anonymous person imitating terrible monster behind window

DAILY DOSE: Pfizer agrees to generic form of Covid-19 therapy pill; Discovery about fear that’s made for movies.


The global push to make the Covid-19 pandemic a thing of the past made another important, but tentative, step forward. In this case, the broad distribution and accessibility of a potential therapy is the cause for some optimism. According to the Associated Press, “Drugmaker Pfizer Inc. has signed a deal with a U.N.-backed group to allow other manufacturers to make its experimental COVID-19 pill, a move that could make the treatment available to more than half of the world’s population. In a statement issued Tuesday, Pfizer said it would grant a license for the antiviral pill to the Geneva-based Medicines Patent Pool, which would let generic drug companies produce the pill for use in 95 countries, making up about 53% of the world’s population. The deal excludes some large countries that have suffered devastating coronavirus outbreaks. For example, while a Brazilian drug company could get a license to make the pill for export to other countries, the medicine could not be made generically for use in Brazil.” While the fine print makes things a little confusing, increased production and access can only be a good thing in the long run. Right?


People are all too familiar with the extra weight extended lockdowns has put on our bones. A study in the United Kingdom found that children were particularly affected. Per the Guardian, “Thousands of children are facing ‘serious’ and even ‘devastating’ consequences as a result of weight gain during the pandemic, experts warn, as “alarming” figures reveal one in four 10- and 11-year-olds in England are obese. Health leaders are calling for a “relentless drive” to boost child health as official NHS data lays bare for the first time how child obesity levels have soared during lockdowns. The National Childhood Measurement Programme, which measures obesity prevalence among school-age pupils in reception class and year 6, found obesity levels rocketed in both year groups by more than 4 percentage points between 2019-20 and 2020-21.” Hopefully, the return to some semblance of normalcy will also let kids work off the extra weight.

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Abortion is a tricky issue. Obviously. It’s hard to see how the scientific community can play a role in the debate, regardless of which side they assume. That said, an editorial in Nature by Diana Greene Foster presents ways in which researchers can actually take part in the debate from a scientific POV. According to Foster, “There is much more science to be done on abortion access. What is the impact of gestational limits? Who crosses borders to get care? What information, support and services help people to use abortion medications safely, especially for the two in five women living in countries where abortion is restricted? What factors prevent people from recognizing pregnancy and seeking abortions earlier? When a topic is controversial, the challenges to research increase. Stigma causes substantial under-reporting in national surveys and makes recruiting study participants difficult. Many funders fear the attention of abortion opponents or worry that supporting research is a political act. But the more controversial a topic is, the more important it is that decisions are informed by rigorous evidence.”


Scientists have made a discovery about the connection between carbon dioxide and fear that is tailor made for horror movies or serial killer series. According to the FrontiersIn Blog, “Mice who inhale CO2 within hours after forming a new fearful memory show more distress when subsequently prompted to retrieve the memory. This memory-strengthening effect of CO2 requires a functional ASIC1A gene in the mouse brain. The effect is time-dependent, unique to CO2, and specific to only certain types of memories, such as fearful sound cues or environmental contexts. Memories of a different type, such as remembering familiar objects, are weakened rather than strengthened by CO2. The inhalation of carbon dioxide (CO2) by mice a few hours after they formed a new fearful memory makes that memory stronger, so that the mice show more distress when they are prompted to ‘retrieve’ (ie, recall) it. That is the conclusion of a recent in FrontiersIn Behavioral Neuroscience by neuroscientists from the University of Iowa, US. The authors also show that the memory-strengthening effect of CO2 only occurs when the gene acid-sensing ion channel-1a (ASIC1A) is functional in the mouse brain.” The fictional potential of this real world discovery is endless.


Speaking of discoveries, the Hubble Telescope provided the world with stunning images of far-away stars and galaxies. With a new improved version of a space telescope set to be launched into space, anticipation is growing. Per Science, “When the James Webb Space Telescope launches in December, with a 6.5-meter mirror that would tower over Galileo himself, it will open views of the universe’s first stars and galaxies, probe the atmospheres of planets around other stars—and launch another revolution. ‘James Webb will blow the lid off everything,’ says exoplanet hunter Sasha Hinkley of the University of Exeter. Webb’s mirror has more than five times the light-gathering power of the 31-year-old Hubble Space Telescope. Unlike Hubble, Webb will work in the infrared, allowing it to see the heavily ‘redshifted’ light of distant objects and peer through clouds of obscuring dust. It will also be able to sift exoplanet atmospheres for gases whose infrared fingerprints are mostly off-limits to ground-based observatories.” Until better space travel options are available, improved instruments like the Webb Telescope is as close as we’ll get to visiting the far reaches of the universe.

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

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