Coronavirus Mutation, Organoids and Mars’ Atmosphere

A month’s worth of cool science stories.
Alistair Jennings, Contributor

(Inside Science) -- In this monthly recap, Alistair Jennings from Inside Science sums up some of the most interesting recent science topics: A new strain of the coronavirus, called B117, has been identified and is suspected to be more infectious than other viral strains. That alone doesn’t necessarily mean this virus strain actually transmits better --it could still be down to chance movement of different infected populations. But there is evidence emerging about B117’s genetic make up that also suggests it’s a more virulent variant.

Researchers have published a new technique that paves the way to study cancer in much greater detail. It might be a little gross to some people, but it’s also pretty amazing. Scientists have developed an organoid. It’s a bundle of cells in a petri dish. But the cells have grown into a structure -- one that mimics certain aspects of a human organ. Researchers started with a simple bladder organoid, then added several layers of different kinds of cells -- eventually building up a structure that was much closer to real human bladder tissue: 90% similar (although much smaller than an actual bladder).

And last but not least, we go to Mars. An international team has simulated the early atmosphere, from around 4 billion years ago, on the red planet. They found that with an atmosphere of carbon dioxide and hydrogen, Mars could have sustained a surface temperature above water’s freezing point. A relatively warm climate like this would also explain another piece of Martian geology -- what appears to be ancient river systems carved into the planet’s rock.


UK stats

B117 novel mutations

Antibody evasion

Bladder assembloids

Mars cool climate

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Ali Jennings has his PhD in neuroscience from University College London.