DAILY DOSE: Henrietta Lacks honored with a statue then her family sues Thermo Fisher.

The next round of Nobel Prizes in the scientific fields has been announced. The awards are a nod to climate science. Per Nature, “Three researchers have won the 2021 Nobel Prize in Physics for their work on describing complex physical systems — including foundational research that created a pioneering mathematical model of Earth’s climate and predicted that increasing levels of carbon dioxide in Earth’s atmosphere would raise global temperatures. Syukuro Manabe and Klaus Hasselmann share half of the 10-million-Swedish-kronor (US$1.15-million) prize for this modelling. Theoretical physicist Giorgio Parisi at the Sapienza University of Rome receives the other half for his contributions to the theory of complex systems. His work has affected many areas, from neuroscience to how granular materials pack, the Nobel committee said in its announcement on 5 October.” https://go.nature.com/3Fmv467

The coronavirus responsible for Covid-19 continues to confound scientists at every level. This time, it has to do with vaccines and their ability to diminish the transmission of the virus to others. According to Nature, “The first study to look directly at how well vaccines prevent the spread of the Delta variant of SARS-CoV-2 brings good news and bad. The study shows that people who become infected with the Delta variant are less likely to pass the virus to their close contacts if they have already had a COVID-19 vaccine than if they haven’t1. But that protective effect is relatively small, and dwindles alarmingly at three months after the receipt of the second shot.” What does this mean? Facemasks. https://go.nature.com/3FgUGRI

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One of the great injustices in the history of science (and there’s a laundry list of them) continues to be the acquisition and propagation of the HeLa cell lines which are ubiquitous in labs around the world. The woman whom the cell line was taken has been honored in the United Kingdom. Per the Evening Standard, “The statue of Henrietta Lacks made history as it was installed in the UK on Monday. It marked the major milestone of the first public sculpture of a black woman made by a black woman in the UK. Bristol-based artist Helen Wilson-Roe was the mastermind behind the statue. It marked the 70th anniversary of Ms Lacks’ death at Royal Fort House in Bristol.” Small consolation for Lacks and her descendants, it must be said. https://bit.ly/3FcYd3o

Just to prove that the Lacks family continues to hold members of the scientific community responsible for the injustice done to Henrietta Lacks, news broke that they were suing a major corporation for damages. Per The Scientist, “Attorneys representing the family of Henrietta Lacks, a Black woman whose cells were cloned, mass produced, and widely used for research after being removed from a tumor on her cervix without her knowledge in 1951, have filed a lawsuit against one of the companies that commercialized the cell line. In the suit, filed today (October 4), they argue that pharmaceutical giant Thermo Fisher Scientific continued to derive commercial benefit from so-called HeLa cells, which have been used in tens of thousands of scientific and medical studies, long after their unethical origins became known.”. Good for them. https://bit.ly/2WIo5CS

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Space, space, space. That’s all you hear these days. Major space powers are flexing whatever muscles they have and then announcing it to anyone who’ll listen. The United States and China have been particularly vocal of late. Now, a well publicized space mission is reminding the world that Russia remains a pioneer and power in space exploration. Per the Associated Press, “A Russian actor and a film director rocketed to space Tuesday on a mission to make the world’s first movie in orbit, a project the Kremlin said will help burnish the nation’s space glory. Actor Yulia Peresild and director Klim Shipenko blasted off for the International Space Station in a Russian Soyuz spacecraft together with cosmonaut Anton Shkaplerov, a veteran of three space missions. Their Soyuz MS-19 lifted off as scheduled at 1:55 p.m. (0855 GMT) from the Russian space launch facility in Baikonur, Kazakhstan and arrived at the station after about 3½ hours.” Hopefully, Space Race 2.0 results in something more longlastig than the original. We all know what happened after humans made it to the moon. https://bit.ly/3lauAI7

Modern humans like to think that what we do and experience is unique to our place and time. Much of it is. Obviously, ancient Egyptians didn’t have the Internet. That said, there are so many things still in use today that are thousands of years old, skis being one of them. A recent study established that a pair of skis discovered in Scandinavian ice are the oldest yet. Per Science, “In 2014, Norwegian archaeologists found a lone wooden ski on a mountaintop, where it had been trapped in ice for 1300 years. The ski was well preserved, down to an intact binding made from birch rope and leather straps. Because skis come in pairs, archaeologists monitored the ice patch for summertime thaws that might reveal the other one. Seven years later, their patience has paid off: In late September, a team found the second ski (pictured), 187 centimeters long and 17 centimeters wide, partially embedded in melting ice just 5 meters away from the first find spot.” The find makes this the best preserved prehistoric pair of skis on record, the scientists announced today. Ski fragments and rock art depicting skis have been found dating as far back as 6000 B.C.E., but never with intact bindings that show how the skis were used. https://bit.ly/2Ys6K1V

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

IMAGE CREDIT: Doc. RNDr. Josef Reischig, CSc.

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