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Cold plasma can kill coronavirus on common surfaces in seconds

Cold atmospheric plasma device treating metal samples in a six-well plate. The glowing is due to the presence of excited air molecules, not to higher temperatures. Image courtesy: Wirz Research Group/UCLA.

LOS ANGELES, CA.- UCLA engineers and scientists have demonstrated that treatments with near-room-temperature, cold atmospheric plasma can kill the coronavirus present on a variety of surfaces in as little as 30 seconds. A study detailing the research, which was published this month in the journal Physics of Fluids, is the first time cold plasma has been shown to effectively and quickly disinfect surfaces contaminated with the SARS-CoV-2 virus that causes COVID-19. The novel coronavirus can remain infectious for tens of hours on surfaces so the advance is a major breakthrough that may help slow the spread of virus. “This is a really exciting result, showing the potential of cold atmospheric plasma as a safe and effective way to fight transmission of the virus by killing it on a wide range of surfaces,” said study leader Richard Wirz, professor of mechanical and aerospace engineering at the UCLA Samueli School of Engineering. Plasma, not to be ... More

European Commission approves MenQuadfi, the latest innovation in meningococcal (MenACWY) vaccination   China launches Moon probe to bring back lunar rocks   Hold still, big cat: Vaccination could save Siberian tigers

Sanofi has secured FDA approval for MenQuadfi MenQuadfi meningococcal vaccine. Image courtesy: Pixabay.

PARIS.- The European Commission (EC) has approved MenQuadfi® for active immunization of individuals from the age of 12 months and older against invasive meningococcal disease caused by Neisseria meningitidis serogroups A, C, W and Y. “Meningococcal meningitis can take one’s life in as little as one day and leave survivors with severe permanent disabilities. In Europe, there were more than 3,000 cases of Invasive Meningococcal Disease in 2018, half of them caused by serogroups C, W and Y,” says Thomas Triomphe, Head of Sanofi Pasteur. “One case is one too many. It is our ambition to make this vaccine available worldwide to further expand protection to as many people as possible. The European Commission’s approval of MenQuadfi takes us one step closer to achieving this goal.” The European Commission’s decision is based upon results from a robust and comprehensive international clinical program, including sev ... More

Lunar Olivine Basalt 15555 sample collected from the moon by the Apollo 15 mission, at station 9A on the rim of Hadley Rille. It was formed around 3.3 billion years ago. On display in the National Museum of Natural History. Image courtesy: Wknight94.

BEIJING (AFP).- China on Tuesday launched an unmanned spacecraft to bring back lunar rocks -- the first attempt by any nation to retrieve samples from the Moon in four decades. A Long March 5 rocket carrying the Chang'e-5 probe, named after the mythical Chinese moon goddess, blasted off from the Wenchang Space Center on the southern island province of Hainan at 4:30 am (2030 GMT Monday), the official Xinhua news agency reported. Beijing is pouring billions into its military-run space programme, with hopes of having a crewed space station by 2022 and of eventually sending humans to the Moon. The mission's goal is to shovel up lunar rocks and soil to help scientists learn about the Moon's origins, formation and volcanic activity on its surface. The original mission, planned for 2017, was delayed due to an engine failure in the Long March 5 rocket. If successful, China will be only the third country to have retrieved samples from the Moon, following the United States and the Soviet Union in the 1960s and ... More

Amur tigers share their taiga forest habitat in Siberia with wild carnivores that act as a reservoir of canine distemper virus. A Cornell-led research team reports that vaccinating just a few of the tigers could prevent the spread of the virus.

ITHACA, NY.- If you think getting your cat to the vet is tricky, think about this: New research has revealed that vaccination of endangered Siberian tigers is the only practical strategy to protect these big cats from a deadly disease in their natural habitat. The disease, canine distemper virus (CDV), causes serious illness in domestic dogs and infects other carnivores. These include threatened species like the Siberian tiger, also known as the Amur tiger, of which there are fewer than 550 in the Russian Far East and neighboring China. It is often assumed that domestic dogs are the primary source of CDV. But a team led by Martin Gilbert of the Cornell Wildlife Health Center found that other local wildlife was instead the primary source of CDV transmission to tigers; the team’s study published Nov. 23 in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. “Understanding how tigers are catching distemper is absolutely crucial to helpi ... More

Frequent, rapid testing could turn national COVID-19 tide within weeks   Monash researchers reveal COVID immunity lasts up to eight months, giving hope for long-term protection by vaccines   AstraZeneca promises virus vaccine at cost price worldwide

The researchers scoured available literature on how viral load climbs and falls inside the body during an infection, when people tend to experience symptoms, and when they become contagious. Image courtesy: Wyss Institute at Harvard University.

