Psychedelic yeast, loving lemurs, clearing the air, and more

Published April 17, 2020

Start at the very beginning

Injured brain cells can regen­er­ate, but they do it in a total­ly funky way: They revert to their embry­on­ic state and regrow all their con­nec­tions — like a giant RESET but­ton. And when we say “revert,” we mean “the entire set of genes in an adult brain cell resets itself.”

“[W]hen an adult brain cell of the cor­tex is injured, it reverts (at a tran­scrip­tion­al lev­el) to an embry­on­ic cor­ti­cal neu­ron. And in this revert­ed, far less mature state, it can now regrow axons if it is pro­vid­ed an envi­ron­ment to grow into.”

Grandma’s bread will never be the same

Those shifty Danes have found a way to make sim­ple yeast pro­duce psilo­cy­bin — the “mag­ic” com­pound of mag­ic mush­rooms. So yeah, that means just what you think it means.

Next up, we assume, is using CRISPR to make kudzu pro­duce THC.…

Johnny Appleseed’s cousins

It’s called the Lost Apple Project. What mem­bers do: scour the Pacific Northwest for long-for­got­ten apple orchards and look for new vari­eties of apples.

This year they found a whop­ping 10 — that’s 10 kinds of apples peo­ple haven’t eat­en in a cen­tu­ry, “from 140-year-old orchards tucked into small canyons or hid­den in forests that have since grown up around them.”

They’re going to take cut­tings from the trees to graft onto exist­ing plants*, and even­tu­al­ly sell branch­es to farm­ers to bring back those old varieties.

Botanists from the Temperate Orchard Society iden­ti­fied them by com­par­ing the col­lect­ed apples to water­col­or illus­tra­tions cre­at­ed by the U.S. Department of Agriculture in the 1800s and ear­ly 1900s and by por­ing over writ­ten descrip­tions in old botany text­books and ref­er­ence guides, some of them more than 150 years old.

(No, you can’t plant seeds. Apples don’t repro­duce true to type, so you nev­er know what kind of tree you’ll get. Grafting is the only way to be sure.)

Just one CoviD story

If the entire world being shut down from a glob­al pan­dem­ic isn’t enough, now comes this slight­ly ter­ri­fy­ing bit of news: “The bod­ies of COVID-19 vic­tims may be con­ta­gious, coro­ner’s case reveals”.

Headline of the day

Male lemurs may spread fruity ‘love potions’ with their tails

(OK, OK, what’s inter­est­ing is that lemurs are pri­mates, and there’s still some con­tro­ver­sy about whether pri­mates use pheromones to attract mates.)

Honestly, you’d think that col­lar would be enough

Only two blind mice

The third one had skin cells chem­i­cal­ly repro­grammed into pho­tore­cep­tors, then implant­ed into its eyes — allow­ing it to detect light again.

“Even mice with severe­ly advanced reti­nal degen­er­a­tion, with lit­tle chance of hav­ing liv­ing pho­tore­cep­tors remain­ing, respond­ed to transplantation.”

Beyond Beano

One down­side to a plant-based diet is that oth­er peo­ple have to be in the room with you — and your “unpleas­ant intesti­nal symptoms.”

But now Finnish researchers have found a way to break down the undi­gestible “FODMAPs” that cause those symp­toms. Result: a way to treat food prod­ucts before prepa­ra­tion to make them more digestible … and thus make you more pleas­ant to be around.

The Long (but fun) Read: Pandemic Modeling

A Comic Strip Tour Of The Wild World Of Pandemic Modeling” by Zach Weinersmith* and FiveThirtyEight shows how pan­dem­ic mod­el­ing is done … and why it’s so darn complicated.

* He writes the wonderfully geeky Saturday Morning Breakfast Cereal webcomic, which you really should check out.
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