Stem cell therapy restores sight to blind mice

A transplantation treatment based on stem cells has moved closer to being tested in humans with severe vision problems, after successful trials in mice.

The method, which was shown to restore visual function in half of mice with end-stage retinal degeneration, involved transplanting retinal tissue derived from mouse induced pluripotent stem cells (iPSCs) into the host retina.

In order to create the transplant tissue, researchers first genetically reprogrammed skin cells taken from adult mice to an embryonic stem cell-like state before converting these iPSCs into retinal tissue. When transplanted into mice with end-stage retinal degeneration, the iPSC-derived retinal tissue developed to form photoreceptors that established direct contact with neighbouring cells in the retina.

The treatment, developed by senior study author Masayo Takahashi and first author Michiko Mandai of the RIKEN Center for Developmental Biology, was able to restore vision in roughly half of the mice with end-stage retinal degeneration. The research team are now testing the ability to replicate the results using human-derived iPSC retinal tissue.

“It is still a developing-stage therapy, and one cannot expect to restore practical vision at the moment,” Takahashi cautioned. “We will start from the stage of seeing a light or large figure, but hope to restore more substantial vision in the future.”

End-stage retinal degeneration is a leading cause of irreversible vision loss and blindness in older individuals. There is currently no cure and therapies are limited in their capability to stop the progression of vision loss.

The therapy strategy used by the RIKEN team is that of cell replacement, a method that, until now, suffered from uncertainty as to whether transplantation of stem cell tissues could actually restore visual function.

The key to success found by the researchers was the use of differentiated retinal tissues as opposed to retinal cells, which have previously been the focus of field use for most researchers. In almost all of the retinas that were transplanted, the researchers found at least some measure of response to light stimulation.

“The photoreceptors in the 3D structure can develop to form more mature, organized morphology, and therefore may respond better to light,” Takahashi explains. “From our data, the post-transplantation retina can respond to light already at one month in mice, but since the human retina takes a longer time to mature, it may take five to six months for the transplanted retina to start responding to light.”

Although simple light perception isn’t full restoration of sight, it is indicative of the possibilities of the treatment and shows that visual functions can be restored.

Takahashi’s acknowledgement of the increased complexity of human cells requires bearing in mind; it will not be a simple switchover from mice to human patients. However, if their new experiments into human-derived tissues prove successful, it may not be long before work can begin transferring this restorative success to clinical trials.

Australian Prime Minister demands end to encryption

The Australian government has proposed legislation that would force messaging apps like WhatsApp to decrypt encrypted messages. “The laws of mathematics are very commendable, but the only law that applies in Australia is the law of Australia," said Australian Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull.

Source: Independent

James Murdoch joins Tesla's board

Tesla has announced that it will add two independent directors to its board, including 21st Century Fox CEO James Murdoch. The additions have been announced just a few months after Tesla confirmed it was seeking to add independent directors without ties to CEO and founder Elon Musk.

Source: Tech Crunch

T.Rex wasn't capable of moving beyond a brisk walk

Scientists have concluded the size and weight of a T. Rex would have prevented it from moving faster than 20km/h. The scientists used a computer simulation to assess the dinosaur's speed, and found that if it had of moved from a brisk walk to a sprint, its legs would have snapped under the weight of its body.

Source: BBC

Samsung's Bixby virtual assistant now available in the US

Samsung has officially rolled out its Bixby voice assistant to S8 and S8 Plus owners in the US, so every American with one of the flagship phones can now talk to their very own virtual assistant. However, it's not currently clear when Bixby will be available in other English-speaking countries or other languages.

Source: Engadget

SpaceX says it can reuse rockets within 24 hours by 2018

Elon Musk has been detailing how SpaceX plans to be refurbishing and reusing Falcon 9 rocket boosters within a 24-hour turnaround window by 2018. At the ISS R&D conference on Wednesday, Musk said that the company already has a technical path in place to achieve the goal.

Source: Tech Crunch

Musk says he has approval for New York to Washington DC tunnel

Elon Musk has been commenting on the future of The Boring Company, his tunnel-digging endeavor. Musk took to Twitter to claim that he had, “Just received verbal govt approval for The Boring Company to build an underground NY-Phil-Balt-DC Hyperloop. NY-DC in 29 mins.”

Source: Ars Technica

You can now explore the International Space Station with Google Street View

If you’ve ever wondered what life is like aboard the International Space Station then Google has a treat in store for you because beginning today the ISS is available via Google Maps’ Street View.

Astronauts have been working and living on the ISS – a structure made up of 15 connected modules that floats 250 miles above Earth – for the past 16 years.

Now with Street View regular citizens can explore the station, and go everywhere from the sleeping quarters to where the space suits are kept. This is the first time Street View has ventured beyond planet Earth, and for the benefit of viewers the Street View feature also comes annotated, with handy little dots you can click on to explain what everything does, which is another first.

“In the six months that I spent on the International Space Station, it was difficult to find the words or take a picture that accurately describes the feeling of being in space,” said European Space Agency astronaut Thomas Pesquet in a blog post.

“Working with Google on my latest mission, I captured Street View imagery to show what the ISS looks like from the inside, and share what it’s like to look down on Earth from outer space.”

In his blog post, Pesquet goes on to describe how because of the constraints associated with living and working in space, it wasn’t possible to collect Street View using Google’s usual methods.

Instead, the Street View team worked with NASA at the Johnson Space Center in Houston, Texas and Marshall Space Flight Center in Huntsville, Alabama to design a gravity-free method of collecting the imagery using DSLR cameras and equipment already on the ISS.

Still photos were captured in space that were sent down to Earth where they were stitched together to create panoramic 360 degree imagery of the ISS.

Images courtesy of Google

“There are a lot of obstacles up there, and we had limited time to capture the imagery,” recalled Pesquet.

“Oh, and there’s that whole zero gravity thing.”

Pesquet ended his blog post by revealing the inspiration behind the Street View and ISS collaboration.

“Looking at Earth from above made me think about my own world a little differently, and I hope that the ISS on Street View changes your view of the world too.” said Pesquet.