The Daily Dose: Growing excitement around Zhurong rover’s possible targets.

With China’s Mars rover safe and sound near the northern pole of Mars, scientists are beginning to get a better feel for the possible locations for the rover to visit. It’s got them very excited. Per Nature, “Now that they know the general landing location of China’s Zhurong Mars rover, scientists are rushing to analyse satellite images and geological maps to pinpoint intriguing features. Of particular significance is a possible mud volcano — a type of landform that no Mars rover has visited before. ‘We want to propose the plan for the rover,’ says Xiao Long, a planetary geologist at the China University of Geosciences in Wuhan, who says scientists across China will now have the tantalizing opportunity to influence Zhurong’s journey.” The mud volcano is significant because on Earth, they are responsible to a significant amount of methane due to the activity of bacteria. If the same is true for Mars, it could explain the odd amount of methane discovered in the upper atmosphere.

Bad news continues to come out of India’s COVID-19 outbreak. This time, the grim milestone involves fatalities. Per the Associated Press, “India on Wednesday reported more coronavirus deaths in a single day than any other country at any time during the pandemic, while infections continued to spread through vast rural areas with weak health systems. The Health Ministry reported a record 4,529 deaths in the past 24 hours, driving India’s confirmed fatalities to 283,248. It also reported 267,334 new infections, as daily cases remained below 300,000 for the third consecutive day. The numbers are almost certainly undercounts.” Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s approval ratings continue to nosedive as a result of his handling of the country’s second wave of infections.

The first time gene therapy was used on a patient, the attempt resulted in a tragic death and a field recoiling from shaken confidence. Now, for the first time in a very long time, scientists are trying their hand again, hoping that time, increased knowledge, and better tools will make the difference. So far, their hopes are holding up. “The small, ongoing trial for ornithine transcarbamylase (OTC) deficiency, sponsored by the company Ultragenyx, hasn’t helped everyone with the inherited disease, which causes dangerously high ammonia levels in the blood and affects an estimated one in 50,000 people. Still, there have been no serious safety problems. Many of the 11 participants have been able to relax dietary restrictions and drop medications, including three who no longer need those measures at all, researchers reported last week at the virtual meeting of the American Society of Gene & Cell Therapy (ASGCT).” People born with OTC deficiency lack an enzyme needed to turn excess nitrogen from protein into urea. This leads to the buildup of ammonia, which can cause coma, brain damage, and death.

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People have suspected working too hard can kill you. Now, researchers have established that that is indeed the case. Per the BBC, “In a paper published 17 May, authors from institutions including the World Health Organization (WHO) and the International Labour Organization (ILO) suggest that, each year, three-quarters of a million people are dying from ischaemic heart disease and stroke, due to working long hours. (Ischaemic heart disease, also known as coronary heart disease, involves narrowed arteries. Choi’s SCAD is different from conventional ischaemic heart disease, but stress and high blood pressure are major factors in both.)” With the COVID-19 pandemic destroying any semblance of work-home separation, the study represents an ominous warning.

Nature giveth and Nature taketh. An iconic feature in the Galapagos Islands has crumbled into the sea. According to Al-Jazeera, “Darwin’s Arch, a famed natural rock formation in the Galapagos Islands, has collapsed into the sea as a result of erosion, Ecuadorean environmental officials said. Photographs posted on social media by Ecuador’s Environment Ministry showed rubble from the top of the arch had crumbled into the ocean with the two supporting columns still standing.” The 43-metre (141-feet) high rock formation, named for British naturalist Charles Darwin, stands at the northernmost tip of the Galapagos Islands and is a popular spot for scuba divers.” Once a part of nearby Darwin’s Island, the arch is famed for the variety of its underwater life, including schools of hammerhead sharks.

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

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