Gene editing technique allows silkworms to produce spider silk

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An analysis of transformed cocoons. Morphology of the WT-1, FibH+/-, FibH-/-, WT-2, MaSp1+/-, and MaSp1+/+ cocoons. Scale bar represents 1 cm. Credit: Jun Xu

A team of researchers affiliated with several institutions in China has succeeded in using a gene editing technique to get silkworms to produce spider silk. In their paper published in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, the group describes the technique they used and the quality of the silk produced.

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These anti-aging pills seem to be actually working

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Pills hailed as the first real “anti-aging” drugs inched a little closer to the market after a study found they cut the number of respiratory infections in the elderly by half.

The drugs: The pills act on an aging-related pathway called TORC1. Inhibiting this pathway “has extended life span in every species studies to date,” according to Joan Mannick, who led the study for drug giant Novartis. Those species include mice and worms.

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These robots use living muscle tissue to mimic human fingers

As if the line between human and machine wasn’t already blurry enough, researchers in Tokyo have developed a new method for using living rat muscle tissue in robotics.

The “biohybrid” design, described today in the journal Science Robotics, simulates the look and movements of a human finger. Video shows how it bends at the joint, picks up a loop, and places it down. It’s a seemingly simple movement but one that researchers say lays the groundwork for more advanced—and even more lifelike—robots. (Meet Sophia, the robot that looks almost human.)

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A massive, ‘semi-infinite’ trove of rare-earth metals has been found in Japan

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Researchers have found hundreds of years’ worth of rare-earth materials underneath Japanese waters — enough to supply to the world on a “semi-infinite basis,” according to a study published in Nature Publishing Group’s Scientific Reports.

Rare-earth metals are crucial in the making of high-tech products such as electric vehicles and batteries, and most of the world has relied on China for almost all of its needs.

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Physicists just discovered an entirely new type of superconductivity

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“No one thought this was possible in solid materials.”

One of the ultimate goals of modern physics is to unlock the power of superconductivity, where electricity flows with zero resistance at room temperature.

Progress has been slow, but physicists have just made an unexpected breakthrough. They’ve discovered a superconductor that works in a way no one’s ever seen before – and it opens the door to a whole world of possibilities not considered until now.

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‘A fantastic find’: Mars hides thick sheets of ice just below the surface

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The slope rises as high as London’s Big Ben tower. Beneath its ruddy layer of dirt is a sheet of ice 300 feet thick that gives the landscape a blue-black hue. If such a scene sounds otherworldly, it is. To visit it, you’ll have to travel to Mars.

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Scientists built an external womb to help premature infants survive

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For expecting parents, 24 weeks is an important milestone. It’s a little more than halfway through pregnancy, and it’s at this age that the fetus has at least a fighting chance of surviving outside its mother’s body. The odds of survival aren’t great—only about half of babies birthed at this age survive—but it’s possible.

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The factories of the future could float in space

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This past summer, a plane went into a stomach-churning ascent and plunge 30,000 feet over the Gulf of Mexico. The goal was not thrill-seeking, but something more genuinely daring: for about 25 seconds at a time, the parabolic flight lifted the occupants into a state of simulated weightlessness, allowing a high-tech printer to spit out cardiac stem cells into a two-chambered, simplified structure of an infant’s heart.

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