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Trending: TRAPPIST-1, 3-D Printed Glass

And researchers take crucial steps in the fight against two devastating diseases.

By Lacy Schley
Oct 11, 2017 5:00 AMNov 12, 2019 5:16 AM


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NASA/JPL-Caltech/R. Hurt (IPAC)

TRAPPIST-1 Letdown

Many space enthusiasts got their hopes up earlier this year when scientists discovered TRAPPIST-1, a star with a collection of seven Earth-sized planets — three of which were in the star’s habitable zone and could house life-sustaining liquid water. Now, researchers have found these three planets have a very low chance of harboring life. They’re much closer to their sun than we are to ours, so TRAPPIST-1’s ultraviolet radiation would likely strip away most of their atmospheres. While depressing, this knowledge helps us get a better grip on the odds of finding life somewhere beyond our little corner of the universe.

Taking a Shot at Amyloid

Experts have developed a vaccine that prevents the buildup of amyloid — a protein linked to the neurodegenerative disorder Alzheimer’s disease — in primate brains. The team took DNA from amyloid proteins and integrated it into a vaccine. When injected into the skin of six rhesus macaque monkeys, the vaccine prompted an immune response that blocked the proteins from popping up in the brain. The next step is to plan human trials.

Gene Therapy for Muscular Dystrophy

We’re one step closer to treating Duchenne muscular dystrophy, a severe type of the degenerative disorder that breaks down a person’s musculature. The inherited condition, most common in boys, results from a lack of dystrophin, a protein that’s essential for healthy muscles. An international team of experts developed an injection that restored the function of dystophin-expressing genes in 12 golden retrievers. The dogs saw a significant reversal of symptoms that lasted the span of the two-year study, paving the way for human trials.

Walking on Printed Glass

We started with plastics, progressed to biocompatible inks, and now we can 3-D print glass. German scientists have come up with a way to crank out strong, transparent glass using ink made of powdered glass mixed with a thick liquid compound. Once you print out the design you want, you pop it in a high-temperature oven to evaporate the liquid. And voila! Glass. Although the team isn’t the first to 3-D print glass, their technique is the first to produce strong, clear glass with a standard 3-D printer and less extreme temperatures than previous attempts.

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