The Cosmos top 10 life science stories of 2015
Is there any truth to the buzz surrounding electronic brain stimulation? And can we really retrain our immune system to hunt down hidden cancer cells? Find out this and more among the Cosmos editors' favourite life sciences stories of 2015.
Modifying human immune cells to fight cancer
Immune cells known as T cells are formidable fighters against cancer and HIV. But they can be outsmarted by these foes. Now researchers have figured out how to help T cells fight back using the latest gene editing technique called CRISPR. Read more
How to stop cancer patients wasting away
Cancer patients often fade away, their own body consumed by the voracious demands of their growing tumour. At least that’s what we'd always thought. But a new finding suggests that’s not necessarily the case. Read more
A dying cell's last act
When immune cells get sick, they will often self-destruct to protect the rest of the body from harm. New research suggests that before pulling the plug they send out final goodbyes, and even place a call to the undertaker. Read more
The virus that could help stop HIV
We've all heard of friendly bacteria, but a friendly virus? Called the pegivirus, catching it doesn’t make you sick. Instead, it can help the immune system to keep HIV infections in check. Discovered in 1995, scientists do not understand how it works, but that could soon change. Read more
The big five extinctions
Biologists suspect we’re living through the sixth major mass extinction. Earth has witnessed five, when more than 75% of species disappeared. Palaeontologists spot them when species go missing from the global fossil record, including the specimens shown here. “We don’t always know what caused them but most had something to do with rapid climate change”, says Melbourne Museum palaeontologist Rolf Schmidt. Read more
The most ancient evidence of life on Earth?
To some scientists, the Apex chert microfossils found in the Pilbara region of Western Australia are the oldest evidence of life on Earth. To others, the "fossils" are nothing more than geological anomalies in the rock. This latter group now claims to have delivered the knockout blow in this decades-long debate. Read more
The buzz around brain stimulation
Not so long ago, the idea of zapping the brain was horrifying. These days, people are clamouring to zap their brains. You can even buy DIY kits online. Powered by a nine-volt battery they deliver what is known as transcranial direct current stimulation or tDCS. Kits like this are being snapped up by video gamers and others who want to amp up their concentration or zap themselves out of depression. But do they work? Read more
Are gut bacteria manipulating your mood?
Microbes in the gut do more than aid our digestion – they may also alter our mood. Researchers have found that our intestinal bacteria can trigger gut cells to produce the neurotransmitter serotonin. Read more
The lymphatic drain inside your brain
Has the human brain been hiding a dirty secret? While studying the membranes around a mouse brain, a neuroscientist has stumbled across something that wasn’t supposed to be there: a web of drainage channels called lymphatic vessels, the body’s waste disposal system. Read more
Single cell eyeball creature startles scientists
Scientists studying microscopic organisms in a seawater sample found a creature that appeared to be a tiny floating eyeball staring back at them. Although the creature is a single-celled organism, it possesses many of the features of the human eye, including a lens, cornea and retina. But its view of the world would be nothing like our own. Read more