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Scientists Discover Jellyfish Sleep Even Though They Don’t Have Brains





Sleeping is widely regarded as a good way to recharge your brain, but that raises a particularly perplexing question: do animals without brains sleep? The answer is, surprisingly, yes, at least when it comes to jellyfish.

Earlier today, three graduate student researchers at the California Institute of Technology (Ravi Nath of the Sternberg laboratory, Claire Bedbrook of the Gradinaru laboratory, and Michael Abrams of the Goentoro laboratory) announced they have discovered that jellyfish sleep. You probably wonder how the team was even able to quantify what would be considered sleep in animals without brains or spines, but before they started the experiment, the researchers debated, considered, and finally devised the three necessary criteria for sleep that they used in the study:

  1. The animal must exhibit a period of demonstrably reduced activity, otherwise known as “quiescence.”
  2. The animal must respond slower to stimuli during this period.
  3. The animal must show an increased desire to enter a period of quiescence when deprived of it.

These criteria were devised by examining sleep in other animals, including humans. “When humans sleep, we are inactive, we often can sleep through noises or other disturbances which we might otherwise react to if we were awake, and we’re likely to fall asleep during the day if we don’t get enough sleep,” explained Bedbrook.

The jellyfish chosen for the experiment study was the most evolutionarily primitive one on the planet: a Cassiopea jellyfish, or just simply Cassiopea. Unlike most jellyfish, Cassiopea spends most of its life lying upside down on the ocean floor like some weird, fleshy, pulsating sea plant. During the study, cameras monitored this animal 24/7, and the researchers noted the jellyfish pulsed slower at night, 39 times per minute instead of the regular 58 times per minute during the day. This slower pulse fulfilled the “period of reduced activity/quiescence” criterion, but what about the other two?

To show that the Cassiopea react slower during this period of reduced activity, the researchers placed the jellyfish on a platform in the study tank and pulled the platform out from under it when it started “sleeping.” Normally, Cassiopea would immediately swim to the bottom of the tank, but at night, the team discovered it floated listlessly in the water for up to five seconds before heading to the tank floor. This suggests the Cassiopea jellyfish isn’t readily aware of its environment when it enters a period of quiescence, which fulfilled another sleep criterion and left the final one, an increased desire to sleep when deprived of sleep.

The only way to show that animals experience an increased desire to sleep when deprived of it is to, well, deprive them of sleep, which is exactly what the team did; they “poked” the Cassiopea awake by pulsing water at them every 10 seconds for 20 minutes. Just as the researchers predicted, the jellyfish fell asleep during the day, thus fulfilling the final criterion and demonstrating even jellyfish sleep. However, the researchers considered the possibility that the period of quiescence wasn’t sleep but instead some analogous sleep-like state, so they exposed the jellyfish to compounds known to induce sleep in other animals, such as melatonin. The jellyfish reacted just as the researchers predicted, which, according to Abrams, means the mechanism determining the Cassiopea‘s sleep is “similar to those of other organisms — including humans.”

I know what you’re thinking: why is determining if jellyfish sleep so important? Well, normally when we think about sleep, we think about resting our brains to convert short-term memory into long-term memory and to rejuvenate our cognitive functions. However, jellyfish don’t have brains and thus don’t have memories and cognitive functions as we know them, which raises the question: why do jellyfish need sleep? The study might not shed any light on this particular question, but, according to Nath, “This finding opens up many more questions: Is sleep the property of neurons? And perhaps a more far-fetched question: Do plants sleep?” Only time will tell just how much we can discover about sleep, including its evolutionary origins.

All you have to do to get my attention is talk about video games, technology, anime, and/or Dungeons & Dragons - also people in spandex fighting rubber suited monsters.


Weight Loss Launchpad: Space Technology Enhances the Effectiveness of Obesity mRNA Treatment





Researchers at Penn Engineering have devised an innovative approach for the synthesis of a vital component of lipid nanoparticles (LNPs), drawing inspiration from space shuttle technology. LNPs play a crucial role in the administration of mRNA therapeutics, as exemplified by the Pfizer-BioNTech and Moderna COVID-19 vaccines. They enhance the ease of LNP manufacturing and enhance their efficacy in facilitating the transportation of mRNA into cells for medical interventions.

In an article published in Nature Communications, Michael J. Mitchell, an Associate Professor in the Department of Bioengineering, presents a novel approach for the synthesis of ionizable lipidoids. These lipidoids are crucial chemical constituents of lipid nanoparticles (LNPs) that play a crucial role in safeguarding and delivering therapeutic payloads. In this study, Mitchell et al. conducted an investigation of the efficacy of mRNA drug delivery for the treatment of obesity as well as the potential of gene-editing techniques for the management of hereditary disorders.

