Nature, Published online: 16 August 2023; doi:10.1038/s41586-023-06359-zA well-preserved partial skeleton (Upper Triassic,
When Elon Musk bought
— which he's since cringely renamed X — he said he wanted to make the social media platform into a free speech zone. But apparently that principle doesn't apply to critics like Scott Galloway, a marketing professor at New York University, who says he was locked out of his Twitter account of more than 564,000 followers after snubbing the mercurial tech guy.
Galloway wrote yesterday on Meta's competing Threads platform that a "mutual friend reached out and said Elon feels 'unfairly attacked,' by me, and wants to meet."
"I declined," he added. "2 days later I was locked out of 'X.'"
The move follows a long line of behavior of Musk using the social media platform to subvert free speech and impose his will over his foes, like blocking and throttling traffic to websites he doesn't like, his public beef with National Public Radio, and his spat with Substack.
As such, the responses on Galloway's post pointed out the blatant hypocrisy.
"What happened to free speech on X formerly known as Twitter," one Threads user wrote.
Another quipped that the "entire platform is a personal indulgence for a lunatic billionaire."
It's not exactly clear what set Musk off against Galloway, but Galloway's last mention of Musk on Twitter was him linking to a Reuters story on how Musk created a secret team at Tesla to cancel service appointments from people who were having range issues with their cars.
Galloway tweeted with a sick burn "Tesla intentionally gave drivers rosy driving range projections, leaving many stranded." He added, in a dig at Musk's ambitions to add banking and other applications to X: "BUT you should totally bank with X."
Galloway's last tweet was on July 28, so the professor has been locked out of Twitter for a good chunk of August already.
Since he's been locked out of his Twitter account, Galloway has continued criticizing Musk, including sarcastically challenging him to trial by combat. But besides Mark Zuckerberg, Galloway will have to get in a long line, since Musk has not made many friends since taking over Twitter.
The post Professor Says Elon Musk Locked Him Out of His Twitter Account appeared first on Futurism.
Nature Communications, Published online: 17 August 2023; doi:10.1038/s41467-023-40763-3Continuous monitoring of arterial blood pressure is limited by bulky connecting systems and poor interfacial contact. Here, Li et al. report a wearable thin, soft, miniaturized system that integrates sensing, active pressure adaptation, and signal processing for improved performance and accuracy.
Nature Communications, Published online: 17 August 2023; doi:10.1038/s41467-023-40584-4The spatial architecture of multiple myeloma remains to be explored. Here, the authors perform bulk and single cell sequencing for samples from newly diagnosed patients and reveal gene signatures associated with focal lesions and spatial heterogeneity in the tumour microenvironment.
Long-term exposure to low-dose radiation is linked to an increased risk of cancer, according to a study.
, radiation exposure for the average person doubled between 1985 and 2006, mainly from medical imaging procedures such as CT scans, highlighting the need for its judicious use.
The research in The British Medical Journal found that the cancer death rate grew by more than 50% per Gy, or gray, the unit of absorbed dose of ionizing radiation. This is larger than estimates currently underlying radiation protection.
The paper marks another milestone in the International Nuclear Workers Study, which has followed 309,932 industry workers to study their causes of death.
“We wanted to strengthen the scientific basis for radiation protection by directly studying settings where low-dose exposures occur,” says corresponding author David Richardson, professor of environmental and occupational health with the University of California, Irvine Program in Public Health. “Understanding those associations is essential to inform decisions about medical and commercial uses of ionizing radiation, exposure limits for the public, and workers.”
The study cohort included workers who were hired in the early years of the Manhattan Project and were employed at nuclear sites in France, the United Kingdom, and the US. They were monitored with radiation badges that measured their exposures, enabling researchers to examine the association between dose and deaths due to cancer. Of the 103,553 deaths, 28,089 were due to solid
, with an estimated 52% higher mortality rate per Gy of cumulative dose.
Currently, studies of atomic bomb survivors are the primary basis for establishing protection measures. But their exposure differs greatly from that typically encountered by workers, patients, and members of the public. This long-term study provides estimates of the association between low-dose exposure and cancer based on some of the world’s most informative cohorts of radiation workers.
“Contrary to the trend of reducing or removing exposure to carcinogens once we have recognized them, the public’s exposure to ionizing radiation has increased over the past few decades and remains elevated,” Richardson says. “Understanding the risks associated with low-dose radiation is crucial for guiding policy.”
The study team included research scientists from the US National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health, the UK Health Security Agency, France’s Institute for Radiological Protection and Nuclear Safety and International Agency for Research on Cancer, and Spain’s Barcelona Institute for Global Health.
Support for the work came from the US National Cancer Institute.
Source: UC Irvine
- Federal law mandates that copyright violators can face fines to the tune of $150,000 for each infringement.
is weighing a lawsuit against
over intellectual property infringement, NPR reports.
Per NPR, the NYT and OpenAI have been in the throes of heated negotiations for weeks, in an attempt to reach a deal that would grant OpenAI a licensing deal to access to the NYT's vast content library. But those negotiations apparently haven't been going as planned, and the newspaper's lawyers, behind closed doors, are now exploring the possibility of legal action against the hype-rich Silicon Valley firm.
From where we're sitting? It looks like the NYT might have some real leverage here. And if OpenAI were to lose such a high-profile case, the AI lawsuit floodgates would almost certainly fly open.
According to NPR's sources, the NYT isn't just viewing OpenAI and its chatbot ChatGPT as a tool, per se. Its primary concern is that OpenAI, armed with troves of data scraped from the web and able to churn out text accordingly, is actually a direct competitor. And while it's one thing to have a more traditional competitor — another newspaper, online publishing — it's wholly another to find yourself directly competing with a scraped data-trained plagiarism engine that's likely remixing your reporting, among others', for profit.
And as NPR points out, if a federal judge were to find that OpenAI had improperly vacuumed up any of the paper's material into its AI training data, the copyright penalties could be incredibly destructive for the AI firm. Federal law mandates that copyright violators can face fines to the tune of $150,000 for each infringement. OpenAI has pretty deep pockets, but that's a pretty steep price — and especially so if the firm finds itself liable not only in the potential case against the NYT, but in any number of similar suits down the line.
"If you're copying millions of works, you can see how that becomes a number that becomes potentially fatal for a company," Daniel Gervais, the co-director of the intellectual property program at Vanderbilt University, told NPR. "Copyright law is a sword that's going to hang over the heads of AI companies for several years unless they figure out how to negotiate a solution."
Of course, this is all very speculative, and the NYT has yet to make any official moves to sue. But the copyright lawsuits against OpenAI and other AI ventures keep stacking up, and at some point, the other shoe could drop — though whose favor it will fall towards still remains to be seen.
More on AI and copyright: Sarah Silverman Sues OpenAI for Copyright Infringement
The post The New York Times Is Apparently Considering a Lawsuit Against OpenAI appeared first on Futurism.
Nature, Published online: 17 August 2023; doi:10.1038/s41586-023-06524-4Publisher Correction: Pluripotent stem cell-derived model of the post-implantation human embryo
At Los Angeles’ La Brea Tar Pits, scientists found they could watch large mammals disappear from the fossil record—and could trace the ecosystem through the catastrophe
Now, a driverless Cruise robotaxi has somehow managed to get itself stuck in some wet concrete, SFGate reports — a hilarious incident that highlights just how much work the company still has left to do before the seemingly dull-witted and slapstick vehicles can safely co-exist with human residents in urban areas.
Fortunately, the stuck vehicle had no passengers inside when it became slathered on Golden Gate Avenue.
"I can see five different scenarios where bad things happen and this is one of them," Paul Harvey, a local resident, told SFGate. "It thinks it’s a road and it ain't because it ain't got a brain and it can't tell that it's freshly poured concrete."
Harvey also pointed out the irony of the kind of semantics being used by the likes of Cruise and its competitor Waymo to justify the existence of these driverless robotaxis — that they make fewer mistakes and are safer than humans.
"When a light turns green at a traffic light, I just don’t jump on the accelerator," he told the publication. "I look left and right for some idiot who’s gonna run the light. It does happen."
The news comes just days after Cruise self-driving cars suddenly shut down across the city, leading to a major traffic jam. The incident was reportedly caused by "wireless bandwidth constraints," triggered by a nearby festival, according to a Cruise spokesperson.
And unfortunately, there's a good chance that we'll see a lot more Cruise vehicles getting stuck. Last week, California’s Public Utilities Commission voted three to one to allow both Cruise and Waymo vehicles to run their services "at all hours of day or night," becoming the first major
city to do so.
Despite all of the chaos, Waymo told SFGate that its waitlist of interested customers has ballooned to 100,000 people. The company is planning to open the floodgates in the coming weeks.
More on the cars: People in San Francisco Are Already Having Sex in Self-Driving Taxis
The post Self-Driving Car Gets Stuck in Freshly Poured Concrete appeared first on Futurism.
Thanks to an improved catalytic method, plastic waste can be used as raw material for detergents, researchers report.
We’ve managed to accumulate so much plastic trash that it’s daunting to think about what could be done with the tons upon tons of nonbiodegradable waste. And as much as we are trying to scale back our dependence on single-use plastics, we continue to add to the global plastic trash hoard. Events like the COVID-19 pandemic only served to expand their use for personal protective equipment and disposable and take-away packaging.
In a paper in the journal Chem, researchers have reimagined the value of single-use plastics, with improvements to an innovative process that can turn polyolefins, the most common type of polymer in single-use packaging, into valuable alkylaromatics—molecules that underlie surfactants, the active components of detergents and other useful chemicals.
