Psychedelic yeast, loving lemurs, clearing the air, and more

Published April 17, 2020

Start at the very beginning

Injured 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 same

Those 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 cousins

It’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 story

If 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.)

Honestly, you’d think that collar would be enough

Only two blind mice

The 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.”

Beyond Beano

One downside to a plant-based diet is that other people have to be in the room with you — and your “unpleasant intestinal symptoms.” But now Finnish researchers have found a way to break down the undigestible “FODMAPs” that cause those symptoms. Result: a way to treat food products before preparation to make them more digestible … and thus make you more pleasant to be around.

The Long (but fun) Read: Pandemic Modeling

A Comic Strip Tour Of The Wild World Of Pandemic Modeling” by Zach Weinersmith* and FiveThirtyEight shows how pandemic modeling is done … and why it’s so darn complicated.
* He writes the wonderfully geeky Saturday Morning Breakfast Cereal webcomic, which you really should check out.