Weekly News Bites: Bacteria in space, microplastics in semen, and a deadly glow for tumors

Asia Research News monitors the latest research news in Asia. Some highlights that caught our attention this week are how drug-resistant bacteria survive in space, omnipresent microplastics, and a glowing treatment for brain tumors.

Some rare skin disorders, such as severe forms of ichthyosis, can cause suffering and a lower quality of life to the affected person. These diseases are genetic and treatment has been difficult. Nagoya University researchers aim to help treat these through grafts of genetically modified healthy skin. The team created cultured epidermal autografts (CEAs) and placed them on the affected skin, showing promising results.

A study by Nanyang Technological University found that between 1980-2020, air pollution caused 135 million premature deaths globally, with Asia having the highest rates. Small particles in the air, PM2.5 pollutants, are the main culprit, made worse when combined with climate events such as higher temperatures, different wind patterns and large events like El Niño.

In more pollution news, research by Qingdao University found microplastics present in the semen samples of all healthy participants of a study. Falling sperm counts have been linked to pollution and now it is thought that these microplastics may be causing inflammation and hormone disruption.

However, the environmental news this week not all bad: scientists from the University of East Anglia and Ocean University China have found that algae play a major role in cooling the Earth's climate. The small organisms produce dimethylsulfoniopropionate (DMSP), a compound that aids cloud formation.

Bacteria in space! IIT Madras and NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory are studying a drug-resistant pathogen found on the International Space Station. The researchers observed interactions between bacteria and other microbes on the space station and are looking into the responses to stressors of space. The findings could help understand how these pathogens adapt and evolve.

Radiotherapy is an affective cancer treatment but can affect the surrounding healthy cells, making treatment unpleasant. Another treatment, photodynamic therapy, is more precise but can’t reach deep into the body.  Nanyang Technological University has combined the two and developed a method using an injected compound that is activated by low-dose X-rays. These compounds then “glow” and kill only the targeted tumor cells.