“If we make these surfactants from fossil fuels now and you could make them from waste plastics, then you are not using fossil fuels to make surfactants anymore, and you’re getting another use out of the carbon that went into the plastics,” says chemical engineering professor Susannah Scott, who holds a chair in sustainable catalytic processing at the University of California, Santa Barbara.
Instead of burning them or burying them in landfills—practices that represent the major ways we currently deal with plastic waste—plastics are repurposed in a method that shortcuts conventional “dirty” processes for making surfactants while giving single-use plastics one more shot at usefulness.
The researchers built on previous work in which they debuted a catalytic method to break the strong carbon-carbon bonds that make plastic the difficult-to-degrade material it is, then rearrange the molecular chains into alkylaromatic rings. While effective, Scott says, the original process, based on a platinum-on-alumina catalyst, was slow, and its yield of alkylaromatic molecules was low.
“What we’ve done in this paper is show how to do it much better,” she says.
Key to their method is increasing the acidity of the original alumina catalyst, via the addition of chlorine or fluorine. With the added acid sites, the team was able to boost the speed and selectivity of their process.
“It just screams along,” Scott says. “It makes the alkylaromatics faster, and we can tune it to make the right-size molecules.” In the new paper, they focused on finding the optimal ratio of acid sites to metal sites in their catalyst, she explained. “It turns out they work together. They have different roles, but you need both of them to be there and in the right ratio so the catalytic cycle doesn’t get stuck at any point.”
In addition, their one-pot process operates at moderate temperatures, requiring a low energy input. While the method originally took 24 hours to turn plastic into alkylaromatic molecules, the improved process can complete the task within a couple of hours, increasing the amount of plastic that can be converted in a reasonably-sized reactor.
With further improvements, this method could be on its way to becoming a viable commercial process, according to Scott. The ultimate goal is to bring it into wide use, which would enable and incentivize the recovery of single-use plastics. Using waste plastics as a highly abundant raw material, chemical companies could take the alkylaromatic molecules resulting from this process and transform them into the surfactants that are formulated into soaps, washing liquids, cleansers, and other detergents.
“Ideally you want to reuse waste plastic for a purpose with a large enough production volume, for which there is significant demand, in order to make a dent in the plastic problem,” Scott explains.
To determine if this method is truly sustainable, she adds, it would have to undergo a lifecycle assessment, in which the energy spent and greenhouse gasses emitted are calculated at each step. Using waste material ensures that no additional greenhouse gas emissions are produced to create the feedstock, but the energy required to run the catalytic process and separate the desired molecules would have to be factored in before scaling up, Scott says. If it passes muster, the method could displace the more fossil fuel-intensive processes that go into creating surfactants from scratch.
“We will need multiple targets to deal with the waste plastic problem, but this is a fairly big one,” Scott says. “This is worth doing.”
Additional researchers contributing to the work are from UCSB; the University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign; and Cornell University.
Source: UC Santa Barbara
The post Method turns plastic waste into material for detergents appeared first on Futurity.
- At the same time, the companies that design this tech are starting to raise serious money—especially Amp, whose $99 million Series C round has seen buy-in from Google Ventures, the Microsoft Climate Innovation Fund, and Sequoia Capital.
- In partnership with MachineX, Rumpke is in the process of building one of the earliest plants with such technology.
At the Boulder County Recycling Center in Colorado, two team members spend all day pulling items from a conveyor belt covered in junk collected from the area’s bins. One plucks out juice cartons and plastic bottles that can be reprocessed, while the other searches for contaminants in the stream of paper products headed to a fiber mill. They are Sorty McSortface and Sir Sorts-a-Lot, AI-powered robots that each resemble a supercharged mechanical arm from an arcade claw machine. Developed by the tech start-up Amp Robotics, McSortface and Sorts-a-Lot’s appendages dart down with the speed of long-beaked cranes picking fish out of the water, suctioning up items they’ve been trained to recognize.
Yes, even recycling has gotten tangled up in the AI revolution. Amp Robotics has its tech in nearly 80 facilities across
, according to a company spokesperson, and in recent years, AI-powered sorting from companies such as Bulk Handling Systems and MachineX has popped up in other recycling plants. These robots are still niche, but they’re starting to be seen as a step forward for an industry in need of real improvement. “I know it’s kind of a buzzword,” says Jeff Snyder, the director of recycling at Rumpke Waste and Recycling, a waste-management company based in Ohio. “But from an [industry] perspective, AI is incredible. It’s a game changer for us.”
In the ChatGPT era, AI has been endlessly hyped as tech companies scramble to profit off the recent surge of interest. But the technology’s impact on recycling might be closer to the opposite: a meaningful application that is hidden in plain sight. Even that might still not be enough to fully fix recycling as we know it.
Recycling could use a high-tech shake-up. In theory, “materials recovery facilities,” or MRFs—industry insiders pronounce the acronym as a word that rhymes with Smurfs—are supposed to close the loop between consumption and production. They gather the containers and pieces of packaging we throw into bins, do the dirty work of sorting them out, and then sell those materials back to other companies that can reuse them.
In practice, the MRFs aren’t all that good. In 2018, only about a third of all glass containers were successfully recycled in the U.S. That same year, the EPA estimated that less than 9 percent of plastics were recycled, and the number may have fallen since then. In recent years, China, which historically bought much of America’s recyclable scrap, has largely stopped buying it—in part, because the end product of recycling tends to be a mix of different kinds of items that can’t be feasibly reused together. Since then, a few other countries have picked up some of the slack, but not all. With nowhere to send huge quantities of recyclables, many communities have simply started to burn and landfill what used to go to China.
The issue is that it’s long been too hard for recycling plants to sort material with the level of specificity needed to satisfy manufacturers that could theoretically reuse it, Matt Flechter, a recycling specialist for Michigan, told me. The traditional recycling methods used to sort waste—including sieves, blasts of compressed air, glass crushers, powerful magnets, and near-infrared light—do a good job of separating waste into broad categories of paper, glass, and metal. But finer layers of detail often go unnoticed, especially with plastic. It’s hard for recyclers to determine whether, say, a #2 HDPE container is a milk jug, which would be suitable for reuse in food products, or a pesticide container, which wouldn’t be, as thousands of pounds of refuse whizz down the line at 600 feet a minute. Although plastic bottles and plastic clamshells are each recyclable, a poorly sorted mix of them is something no one really wants.
AI stands to change that calculus, giving recycling plants a far more granular view into packaging that otherwise tends to be hopelessly commingled. These recycling bots—from Amp and competitors such as MachineX, Bulk Handling Systems, Glacier Robotics, and Everest Labs—are “vision systems”: In the same way that ChatGPT is trained by ingesting text that has been published online, they absorb lots of photographs of tossed-out items in various states of degradation and disrepair. The robots are then able to identify even tiny differences in a product’s color, shape, texture, or logo—and in the case of Amp, even its SKU, the unique number manufacturers assign to each kind of item they sell, Matanya Horowitz, Amp’s CEO, told me. “We know this is Procter and Gamble, this is Unilever, and so on,” Horowitz said. “If we know the SKU, we can determine anything—I know what adhesive they used; I know what cap they used; I know what was actually in it.”
The bots are helping to create new end-markets that didn’t exist before, recycling operators told me, thanks to their ability to sort types of plastic that otherwise might get downcycled or trashed. Operators said that systems currently tend to be 85 to 95 percent accurate, while robotics companies themselves claim up to 99 percent accuracy. Steve Faber, a representative for Michigan’s Kent County Department of Public Works, which operates a recycling facility in Grand Rapids, said Amp’s bots have allowed the plant to sort out and resell #5 polypropylene, a plastic used in coffee pods and other lightweight food containers, that were previously getting sorted into mixed bales with next to no value.
Recycling robots have been around for a few years, but their momentum seems to be growing during the current AI boom. Waste Management, the largest residential-recycling company in the U.S., has announced plans to invest $800 million in recycling infrastructure by the end of 2025, including new, AI-powered facilities. At the same time, the companies that design this tech are starting to raise serious money—especially Amp, whose $99 million Series C round has seen buy-in from Google Ventures, the Microsoft Climate Innovation Fund, and Sequoia Capital.
That is not to say that the turn to AI has already fixed recycling. The high-tech systems that are needed to keep up with the torrent of recyclables won’t come cheap—an individual robot can cost as much as $300,000, and investments can take years to recoup. Many facilities, Flechter said, are reluctant to adopt the newer approaches because the price tag means they often lose money, and some communities are already too cash-strapped to offer recycling services at all.
Still, as costs eventually decrease, the future looks promising, heralding more than just robots with mechanical arms. Snyder, of Rumpke, thinks AI’s bigger contribution will be to reinvent “high-volume optical sorting,” an approach that uses near-infrared light to determine a product’s material composition before a blast of air diverts it down various chutes. It is faster than the recycling robots, but so far lacks the same kind of accuracy. A version with an AI vision system would be both ultra-quick and ultra-accurate. In partnership with MachineX, Rumpke is in the process of building one of the earliest plants with such technology. When its $90 million facility in Columbus, Ohio, opens in 2024, it will be able to process a full ton of material every minute and 250,000 tons a year.
In a decade, recycling bots could be everywhere, helping facilities churn out perfectly sorted bales of junk that companies can turn into something new. But recycling, even souped up with AI and robotics, will always have limitations. Recycling tech can treat only the symptoms of unconstrained consumerism, not the disease of companies that are dumping far too many single-use products into the world. A few states have begun passing laws that shift the financial burden of collection and reuse back onto packaging producers through hefty fines, but for the most part, “the assumption is that industry can make whatever it wants, and then the recycling industry has to figure out how to deal with it,” says Suzanne Jones, the executive director of Ecocycle, the nonprofit that operates the recycling facility in Boulder. “And that’s backwards.”
