The Daily Dose: AstraZeneca’s worst enemy is AstraZeneca; Mind-controlled devices inch closer to reality.

Anglo-Swiss pharmaceutical giant AstraZeneca has become the industry titan that can’t seem to get out of its own way. In the latest installment of the company’s COVID-19 vaccine saga, questions have arisen questioning some of the data that had been submitted to the U.S. FDA during efficacy trials. This forced the company’s hand. Per Reuters, “AstraZeneca will publish up-to-date results from its latest COVID-19 vaccine trial within 48 hours after U.S. health officials said the drugmaker’s analysis of the shot’s efficacy may not have been based on all the available data. The rare public rebuke marks the latest setback for the vaccine which was hailed as a milestone in the fight against the COVID-19 pandemic but has since been dogged by questions over its effectiveness and possible side effects.” By all counts, the vaccine is still hugely effective. Experts cite this as a perfect example of releasing data via press release. Needless to say, it’s damaging own goal, providing more fuel to the vaccine hesitancy fire.

For a deeper look into the AstraZeneca saga, STAT does its usual bang-up job.

There’s an ongoing struggle between science journals and scientific paper mills. This has caused a flood of retractions from venerable institutions such as the Royal Chemical Society and Nature. Per Nature, “Much of this literature cleaning has come about because, last year, outside sleuths publicly flagged papers that they think came from paper mills owing to their suspiciously similar features. Collectively, the lists of flagged papers total more than 1,000 studies, the analysis shows. Editors are so concerned by the issue that last September, the Committee on Publication Ethics (COPE), a publisher-advisory body in London, held a forum dedicated to discussing ‘systematic manipulation of the publishing process via paper mills’. Their guest speaker was Elisabeth Bik, a research-integrity analyst in California known for her skill in spotting duplicated images in papers, and one of the sleuths who posts their concerns about paper mills online.”

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Researchers are reporting a definite step toward the tomorrow of our science fiction dreams. According to Science, “The most advanced mind-controlled devices being tested in humans rely on tiny wires inserted into the brain. Now researchers have paved the way for a less invasive option. They’ve used ultrasound imaging to predict a monkey’s intended eye or hand movements—information that could generate commands for a robotic arm or computer cursor. If the approach can be improved, it may offer people who are paralyzed a new means of controlling prostheses without equipment that penetrates the brain.” If you consider the way everything’s going wireless, its bit hard to extend the idea toward mind-controlled devices for the mass market.

Giraffes have been something of an evolutionary mystery. Their long necks and bones grow faster than other animals. In order to gain more insight, researchers decoded more of the giraffe’s genome than previously. They then narrowed down the genome to roughly 500 genes specific to the animal. Taking things still further, they identified a single gene they believe is of particular interest. According to The Scientist, “Within those hundreds of genes, FGFRL1 stood out. In addition to being the giraffe’s most divergent gene from other ruminants’, its seven amino acid substitutions are unique to giraffes. In humans, this gene appears to be involved in cardiovascular development and bone growth, leading the researchers to hypothesize that it might also play a role in the giraffe’s unique adaptations to a highly vertical life.”

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

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