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DAILY DOSE: More promising news regarding Omicron; The Amish have a gene protecting them from heart disease.


There’s good news on the Covid-19 vaccine front. Early tests suggest that the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine is probably still effective against the Omicron variant. Per STAT, “People who have received two doses of the Pfizer-BioNTech Covid-19 vaccine are likely susceptible to infection from the Omicron variant of the coronavirus, but a third shot restores antibody activity against the virus, the companies said Wednesday… Their findings are based on lab experiments using the blood of people who have received the vaccine. In a press release, the companies reported a 25-fold reduction on average in the levels of neutralizing antibody activity against the Omicron variant in people who had received two doses of their Covid-19 vaccine. But they also found that blood, or sera, from people who had received boosters ‘neutralized the Omicron variant to levels that are comparable to those observed’ for the original form of the coronavirus that the vaccine was based on, with neutralizing antibody levels increased 25-fold by a third shot.” Coupled with anecdotal reports that Omicron may be a bit milder than the other variants, things are looking more promising than it did when the new variant was first observed. https://bit.ly/31Ch8pi


Sometimes, there are good genes and there are really good genes. A recent study of the Amish community and cardiovascular disease suggests that they’ve got a case of the latter. Per The Scientist, “A gene variant initially uncovered in the genomes of people belonging to the Old Order Amish has been linked in a new study to lower levels of fibrinogen (a blood clotting factor) and low-density lipoprotein (LDL) cholesterol—both of which, when elevated, increase a person’s risk of developing cardiovascular disease. The work, published today (December 2) in Science, not only connects a missense mutation in the enzyme-coding gene beta-1,4-galactosyltransferase 1 (B4GALT1) with heart health in humans, but confirms the link in mice.” Guess, sometimes that small gene pool can have its advantages. https://bit.ly/31zi4em

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As medical visits shifts out of the clinic and into the virtual world, technology that can monitor specific conditions from the comforts of a person’s home are becoming increasingly important. Soon, it may be possible for doctors to monitor glaucoma from a distance thanks to Opthalmic Science. Per FierceBiotech, “The Israeli startup has developed a device that uses artificial intelligence to measure intraocular pressure, which it claims is the first AI-based, completely contact-free tool for measuring eye fluid pressure. Unveiled this week, IOPerfect applies controlled air pressure to the eyes while embedded cameras capture the internal and external eye blood vessels’ response to the pressure. Those findings are then analyzed by Ophthalmic Sciences’ AI algorithms to allow for remote diagnosis and monitoring of glaucoma. The entire test takes less than two minutes from start to finish.” You gotta love technology. https://bit.ly/33gwikR


Forget space tourists spending a few minutes in zero gravity in lower earth orbit. The latest space tourist has boarded the International Space Station. Per the Associated Press, “A Japanese billionaire and his producer rocketed to space on Wednesday and reached the International Space Station several hours later, the first visit by self-paying space tourists to the orbiting outpost in more than a decade. Fashion tycoon Yusaku Maezawa and producer Yozo Hirano, who plans to film his mission, blasted off for the International Space Station in a Russian Soyuz spacecraft along with Russian cosmonaut Alexander Misurkin. The trio lifted off as scheduled at 12:38 p.m. (0738 GMT) aboard Soyuz MS-20 from the Russia-leased Baikonur launch facility in Kazakhstan and successfully docked at the orbiting outpost almost six hours later.” Maezawa’s time on the ISS better qualifies as tourism, if you ask us. https://bit.ly/31LcIwh


The weather has done significant damage to coffee crops in Central America. According to Reuters, “This year has been particularly ruinous, according to interviews with about a dozen farmers across the region, the heads of one regional and three national coffee institutes plus an executive at a U.S.-based international coffee association. Farmers who had been racking up losses and debts for several years from falling world prices and the loss of business to Brazil, have now been swamped by a devastating resurgence of ‘Roya’, or coffee leaf rust disease. The fungal pathogen has been revived by the intense humidity brought by the hurricanes Eta and Iota which ripped through Central America in late 2020, destroying crops and displacing hundreds of thousands of people.” A spike in coffee prices would be in keeping with the inflation-riddled 2021. Unfortunately, it should carry into 2022. https://reut.rs/3lO83k9

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

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