At worst, recycling bots could give companies an opportunity to greenwash their reputation. Advances in AI could allow brands to claim their materials are theoretically recyclable, when in practice they aren’t—and when what’s really needed is more money in the system. Some modest efforts are under way to do just that. The Polypropylene Recycling Coalition—a group funded by companies such as Campbell’s, Nestle, and Keurig Dr. Pepper—has since 2020 spent more than $10 million to improve polypropylene collection at 41 facilities in the U.S, including a rollout of new AI-enabled robotic sorters that specifically target that material.
It’s a start, though $10 million barely registers compared with America’s $91 billion waste-and-recycling industry. Of course, from a plastics-pollution perspective, what’s better than a recyclable K-cup is not using a K-cup at all. Recycling bots can’t change the basic fact that recycling, even at its best, is just not a particularly efficient way of dealing with single-use products, no matter how much we might want to believe that it is. Even in this new era of AI, tech alone can only go so far. The more things change, it seems, the more they stay the same.
Anoles have always been happy in the heat. The svelte little lizards, a group some 400 species strong, thrive in the Americas’ warmest parts—from the balmy rainforests of South America up through
’ Sun Belt—where they spend their days basking on boulders and scurrying out to the sun-soaked tips of twigs, or even scampering over the blistering metal of exposed city pipes.
And when local temperatures get even hotter, as they now so often do, anoles take those changes in stride. Beneath the shady canopies of Caribbean rainforests, Martha Muñoz, an evolutionary biologist at Yale, and her students have found species that have rapidly evolved the ability to withstand temperatures verging on 110 degrees Fahrenheit; elsewhere, near the forest’s perimeter, the researchers have discovered species that have taught themselves to shelter beneath rocks until it’s cool enough to leave. On this fast-warming planet, animals have just three options: “Behave, adapt, or die,” Brian Cheng, an evolutionary biologist at the University of Massachusetts at Amherst, told me. So far, anoles are excelling at the first two.
But after years of observing the lizards, Muñoz worries that their survival strategies are reaching a limit. “I don’t think there is a happy ending,” she told me. Life has a physiological ceiling—a temperature that even eons of evolution cannot allow an animal to tolerate. And some of the heat-tempering tactics that are helping the creatures cope now could speed their demise in the long term. Scientists are finding that, especially among ectotherms—so-called cold-blooded creatures that lack an internal thermostat—behavior and evolution don’t always complement each other; sometimes, those two natural forces may even be at odds. Of the choices creatures have, death is the only outcome that has no caveats.
For most ectotherms—many of them small, fast-reproducing, and ultra-diverse—speedy evolution would seem an excellent choice to counteract the pressures of climate change. In the Caribbean, anoles in both natural forests and densely packed cities have reshaped their physique to better withstand the heat. In Cleveland, Sarah Diamond, of Case Western Reserve University, has documented acorn ants evolving higher heat tolerances in just a couple dozen generations. In laboratories, water fleas can be pushed to weather several more degrees of warmth in a mere two years. “We’ve all been a little bit surprised by the capacity of ectothermic species to evolve their way out,” Diamond told me.
But those examples might not be the norm. Even under extreme conditions, many gains in heat tolerance are minimal—less than a degree or so—or excruciatingly slow, and they don’t always pass on easily to future generations. Across a variety of species, heat tolerance seems to be a very finicky trait. In a recent analysis, Joanne Bennett, an ecologist at Australian National University, found that animals have been able to nudge their tolerance for high temperatures only about half as fast as they can alter their tolerance for cold ones.
That inertia probably has something to do with the limits of life’s tolerance for heat. Somewhere in the neighborhood of 110 or 115 degrees Fahrenheit, the chemical reactions that drive cellular life start to fail. With rare exceptions, ectotherms exposed to those sorts of temperatures for prolonged periods of time get sluggish and start to stagger about. Their limbs cease to move, “and then very rapidly, they begin to die,” Kawata Masakado, an evolutionary biologist at Tohoku University, in Japan, told me. Evolution, though powerful, cannot break biochemical rules, says Jhan Salazar, an evolutionary biologist at Washington University in St. Louis. Animals already near their maxima may simply be running out of adaptive steam: “Even if they want to keep going,” Salazar told me, “they cannot.”
But the threshold theory does not solve another puzzle. Some animals, most of them reptiles, appear to have halted the evolution of their heat tolerance well below the theoretical limit, despite living in habitats where weathering more warmth would seem to be a perk. Certain desert lizards are bizarrely bad at being superhot; some lowland anoles are just as wimpy about triple-digit temperatures as their cousins that live above 7,500 feet. Scientists have even found a handful of sun skinks in warmer regions of the rainforest that are somehow worse at tolerating heat than their relatives in cooler climes. In each case, evolution seems to have presented the animals with an obvious lever that they haven’t pulled.
These animals may be tumbling down a different escape hatch. On the rich landscapes of islands, freckled with all manner of rocks and vines and trees, an anole can avoid overheating by just skittering into the shade, Michael Logan, an evolutionary biologist at the University of Nevada at Reno, told me. Unlike evolution, this quick-fix change can work within a single generation, without the rigamarole of sex or the gamble of genetics; in the span of a single day, it can toggle on and off. Behavior, Logan said, is all it takes to “maintain the temperatures they want to be at.”
But hiding from the sun can also mean hiding from the environmental pressures that might otherwise coerce a population to evolve. Saúl Domínguez-Guerrero, a postdoctoral fellow in Muñoz’s lab, thinks that this phenomenon, known as the Bogert effect, is what’s stymieing adaptation among the anoles he’s studying along the outskirts of forests in Puerto Rico and the Dominican Republic. At the edge of the tree line, where sunlight filters down in shards, temperatures have climbed, but many anole species’ heat-tolerance thresholds haven’t really budged in kind. Instead, Domínguez-Guerrero has found, the lizards are coping with the heat by prolonging their stints beneath boulders or leaves, or tucked into the nooks of tree trunks, especially during the hottest hours of the day.
The anoles’ tactic is accomplishing its primary objective: maintaining lizardly chill. But Muñoz worries that the strategy is now cooling the species’ evolutionary engines, too, which will bode poorly if temperatures eventually get too hot for too much of the day. All behaviors have costs. “If an animal is seeking thermal refuge, they’re not doing something else”—foraging for food, wooing a potential mate, Cheng, the Amherst biologist, told me. Once those trade-offs become unsustainable, evolution could kick in. But the lizards will have missed out on years, potentially decades, of adaptation in the meantime. In 2015, a team led by Lauren Buckley, an evolutionary biologist at the University of Washington, modeled that exact effect in eastern fence lizards in the southern United States, whose evolution has already been impeded by a behavioral brake. The researchers found that the animals that had been most reliant on the shade would likely struggle to make up for lost time—and, within a few decades, suffer serious declines. If the goal is to keep up with warming, Buckley told me, evolution can’t afford to be bogged down.
But the other extreme—evolution run amok—exacts its own tax. Closer to the heart of the forests where Muñoz’s team is collecting data, the researchers have found another group of anoles that have increased their heat tolerance a good five degrees, to about 108 degrees Fahrenheit, in just 11 years’ time. They’ve had little other choice: Beneath a canopy that thick, shade is ubiquitous—rendering just about every habitat thermally the same, and forcing the lizards’ evolutionary hand. “They have to conform to whatever the mean temperature is going to be,” Logan told me.
The pace of the lizards’ thermal leap alarms Domínguez-Guerrero. “To be evolving that fast means they are very thermally stressed,” he told me, and their rush to adapt potentially claimed a lot of lives, which may have left the surviving population less genetically diverse. The next time the anoles are forced to evolve at such a blistering clip, they might not have the raw evolutionary material to make it through. In a study published earlier this year, Logan’s lab ran a simulation that supports that notion. The model showed that animals that too rapidly tweak their thermal tolerance end up “so well adapted to current conditions that they lose all the variants that could deal with more variable conditions later on,” Logan told me. That sort of overpruning can sometimes play a major role, he said, in making species go extinct.
No matter what, an animal will eventually reach the end of its evolutionary potential. Some of the fast-evolving anoles in the Caribbean are now knocking right up against the highest thermal tolerances ever recorded among their kind, Muñoz told me. And they probably aren’t alone. At this point, across many ectotherms, in all sorts of global ecosystems, “I think most organisms are actually already pretty close” to the maximum tolerances they can evolve, Buckley told me.
If that’s the case, scientists may struggle to tell. That’s the trick when compensation works well: Animals are often “fine, fine, fine, and then boom, not fine,” Diamond told me, leading to “a really strong crash.” Even at an individual level, animals teetering on that precipice don’t always appear to be in distress. In a cruel biochemical twist, cellular machinery tends to work best just a few degrees shy of the temperatures that incapacitate it—which means that many animals operating at their peak could be steps away from peril. “There is a really small margin of error,” Brooke Bodensteiner, an evolutionary biologist studying with Muñoz at Yale, told me. Among anoles, a single degree Fahrenheit can mean the difference between an animal bolting about at full bore and keeling over. In the end, some of the world’s most heat-adapted animals may be among the first to be lost to climate change, Bennett told me. Already pushed to life’s evolutionary edge, on a planet of ever-greater extremes, they will have nowhere left to go.
This article contains spoilers through Season 2 Episode 10 of And Just Like That.