Optimizing the Production Process
Prior research has demonstrated that lipidoids possessing branching tails exhibit superior efficacy in delivering mRNA to cells. However, the processes involved in synthesizing these molecules are both time-consuming and expensive. According to Xuexiang Han, a postdoctoral student in the Mitchell Lab and co-first author of the research, we present an innovative approach for the effective and economical production of these lipidoids.


The procedure entails the amalgamation of three chemical compounds, namely an amine “head,” two alkyl epoxide “tails,” and two acyl chloride “branched tails.” The observed similarity between the fully developed lipidoid and a space shuttle affixed to two booster rockets is not a mere coincidence. Han, a college student, recounts that a documentary on the space shuttle left a lasting impression on him due to the remarkable design of the solid rocket boosters that facilitated the shuttle’s entry into orbit. According to Han, it was determined that the addition of two branch tails as “boosters” to the lipidoid might enhance the transportation of mRNA.

The addition of branching tails greatly improved the ability of LNPs containing the new lipidoid to deliver mRNA to specific cells, similar to how boosters help a rocket get into the atmosphere. “We saw a big increase in the production of a hormone that controls metabolism in certain cells after these lipidoids were used to deliver mRNA.” This development is highly promising, particularly in the context of obesity treatment,” states Mitchell.

The article titled “In situ combinatorial synthesis of degradable branched lipidoids for systemic delivery of mRNA therapeutics and gene editors,” authored by Xuexiang Han, Junchao Xu, Ying Xu, Mohamad-Gabriel Alameh, Lulu Xue, Ningqiang Gong, Rakan El-Mayta, Rohan Palanki, Claude C. Warzecha, Gan Zhao, Andrew E. Vaughan, James M. Wilson, Drew Weissman, and Michael J. Mitchell, was published in Nature Communications on February 26, 2024.
The provided DOI, 10.1038/s41467-024-45537-z,

The research was carried out at the University of Pennsylvania School of Engineering and Applied Science and received funding from the National Institutes of Health (Award DP2 TR002776), the Burroughs Wellcome Fund Career Award at the Scientific Interface, the National Science Foundation CAREER Award (CBET-2145491), and the American Cancer Society (Grant RSG-22-122-01-ET).

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Skin cell DNA could potentially be utilized to create eggs for in vitro fertilization in the future





Researchers are exploring a new process that has the potential to transform fertility treatment by transferring DNA from skin cells into a donor egg. In the future, this technology could allow women without viable eggs and men in same-sex relationships to have children who are genetically linked to them, although it is not yet ready for clinical usage.

Egg cells that are damaged or deteriorated due to disease, medical procedures, or aging frequently lead to infertility. This treatment involves exchanging the nucleus of a donor egg with the nucleus of a skin cell from the parent to address the issue. After the process, you get an operational egg that only contains genetic material from the intended parent and not from the donor.

The process is known as somatic cell nuclear transfer, and despite its name, it is complex and intricate.

There is a precedent from almost 20 years ago, when the first-ever cloning of an animal, Dolly the sheep, generated interest in adapting this method to people.


Dolly was produced using genetic material from a lone adult sheep. The experts from Oregon Health & Science University (OHSU) explained the novel procedure, which enables the creation of embryos with DNA from both parents.

We are specifically excluding the topic of human cloning.

In January 2022, the researchers initially confirmed the feasibility of their experimental approach. The recent study has advanced this by showing how to attain an accurate chromosome count in the egg cell from the start.

Human sex cells, known as gametes, are haploid, containing half the number of chromosomes compared to other cells in the body. When a haploid egg cell and a haploid sperm cell fertilize one another, the resulting embryo becomes diploid and has a full complement of chromosomes.

OHSU’s team extracted egg cells from mice and removed their nuclei, then substituted them with nuclei from mouse skin cells. “But wait!” you exclaimed. Are skin cells diploid? They are indeed, but the team has a clever answer. They can prompt the implanted nucleus to release half of its chromosomes, creating a haploid cell that closely resembles a normal egg cell.

The eggs can undergo in vitro fertilization (IVF) with sperm, a common process utilized in fertility clinics worldwide. When successful, it leads to the creation of an embryo with chromosomes from both parents.

The approach has an advantage in the rapid production of eggs. Alternative approaches now being studied involve converting skin cells into induced pluripotent stem cells and then guiding these cells to develop into eggs or sperm.

Dr. Paula Amato, the study author, clarified that they are bypassing the process of cell reprogramming. Our technique’s advantage lies in its ability to circumvent the lengthy culture time required for cell reprogramming. Over the course of several months, numerous detrimental genetic and epigenetic alterations might occur.

The ultimate goal, as outlined by senior author Dr. Shoukhrat Mitalipov, is to create eggs for those who do not possess their own, but achieving this objective is still some years in the future. Aleksei Mikhalchenko, the primary author, emphasized the importance of doing a comprehensive assessment of safety, efficacy, and ethical considerations before considering the technique for clinical application.

