Targeting Zika Although it could easily be mistaken for a work…

Targeting Zika

Although it could easily be mistaken for a work of art, this image is actually showing you a sample of human immune cells (blue), some of which are invested with the Zika virus (red). The virus affects many different cells, but how it damages and kills them isn’t clear. Researchers recently developed a new method to label Zika-infected immune cells. By separating infected from uninfected cells in the same sample, the team can compare the two directly and by looking at the differences, understand what the virus is doing. The technique provides a comprehensive account of the effect Zika is having on immune cells, in particular how it prevents them from activating certain genes that would enhance the body’s immune defence. In future, this method could be applied to tag cells infected with other viruses.

Written by Gaëlle Coullon

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2018 October 14 Orion in Red and Blue Image Credit &…

2018 October 14

Orion in Red and Blue
Image Credit & Copyright: David Lindemann

Explanation: When did Orion become so flashy? This colorful rendition of part of the constellation of Orion comes from red light emitted by hydrogen and sulfur (SII), and blue-green light emitted by oxygen (OIII). Hues on the featured image were then digitally reassigned to be indicative of their elemental origins – but also striking to the human eye. The breathtaking composite was painstakingly composed from hundreds of images which took nearly 200 hours to collect. Pictured, Barnard’s Loop, across the image bottom, appears to cradle interstellar constructs including the intricate Orion Nebula seen just right of center. The Flame Nebula can also be quickly located, but it takes a careful eye to identify the slight indentation of the dark Horsehead Nebula. As to Orion’s flashiness – a leading explanation for the origin of Barnard’s Loop is a supernova blast that occurred about two million years ago.

∞ Source: apod.nasa.gov/apod/ap181014.html

Plague of Marmots If you ever end up on a wildlife safari in…

Plague of Marmots

If you ever end up on a wildlife safari in central Asia, then watch out for Himalayan marmots – especially if they’re suspiciously still like this one spotted lying dead in a field in the Qinghai-Tibet plateau. As well as being the highest plateau in the world, it’s also one of the region’s highest risk areas for plague caused by infectious Yersinia pestis bacteria (the same bugs responsible for the Black Death), which is responsible for killing this poor rodent. Alarmingly, researchers have now discovered that Tibetan sheep can catch plague bacteria from dead marmots – maybe by licking them to extract extra nutrients or from fleas – and can also transfer them on to humans. Since the first marmot with plague was identified in 1954, there have been nearly 500 human plague cases and 240 deaths, suggesting that this is a significant route for transmission of the disease and needs further investigation.

Written by Kat Arney

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