🔬 Biology and Pest Control
Scientists are about to unleash 500 million gene-hacked mosquitoes in Florida to breed out the existing non-gene-hacked mosquito population.
Oxitec says the mosquitoes, all males — which don’t bite humans — will then breed with wild females, which do bite. But they’ll pass on the
OX5034 gene, a hereditary payload that prevents any female offspring from reaching adulthood. The theory is that the more the gene-hacked mosquitoes and their descendants reproduce, the fewer biting female mosquitoes there will be in the area. 🐭 Mouse Health
Good news for the mice in the audience; new “smart” immune cells can be programmed to
shrink brain and ovarian tumours (see the paper).
His team is also getting the therapies used in the mice ready for human trials, which could take a couple of years. These trials will involve removing a patient’s immune cells and genetically engineering them before putting them back in the body. In the longer term, it may be possible to treat people using “off-the-shelf” cells, which would greatly reduce costs.
A failing heart transplant is a dangerous thing. A
new DNA-based blood test provides an early warning sign (see the paper).
The test looks promising, but long-term clinical utility studies are needed to evaluate how treatments based on test results fare, says University of British Columbia medical researcher Scott Tebbutt, who was not part of the study. Noninvasive tests are invaluable, Tebbutt says, and “reducing the number of biopsies even by half is a significant improvement to the quality of the patients’ lives.”
💎 Artificial Intelligence
Researchers are using machine learning to
listen to the birds and the bats.
“Machine learning has been the big game changer for us,” says Laurel Symes, assistant director of the Cornell Lab of Ornithology’s Center for Conservation Bioacoustics. She studies acoustic communication in animals, including crickets, frogs, bats and birds, and has amassed many months of recordings of katydids (famously vocal long-horned grasshoppers that are an essential part of the food web) in the rain forests of central Panama. Patterns of breeding activity and seasonal population variation are hidden in this audio, but analyzing it is enormously time-consuming: it took Symes and three of her colleagues 600 hours of work to classify various katydid species from just 10 recorded hours of sound. But a machine-learning algorithm her team is developing, called KatydID, performed the same task while its human creators “went out for a beer,” Symes says.
The EU has determined that
Apple’s App Store breaks competition rules concerning Spotify’s complaint from 2019.
“Our preliminary finding is that Apple exercises considerable market power in the distribution of music streaming apps to owners of Apple devices. On that market, Apple has a monopoly,” Margrethe Vestager, the head of competition policy in the EU, said in a press conference.
Apple’s court battle with Epic Games over the App Store
starts this week. 🛰️ Space
launched the main module of its permanent space station into space.
The core module is the section of the station where astronauts will live for up to six months at a time. Another 10 launches will send up two more modules where crews will conduct experiments, four cargo supply shipments and four missions with crews.
Deep fakes aren’t just limited to people — some geographers are now concerned about
deep fake geography (see the paper).
For Zhao, though, the most important thing is to raise awareness so geographers aren’t caught off-guard. As he and his colleagues write: “If we continue being unaware of an unprepared for deep fake, we run the risk of entering a ‘fake geography’ dystopia.”
From June 2010 to November 2011, a crew of six people lived in confinement for 520 days to simulate a crewed mission to Mars. A new study using new techniques shows the confinement led to
significant changes in the participants’ gut bacteria (see the paper).
The Guardian asks whether Richard Branson’s Virgin Galactic
will ever take off.
As yet, they have only returned to space once and are still testing. A temporary stall? Or have the costs of this undertaking finally caught up with Branson?
⚡ Other Snippets
The New Yorker wrote a long piece on
how the Pentagon started taking UFOs seriously.
The US Army’s
new upgraded night-vision goggles tech looks like it comes out of a movie.
Known as the Enhanced Night Vision Goggle-Binocular—or ENVG-B, for short—the new goggles were designed to
vastly improve a soldier’s ability to not only see what is going on all around them under any lighting conditions but to also be able to accurately discern what they’re seeing.
Netflix added a “play something” feature that
lets you mindlessly scroll through shows, just like traditional TV.
testing an oral pill designed to treat COVID-19 that CEO Albert Bourla described as a “game-changer.”
The “end of the year” is a reasonable time frame for availability to the public, Bourla said, but it depends on the success of clinical trials and approval by the Food and Drug Administration.
Have a great week,