The Daily Dose: Moth wings provide sonic camouflage; To egg or not to egg?

The spike protein of SARS-CoV-2 plays the central role in infection of healthy cells. During the evolution of SARS-CoV-2 a D614G substitution emerged and became the predominant circulating variant (S-614G). A paper in Nature pinned down the role the mutation has played in the pandemic. “Collectively, our data show that while the S-614G substitution results in subtle increases in binding and replication in vitro, it provides a real competitive advantage in vivo, particularly during the transmission bottle neck, providing an explanation for the global predominance of S-614G variant among the SARS-CoV-2 viruses currently circulating.” And now for the plethora of variants in circulation.

On the heels of Johnson & Johnson’s COVID-19 vaccine winning FDA approval, the next candidate will likely come at the end of April. Per Fierce, “Novavax is targeting a second-quarter FDA filing for emergency use of its COVID-19 vaccine. The goal suggests the U.S. could join the U.K. on the list of countries to authorize the vaccine in the first half of the year. The success of the vaccine in a 15,000-subject U.K. phase 3 clinical trial gives Novavax a clear path to a positive decision by the Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency (MHRA). However, the lack of data from another phase 3 trial that only recently completed enrolling 30,000 subjects in the U.S. and Mexico makes the route to a FDA OK less clear.” With more and more vaccine becoming available, hopefully the U.S. can begin to share the wealth a little more.

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The U.S. National Institutes of Health is the latest institution to own up to the systemic racism rampant in its system. Per Science, “Responding to concerns about discrimination against Black people, National Institutes of Health (NIH) Director Francis Collins today issued an unusual public apology for what he called ‘structural racism in biomedical research’ and pledged to address it with a sweeping set of actions… Although some observers welcomed NIH’s plans, first described Friday at a meeting of Collins’s Advisory Committee to the Director (ACD), critics fault the agency for not more directly addressing funding disparities between Black and white scientists.” It’s a start but there’s still miles to go. Words are just words.

To egg or not to egg? That’s been the health question for as long as I can remember. Some studies say yes, others say no way. A recent study in PLOS Medicine joins the fray. “In this study, intakes of eggs and cholesterol were associated with higher all-cause, CVD, and cancer mortality. The increased mortality associated with egg consumption was largely influenced by cholesterol intake. Our findings suggest limiting cholesterol intake and replacing whole eggs with egg whites/substitutes or other alternative protein sources for facilitating cardiovascular health and long-term survival.” Pretty clear but is anyone keeping tally of the yeas and nays?

Nature never ceases to amaze. Bats and moths have been engaged in a perpetual arms race with the former wanting to eat and the latter wanting to survive. A study published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences demonstrates how scales on some moth’s wings serve as sonic camouflage. According to the authors, “Metamaterials assemble multiple subwavelength elements to create structures with extraordinary physical properties (1⇓⇓–4). Optical metamaterials are rare in nature and no natural acoustic metamaterials are known. Here, we reveal that the intricate scale layer on moth wings forms a metamaterial ultrasound absorber (peak absorption = 72% of sound intensity at 78 kHz) that is 111 times thinner than the longest absorbed wavelength. Their collective absorption exceeds the sum of their individual contributions. This sound absorber provides moth wings with acoustic camouflage (6) against echolocating bats.” Amazing stuff. How can anyone not love Nature’s ingenuity?

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

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