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How scientists have reanimated cells from dead pigs

By Katie Hunt, CNN

Since ancient times, the idea of eternal life has captivated the human imagination.

Around the world, there are so-called blue zones where people live exceptionally long and healthy lives. Scientists study these “lands of immortals” to uncover the secrets of longevity.

We may not yet have discovered the healing waters of the fountain of youth, but one of the breakthroughs in this week’s newsletter is shaking up what we know about life and death.

Trailblazers

Cutting-edge research on pigs is showing that death in cells isn’t instantaneous.

In fact, it’s a complex biological process — a bit like a cascade of dominoes — that can potentially be halted.

Scientists from Yale University have reanimated the cells and organs of pigs that had been dead for an hour using a treatment involving synthetic blood.

The results amazed the researchers involved in the project. Check out the pig cells, shown at right in the side-by-side comparison above, revived by the OrganEx system, a new technology they developed.

The goal, though, isn’t to bring animals magically back to life — it’s to expand the window for much-needed human organ transplants.

Force of nature

The massive eruption of an undersea volcano near Tonga in January has defied easy explanation, consistently surprising the scientists who continue to study it.

It created an unexpected type of tsunami, a sonic boom heard as far away as Alaska, hurricane-strength winds in space and unusual pressure waves.

Now we know, thanks to detections from a NASA satellite, the volcano blasted such a massive amount of water vapor high into the atmosphere that it’s likely to temporarily warm Earth’s surface.

The plume of vapor the eruption sent into the stratosphere — which is located between 8 and 33 miles (12 and 53 kilometers) above Earth’s surface — included enough water to fill 58,000 Olympic-size swimming pools.

Fantastic creatures

The NASA Artemis mission isn’t just about returning to the moon — it’s part of preparations for a bolder plan to go to Mars.

How astronauts will make the years-long trip to the red planet is uncertain. One idea is to induce hibernation in the space travelers, and a tiny, mouselike creature that lives in the Patagonian forest may hold a key to unlocking this approach.

Once the weather turns cold, the bug-eyed monito del monte builds a mossy nest in a tree hollow. There, the tiny marsupial enters a physiological state called torpor, and its heart rate drops from 200 beats per minute down to two or three beats per minute. During this inactive period, the animal conserves energy, taking a breath once every three minutes.

Understanding how it almost stops its metabolism and wakes up weeks later unscathed potentially could help scientists come up with a plan for human hibernation on long-haul space missions.

Learn more about the monito during Sunday’s episode of the CNN docuseries “Patagonia: Life on the Edge of the World” at 9 p.m. ET/PT. Every new episode of the six-part series will be available on CNNgo the day after it airs on television. You can also access CNNgo via our CNN app.

Across the universe

Walking on Bennu, a near-Earth asteroid, would be a bit like wading through a ball pit, NASA scientists have found.

Images and data from the agency’s OSIRIS-REx mission revealed the asteroid’s exterior is made of loosely packed particles that aren’t bound together securely.

The OSIRIS-REx spacecraft, which in 2020 successfully collected a sample from the asteroid, encountered little resistance when it landed — about the same amount as someone might feel pushing the plunger on a French press coffee maker.

If the spacecraft hadn’t fired its thruster to back away after its quick collection of dust and rocks, it might have sunk right into the asteroid. It’s just the latest unexpected finding about Bennu as OSIRIS-REx and the precious sample make their way toward Earth.

Ocean secrets

Coins and priceless jewels once belonging to seafaring knights are among the treasures recently discovered on a Spanish shipwreck.

The Nuestra Señora de las Maravillas (or Our Lady of Wonders) sank in 1656 after it collided with another boat from its fleet and crashed into a coral reef off the Bahamas.

The 891-ton vessel was carrying a massive trove, some of which was reserved as royal tax for King Philip IV, from Cuba to Seville, Spain.

The cache was more significant than usual, as the Maravillas also had been transporting treasure retrieved from a ship that had sunk two years prior.

Discoveries

Escape to worlds beyond your own with these stories:

— A paleontologist found an extremely cool fossil in his backyard. It’s upending what we know about the first Americans.

— Caves provided shelter to Earth’s earliest human inhabitants. Similar formations on the moon could provide pioneering astronauts with a lunar safe haven.

— The James Webb Space Telescope has captured a stunning image of a strange, cartwheel-shaped galaxy.

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Like what you’ve read? Oh, but there’s more. Sign up here to receive in your inbox the next edition of Wonder Theory, brought to you by CNN Space and Science writers Ashley Strickland and Katie Hunt, who find wonder in planets beyond our solar system and discoveries from the ancient world.

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