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New information obtained on the first plant on the Moon sprouted by China

New information obtained about the first plant on the Moon sprouted by China

It was a historic moment for China when it’s Chang’e-4 spacecraft landed on the far side of the moon on the 3rd of January 2019. It became the first spacecraft to visit this area of the moon. It also carried a 2.6kg mini-biosphere known as the Lunar Micro Ecosystem. 

This biosphere measures 18cm in length and 16cm in diameter. It took six lifeforms in conditions simulating Earth except for lunar radiation and micro-gravity. The six lifeforms include cotton seeds, potato seeds, yeast, fruit fly eggs, rapeseeds, and Arabidopsis thaliana, a weed. 

This is the first biological growth experiment to be conducted on the Moon. The cotton seeds gave positive results. 

It took in January 2019 when the lander reached the Moon. The team thought that there was one leaf but the data shows there were two instead. A 3D reconstructed image based on image processing and data analysis shows very clearly two leaves. However, no other organism produced any result. 

The LME was not heated, so after the first lunar day or 14 Earth days, the cotton sprout died since the temperature dropped down to negative 190 Celsius. The experiment however continued for testing the longevity. 

Xie Gengxin is the leader of the experiment from the Technology Research Institute, Chongqing University. No papers are to be published based on this experiment. There were initial plans of sending a tortoise to the moon however it was prevented by the mission constraints. 

Xie said in an interview that it was due to the weight constraint as it could not exceed more than three kilograms on the Chang’e-4 probe. It would have been torture for the tortoise since it would have died with the temperature drop along with oxygen running out in 20 days. The first tortoises in space were two tortoises carried by the Zond 5 mission of the Soviet Union in 1968. Plants and fruit flies were also carried but the tortoises were not provided any food. They were starved but they made it to Earth alive. 

Xie and his group are looking to the next Moon mission as they hope to send more lifeforms. They would send complex life forms according to the payload of the mission. China has planned Chang’e-6, a return mission to the Moon in the mid-2020s. China sent out invitations for international partners for involvement in the additional 10kg of payload the mission in 2018. Chang’e-6 is a backup to Chang’e-5 which is meant to be the first sample return mission for China. 

Many other nations are planning for these lunar biological experiments such as India, the United States, Russia, Japan along with private companies. With long-duration visits to Moon in the future, researchers will study the responses of other organisms to that environment, besides humans. 


China successfully clones kitten for the first time

China successfully clones kitten for the first time

Huang Yu, a Chinese businessman aged 22 years lost his beloved cat, Garlic. But now he has become the pet parent of Garlic II, a clone of late Garlic. Yu took the services of Sinogene, a commercial company involved in pet-cloning that is based in Beijing. It has already cloned over 40 dogs, each of which nearly costs 53,000 US Dollars. The copy cat of Yu which was born on July 21 has the same fur pattern of white and gray as of Garlic. It cost him approximately 35,000 US Dollars. This was the first cat that was successfully cloned by the company.

Yu informed the New York Times that he had buried Garlic, the original cat in the month of January. It died at an age of 2 years because of a UTI. At this moment, he decided to proceed with cloning. But before that, the corpse of Garlic had to be unearthed and kept in the freezer. After that, an employee from Sinogene came and took the sample of DNA. All this work was worth it in the end.

For Yu, Garlic was irreplaceable. He said that since Garlic did not leave anything for later generations, his only choice was to go for cloning. For creating Garlic 2.0, researchers took skin cells from Garlic and then implanted them in the feline eggs. They were able to produce 40 cloned embryos from this process. Chen Benchi, head of the experiment’s team at Sinogene said that the embryos were placed in surrogate cats leading to three pregnancies. In the end, only one made it full term.

Pets have been cloned in other nations such as Britain, South Korea, and the US. However, experts say that the first cloned cat of China is a huge milestone for the commercial cloning sector. This is attracting the private pet owners along with celebrity animal lovers such as Barbra Streisand who paid 50,000 US Dollars for cloning Sammie, her Maltipoo.

An increasing proportion of the customers are young people who have recently passed out of college. Pet cloning helps in meeting the emotional needs of younger people irrespective of the origin of the pets.

Sinogene hopes this technology can be used for cloning the endangered species such as giant pandas or South China tigers. However, this shall take some more time as it is a difficult endeavor. Chen Dayuan, panda expert at the Chinese Academy of Sciences said that it is possible that cats can be surrogates for baby pandas who are smaller than the infant kittens.

Huang was disappointed a bit as the cloned kitten did not have a patch of black fur on its chin which the original cat had. However, he accepted it as every technology has some limitations.

Aedes albopictus

Within 2 years, scientists manage to wipe out mosquitoes on two Chinese islands

In a time period of only two years, scientists have almost wiped out the most invasive mosquito in the world from two islands in Guangzhou, China. The mosquito species, Asian tiger is a carrier of highly infectious diseases such as Zika, chikungunya and dengue affecting millions of people all over the world. It is very difficult to control.

Over the last forty years, this mosquito has reached to all other continents on Earth excluding Antarctica from its home in Asia. It has caused a heavy impact on public health due to the limited availability of vaccines and treatments for the diseases it spreads. However, with an exciting field test of a mosquito control technique, this can be changed. Researchers used two existing methods to decrease the population of Asian tiger up to 94 percent on the Chinese river islands. In some instances, even one viable egg was not found for 13 weeks. The findings have been published in the Nature journal.

Peter Armbruster, mosquito ecologist while reviewing the work said that the results were quite remarkable and it shows the potential of a new tool to fight infectious diseases that are spread by mosquitoes.

The double combination approach involves a radiation dose for sterilizing the mosquitoes along with a bacterial strain from the Wolbachia genus preventing the hatching of mosquito eggs. When these two methods are applied together on the lab-grown mosquitoes, they work very effectively than when used alone.

Radiation based techniques used at present work with the release of sterile male insects who mate with the females decreasing the population size. However, radiation makes them less competitive sexually and are prone to die quickly. Other methods using bacteria are less harmful but they work only if the male mosquito grown in the lab is infected. When both male and female have a bacterial infection, they cancel each other out producing a healthy offspring.

Sifting through male and female insects is highly painstaking, as although the researchers put all the effort, Wolbachia-infected females get released accidentally 0.3 percent of the time which undermines the whole mission.

However, in the new solution, Wolbachia-infected mosquitoes are reared in the lab who are then subjected to low radiation which makes the females sterile while the males can still reproduce. This not only works theoretically but also works in reality. Getting rid of the sex testing, the team was able to produce and release huge numbers of these mosquitoes grown in the lab, nearly two hundred million in the city having the largest dengue transmission rate in China.

After two years, the team found a decrease of 97 percent in the mosquito bites by the local population. The average number of wild adult females caught per trap reduced by 83 to 94 percent, with none found for a period of six weeks. Authors say the remaining mosquitoes on the island migrated from outside, suggesting that the region would not be free of mosquitoes for a long period of time. However, if the technique is implemented on a larger scale it is possible to make the place free from the Asian tiger mosquitoes.

Zhiyong Xi, a molecular genetics professor at Michigan State University said that their study predicted the total future costs of a completely operational intervention using this approach would be nearly 108 US dollars per hectare per year which is cheaper than other mosquito-control techniques.

Research Paper: https://www.nature.com/articles/s41586-019-1407-9