First up, Yale University scientists have managed to partially revive pig brains several hours after death, by pumping a synthetic blood around the brains. This blood, which carried oxygen and drugs designed to slow and reverse cell death, was able to restore some activity in the brain cells, with working synapses detected, although there was no coordinated brain-wide activity that is necessary for consciousness. Crucially, this study overturns the previously held idea that brains die quickly and irreversibly when deprived of oxygen, and scientists hope that further research will allow development of therapies for Alzheimer’s disease or strokes. However, it also raises many ethical questions about the nature of death.
Next, the environmental activist group, Extinction Rebellion, has carried out a series of protests over the past 2 weeks, with activists occupying numerous sites across London, causing mass disruption. The group used peaceful, civil disobedience tactics to draw awareness to the issue of climate change, demanding that the government declare a “climate emergency” and introduce green policies, including the reduction of carbon emissions to net zero by 2025. After more than 1000 arrests, Extinction Rebellion are now holding talks with political leaders to discuss their demands.
Finally, a pilot for the world’s first vaccine for malaria has been launched in Malawi, and will also be rolled out in Kenya and Ghana in the coming weeks. Malaria remains one of the world’s leading killers, with around 250,000 children in Africa dying each year as a result of the parasite. Development of a malaria vaccine has been three decades in the making, with the new vaccine RTS,S shown to prevent 4 in 10 malaria cases in children. The pilot aims to vaccinate 360,000 children a year for five years across the three countries, and has the potential to save tens of thousands of children’s lives.
This week’s news was presented and written by Danielle Ellenby, who is studying for a MSc in Science Communication at Imperial College London.
Banner image: Extinction Rebellion, Wiki commons