Northwestern Medicine researchers discover cause of baldness in mice. Scientists are probing the atmosphere of a distant exoplanet. A study of the pelvis of a saber-toothed tiger reveals the benevolent side of an extinct large feline. And how mass poaching led to defenseless elephants in Mozambique.
University of Chicago paleontologist Neil Shubin returns to help us understand some of the latest science stories making headlines.
Bald mice, men and women
Northwestern Medicine scientists have discovered a cause of baldness in mice that may have implications for hair loss treatments in both men and women.
The study, published in Nature Aging in October, shows that as hair stem cells age, they lose the stickiness that keeps them lodged inside the hair follicle.
Once the stem cells are outside the delicate microenvironment of the follicle, they usually perish.
“The result is fewer and fewer stem cells in the hair follicle to produce hair,” said lead author Rui Yi, Paul E. Steiner research professor of pathology at Northwestern University Feinberg School of Medicine. “This results in thinning of the hair and ultimately baldness during aging.”
The research could have implications for treatments for men and women with hair loss, as there are many similarities between mice and humans in hair and stem cells, Yi said.
Scientists probe the atmosphere of a distant exoplanet
A team of scientists have used a new technique to measure the amount of water and carbon monoxide in the atmosphere of an exoplanet some 340 million light years away.
This is the first time that scientists have been able to accurately measure “the actual amounts of molecules in the atmosphere of such a distant planet,” according to a press release from the University of Chicago.
It is hoped that the new technique will improve the search for extraterrestrial life.
“This opens up a whole new window into planetary atmospheres,” said study co-author Jacob Bean, associate professor of astronomy and astrophysics at the University of Chicago. “Previously, we could tell if there were certain molecules, but not how many, and that makes a huge difference. It’s like being able to see the whole iceberg, not just what’s above the water.
The caring side of the saber-toothed cat
Researchers studying the bones of saber-toothed tigers at La Brea Tar Pits in Los Angeles have found a benevolent side in extinct big cats.
Using a scanner to create a 3D image of the pelvis of one of the cats, the researchers found that the cat suffered from congenital hip dysplasia. The team concluded that the adult cat could not have survived on its own.
“In this case, our animal suffered from a developmental problem (not an injury) and was able to live to adulthood – which suggests that he must have received support, perhaps in sharing food with his family, ”explains postdoctoral fellow Dr Mairin Balisi. fellow at La Brea Tar Pits.
Poaching leads to helpless elephants
The massive poaching of elephants for their ivory has led to the development of helpless elephants in Mozambique.
A rare genetic mutation can prevent elephants from having tusks. Researchers studying elephants in Mozambique’s Gornogosa National Park found the impact of the civil war from 1977 to 1992, in which both sides slaughtered elephants for their ivory in order to fund their war effort , had resulted in an increase in the number of defenseless elephants, as they were not targeted by poachers. .
“One of the obvious characteristics is that a lot of female elephants don’t have tusks and we were intrigued by this phenomenon,” said Robert Pringle of the Department of Ecology and Evolutionary Biology at Princeton University. “We realized that although there had been quite a bit of writing with people observing that elephants were sometimes defenseless, especially in places where there had been a lot of poaching, no one really understood why . “