Weekly News Bites: Mouse embryos in space, an “impossible engine”, and a new hope for hearing through gene therapy

Asia Research News monitors the latest research news in Asia. Some highlights that caught our attention this week are mouse embryos grown on the International Space Station, a super-efficient micro engine, and how a virus can help deaf children hear.

It may be possible for mammals to reproduce in space. Until now the effects of lower gravity and radiation were on developing mammals were not well known. To find out more, the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA) and Yamanashi University oversaw a project that successfully grew mouse embryos on the International Space Station. The team sent fertilized embryos into space where they were thawed and grown to a stage where they were almost ready for implantation.

Depression symptoms, or “baby blues”, can start a long time before the baby is born says a study led by A*STAR. The team studied nearly 12,000 women and found that symptoms could start as early as the first trimester. Depression is not only negative for the mother but can also affect the baby’s development. Interventions can be successful in making pregnancy and motherhood easier to handle.

Researchers from the IISC and the Jawaharlal Nehru Centre for Advanced Scientific Research have developed a micro engine that has almost no heat loss, otherwise known as the “impossible engine”. This could help to solve a long-lasting thermodynamic puzzle, which would enable more energy efficient devices. However, it can’t power your phone just yet as it is only uses a single particle!

Scientists at Fudan University may have cracked the challenge of enabling deaf children to hear through gene therapy. The team used modified (harmless) viruses to inject the genetic code into the cochlea which then produced a protein lacking in many deaf people’s ears.