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 cells, 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 transgenic mice 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 host genome 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.
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. (https://tu-dresden.de/cmcb/crtd/forschungsgruppen/crtd-forschungsgruppen/yun/group-leader) 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 (https://tu-dresden.de/cmcb/crtd/forschungsgruppen/crtd-forschungsgruppen/yun) 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.
A cheap, widely available drug used to treat mental illness cuts both the risk of death from COVID-19 and the need for people with the disease to receive intensive medical care, according to clinical-trial results1. The drug, called fluvoxamine, is taken for conditions including depression and obsessive-compulsive disorder. But it is also known to dampen immune responses and temper tissue damage, and researchers credit these properties with its success in the recent trial. Among study participants who took the drug as directed and did so in the early stages of the disease, COVID-19-related deaths fell by roughly 90% and the need for intensive COVID-19-related medical care fell by roughly 65%.
Study co-author Angela Reiersen, a psychiatrist at Washington University School of Medicine in St Louis, Missouri, has long been interested in using fluvoxamine to treat a rare genetic condition. While monitoring the fluvoxamine literature before the pandemic, she came across a 2019 study showing that fluvoxamine reduced inflammation in mice with sepsis2. When COVID-19 hit, “I immediately thought back to that paper with the mice,” she says.
Reiersen and her colleagues partnered with the organizers of the TOGETHER Trial, which aims to identify approved drugs that can be repurposed to treat COVID-19. The team’s study included 1,497 people in Brazil who had COVID-19 and were at high risk of severe disease. Roughly half received fluvoxamine, and the rest received a placebo.
The trial’s results, published on 27 October, mean that fluvoxamine is one of a handful of therapies that show strong evidence of preventing progression from mild to severe COVID-19. The only early-stage treatments currently recommended by the US National Institutes of Health are monoclonal antibodies, which are costly and difficult to administer in an outpatient setting.
Many Christians have rejected the scientific theory of evolution in part because they think it rules out the existence of a historical Adam and Eve. Yet some scientists and theologians argue that recent breakthroughs in genetics make a historical Adam and Eve compatible with evolution, and that this development may help bridge what many see as a conflict between faith and science.
“For over 160 years, the societal conflict over evolution has been deep and stubborn. But now, in a surprise twist, evolutionary science is making space for Adam and Eve,” S. Joshua Swamidass, an associate professor at the Washington University School of Medicine in St. Louis, Missouri, told Fox News Digital. “It turns out that the theological questions are about genealogical ancestry, not genetics. In this paradigm shift, we are finding a better way forward, a better story to tell.”
In his book “The Genealogical Adam and Eve: The Surprising Science of Universal Ancestry,” Swamidass argues that genetics and evolutionary theory do not conflict with the existence of Adam and Eve, universal ancestors of all humans whom Jesus died to save.
“This is major for me and my family,” she says. “Two years without me being in the hospital? Wow. We just can’t believe it. But we’re so grateful.”
She’s doing so well for so long that she’s officially no longer in the landmark study she volunteered for. That involved doctors taking cells out of her bone marrow, and editing a gene in the cells in their lab, using the revolutionary gene-editing technique known as CRISPR. CRISPR allows scientists to make very precise changes in DNA much more easily than ever before. Many think it will revolutionize medicine.
New technique means head lice can provide clues about ancient people and migration.
DNA, or deoxyribonucleic acid, is a molecule composed of two long strands of nucleotides that coil around each other to form a double helix. It is the hereditary material in humans and almost all other organisms that carries genetic instructions for development, functioning, growth, and reproduction. Nearly every cell in a person’s body has the same DNA. Most DNA is located in the cell nucleus (where it is called nuclear DNA), but a small amount of DNA can also be found in the mitochondria (where it is called mitochondrial DNA or mtDNA).
A major new study of ancient DNA has traced the movement of people into southern Britain during the Bronze Age.
In the largest such analysis published to date, scientists examined the DNA of nearly 800 ancient individuals.
The new study, led by the University of York 0, Harvard Medical School, and the University of Vienna, shows that people moving into southern Britain around 1300‒800 BC were responsible for around half the genetic ancestry of subsequent populations.
“Interstellar Travel and Post-Humans” by Martin Rees is one of the chapters of the book “The Next Step: Exponential Life”.
Astronomers like myself are professionally engaged in thinking about huge expanses of space and time. We view our home planet in a cosmic context. We wonder whether there is life elsewhere in the cosmos. But, more significantly, we are mindful of the immense future that lies ahead—the post-human future where our remote descendants may transcend human limitations—here on Earth but (more probably) far beyond. This is my theme in the present chapter.
The stupendous timespans of the evolutionary past are now part of common culture. But the even longer time-horizons that stretch ahead—though familiar to every astronomer —have not permeated our culture to the same extent. Our Sun is less than half way through its life. It formed 4.5 billion years ago, but it has got six billion more before the fuel runs out. It will then flare up, engulfing the inner planets and vaporizing any life that might still remain on Earth. But even after the Sun’s demise, the expanding universe will continue—perhaps forever—destined to become ever colder, ever emptier.
Any creatures witnessing the Sun’s demise six billion years hence will not be human —they will be as different from us as we are from a bug. Post-human evolution could be as prolonged as the Darwinian evolution that has led to us, and even more wonderful—and will have spread far from Earth, even among the stars. Indeed, this conclusion is strengthened when we realize that future evolution will proceed not on the million-year timescale characteristic of Darwinian selection, but at the much accelerated rate allowed by genetic modification and the advance of machine intelligence (and forced by the drastic environmental pressures that would confront any humans who were to construct habitats beyond the Earth). Natural selection may have slowed: its rigors are tempered in civilized countries. But it will be replaced by “directed” evolution.