Weekly News Bites: Weekend lie-ins, brain bio-paper, and a scaly, feathery dinosaur

Asia Research News monitors the latest research news in Asia. Some highlights that caught our attention this week are how catching up on sleep in big chunks does not completely pay our sleep debt, a biodegradable paper placed on the brain to help with neurological diseases, and a dinosaur that shows the transition between scales and feathers.

We’re not our best selves after a couple of nights of lost sleep and those cherished weekend lie-ins can help, but they don't fully allow us to recoup our sleep debt says research by the Yong Loo Lin School of Medicine. We need sleep to “resupply or clean up” energy and metabolic waste so instead of making up for lost sleep in large chunks, we should prioritize regular, consistent sleep.

A study by Singapore Institute of Food and Biotechnology Innovation from ASTAR found that traditional plant-based diets that include vegetables, fruits and nuts, are healthier than plant-based meat substitutes (such as false chicken nuggets). In fact, the substitutes might not be suitable for diabetics as the researchers found that meat-eaters had better blood sugar control than the participants that ate the substitutes, which is important for managing diabetes.

Electrical stimulation of the brain can be beneficial for neurological diseases but brain probes can also come with complications. To help find a way around this invasive procedure, UNIST has developed a biodegradable "bio-paper" sticks to the brain like a Band-Aid, delivering wireless electrical stimulation. This is suitable for diseases like Parkinson’s and Alzheimer’s and the team hope it can deliver safer, more personalized treatment options.

A Kyoto University team has mass-generated cells capable of becoming human sperm or eggs using human induced pluripotent stem (iPS) cells. The study amplified primitive germ cells over 10 billion times, providing ample cells for reproductive medicine research since generating cells at the earliest developmental stage had proved to be challenging. While there is still a way to go before generating sperm and egg cells, this is a promising step forward.

Researchers at University College Cork, Ireland and Nanjing University discovered a fossil of a dinosaur with both feathers and scaly skin. Having both present suggests that there was a transitional phase when dinosaurs evolved from scales to feathers. Not only was this dinosaur scaly and feathery, but the fossilized skin contained silica which is found in glass.

Over 90% of the mammals on the Philippine island of Luzon aren't found anywhere else in the world, says the Field Museum in Chicago, USA and the University of the Philippines. This means that it boasts the largest concentration of unique mammals in the world… more than the Galapagos!