The Daily Dose: AI face recognition still falls short; Another patient possibly cured of HIV

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Everyone is familiar with the vast gaping hole that separates the the promise of artificial intelligence with the reality of it. Just the other day, I asked Siri how to spell lepidopterist and it heard “How do I spell to the podiatrist?” Things get even worse when it comes to AI identifying objects or faces. An article in the Gradient compares Deep Neural Networks and the human capacity to discern objects. The author asks, “Given these apparent similarities, many questions arise: How similar are human and machine vision really? Can we understand human vision by studying machine vision? Or the other way round: Can we gain insights from human vision to improve machine vision? All these questions motivate the comparison of these two intriguing systems.”

Scientists are studying another probably case of a person being cured of HIV infection, this time in Brazil. As per Science, “After receiving an especially aggressive combination of antiretroviral (ARV) drugs and nicotinamide (vitamin B3), the man, who asks to be referred to as the São Paulo Patient to protect his privacy, went off all HIV treatment in March 2019 and has not had the virus return to his blood.” Both previous cures involved expensive blood transfers due to cancer treatments. The case of the São Paulo Patient is the first cure resulting from a specific HIV treatment.

Houston, Texas is one of the many American cities feeling the steady crush of new COVID-19 patients thanks to lax, anti-science policies adopted by its politicians. The Associated Press spent a day at a local hospital that is beginning to buckle under the strain. They report that “Nearly 80% of the state’s hospital beds are in use, and intensive care units are filling up in some of the nation’s biggest cities, including San Antonio and Houston, where leaders are warning their health facilities could become overwhelmed in the coming days. In all, Texas has recorded more than 2,670 deaths and more than 200,000 confirmed cases of the virus.” Some reports are suggesting that the city is now past it’s peak.

Even as African countries move to reopen their sputtering economies from COVID-19 lockdowns, doubts remain as to whether it’s the most prudent thing to do. Making matters more complicated, the continent lacks the proper data to even begin a rational approach to the process. It’s not a new phenomenon. As per Reuters, “The shortage of reliable data afflicts many African nations, with some governments reluctant to acknowledge epidemics or to expose their crumbling health systems to outside scrutiny. Other nations simply cannot carry out significant testing because they are so ravaged by poverty and conflict.” It’s a problem that has no immediate resolution and that can have tragic consequences.

The different ways SARS-COV-2 affects the human body continues to grow. It’s been no secret that it can affect the brain. The question was to what extent. Now, researchers are reporting that in some cases, extensive brain damage is possible. As per Reuters, “A study by researchers at University College London (UCL)described 43 cases of patients with COVID-19 who suffered either temporary brain dysfunction, strokes, nerve damage or other serious brain effects. The research adds to recent studies which also found the disease can damage the brain.”

The immune system fights off foreign invaders in human bodies. We know that. However, new research published in Nature indicates that other, non-immune system cells also play a role. Specifically, scientists found evidence that fibroblast, epithelial and endothelial cells — structural elements — help guide the host’s immune response. As per Nature, “Krausgruber et al. report a multi-organ examination of gene-expression programs for such structural cells in mice, revealing the roles of these cells in signalling networks used for defence purposes. The authors found that the response of structural cells to external invaders is regulated and tailored to the particular organ in question.”

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