And Just Like That, like no other show in our admittedly depleted television universe right now, is simultaneously a riot, a rout, and an utterly chaotic melange of small-scale storytelling and high—but-literally-am-I-high—fashion. Every episode contains at least three scenes to which there is nothing to say but “What?!?” Five weeks ago, The New Yorker ran a humor piece that imagined ludicrously banal storylines the show could tackle next; since then, two have basically happened. Last week, Miranda and Charlotte went to Chipotle, where they were confused by the fast-casual chain’s ordering system. Carrie might have a cat now? Che, a comedian who used to have a hit podcast and a sizable-enough following to get them a sitcom pilot and a Cameo presence, is doing overtime at a vet’s office again, because apparently the only two financial brackets in this world are Hudson Yards–rich and shift work.
Money is important to TV shows, I think, because striving is the engine for really good storytelling, and when most of your characters seem to be 0.001 percenters, you end up with stakes-less narrative arcs that involve Airbnbs without salad tongs and kids who forgot their notebook. Sex and the City was a thrilling show for its relatability, in a fun-house-mirror kind of way; And Just Like That exists in such a remote socioeconomic universe that watching it can feel like gawping at an exotic species in a nature documentary. (And here we see, in her native habitat, a 57-year-old female receiving an unsolicited dick pic at a fundraising lunch with Gloria Steinem. Watch her ruffle her plumage! See her eyeballs spin.)
All of which is why this week’s episode, inelegantly titled “The Last Supper Part One: Appetizer,” was the best of the season so far. Somehow, it married the balls-to-the-wall absurdity we’ve come to know and love (news arrives that Stanford, who departed for Japan last season, is now a Shinto monk, allowing Anthony to make an inartful “gay-sha” joke) with a surprisingly thoughtful and touching analysis of modern parenting. I’m not talking about Charlotte, whose Mad Libs storyline this week involved selling a painting to Sam Smith and getting drunk at happy hour. Rather, it was Lisa Todd Wexley—it seems necessary to say all three names, as though she were a pop icon or a Supreme Court Justice—whose unplanned pregnancy, maelstrom of conflicting emotions, and fury at her husband for not getting a vasectomy offered up something the show has absolutely been missing: authenticity.
Appropriately, the episode’s best scenes were sandwiched between truly questionable snippets of dialogue. Miranda’s new boss returned to the office after giving birth, barking, “Five weeks maternity leave is enough when the world’s in crisis, right?” (Lean in, ladies!) Miranda declared zucchini chips to be something to live for. Che delivered a stand-up routine about Miranda that was so cruel, so unnecessarily excoriating and derisive, that it threatened to obliterate the redemption arc their character has been on this season. But first, at brunch, Charlotte broke the news to the women—I can’t call them “girls,” even though I feel like I should—that Lisa’s new documentary project had been extended by PBS into a 10-part series. “They’re Ken Burns–ing you!” Miranda declared, while Lisa nodded, wanly. Later, she revealed to Charlotte the reason for her lack of enthusiasm. Why get excited about a project she doubts she’ll be able to complete? “I will be missing deadlines, I will be pumping around the clock, and I will be failing at both jobs?” she said. “Goddammit. I thought it was finally my time, Charlotte.”
And the thing is, she’s right. Midlife is when you’re supposed to be able to pick up all of the dreams you’ve deferred—like Steve, opening his clams-and-hot-dogs joint in Coney Island to renew his sense of self after a traumatic divorce. Or Miranda, realizing that 30 years of corporate lawyering gives her enough gravitas in her new internship to take the opportunities she’s offered and not fret about the sad-salad girls still stuck doing grunt work. Or Charlotte, getting “back to me” time via a blender full of margaritas. Or Stanford, finding peace in a Kyoto temple, even if the late, great Willie Garson deserved a much better Photoshop job. But Lisa, very abruptly and unexpectedly facing another 18 years of child care, realizes that her flourishing career and creative goals might get pushed past the point of no return. “Should we be having the other discussion?” her husband, Herbert, asked. (Bless you, Herbert, for affirming a woman’s right to shoes and to choose.) “I’ve thought about it, but I can’t,” Lisa replied. “I mean, I’m really grateful that I have that option, but … I just need to wrap my head around this new reality. I will. I always do.”
That last line, delivered quietly and away from Herbert, carried a weight with it—sacrifice, sadness, an acknowledgement that you can love every single part of being a parent and still recognize all the costs that come with it. By the episode’s end, even the child-free Carrie was feeling the crunch of kids, as Aidan sobbed outside the hospital where Wyatt, his 14-year-old, had been admitted after crashing his father’s truck into a tree. On a different show, Wyatt’s accident might not have to change anything: Aidan and Carrie could continue their long-distance love affair, albeit with caution; the series could even dare to expand its geographic reach by actually having Carrie visit Aidan on his farm in Virginia. (In HBO’s companion podcast, the showrunner Michael Patrick King said they thought about doing just that, but it would have meant filming there in winter, which would have been a production hassle.) In the show as written, though, it’s easy to see how this could force the end of Aidan, whose guilt over not being present for his son makes him reluctant to keep leaving. Still, in a series where every character has main-character syndrome, it was bracing to see some of them come a little closer back to Earth.
At Los Angeles’ La Brea Tar Pits, scientists found they could watch large mammals disappear from the fossil record—and could trace the ecosystem through the catastrophe
Magnetars possess magnetic fields that are trillions of times stronger than those of ordinary stars. Now we might have seen one of these extraordinary objects about to form
Nature Communications, Published online: 17 August 2023; doi:10.1038/s41467-023-40751-7Overturn of late stage lunar magma ocean cumulates triggers a rapid &short-lived episode of lower mantle melting that explains the key volume, geochronological, &spatial characteristics of the earliest secondary crust on the Moon (Mg-suite).
Magnetars possess magnetic fields that are trillions of times stronger than those of ordinary stars. Now we might have seen one of these extraordinary objects about to form
Outbreaks may be addressed sooner by avoiding need for sending stool samples abroad
could be detected in wastewater in half the time using a new technique, helping public health authorities to respond quickly to deadly outbreaks, a study has found.
The research in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC), supported by
’s Medicines and Healthcare Products Regulatory Agency (MHRA), represents the first time that (DDNS) has been used to detect polio, reducing the average testing time from 42 to 23 days, with an accuracy rate exceeding 99%.Continue reading…
owners keep reporting a slight problem with their cars losing power and locking them in in the process.
In a piece meant to instruct Tesla drivers on how to get out of their cars if they find themselves trapped — talk about SEO — Insider reports that this growing issue often presents somewhat differently for each driver, though some consistencies remain.
Some peoples' batteries die normally, the report notes, while others' cars just shut off for no reason. But in all cases, the manual door unlock is difficult to find, and in at least a few reported cases, the cars' windows inexplicably break in the process of escape.
The manual release is "not labeled," one driver, Arizonan Rick Meggison, told Phoenix's ABC15. "You don't know it's there unless you know it's there."
The 73-year-old man was, to make matters worse, trapped inside his Model Y during 100-degree heat in June. It was only when his sister arrived and opened the car with a Tesla app, which cracked the vehicle's window in the process, that he was able to get out.
While some models, including the Model S, do have complicated rear-door manual release mechanisms — "fold back the edge of the carpet below the rear seats to expose the mechanical release cable [and] pull the mechanical release cable toward the center of the vehicle," the Model S manual reads — other models simply don't have those escape hatches installed, meaning you're out of luck if you get locked in from the backseat.
Getting locked inside one's Tesla when it loses power is, of course, far from the worst thing that can happen to someone inside one of those electric vehicles. Nevertheless, it is a great example of how janky these cars can be even as they grow in popularity. How many people are getting trapped inside their Hondas?
More on Tesla jankiness: Cybertruck Already Found Broken Down and Abandoned on Side of Road
The post Tesla Seems to Have a Small Problem With People Getting Locked Inside Its Cars appeared first on Futurism.
Wildfires and agriculture and farming emissions may pose especially toxic threats to cognitive health, according to a new study.
Increasingly, evidence shows exposure to air pollution emissions makes the brain susceptible to dementia. The findings of the new study, published in JAMA Medicine, point to a strong likelihood that agriculture and wildfires, with their release of a range of harmful emissions at high concentrations, need to be more closely studied and monitored for their risks to public health, specifically dementia.
“We saw in our research that all airborne particles increased the risk of dementia but those generated by agricultural settings and wildfires seemed to be especially toxic for the brain,” says Sara Adar, associate chair of the department of epidemiology in the School of Public Health at the University of Michigan. She currently leads several large cohort studies on the impacts of exposures on cognitive aging and dementia.
“Our findings indicate that lowering levels of particulate matter air pollution, even in a relatively clean country like
, may reduce the number of people developing dementia in late life,” Adar says.
“This work suggests that particulate matter air pollution from agriculture and wildfires might be more neurotoxic compared with other sources. However, more research is needed to confirm these effects, especially for these two sources which have received less attention in prior research,” says Boya Zhang, a research fellow who focuses on the effects of air pollution on cardiopulmonary disease and cognitive aging.
“Given that the development of dementia could take a long time, this study mainly aimed to provide evidence for policymakers to reduce exposures to these sources of emissions.”
The findings come as unusually poor air quality is regularly triggering alerts in the US. The alerts are aimed at protecting the public from the unseen, swirling mix of microscopic toxins in air pollution, specifically fine particulate matter or PM2.5. It is one of the most concerning elements of air pollution. At less than 2.5 microns in size, PM2.5 is less than the width of a human hair. Because it’s so small, it can enter the brain through the nose directly or cross the blood-brain barrier in other ways. PM2.5 is also known to affect the lungs, heart, and in emerging research, the brain and cognitive function.
