Several research groups, including a team led by geneticist Erika Sasaki and stem-cell biologist Hideyuki Okano at Keio University in Tokyo, hope to create transgenic primates with immune-system deficiencies or brain disorders. This could raise ethical concerns, but might bring us closer to therapies that are relevant to humans (mice can be poor models for such disorders). The work will probably make use of a gene-editing method called CRISPR, which saw rapid take-up last year.
The European Space Agency’s Rosetta spacecraft could become the first mission to land a probe on a comet. If all goes well, it will land on comet Churyumov–Gerasimenko in November. Mars will also be a busy place: India’s orbiter mission should arrive at the planet in September, about the same time as NASA’s MAVEN probe. And NASA’s Curiosity rover should finally make it to its mission goal, the slopes of the 5.5-kilometre-high Aeolis Mons, where it will look for evidence of water. Back on Earth, NASA hopes to launch an orbiter to monitor atmospheric carbon dioxide.
Neurobiologist Miguel Nicolelis at Duke University in Durham, North Carolina, has developed a brain-controlled exoskeleton that he expects will enable a person with a spinal-cord injury to kick the first ball at the 2014 football World Cup in Brazil. Meanwhile, attempts are being made in people with paralysis to reconnect their brains directly to paralysed areas, rather than to robotic arms or exoskeletons. In basic research, neuroscientists are excited about money from big US and European brain initiatives, such as Europe’s Human Brain Project.
Written By: Richard Van Noorden
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