The Supreme Court of Alabama’s declaration that embryos should be considered as children has brought IVF back into the public spotlight, with many predicting it would be a significant topic in the upcoming US presidential election. The implications of advancements in assisted reproduction will have a global impact, as approximately 1 in 6 people globally are impacted by infertility.

Using a donor egg without integrating DNA from the donor would be a significant and innovative development in reproductive treatment. This work has advanced science’s comprehension of how this concept could perhaps be realized in the future.

The research is featured in Science Advances.

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A Bold Theory May Propel Alzheimer’s Disease Research in a Novel Direction





Alzheimer’s disease is a significant health concern for humanity currently. In recent years, there has been significant progress in the creation of highly promising medicinal treatments, along with the testing of revolutionary medicines and diagnostic methods. Debates persist over the true etiology of the disease. A novel proposal proposes that a complex interaction between two proteins may reveal a “mechanical basis” for Alzheimer’s disease.

The paper has recently been published as a preprint and has not yet been subjected to external peer review. The authors from around the world explained the experiments that were used to come up with a six-part theory about how the protein talin interacts with the Alzheimer’s protein amyloid precursor protein (APP) and how it might play a part in the development of the disease. They also discussed the possibility of targeting this system with drugs.

We spoke to Dr. Ben Goult, a senior author and Professor of Mechanistic Cell Biology at the University of Liverpool, regarding the new research.

Goult has a longstanding relationship with the talin protein. In 2021, he proposed a new theory dubbed the MeshCODE theory to explain how memories could be preserved in the brain. The hypothesis proposes that memories could be physically encoded using a talin molecule’s capacity to transition between two stable configurations, similar to how a mechanical computer utilizes binary switches, with each talin shape representing either “0” or “1.”.

Goult and the team have conducted a number of experiments suggesting that talin may not only be responsible for encoding memories in the brain but also be involved in their deterioration in Alzheimer’s disease.

“The significant milestones included demonstrating experimentally the binding of talin to APP and creating a scaled model of APP,” Goult explained to IFLScience. “This video we created accurately depicts full-length proteins to scale, allowing viewers to easily understand the processes.”

Goult promptly reached out to Dr. Julien Chapuis at the Institut Pasteur de Lille, France, with the obtained results. Chapuis’ team had been methodically evaluating various proteins’ impacts on APP. Talin was omitted from their published findings since it did not meet their established criteria.

“Talin has a significant impact on APP processing compared to other proteins when analyzing the data.” Goult informed IFLScience.

Upon integrating our research on talin as a memory molecule with MeshCODE, I recognized a coherent connection, prompting me to commence writing this new study. As everything began to align, it was quite remarkable. Observing the genetic and molecular data coming together was exhilarating over the final months of writing this.

The scientists propose that APP proteins may form a mesh structure that physically links the two sides of a synapse, the space between two neurons where nerve signals travel. Accurate processing of amyloid precursor protein (APP) is crucial for preserving the synchronization of the synapse. However, errors in this process might result in the development of Alzheimer’s disease by disrupting the binary code, known as the MeshCODE, composed of talin “1s” and “0s,” as discussed above. Alzheimer’s disease progresses through the brain when this failure extends throughout brain networks.

This study offers a novel perspective on the potential role of APP in normal neuronal activity. Goult explained to IFLScience that errors in mechanical homeostasis can lead to issues.

The explanation fits with what we are learning about the pathology of Alzheimer’s, especially the presence of misfolded amyloid-β protein plaques in the brains of people with the disease, which are caused by improper processing of APP.

“It also suggests several potential new approaches to treating Alzheimer’s or detecting it sooner,” Goult remarked.

This is all still theoretical. Goult and colleagues propose that the next phase should involve thorough experimental confirmation and improvement of these theories, which they are now doing in the laboratory and plan to progress to animal research soon.

This aligns with the pivotal sixth aspect of the theory, suggesting the potential repurposing of current medications to mitigate the progression of Alzheimer’s disease.

Focal adhesions (FAs) are substantial protein structures that link cellular components to their external surroundings. Previous genetic studies indicate a connection between the stability of fatty acids (FAs) and the stability of amyloid precursor protein (APP) at the synapse. We already possess medicines that are recognized for their ability to stabilize FAs, commonly employed in cancer therapy. Could these possibly exert a similar impact on amyloid precursor protein (APP) in the brain by restoring the APP’s mechanical structure and inhibiting the degradation that results in Alzheimer’s disease?

Goult and colleagues are eager to further examine this intriguing idea.

Goult’s experience with talin has been full of shocks, and this bold new idea is the latest addition to that list.

Goult expressed enthusiasm for studying individual proteins and their functions, appearance, and interactions, which can generate innovative concepts that span from molecular complexes to synapses, neurons, and the entire brain.

Hopefully, these new data and the resulting theories can expedite the development of novel treatments for this condition.

The preprint is accessible on bioRxiv but has not been reviewed by external peers yet.

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