Weekly News Bites: Stem-cell therapy for pets, zen gut bacteria, and a mushroom’s dark secret

Asia Research News monitors the latest research news in Asia. Some highlights that caught our attention this week are a stem-cell based therapy for pets with cancer, how meditation could affect our gut microbiome, and an edible mushroom that contains a deadly nerve gas.

A new stem cell-based gene therapy from National University of Singapore’s Yong Loo Lin School of Medicine shows promise in helping treat pets with cancer and has already been used on cats and dogs. The cells are engineered to target cancer cells and react with anti-fungal medication to become “cancer-killer” cells. The researchers hope that the therapy can be used to help humans in the future.

A team from the University of Delhi has found over 250 fossilized dinosaur eggs in an area with 92 nesting sites. The eggs are from the enormous titanosaur species and this discovery has led to insights into their physiology and behavior. The dinosaurs seem to have dug shallow nests like crocodiles and used colonial nesting like some species of modern-day birds. 

The National University of Singapore has created new untethered haptic gloves that allow users to “feel” objects in VR. Compressed air causes the gloves to tighten, giving the user the feeling that they are gripping something. The researchers hope the gloves could be used to help train future doctors and nurses in VR.

Meditation can help steady us in a chaotic world and now research suggests that it could also regulate our gut bacteria.The Shanghai Mental Health Centre and Shanghai Jiao Tong University compared the microbiomes of Buddhist monks and their secular neighbors and found that the monks had a higher percentage of friendly gut bacteria.

Mangroves in the Philippines have declined rapidly in two decades causing the country to rank second worst in Southeast Asia for mangrove loss, says research by the University of the Philippines. This is concerning as mangroves are a hub of biodiversity and can protect coasts against extreme weather effects like typhoons.

Tasty oyster mushrooms have a dark secret… Academia Sinica has unveiled a killing mechanism used by the mushrooms on their nematode prey, described as a “nerve gas in a lollipop”. A nematode brushes up against these lollipops and a toxic gas is released, paralyzing it. The mushrooms then suck out the nutrients from the nematode.