The Cosmos top 10 life science stories of 2015

Number 10:

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

Number 9:

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

Number 8:

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

Number 7:

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

Number 6:

The big five extinctions281215 liferoundup 6

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

Number 5:

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

Number 4:

The buzz around brain stimulation281215 liferoundup 4

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

Number 3:

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

Number 2:

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

Number 1:

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

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