BOSTON, MASS.- Testing half the population weekly with inexpensive, rapid-turnaround COVID-19 tests would drive the virus toward elimination within weeks—even if those tests are significantly less sensitive than gold-standard clinical tests, according to a new study published by Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health and University of Colorado Boulder researchers. Such a strategy could lead to “personalized stay-at-home orders” without shutting down restaurants, bars, retail stores, and schools, the authors said. “Our big picture finding is that, when it comes to public health, it’s better to have a less sensitive test with results today than a more sensitive one with results tomorrow,” said lead author Daniel Larremore, an assistant professor of computer science at CU Boulder. “Rather than telling everyone to stay home so you can be sure that one person who is sick doesn’t spread it, we could give ... More

The research is the strongest evidence for the likelihood that vaccines against the virus, SARS-CoV-2, will work for long periods. Image: CDC, Unsplash.

MELBOURNE.- Monash researchers have revealed – for the first time – that people who have been infected with the COVID-19 virus have sustained protection against reinfection for at least eight months. The research is the strongest evidence for the likelihood that vaccines against the virus, SARS-CoV-2, will work for long periods. Previously, many studies have shown that the first wave of antibodies to coronavirus wane after the first few months, raising concerns that people may lose immunity quickly. This new work allays these concerns. The study is the result of a multi-centre collaboration led by Associate Professor Menno van Zelm, from the Monash University Department of Immunology and Pathology, with the Alfred Research Alliance between Monash University, The Alfred hospital and the Burnet Institute, and published today (TBC) in the preprint server, MedRxiv. The publication reveals the discovery of a specific cell within the imm ... More

A laboratory technician supervises capped vials during filling and packaging tests for the large-scale production and supply of the University of Oxford’s COVID-19 vaccine candidate. Vincenzo Pinto / AFP.

PARIS (AFP).- Hopes of an effective vaccine against coronavirus becoming available rose again on Monday with AstraZeneca and Oxford University claiming success with their product, becoming the third team to do so. The head of AstraZeneca in France, Olivier Nataf, answered questions from AFP in an interview, saying that the data were very encouraging. The 70 percent rate is the result of a combined analysis. Using a regimen of first injecting half a dose of the vaccine and then a full dose a month later the effectiveness was 90 percent. Another system, of one full dose first and another a month later the effectiveness is 62 percent. This is an interesting lesson: the half-dose plus one dose scheme can become something that we follow, there is an opportunity for availability for the population, where it would take fewer doses to vaccinate more people. The second point to remember is that there is 100 percent protection against the occurrence of severe forms of illness and hospitalisations in participa ... More

International virus sleuths expected to go to China soon: WHO   Rice scientists' atomic resolution protein models reveal new details about protein binding   Curtailed Christmas could be 'safest bet': WHO

A pedestrian wearing a face mask or covering due to the COVID-19 pandemic, walks past COVID-19 street art, advising to "Stay Alert" anfd "Save Lives" in central London, on November 22, 2020, Tolga Akmen / AFP.

GENEVA (AFP).- The World Health Organization said Monday it had received reassurances from Beijing that international experts would soon be able to travel to China to help investigate the animal origins of Covid-19. "We fully expect and have reassurances from our Chinese government colleagues that the trip to the field... will be facilitated, and as soon as possible," WHO emergencies director Michael Ryan told a virtual press briefing. "We need to be able to have the international team join our Chinese colleagues... and look at the results and the outcomes of (their) studies and verify the data on the ground," he said. Ryan hailed the "tremendous amount of scientific investigation" done by the Chinese, but said international experts needed to go in "in order that the international community can be reassured about the quality of the science." "This is extremely important, and we are continuing to expect that that be the case." The WHO has for months been working to send a team of international experts ... More

The funnel, a visual representation of the protein’s energy landscape as it folds, helps locate those frustrated sites. Such models could lead to better-designed drugs with fewer side effects. Illustration courtesy: Mingchen Chen.

