apples don’t reproduce true to type, so you never know what kind of tree you’ll get. Grafting is the only way to be sure.)
Just one CoviD storyIf the entire world being shut down from a global pandemic isn’t enough, now comes this slightly terrifying bit of news: “The bodies of COVID-19 victims may be contagious, coroner’s case reveals“.
Headline of the day“Male lemurs may spread fruity ‘love potions’ with their tails” (OK, OK, what’s interesting is that lemurs are primates, and there’s still some controversy about whether primates use pheromones to attract mates.)
Only two blind miceThe third one had skin cells chemically reprogrammed into photoreceptors, then implanted into its eyes — allowing it to detect light again.
“Even mice with severely advanced retinal degeneration, with little chance of having living photoreceptors remaining, responded to transplantation.”