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Researchers from the Chinese Academy of Sciences in Beijing recently reported intriguing new evidence for a possible mouse origin of the Omicron variant. Their paper, posted on the BioRxiv preprint server, was quickly picked up and published a few days later by the Journal of Genetics and Genomics, and defies the prevailing theory which claims that the polymutant spike sequence of Omicron must have evolved under protracted infection in a severely immunocompromised patient.

Their main idea is that a mouse could have somehow been infected with the human virus by “reverse zoonotic transfer,” whereupon the virus evolved all or many of its 45 novel mutations, and then subsequently was transferred back to humans. While this theory might explain why Omicron appears so anomalous when plotted on a phylogenetic tree against the usual suspects, there is one major problem: The mouse homolog of the human ACE2 receptor (hACE2), which the virus typically uses to gain entry into , has little affinity for the standard issue SARS-CoV-2 spike protein.

So little in fact, that in order to study the virus in this preferred research animal, scientists must artificially introduce hACE2 in order to create mice that show any significant respiratory distress upon infection. These are made in several ways, each showing unique tissue tropisms, penetrance and correspondingly different effects. Researchers have conducted knock-in experiments in which the human hACE2 sequence is integrated into the and induced under the control of a number of different promoters. Adenoviruses can also be used to infect cells and create replicating plasmids that propagate the hACE2 code.

Artificial intelligence drug design company Iktos, and South Korean clinical research biotech Astrogen announced today a collaboration with the goal of discovering small-molecule pre-clinical drug candidates for a specific, undisclosed, marker of Parkinson’s disease (PD).

Under the terms of the agreement, whose value was not disclosed, Iktos will apply its generative learning algorithms which seek to identify new molecular structures with the potential address the target in PD. Astrogen, which has a focus of the development of therapeutics for “intractable neurological diseases,” will provide in-vitro and in-vivo screening of lead compounds and pre-clinical compounds. While both companies will contribute to the identification of new small-molecule candidates, Astrgoen will lead the drug development process from the pre-clinical stages.

“Our objective is to expedite drug discovery and achieve time and cost efficiencies for our global collaborators by using Iktos’s proprietary AI platform and know-how,” noted Yann Gaston-Mathé, president and CEO of Paris-based Iktos in a press release. “We are confident that together we will be able to identify promising novel chemical matter for the treatment of intractable neurological diseases. Our strategy has always been to tackle challenging problems alongside our collaborators where we can demonstrate value generation for new and on-going drug discovery projects.”

Researchers from the University of Adelaide and elsewhere have sequenced and analyzed mitochondrial DNA from fossils of cave lions (Panthera spp.) and brown bears (Ursus arctos), two megafaunal carnivorans that dispersed from Eurasia into North America during the Pleistocene, to better understand the timing and drivers of their past movement between the continents across the Bering Land Bridge. Their results reveal striking synchronicity in the population dynamics of Beringian lions and brown bears, with multiple waves of dispersal across the Bering Land Bridge. The evolutionary histories of these two megafaunal animals underline the crucial biogeographical role of the Bering Land Bridge in the distribution, turnover and maintenance of megafaunal populations in North America.

Unlocking The Secrets Of Salamander Regeneration For Regenerative Therapies — Dr. Maximina Yun, Ph.D., CRTD / Center for Regenerative Therapies TU Dresden, Technische Universität Dresden.

Dr. Maximina Yun, Ph.D. ( is Research Group Leader at the Center for Regenerative Therapies Dresden (CRTD), Technical University Dresden, jointly affiliated with Max Planck Institute for Molecular Cell Biology and Genetics (MPI-CBG).

Dr. Yun and her group ( study the cellular and molecular basis of regeneration of complex structures with the help of salamanders (like newts and axolotls) and these vertebrates exceptional regenerative abilities, which in contrast to humans, are capable of regenerating complex tissues, and even entire organs, to a remarkable extent. Therefore, they offer unique insights into what molecular mechanisms must be in place for achieving quasi-perfect regeneration.

Research in the Yun group focuses on three main areas: describing cellular and molecular mechanisms driving regeneration (Mechanisms underlying the plasticity of the differentiated state), their connection with cellular aging (Role and regulation of senescence in regeneration), and the role that the immune system plays in regenerative context.

The research in the Yun group combines advanced molecular biology methods with state-of-the-art microscopy. Most recently the group has established Salamander-Eci, a novel method that enables the three-dimensional visualization of salamander tissues for a more comprehensive understanding of regenerative processes.

Dr. Yun received her Ph.D. in Biological Sciences from MRC-Laboratory of Molecular Biology of Cambridge / Cambridge University, UK, and did her Postdoctoral Research at the Institute of Structural and Molecular Biology, University College London, UK; Dr. Yun also has a BSc in Biological Sciences from University of Buenos Aires, Argentina.

An artificial intelligence (AI) system that can identify diabetic retinopathy (DR) without physician assistance, including the most serious form that puts patients at risk of blindness, has outperformed expectations in a clinical trial. The commercial system successfully detected the presence and severity of the disease in 97% of eyes analysed. Deployment of such AI systems in primary care facilities for use by non-specialists could significantly increase access to eye exams that include DR evaluation, aiding in the diagnosis and treatment of the disease.

An artificial intelligence system that simplifies diabetes retinal screening could help save the vision of millions of people around the world.

Yahoo Finance’s Dani Romero reports on the increasing use of robots and automation by restaurants and retailers amid the pandemic and labor shortages.
Don’t Miss: Valley of Hype: The Culture That Built Elizabeth Holmes.

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