“These findings are quite timely given the increasing frequency of wildfire smoke in our communities,” Adar says. “Our data suggest that in addition to some of the more obvious health impacts of wildfire smoke like irritation to our throats and eyes along with breathing difficulties, high smoke days might also be taking a toll on our brains.”
The record number of air quality alerts in the US this year are due in large part to smoke from wildfires burning in Canada since May. The effect of wildfire is not new in the US, especially given the fires in the western part of the country.
Adar, a long-time environmental epidemiologist, says that wildfire smoke is becoming a more widespread stressor with many cities experiencing 30-plus days each year impacted by smoke. Given the extremely high levels of exposure to the public, wildfires are thought to contribute up to 25% of fine particulate matter exposures over a year across the US and as much as 50% in some western regions of the country, Adar says.
“While individual wildfires may be short-lived, these events are becoming more frequent in our communities due to warmer temperatures, drier conditions, and longer fire seasons. As we’ve seen, wildfire smoke can also travel very far distances.”
The new findings are based on research into the development of dementia among nearly 30,000 adults from across the US over an 18-year period. The data comes from the Health and Retirement Study, a nationally-representative collection of cohorts of older adults who have been followed since 1992.
The researchers based pollution estimates in the study on home addresses of participants. Participants have been interviewed biennially about their cognition, overall health, and health behaviors until death or loss of contact for the survey.
They observed that higher levels of particulate matter air pollution, especially from agriculture and wildfires, were associated with greater risks of dementia. The findings could not be explained by other factors such as individual, neighborhood, socioeconomic status, occupation, or hometown or region of the country.
“With the knowledge of which sources are more toxic than others, it may be possible to design interventions for specific sources as a more effective way to decrease the burden of dementia,” Zhang says.
Dementia is currently the seventh leading cause of death and one of the major causes of disability and dependency for older people, according to the World Health Organization.
The research specifically sought to test the hypothesis that a variation in emission sources could explain which are most toxic, but measuring the emissions with their distinct physical and chemical characteristics is challenging. Past studies analyzing exposures to source specific fine particulate matter meant researchers mainly investigated relationships with the total mass of fine particulate matter in the air.
“In our study, we used a sophisticated prediction model that includes information about the chemical transformations and dispersion of pollution from different sources to estimate the levels of source-specific particulate matter air pollution at participants’ residential addresses,” Zhang says. “This approach is beneficial because it not only accounts for pollution directly emitted by a source but also pollution generated through reactions with other chemicals in the air.”
Since the average level of exposure to PM2.5 for the people studied was less than the National Ambient Air Quality Standard, this is not just an issue of extreme pollution events, the researchers say, though it’s clear that the air quality from wildfire events is worsening.
This research suggests that it’s not just sending people with respiratory ailments to the hospitals but there may also be longer lasting effects to the body. With the changing climate, it’s likely that these threats to health will increase.
The National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences and the National Institute of Aging funded the work.
Source: University of Michigan
The post Wildfire, farming air pollution may be worst for your brain appeared first on Futurity.
Scientific Reports, Published online: 17 August 2023; doi:10.1038/s41598-023-40555-1Strengthening the mechanical characteristics and cathodic delamination resistance of fiber-reinforced polymer through chemical surface modification of glass fibers
Scientific Reports, Published online: 17 August 2023; doi:10.1038/s41598-023-40709-1The growth and developmental of the myodural bridge and its associated structures in the human fetus
- A new climate law in the Balearic Islands aims to protect the well-being of present and future generations
Extreme temperatures across the
have put the elderly, outdoors workers and people with no access to cool air at the greatest risk of severe heat-related illnesses or even death
Nature Communications, Published online: 17 August 2023; doi:10.1038/s41467-023-40702-2Efficient production of dopamine direct from lignin is a highly desirable target but extremely challenging. Here, we report an innovative strategy for the sustainable production of dopamine hydrochloride from softwood lignin with a mass yield of 6.4 wt.%.
Nature Communications, Published online: 17 August 2023; doi:10.1038/s41467-023-40719-7Here, Liao et al. analyze the vaginal microbiome during pregnancy, and find a unique population genetic structure associated with
State voting laws have little effect on the outcome of partisan elections in
, a new study shows.
Does requiring an ID to vote help Republicans win? What about allowing people with prior criminal convictions to cast ballots—does that favor Democrats?
For years, Democrats and Republicans in the United States have argued over state voting laws, which many believe will aid one party at the polls. The findings of the new study suggest otherwise.
“A lot of these laws generally don’t do what people are worried they’re going to do,” says Eitan Hersh, professor of political science at Tufts University and coauthor of the paper with Justin Grimmer, professor of political science at Stanford University and a senior fellow at the Hoover Institution.
“A clear implication of our analysis is to lower the temperature on election administration policies,” the researchers write.
“Lawmakers should not pass laws thinking they will help their partisan side. It won’t work and it’s a waste of time. And the media should not portray every change in an election law as a red-alert scenario that will determine future elections.”
That said, with state and national elections sometimes close to a tie, “there are incentives to change laws in the moment and help your side,” Hersh says. Legal changes that have been proposed include allowing legislatures to overturn elections and letting election boards refuse to certify election results.
Those are the kind of post-election policies “that should concern us, because you can laser target your changes to where it’s going to have a big outcome,” says Hersh. “No one should want partisan actors to be able to manipulate elections” after votes have been cast.
After the 2013 US Supreme Court case Shelby County v. Holder, which overturned a section of the 1965 Voting Rights Act, Republican-dominated legislatures in southern US states passed a number of laws requiring photo IDs to vote. The laws also sought to purge some voters from registration records. Democrats have said these laws disenfranchise many voters who would likely support Democratic candidates.
“In one of the states I worked in, state IDs like a concealed carry handgun license ID would be eligible under the voter ID law, but a student ID would not be,” says Hersh, who has testified in voter ID legal cases. Since students tend to favor Democratic candidates, while gun owners tend to vote more for Republicans, “people read intent into that kind of thing.”
But the result of voter ID laws was not what either side anticipated.
“In terms of the effect of these laws, what you see—and we have really clear data on this now—is that very few people don’t have an ID,” says Hersh. “You can’t have a job legally without an ID. You can’t drive legally. Most people have IDs, and those who don’t have IDs tend to be people who had very low participation in elections even when they were eligible. A voter ID law just doesn’t affect very many people.”
While the law affects few people, he notes that there’s “pretty good evidence that it disproportionately affects African Americans.”
That’s because “any law that disproportionately burdens people who have low education or low income levels will tend to burden African Americans out of proportion to their numbers. But overall it may help the Democratic Party, which is the preferred party of most African Americans. That’s because we’re at a point right now in American politics where most low-education, low-income voters support Republicans.”
Arguments have also been made that the effects of the voter ID laws promulgated by Republican-led legislatures have been balanced because of extra voter-turnout efforts by Democrats. But Hersh is skeptical. “We think it’s very clear that that cannot be the explanation for why these laws don’t have partisan effects,” he says.
For example, he says, in states where the electoral races are not competitive—and therefore get-out-the-vote efforts are not made—the voter ID laws’ effects are no different than in states that are competitive, where those efforts are concentrated. Plus, it’s very hard to get people out to vote.
“If you make 100 door-to-door canvas stops, out of those you might get four voters,” Hersh says. “Now, campaigns still invest in that because they want those four voters, but it’s very hard to do that. You’re down to a really small number of people that could possibly be mobilized on account of reaction to the law.”
Conviction and voting
Then there are laws that deny the right to vote for people who have been convicted of crimes—around 5 million people across nearly all states. In this case, it is more often Democratic-led legislatures that seek to overturn these laws and allow people with felony convictions to vote.
But as with other partisan voting laws, the hoped-for outcome—that the formerly disenfranchised would lean Democratic—is on shaky ground, Hersh says. “A lot of them would not vote if they were eligible, and in states where they are eligible, they’re quite balanced in their partisanship.”
In every state with disenfranchisement based on involvement with the justice system, Black people are blocked from voting at higher rates than other people, but in terms of total numbers nationally, people with former felony convictions “are two-thirds white, non-college educated men, who are a very Republican voting group. So you don’t have the outcomes that people might expect,” Hersh says.
“I personally think that once someone’s served their time, they should be able to vote,” he says. “On a moral level, I think that’s the right decision. Now, is that going to help Democrats or Republicans? In some states, as we show, it’s going to help Democrats a little bit, and in some states, it’s going to help Republicans.”
Voting by mail
Since 2020, some Republicans have argued that laws allowing voting by mail or same-day voter registration help Democrats, but according to Hersh, there’s no evidence for that, either.
“Before Trump, mail voting had basically no partisan valance,” he says. “It was passed into law by both parties. It might increase turnout by a percentage point or two, but in a balanced way. I think that is still true.”
He says that now more Democrats than Republicans are choosing to vote by mail because Republicans have been told by their party leaders that they shouldn’t vote by mail.
“But this doesn’t seem to affect participation or outcomes. It doesn’t disproportionately help one party or another. Republicans might vote more in person and less by mail, but they are not showing up at lower rates.”
Some Republican-led states have passed laws limiting voting by mail, “but the evidence is that these anti-mail vote laws don’t actually affect participation beyond a percentage point or two, and not in the way that affects partisanship,” Hersh says. “Republicans are incorrect if they say that mail voting helps Democrats, and Democrats are incorrect if they think without mail voting we don’t have democracy.”
Source: Tufts University
The post State voting laws don’t really affect election results appeared first on Futurity.
At least two advertisers have pulled out of advertising on X-formerly-Twitter after finding that their ads appeared next to posts promoting Nazism.