HOUSTON, TX.- Knowing precisely where proteins are frustrated could go a long way toward making better drugs. That’s one result of a new study by Rice University scientists looking for the mechanisms that stabilize or destabilize key sections of biomolecules. Atom-scale models by Rice theorist Peter Wolynes, lead author and alumnus Mingchen Chen and their colleagues at the Center for Theoretical Biological Physics show that not only are some specific frustrated sequences in proteins necessary to allow them to function, locating them also offers clues to achieve better specificity for drugs. That knowledge could also help design drugs with fewer side effects, Wolynes said. The team’s open-access study appears in Nature Communications. The atom-scale models zero in on the interactions within possible binding sites rather than the vast majority of the interactions in proteins that guide their folding. The finer resolution models allow the in ... More

A pedestrian wearing a face mask or covering due to the COVID-19 pandemic, travels on an escalator near the "Tree of Hope" Christmas tree, installed inside St Pancras International train station in central London. Tolga Akmen / AFP.

GENEVA (AFP).- The WHO said Monday that avoiding family gatherings would be "the safest bet" over Christmas, insisting there is no zero-risk option for traditional holiday merry-making during the coronavirus pandemic. World Health Organization officials said it was down to governments to weigh up the economic and social benefits of loosening pandemic restrictions over the festive period, while individuals would have to decide whether they might be putting more vulnerable relatives at risk. Europe and the Americas are battling rising coronavirus caseloads that are pushing health systems to the brink, forcing governments to issue stay-at-home orders and close businesses heading into the crucial Christmas period. Maria Van Kerkhove, the WHO's Covid-19 technical lead, said there were no "zero-risk" options. "There's lower risk or higher risk -- but there is a risk," she told a virtual media briefing. "This is incredibly difficult because especially during holidays... we really want to be with family but ... More

Platypus should be listed as a threatened species: new report   Turning the problem of cancer metastasis into an opportunity   Study: Early, late stages of degenerative diseases are distinct

In UNSW, the number of platypus observations declined by around 32 per cent in the last 30 years. Image courtesy: Stuart Cohen.

SYDNEY.- A landmark assessment by scientists at UNSW Sydney recommends the platypus be listed as a threatened species under Australia’s and NSW environmental legislation. The UNSW researchers, along with the Australian Conservation Foundation, WWF-Australia and Humane Society International Australia, today submitted their recommendations to the Commonwealth and NSW Government’s scientific committees. The International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) Red List currently lists the iconic species as ‘Near Threatened’ – but it is not listed as threatened under Australia’s Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation (EPBC) Act. For their assessment, a team of researchers from the Centre for Ecosystem Science (CES) at UNSW collated all available data and evidence and assessed the species’ risk of extinction against IUCN and EPBC criteria. The scientists find that the area of eastern Australia whe ... More

This scanning electron microscopy (SEM) image shows ImmunoBait nanoparticles, which are loaded with an immunostimulatory chemokine and attached to red blood cells. Image courtesy: Wyss Institute at Harvard University.

CAMBRIDGE, MASS.- When a patient with cancer is told the devastating news that their disease has spread, or metastasized, to a new part of their body, it has most often moved to their lungs. The branching blood vessels that allow oxygen to diffuse from the lungs’ air sacs into red blood cells are so tiny that a rogue cancer cell circulating in the bloodstream can easily get stuck there and take up residence, eventually growing into a secondary tumor. Once established, metastatic tumors unleash a campaign of chemical cues that thwart the body’s defenses, hampering efforts to induce an immune response. There are no treatments approved for lung metastasis, which is the leading cause of death from metastatic disease. That grim prognosis may soon be less grim thanks to a new technique developed by researchers at the Harvard John A. Paulson School for Engineering and Applied Sciences and Harvard’s Wyss Institute for Biologically Inspir ... More

Michael Stern. Two-phase theory applies to diseases like Alzheimer’s, Parkinson’s, muscle atrophy. Image courtesy: Jeff Fitlow/Rice University.

HOUSTON, TX.- Rice University biochemists Michael Stern and James McNew have studied how neurodegeneration kills cells. They’ve conducted countless experiments over more than a decade, and they’ve summarized all they’ve learned in a simple diagram they hope may change how doctors perceive and treat degenerative diseases as varied as Alzheimer’s, Parkinson’s and muscle atrophy. In a study published this month in Molecular Psychiatry, McNew and Stern, professors of biochemistry and cell biology in Rice’s Department of BioSciences, propose that degeneration, at the cellular level, occurs in two distinct phases that are marked by very different activities of protein signaling pathways that regulate basic cell functions. “We would like clinicians and other researchers to understand that the two phases of degeneration represent distinct entities, with distinct alterations in signaling pathways that have distinct effects ... More

