THE DAILY DOSE: Osiris-Rex performs an interplanetary stick-and-move.

NASA’s Osiris-Rex has performed its interplanetary stick and move with a distant asteroid successfully. According to the Associated Press, “Confirmation came from the Osiris-Rex spacecraft as it made contact with the surface of the asteroid Bennu more than 200 million miles away. But it could be a week before scientists know how much, if much of anything, was grabbed and whether another try will be needed. If successful, Osiris-Rex will return the samples in 2023.” The American space agency has really been firing on all cylinders of late.

Since the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic, experts have worried that the tally of deaths has been undercounted. A new study by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control further supports that concern. Per STAT, “Now, in the most updated count to date, researchers at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention have found that nearly 300,000 more people in the United States died from late January to early October this year compared the average number of people who died in recent years. Just two-thirds of those deaths were counted as Covid-19 fatalities, highlighting how the official U.S. death count — now standing at about 220,000 — is not fully inclusive.” Long after the COVID-19 pandemic recedes (we hope), a true picture of COVID-19 morbidity and mortality will be debated.

A recent study outlines non-medical factors that can be used to predict mortality among adults. According to the paper published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, “We demonstrate that, in addition to the well-established behavioral risk factors of smoking, alcohol abuse, and lack of physical activity, economic (e.g., recent financial difficulties, unemployment history), social (e.g., childhood adversity, divorce history), and psychological (e.g., negative affectivity) factors were also among the strongest predictors of mortality among older American adults.”

The War on Drugs has had a long, complicated, and destructive history. While it has certainly come down from its peak during the 1980s and early 1990s, some policies remain. With the opioid crisis still raging and drugs like methamphetamine a constant in certain communities, the War on Drugs continues to harm low-income neighborhoods. An article in the American Scientist argues for the War on Drugs’ abolition. “As jurisdictions across the nation are considering how to activate their communities to address social justice disparities, more attention must be given to the data that show what may have been the single most influential factor in the exponential growth of a militarized, excessively penal, and discriminatory criminal justice system: the War on Drugs.” It’s been a failure. Why continue destroying lives?

Scientists interested in bringing extinct animals like the wooly mammoth back to life have met with moderate success, although what they’re reviving are essentially biological estimations. Things get a bit trickier when it comes to bringing birds back into existence. As a result, researchers have turned to a technique called cultured germ cell transmission that has been used to propagate genetically-modified chickens. But even that technique is far from ideal. Per The Scientist, “While the technique works well in chickens, current cell culture media do not support wild bird primordial germ cells (PGCs), the precursors to sperm and egg. PGCs ferry genetic sequences into a host so they can be passed down through generations. Revive & Restore, an organization weaving biotechnologies into wildlife conservation and backing much of the research into de-extinction, has made it a priority to develop such media. It would enable the large-scale amplification of wild bird PGCs, perhaps including those of endangered birds, and offer a platform for gene modification that could help return extinct species to life.” It’s only a matter of time until technology catches up with de-extinction objectives.

Thanks for reading. Let’s be careful out there.

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