A look back on last month’s Science news

Stem cell surgery success in first trial

The world’s first retinal implant operations have proved successful, according to researchers at Advanced Cell Technology. Two patients in the US had manipulated embryonic stem cells injected into one of their eyes. Both patients were registered as blind: one patient had dry age-related macular degeneration and the other Stargardt’s disease. 16 weeks after treatment, the stem cells had survived and attached to the membrane in the eye. Furthermore, both patients’ sight had improved, although researchers say it will take years for the treatment to take full effect. In January the first British citizen to have retinal stem cell implants underwent treatment at Moorfields Eye Hospital in London.


China caps its cities’ CO2 emissions

The Chinese government has ordered the first restrictions on the carbon emissions of seven of its most highly populated cities and provinces. The two largest cities in China, Shanghai and Beijing, have seen their CO2 emissions capped, along with Shenzhen, Tianjin and Chongqing. Hubei and China’s most populated province, Guangdong, are also part of this pilot scheme. Guangdong province is the largest CO2 producer in China, and its carbon reduction plan has already been approved by the central government. The country has not, however, capped its overall carbon dioxide emissions, stating that it must focus on economic growth. China has however pledged to reduce its carbon emissions by 17% by 2015.


Early Jurassic dinosaur nests discovered

A 190 million year old dinosaur nesting site has been discovered in South Africa’s Golden Gate Highlands National Park. The archaeological find consists of ten nests, containing the fossilised remains of massospondylus dinosaurs, along with up to 34 eggs per nest. Scientists believe there are many more nesting sites concealed in rocks in the area, which are yet to be revealed. The find is 100 million years older than any older nesting site found. These remains vastly increase the volume of scientific data collected about the reproductive cycle and parenting practices of dinosaurs.


Superjumbo plagued by further safety concerns

The Airbus A380, or superjumbo, the largest passenger jet in production, has faced questions about its structural integrity. The European Aviation Safety Agency has ordered that all aircraft which have performed over 1300 take-offs and landings must undergo visual examinations for cracks on the wings within the next few weeks. It is worried that these small cracks may propagate and lead to breakup of the aircraft at high altitude. Around 15 million passengers have already flown on A380 aircraft but these latest reports once again call into question the safety of this particular aircraft. Over the past three years, several mid-flight engine failures have worried operators of the superjumbo jet. The worst of these faults occurred in 2010, when one of the four engines on a Qantas airplane exploded mid-flight after take-off from Singapore.


New species discovered

A three week mission to the Surinamese rainforest in South America has revealed 46 new species previously unknown to science. A group of international scientists and university students collaborated with indigenous people from the area on the trip organised by Conservation International. Amongst the species recovered, a crayola katydid (or cricket) and a cowboy frog were new discoveries along with the pacman frog, which is already thought to be unique to the area. Also discovered was an armoured catfish, covered with spines to protect it from the deadly giant piranhas which infest the waters in which it was found. The area in which these finds were made is an undisturbed region of the Amazon rainforest; one of the last true wildernesses left on Earth.


Ian Barnett


Image 1 – Gtanner

Image 2 – G patkar