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Covid and pollution: intimately linked, compound threat
PARIS (AFP).- Lockdowns may have temporarily cleared up the skies above big cities this year but experts warn that air pollution remains a Covid-19 threat multiplier, as well a health hazard that will far outlast the pandemic. As governments ordered temporary confinement measures to battle multiple virus waves, several studies have charted a marked increase in air quality in the US, China, and Europe. In Spain, for example, levels of atmospheric nitrous oxide (NO2) -- associated with a host of lung conditions -- plummeted 62 percent during the spring lockdown period. France and Italy saw falls of 52 and 48 percent, respectively, according to the European Environment Agency. Since air pollution kills roughly seven million worldwide people each year, such falls are bound to have prevented ... More

Wildfires should be considered a top threat to survival of species
LOS ANGELES, CA.- A new study by 27 prominent scientists from around the world — including UCLA’s Morgan Tingley — emphasizes the need to include fire among the list of potential threats to the survival of plant and animal species. Traditionally, fires have been viewed as a standard part of ecological cycles, necessary for species to survive and breed. But with increases in the frequency and severity of major wildfires, the way scientists view fires might need to change. “If you ask a random scientist what the major threats are to biodiversity, they will generally list three: climate change, land use change, and invasive species,” said Tingley, a UCLA professor of ecology and a member of the UCLA Institute of the Environment and Sustainability. “Undoubtedly, that’s true. What we’re seeing ... More

Global warming likely to increase disease risk for animals worldwide
NOTRE DAME, IN.- Changes in climate can increase infectious disease risk in animals, researchers found — with the possibility that these diseases could spread to humans, they warn. The study, conducted by scientists at the University of Notre Dame, University of South Florida and University of Wisconsin-Madison, supports a phenomenon known as “thermal mismatch hypothesis,” which is the idea that the greatest risk for infectious disease in cold climate-adapted animals – such as polar bears – occurs as temperatures rise, while the risk for animals living in warmer climates occurs as temperatures fall. The hypothesis proposes that smaller organisms like pathogens function across a wider range of temperatures than larger organisms, such as hosts or animals. “Understanding how the spread, severity ... More

You're gonna need a bigger museum: 'Jaws' shark installed
LOS ANGELES, CA (AFP).- Over four decades after terrorizing beachgoers in "Jaws," the blockbuster movie's 25-foot shark model has been installed at Los Angeles' long-awaited Oscars museum, it was announced Monday. "Bruce the Shark," rumored to have earned its nickname from director Steven Spielberg's razor-sharp lawyer, now lurks 30-feet (nine-metres) above the third floor of the Academy Museum, which is set to open in April. The fiberglass predator is the only remaining version created for the classic 1975 movie, but with Jaws measuring nearly five feet wide, was too large for the building's elevators -- and had to be levered in by crane through the window. "It's been a long journey for Bruce since he was acquired in 2016, and we couldn't be happier to welcome him to his new home ... More

Children more willing to punish if the wrongdoer is 'taught a lesson'
NEW HAVEN, CT.- Many children are willing to make personal sacrifices to punish wrongdoers — and even more so if they believe punishment will teach the transgressor a lesson, a new Yale study published Nov. 23 in the journal Nature Human Behaviour shows. Philosophers and psychologists have long argued whether the main reason people punish others for bad behavior is to enact retribution or to impart a moral lesson. In adults, most studies show the answer is that people have both motives. But what about children, who are less steeped in societal values? “Children are less exposed to social ideas about how to behave in certain ways,” said first author Julia Marshall, who conducted the research in the lab of Molly Crockett, assistant professor of psychology at Yale and senior author ... More

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Paraplegic Silke Pan steps up to compete at the next Cybathlon

On a day like today, American scientist and telescope maker John Alfred Brashear was born
November 24, 1840. Dr. John Alfred Brashear (November 24, 1840 - April 8, 1920) was an American astronomer and instrument builder. Starting in 1880, he dedicated his time to manufacture astronomical as well as scientific instruments, and performed various experiments. He developed an improved silvering method, which would become the standard for coating first surface mirrors (known as the "Brashear Process") until vacuum metalizing began replacing it in 1932. His instruments gained worldwide respect. Optical elements and instruments of precision produced by John Brashear were purchased for their quality by almost every important observatory in the world. Some are still in use today. A crew demolishing his factory found a time capsule that became an object of dispute.


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