In a recent report, nonprofit news watchdog Media Matters for
found that ads of mainstream brands ran next to content celebrating Hitler and the Nazi Party — which shouldn't come as a surprise, considering the fast-and-loose governing of the platform by owner Elon Musk.
It's yet another sign that advertising on the platform has been an absolute mess ever since Musk took over the company last year, which is actively hurting the company's bottom line.
Last month, Musk admitted that X saw a nearly 50 percent drop in advertising revenue, which is at least in part due to the loosening of restrictions and reduction of moderation, leading to a flood of dubious and problematic content.
For instance, as Media Matters notes, X allowed an "explicitly pro-Hitler account to be active since November 2022," and "served countless ads on it," but only suspended it after the nonprofit published its report.
CNN found that affected brands include Adobe, New York University Langone Hospital, and pharmaceutical Gilead Sciences. Their ads were viewed hundreds of thousands of times while being displayed next to the fascist tweets.
Two brands — the NCTA Internet & Television Association, a prominent trade association, and Gilead — said they would immediately stop spending money on X ads following the publication of the report.
"We take the responsible placement of NCTA ads very seriously and are concerned that our post about the future of broadband technology appeared next to this highly disturbing content," an NCTA spokesperson told the broadcaster in a statement.
So where does all of this leave the financial viability of X? Yaccarino told CNBC in an interview last week that the company is "close to break-even" thanks to many advertisers returning, and that the company was committed to reducing the reach of "lawful" — read: possibly fascist — content without banning the accounts.
But whether willfully hosting Nazi content on the site will instill confidence in advertisers remains to be seen.
The post Brands Horrified When Their Twitter Ads Appear on Nazi Posts appeared first on Futurism.
Stuff aggregates. That's a lesson in drug screening for you in two words! The problem is that lot of the things that we would like to put into solution to run assays doesn't really want to be in solution all that much. They would rather stick to the sides of the container, or to each other. That goes for plenty of small molecules, and for quite a few proteins as well, even in aqueous systems. Sometimes you can see this happening – the solution gets cloudy outright, or you notice some gunk landing in the bottom of the plate well, vial, or NMR tube. But more commonly (and more insidiously) you don't see it happening at all, and you get results that are not what you think they are.
I've written about this phenomenon many times on the site, generally in a tone of warning and irritation. Too many assays over the years have had their results messed up by this behavior, and too many people have not realized that this was taking place. A big problem is that you can get both false negatives and false positives from these things – some of the aggregates can mess with your target proteins in a way that mimics inhibiting them, but not in a way that could be useful as a drug, and other times the aggregates just take the actual compounds out of the system completely and make them look like they're inactive.
As you'll see from those posts, the general recommendation is to see if you can get your assay to work with some small concentration of detergent in it, since that tends to break up some of the aggregation. But here's a new paper that suggests PEG,
, as a remedy. They have a system with an aggregation-prone test molecule (and looking at its structure, I can well believe it) whose behavior in solution they've characterized throughly by NMR, dynamic light scattering, and calorimetry. They recommend something like 10 mM PEG-8K or 20 mM PEG-4K as a balance between stabilizing the compound, not messing with the protein, and not making things too viscous.
So I'd be interested in hearing if this works out for people. We need all the help we can get with the kinds of compounds we're screening these days!
Scientific Reports, Published online: 17 August 2023; doi:10.1038/s41598-023-40289-0Vision-related quality of life in patients treated for ocular
Scientific Reports, Published online: 17 August 2023; doi:10.1038/s41598-023-40647-yCausal relationship between
Scientific Reports, Published online: 17 August 2023; doi:10.1038/s41598-023-40162-0Quantitative analysis of defect states in InGaZnO within 2 eV below the conduction band via photo-induced current transient spectroscopy
- Modern thieves also try the USB hack, which exploits a design flaw in Hyundai and Kia vehicles.
To steal cars that rely on remotes and computer networks, thieves are trading their pry bars for laptops and wireless devices
Nature Communications, Published online: 17 August 2023; doi:10.1038/s41467-023-40832-7Author Correction: Mitochondria-derived peptide SHLP2 regulates energy homeostasis through the activation of hypothalamic neurons
Nature, Published online: 17 August 2023; doi:10.1038/s41586-023-06536-0Observation of Fractionally Quantized Anomalous Hall Effect
In the first week of the fall semester in 2007, Marco Carmosino dragged himself to a math class required for all computer science majors at the University of Massachusetts, Amherst. Carmosino, a sophomore, was considering dropping out of college to design video games. Then the professor posed a simple question that would change the course of his life: How do you know math actually works?
As the Ozempic craze continues in kind, websites are now purporting to sell knockoffs of the injectable drug without a prescription — an escalation that seems both risky and shady.
The Wall Street Journal reports that it found more than 50 sites selling what they dubiously termed "pharmaceutical grade" semaglutide and tirzepatide, the active ingredients on Ozempic, Wegovy, and Mounjaro.
Ads for and on these sites, many of which are run by fitness entrepreneur types, often run promotions where customers can purchase what's being sold as semaglutide for roughly $100-200 per month. Given that a month's supply of the prescription version costs upwards of $1,350, and that insurance coverage has plummeted as the drugs gain popularity as a weight loss aid, it's no wonder some people are drawn in.
The sites, which appear to be operating beyond the purview of the Food and Drug Administration — and against social media community standards to boot — often warn that their wares are "not for human consumption" and sold only "for research purposes." But at the same time, the WSJ points out, they often provide instructions for human dosages, giving the whole thing a wink-wink vibe.
In interviews with the WSJ, people who purchased these knockoff semaglutide products said that they experienced everything from a general unease with the unregulated nature of the products to more severe adverse effects.
Amy Johnson, a bodybuilding hobbyist who has Type 1 diabetes, told the newspaper that she was ineligible for a prescription for a semaglutide injectable because her body mass index (BMI) fell under the "overweight" category. She decided to purchase the unregulated version online and things quickly went south as she developed stomach paralysis and experienced frequent vomiting within a few weeks of taking it. Soon afterward, she stopped using what she'd bought online entirely.
"I see there’s a reason it shouldn’t be sold on the black market," Johnson said. "It’s strange to me that I could find something like semaglutide so easily on the open web."
The WSJ notes that when it contacted Meta, which owns Facebook and Instagram, about the sites that appear to go against its standards, a spokesperson said that the company's "policies prohibit the advertisement of prescription drugs without the proper authorization and approval." Many of the first ads that the WSJ's reporters saw were taken down after they contacted Meta — only for others to spring up in their place, some of which advertised the same exact sites as the disappeared ads.
In a cursory Google search, Futurism also found that search engine provides sponsored results for even more unregulated semaglutide and tirzepatide, even though the company's own guidelines forbid running ads for pharmacies selling prescription drugs without a prescription.
"THIS ITEM DOES NOT COME PRE-MIXED," cautioned one site advertised on Google. "It comes in a lyophilized powder form. WE DO NOT SUPPLY BACTERIOSTATIC WATER OR SYRINGES IN ANY ORDER! THERE ARE NO REFUNDS ON THIS ITEM."
In response to questions about the ads, a Google spokesperson said the company had found them to "violate our policies" and removed them.
"Advertisers who have not completed our certification program are not allowed to promote the sale of prescription drugs," the spokesperson said. "This includes medications such as Ozempic, Wegovy, or Semaglutide."
Even properly prescribed Ozempic and Wegovy have been associated with health risks and a tendency to make people enjoy food less. With knockoffs sold online, potential issues proliferate. Are they even what they purport to be? If so, are they pure and accurate measured? Will people who buy them be able to measure and inject them safely and accurately? Will they be tempted to use unsafe doses?
Beyond the dangers of taking an unregulated drug are the social implications of such chemicals being so readily available.
Research has suggested that a staggering proportion of
women exhibit disordered eating behaviors, with many trying to lose weight regardless of whether they were overweight or not. With people already taking the drugs for weight loss purposes when they aren't overweight, it's hard to believe that easy access online won't lead to more of the same.
At the end of the day, the proliferation of dodgy online semaglutide and tirzepatide feels like the latest illustration of an old tension. Prohibition of drugs, after all, has seldom made people safer. At the same time, regulation exists for a reason — and maybe gatekeepers like the FDA, Facebook and Google shouldn't throw up their hands in the face of a lucrative new black market.
Updated with response from Google.
More on Ozempic: Scientist Behind Ozempic Warns That There's a "Price"
The post Sites Spring Up to Sell Semaglutide for Cheap With No Prescription appeared first on Futurism.
A team of scientists took a bunch of macaque monkeys, made them into alcoholics, and then successfully weaned them off the sauce after injecting their brains with a special gene — an experiment, detailed in a new paper published in Nature Medicine, that could potentially provide a compelling new treatment for addiction.
"Drinking went down to almost zero," Oregon Health and Science University professor and co-author Kathleen Grant told The Guardian. "For months on end, these animals would choose to drink water and just avoid drinking alcohol altogether."
The researchers set out with the premise that continued alcohol use causes changes to neurons and hampers the dopamine "reward circuitry" in the brain.
They took a gene for a protein known as a glial-derived neurotrophic factor — what they termed a "growth factor that enhances dopaminergic neuron function" — and inserted it into a harmless virus to act as a Trojan horse. They then plugged this gene into a part of the brain associated with rewards.
The experiment involved four hard-drinking macaque monkeys, which like some humans are predisposed to alcoholism, and then tracked their consumption.
The results were astounding: the monkeys were producing an abundance of dopamine and cut their drinking by 90 percent.
Basically, Grant told The Guardian, they went down to a reasonable one to two drinks a day from their hard-living high of eight to 10 drinks.
