· An Oxford University study has shown that a new drug NUC-7738, a novel chemotherapy drug derived from a fungus, has up to 40 times greater potency for killing cancer cells than its parent compound, with limited toxic side effects. The naturally occurring chemical known as Cordycepin is found in the Himalayan fungus Cordyceps Sinensis and has been used in traditional Chinese medicine for hundreds of years to treat cancers and other inflammatory diseases. The new drug was created by a pharmaceutical company named NuCana and paired with ProTide Technolgogia delivery of the drug into the bloodstream, it allows the drug to stay in the system longer which destroys more cancer cells. The drug in tandem with this delivery method allows a wide variety of cancers, even including advanced developments of large tumors. Right now, the drug has passed its first stage in the approval process and is moving on to the second stage in partnership with NuCana, hopefully adding on to the options of cancer treatment available.
· In a study of 273 horse bone specimens across the world, scientists found modern domestic horses’ homeland in southwestern Russia. Ancient DNA reveals that the modern domestic horse originated on the vast landscape of what is now southwestern Russia more than 4,200 years ago, researchers report October 20 in Nature Magazine. In just a few centuries, these horses’ descendants spread quickly across Eurasia, supplanting almost all previous wild horse populations. By 1500–1000 B.C., domestic horses from Spain to Mongolia all descended from the same population, which the researchers traced back to more than 4,200-year-old specimens dug up on the Pontic-Caspian steppe, north of the Caucasus region and the Caspian Sea. Genes concerning the endurance and weight-bearing ability of horses are distinctly different among the more recent Spanish and Mongolian horses, giving possible evidence for the rapid expansion of these breeds for selective breeding by humans.
· Ants may hold clues of why the human brain decreased in size over 3,000 years ago. In a study using ants as a model for brain size fluctuations, researchers are studying the effects of human communication developments on the size of the human brain over time. The researchers applied a change-point analysis to a dataset of 985 fossil and modern human crania. They found that human brains increased in size 2.1 million years ago and 1.5 million years ago, during the Pleistocene period, but decreased in size around 3,000 years ago (Holocene period), which is more recent than previous estimates. The ant's brain development changes over time were also found to parallel changes in brain size in humans 3,000 years ago, during which marked a change in communication towards collective intelligence. Another possibility as well is that smaller brains use less energy than larger ones and thus increase the capacity of information that the brain can take in and store.