Dent in the ring
Commander Chris Hadfield, Astronaut | @Cmdr_Hadfield
NASA’s Cassini spacecraft that is orbiting Saturn has sent back photos last week that show a massive smudge in the planet’s ‘F ring’, according to photos tweeted by retired Canadian astronaut Commander Chris Hadfield. The thin and wispy F ring is the outermost ring of Saturn, which lies outside the main group of rings. NASA scientists say the deviation was most likely caused by the interaction between a small object embedded in the ring itself and a material in the core of the ring, known as a ‘jet’.
The view was acquired at a distance of approximately 1.4 million miles (2.2 million km) from Saturn. Cassini has shown us several such ‘dents’ in the F ring, but this was one of the first times the anomaly was caught in such great detail so soon after the disturbance occurred.
Cassini has been taking countless images and providing valuable new information about our solar system’s ringed giant, for nearly 12 years now. The mission is in its last days, however. On September 15, Cassini will run out of operational fuel to orbit Saturn, so it will plunge itself into the giant planet, while cutting through the rings, in a last-ditch effort to send as much data as possible about the planet’s surface before the gases and temperatures inside Saturn destroy the spacecraft.
Breaching the barrier
Eric Topol, Geneticist | @Erictopol
One of the biggest challenges that neurologists face is the “blood-brain barrier”, which is a barrier of protective cells around cerebral blood vessels that shields the brain from toxins. While the purpose of this barrier is to stop infections from the rest of the body from entering the brain, it also means that when medication needs to be delivered to the brain, particularly in the case of a brain tumour or for chemotherapy, the drug needs to be administered in ultra high doses so that some molecules breach the barrier.
For the first time, doctors have found a way to temporarily breach this barrier by using ultrasound waves and tiny bubbles that carry the drugs into the brain, according to an article tweeted by geneticist Eric Topol. “We can make the blood vessels temporarily permeable, so that chemotherapy molecules can penetrate the brain,” Alexandre Carpentier, a neuroscience professor who led the research, said.
The team developed a tiny ultrasound device called SonoCloud that can be installed in the skull during a simple biopsy test. The team tested the device in clinical trials on 15 patients who suffered from glioblastoma, a particularly aggressive form of brain tumour.