The treatment is particularly intriguing because it's already being tested on humans — on adults with Parkinson's disease and children with aromatic L-amino acid decarboxylase deficiency, The Guardian reports — meaning the road to clinical trials to treat alcoholism in human patients could be smooth.
"We are entering an era of gene therapy for neurological disorders and perhaps psychiatric disorders, and I think this study is very promising in that direction," Grant told The Guardian.
Combating chronic alcoholism could not only reduce attendant conditions like cancer and fatty liver disease, but also potentially reduce DWIs and cut down its negative impact on the American economy. The Center for Disease Control and Prevention estimated that drinking costs
$249 billion in 2010, largely due to binge drinking.
And these numbers have likely gotten higher since people started day drinking more during the COVID pandemic, which will lead to more sick and dead — and making research like this more timely than ever.
More on gene therapy: Gene Therapy Gives Primates Young Eyes Again
The post New Gene Therapy Dramatically
Here’s the story of the Lilli Hornig, the only female scientist named in the film Oppenheimer.
are 54% more likely to die of
than white Americans. Social factors may explain why, researchers report.
These factors include unemployment, low income, and lack of a partner rather than known factors such as hypertension and obesity.
The racial disparity holds true despite a substantial overall reduction in
“For so many years we have focused on smoking, diet, physical activity, obesity, hypertension, diabetes, and high cholesterol—and we know those are important for the prevention of cardiovascular disease—but it surprised me that the Black-white difference in cardiovascular disease mortality is mainly due to social factors,” says Jiang He, chair in epidemiology at Tulane University’s School of Public Health and Tropical Medicine and lead author of the study published in the Annals of Internal Medicine.
Using health data from more than 50,000 adults, the study examined the association between clinical risk factors (obesity, diabetes, hypertension, and high cholesterol), lifestyle risk factors (smoking, unhealthy diet, lack of exercise, and too little or too much sleep), and social risk factors (unemployment, low family income, food insecurity, low education, no regular access to health care, no private health insurance, not owning a home, and not being married nor living with a partner) with cardiovascular mortality.
When the study adjusted for age and sex, Black adults had a 54% higher cardiovascular disease mortality rate compared to white adults. That dropped to 34% and 31% after adjusting for clinical and lifestyle risk factors, respectively. But the racial difference in cardiovascular mortality completely dissipated after adjusting for social risk factors.
“When we adjusted for lifestyle and clinical risk factors, the Black-white disparity in cardiovascular disease mortality was diminished but still persisted,” He says. “However, after adjusting for social risk factors, this racial difference totally disappeared.”
This study follows another recent study which similarly found Black Americans are 59% more likely to die prematurely than white Americans. That disparity was reduced to zero after adjusting for these social factors, also called social determinants of health.
Social determinants of health, while a relatively new framework, was emphasized by the CDC’s Healthy People 2030 initiative as eight areas of life critical to health and well-being.
The findings emphasize the importance of well-paying jobs, health care access, and social support that can come from a family or tight-knit community, according to He.
Going forward, He is putting the findings into practice with a program that aims to address hypertension in New Orleans’ Black communities by partnering with local churches to provide health screening training and free medication.
“It is essential to develop novel community-based interventions for reducing cardiovascular disease risk in Black populations,” He says.
Source: Tulane University
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“Thinking ecologically about global warming requires a kind of mental upgrade,” Timothy Morton, the environmental philosopher, has written, “to cope with something that is so big and so powerful that until now we had no real word for it.” In 2008, Morton tried to invent one: hyperobject. The term doesn’t necessarily connote a value judgment, that this enormous thing is good or bad, but simply that in its hugeness it is inescapable, like air. To wrap one’s mind around the idea of a hyperobject is to accept that we, humans, “can’t jump out of the universe.” And according to Morton, being able to acknowledge the scale of a phenomenon as all-encompassing as, say, climate change, to name it, might be the first step toward actually doing something about it.
Hyperobjects abound in our globalized world: the internet, fast fashion, microplastics—things that cannot easily be measured using a single metric. A character in Lydia Kiesling’s new novel, Mobility, tries to explain the concept and lands on this: “It’s something so big and sticky with so many parts that it can’t be seen, something that touches so many other things.” Something, another character offers, like the oil industry.
It’s 2014, and Bunny Glenn, Kiesling’s protagonist is building a career in that very industry, though not without some moral squeamishness. For her, the hyperobject is personal; she feels compelled to defend her involvement in a system that she knows is a major driver of climate change. “I work for the non-oil part of it, the part that is moving away from oil,” she rushes to clarify, stretching the truth.
Some readers might reflexively judge Bunny for her complicity; surely her choice to drive a Prius to work can’t offset the impact of her company’s decades of fossil-fuel exploration—what’s referred to as “upstream” in oil-industry parlance. But what about downstream, a category, Bunny knows, that includes “plastics and face lotion and basically everything you might ever buy in a supermarket or Target or Neiman Marcus or Walmart, everything they would stick in your arm in a hospital or use to listen to your heart”? Plenty of well-meaning people insist, like Bunny, that they’re trying to move away from oil. Virtually no one in the developed world, Kiesling reminds us, is not complicit in some way. Perhaps the line between culpability and innocence, this novel suggests, is blurrier than the average liberal reader might like to imagine.
That liberal reader might in fact be Kiesling’s target audience. This book is the first to be released under an imprint created by Crooked Media, the wildly popular Trump-era resistance-podcast franchise. (The publisher, Zando, also has an Atlantic line of books.) A tagline on the new imprint’s website—“Reading: it’s not just for tweets anymore”—doesn’t inspire much confidence. You’d be forgiven for wondering if Mobility is more political screed than art.
Kiesling, however, has pulled off a rare feat: a deeply serious, deeply political novel that is, quite often, fun to read. It’s a coming-of-age story full of delicious detail, keen satire, and complex humanity. It’s informative without being didactic, thoughtfully confronting subjects such as climate change and American imperialism and gender inequality and white flight without taking itself too seriously. Kiesling is not in the business of preaching to the already converted—she’s here to hold up a mirror to her readers, and to make anyone who cracks this book open squirm a little.
And why not? “We need philosophy and art to help guide us, while the way we think about things gets upgraded,” Timothy Morton wrote in 2015. Perhaps the novel is as good a tool as any for helping us think about the ways a hyperobject such as the oil industry touches our lives and what we do—or don’t do—about it.
We first encounter Bunny as a bored American teenager in Baku, the oil-rich capital of Azerbaijan, where her father works for the U.S. embassy as a public-information officer, selling the idea of America. It’s the summer of 1998, and Bunny passes long, hot, lonely days fantasizing about boys, watching soap operas with the family’s kindly upstairs neighbor, reading and rereading a handful of English-language magazines and books; her British Cosmopolitan is “dog-eared to denote the women Bunny one day hoped to resemble and the products she one day hoped to buy.” Yet she’s generally uncurious about what is happening around her just then, keeping “the world of grown-ups, the world of work”—in her case, the world of the embassy—at an arm’s length. She knows enough, but not too much, and prefers it that way. “There had been a war between Armenia and Azerbaijan, Bunny knew,” Kiesling tells us. “It was sort of ongoing, she thought, and she tended not to listen when it was spoken of.”
Bunny’s also aware, in a hazy way, that “oil was the big thing about where they lived now”—the reason for so much Western interest in post-Soviet Azerbaijan. Exxon has sponsored the first-ever Azeri-English dictionary, “which sat in the middle of the Glenns’ embassy-assigned coffee table, mostly unconsulted by her, along with a photo book called Azerbaijan: Land of Fire, which carried the logos of Statoil and BP.” For her part, Bunny is more interested in reading articles such as “8 Ways to Heat Up the Summer.”
Introducing Bunny as an angsty teenager is an inspired move. The moody, self-centered fog of adolescence is, after all, a fitting proxy for the state of willful semi-ignorance that can become the default when contemplating the climate crisis. A majority of
see the warming world as a threat. But it’s tempting to throw up one’s hands and wonder, what can be done, really? Can’t the grown-ups solve the problem? It’s comforting, even in adulthood, to cling to innocence, to continue to make reckless choices and believe, on some level, that the fairy tales of glossy magazines may yet prove real.
Most of us grow up eventually though, or at least we like to think we do. In Bunny, Kiesling has drawn a character who seems stuck in that teenagerdom even as she ages. The novel follows her into the 21st century, as she stumbles into young adulthood. Desperate for a job, any job, at the depths of the recession in 2009, Bunny applies to a temp agency called ManPower and winds up in the all-female administrative pool of a hydrogeologic engineering firm. Before long she’s become the girl Friday for one of the company’s owners, who takes Bunny with him when he leaves to start a new, technology-focused wing of his father-in-law’s oil business. “At first most of it would probably be oil and gas tech, drilling,” he tells Bunny, promising that “over time, it would invest in other kinds of technology, renewables, batteries, clean energy.” Thus begins her career in the oil industry.
Bunny can’t help but be attracted to oil’s vaguely glamorous aura—in her childhood, in booming Baku, oil was sexy, exciting. Now, in Houston, it’s wealth and power and a means to affording the life she envisions for herself. Somehow, the moving away from oil part of the deal always remains just out of reach. Tellingly still going by her childhood nickname into her 30s, Bunny admires specialized knowledge and expertise but doesn’t always feel herself capable of possessing it—or maybe she just can’t be bothered. She reads books to learn more about the industry and takes a course called “Managing the Firm in the Global Economy,” but she still finds it “very confusing.” She’s not dumb, exactly, just more comfortable dwelling on the surface of things.
When her brother’s girlfriend, a Swedish socialist, laments that “oil companies and their friends in politics” are “the biggest obstacles” to meaningful climate action, Bunny doesn’t disagree, but she’s not willing to concede that her own actions may be part of the problem. “I get how these companies are looking out for themselves,” she replies, before abdicating responsibility. “I don’t know a lot about this stuff. I just think that we have this huge system that’s already in place. I don’t know; it’s like our dad … He didn’t always like whoever the president was, but he worked to do what he could at the job.”
What Bunny can do, she eventually decides, is devote herself to “the ‘women in energy’ stuff” that’s emerging in the 2010s, corporate America’s Lean In era. This “stuff” is ripe for parody, and some of the novel’s most enjoyable, and illuminating, provocations emerge when Kiesling sends Bunny to talks with names such as “Storytelling Oil and Gas,” where speakers celebrate “diversity” and promote networking opportunities “to bring together the amazing women of this industry, the women literally powering our world.” Bunny tells herself that this is progress.
Bunny’s father, for his part, resigns from a decades-long foreign-service career when Donald Trump becomes president. (Kiesling’s own father, John Brady Kiesling, is a former diplomat who resigned his post in the lead-up to the Iraq War; the protagonist of her first novel, The Golden State, is also a diplomat’s daughter.) But instead of quitting oil and gas, Bunny, like the industry itself—which insists on being called “energy” now—rebrands. She finally decides to use her real name, Elizabeth, when, in her late 30s, she takes on the title of “director of outreach and communications” at an “energy solutions” firm. Her new job is all about perfecting the appearance of things, telling the right story—including “commissioning, editing, and posting YouTube videos of oilfield workers and support staff lip-syncing to Pharrell’s ‘Happy’ and dancing at a project site.” Once again, it’s vibes over matter: Clap along if you feel like happiness is the truth!
Near the end of the novel, on a trip back to Baku, going through “the streets she had roamed as a teenager looking for tampons and perfume and listening to Dave Matthews,” Bunny, now Elizabeth, reflects on just how far she’s come. “In her small way Elizabeth had become knowledgeable,” Kiesling writes, “although the scale of the oil complex still escaped her. But now, rather than trying to understand the hyperobject, she let it wash over her, focused on her own projects.”
If Mobility is a morality tale about a person who chooses blindness over sight, what lesson should we take from it? What kind of future awaits us if we, like Bunny, choose to live in ignorance and then spin into a good story all that we can’t control? Widespread destruction, for one thing. In 2017, Bunny is out of town when Hurricane Harvey ravages Texas. But when the state floods again, just two years later, she can’t exempt herself from the fallout. Her late grandmother’s home in Beaumont, where her mother has been living, is destroyed, the family’s heirlooms and souvenirs and photos “lying in meaningless, miscegenated rubble.” Bunny weeps. Then she mines the tragedy for content, later telling the story onstage at an industry event to demonstrate her “personal stake in the energy transition.”
Bunny maintains her faith that there is nothing, still, that a neat narrative can’t fix. “Her mother had hated this house anyway,” she thinks. “They would have to see this as a blessing.” She eventually migrates to Portland, Oregon, where, “if you had money, the charming old houses could be retrofitted tastefully” to withstand longer smoky seasons, wetter winters, hotter summers. Laid off after she has her only child, Bunny begins “applying her fluency to securing the house, thinking about their individual energy future,” her gaze firmly averted from the hyperobject.
But the point of Morton’s concept of the hyperobject is to label an ungovernable, overwhelming reality, and in doing so tame it enough to look it squarely in the eye. If we don’t, Kiesling suggests, we are part of the problem, whether or not we’ve devoted our careers to oil production. Bunny, with her stories and her privilege, can’t avoid the dangers of the world she’s helped create forever—and neither, this novel implies, will anyone else.
In a final, brief section set in 2051, as Bunny awaits the birth of her first grandchild, we get an unsettling glimpse of what that world might look like. Kiesling doesn’t offer reassurance, or absolution. We are left, instead, with a deep sense of foreboding. Ignoring the hyperobject is no longer an option.
Here’s the story of the Lilli Hornig, the only female scientist named in the film Oppenheimer.
- We’ve recently launched two new e-mails you might like.
Nature, Published online: 16 August 2023; doi:10.1038/d41586-023-02629-yScientists can eavesdrop on the music people are listening to by analysing their brain waves. Plus, how to make business and finance genuinely sustainable, and what it would take to answer the century’s biggest computing questions.
Nature Communications, Published online: 17 August 2023; doi:10.1038/s41467-023-40778-wAdaptation to toxins in agricultural pests is often caused by increased expression of detoxification genes. Here, the authors reveal that variation in a family of transcriptional regulators facilitates rapid evolution to diverse pesticides and host plants.
Nature Communications, Published online: 17 August 2023; doi:10.1038/s41467-023-40578-2How cancer cells develop and emerge has long been a matter of debate. Here, the authors reveal a crucial role of ATR-PrimPol in enabling precancerous cells to survive KRASinduced replication stress and expand clonally with genomic instability.
For a wild few hours on Tuesday evening, a bizarre Bank of
glitch allowed customers to withdraw up to 1,000 euros, or roughly $1,090 in US dollars, from their bank accounts, The New York Times reports — even if their accounts didn't have that much cash to begin with — without their account balances changing.
So, in other words: free money!
Well, for a little while, at least. In their official statement, the bank described the glitch as a "technical issue," adding that the error was corrected overnight, per the NYT.
The bank also warned customers that any withdrawals made during the time of the glitch would later be posted to their accounts.
But according to the report, those warnings didn't stop eager crowds of customers from lining up at ATMs around the island, with crowds growing so large that local police were dispatched to monitor the "unusual volume of activity."
The bank has since issued a statement urging "any customer who may find themselves in financial difficulty due to overdrawing on their account" to contact the institution.
In short, it was fun while it lasted.
Per the NYT, Irish Finance Minister Michael McGrath has asked the bank to provide a full account of what went wrong. After all, according to Reuters, the Bank of Ireland is the largest lender by assets in the country; if an institution like this is exposed to software malfunctions, it stands to reason that a different "technical issue" could wind up hurting a lot of people — possibly on a national level.
"Disruption to banking services can have a significant effect on people's personal lives and on the running of businesses," McGrath told the NYT in a statement, adding that Ireland's "growing dependence on technology for the delivery of financial services" is cause enough for a review of those services' robustness.
For its part, the bank isn't taking the situation lightly, writing in an X-formerly-Twitter post that it "fell far below the standards our customers expect from us."
Although, one could argue that giving out free money is going above and beyond customers' expectations.
Nevertheless, maybe let this be a friendly reminder that all technology — even the stuff that's embedded into our essential financial structures — can fail.
The post Bank Accidentally Lets People Withdraw Money From ATMs Even If They Don’t Have Any appeared first on Futurism.
When criminal behavior overlaps with degenerative cognitive disease, the justice system often falters
Scientists have decoded the genetic makeup of Akkermansia, a gut bacterium that could help manage cholesterol levels.
Akkermansia thrives in the mucus layer of the intestine and has a knack for breaking down a type of sugary protein called mucin. This unique skill could be important for our health.
When Akkermansia is present in the right amounts, it’s associated with better metabolic and immune health. That’s why some scientists are exploring it as a probiotic. They have faced difficulty manipulating its genes in the lab, though, which hampered understanding how the bacterium operates and how it might affect our health.
In a study published in Nature Microbiology, Duke University scientists, along with colleagues at the University of California Berkeley, describe their efforts to genetically engineer Akkermansia.
Their work is the first to provide a detailed look at the bacterium’s genetic composition and how it degrades mucins to grow and settle in the gut.
The team, led by senior study author Raphael Valdivia, was able to track how the bacterium consumes mucin, revealing that it binds to the bacterial cell surface and is moved into compartments within the cell in a carefully controlled process.
The researchers used a variety of techniques including high throughput transposon mutagenesis, comparative genomics, and transcriptomics to identify several Akkermansia genes essential for growth and colonization of the gut.
These genes encode proteins that help the bacterium to consume mucin, produce fatty acids, and regulate metabolism.
“For a long time, we could not manipulate the genome of Akkermansia to understand what the function of its many genes are,” says Valdivia, professor and chair of the department of integrative immunobiology at the Duke University School of Medicine and member of the Duke Microbiome Center.
“Most of the information within Akkermansia genome is unknown,” he says. “It is only when you have the ability to knock each gene out individually and look at what the outcome is, that you can begin to understand how it grows, what kind of metabolites it makes, and how they may impact us.”
In animal studies, the team showed that Akkermansia can reduce the activity of genes involved in creating cholesterol in the gut, but only when it consumes mucins. This suggests that Akkermansia establishes a close relationship with us, in which we feed it mucins and they in turn help us manage cholesterol synthesis.
A buildup of cholesterol can lead to heart disease, stroke, and other metabolic diseases.
“A major contribution of this study is the development of protocols and tools for sequencing Akkermansia—a potential candidate to prevent metabolic disorders,” writes Federico Rey, a professor of bacteriology at University of Wisconsin-Madison, in a research briefing published in the journal. “There’s an astonishing amount of interesting and actionable data.”
Looking ahead, researchers aim to capitalize on their findings by using the bacterium as a platform for vaccine design and delving deeper into the bacterium’s link with the nervous system and neurodegenerative disorders, such as ALS.
However, the bacterium is not without its challenges. Its propensity to thin the mucus barrier could also lead to gut inflammation.
“While Akkermansia has immense potential, it’s about finding the right balance if we are to exploit its beneficial effects,” says Valdivia.
The team is studying how to engineer the microbe to minimize these risks while maximizing its therapeutic potential.
Like most things with gut health, d