DAILY DOSE: James Webb Telescope is open for business; Pig heart successfully transplanted into a human.


It’s official, sort of. The James Webb Space Telescope is open for business. Per Nature, “After several tense days of unfurling and clicking its various parts into place, the biggest and most sophisticated space telescope ever launched is now complete. On 8 January, NASA’s James Webb Space Telescope slowly swung the last 3 of its 18 hexagonal mirror segments into position, locking them together into one 6.5-metre-wide, gold-coated cosmic eye. The move capped an essentially flawless two weeks of engineering manoeuvres — the most complex astronomical deployments ever attempted in space — since the telescope’s Christmas Day launch.” The telescope’s potential is massive, making the pain-staking process of nudging it towards completely operational status feel like it’s taking ages. (That’s excitement talking, and not a criticism.) https://go.nature.com/33lLPzG


The United States keeps breaking its own ignominious record for daily Covid-19 infections with gusto. Per Reuters, “The United States reported 1.35 million new coronavirus infections on Monday, according to a Reuters tally, the highest daily total for any country in the world as the spread of the highly contagious Omicron variant showed no signs of slowing. The previous record was 1.03 million cases on Jan. 3. A large number of cases are reported each Monday due to many states not reporting over the weekend. The seven-day average for new cases has tripled in two weeks to over 700,000 new infections a day.” The coronavirus pandemic has definitely not been America’s finest day or week or month. It’s been a terrible two years… and counting. That whole American exceptionalism thing looks more absurd with each infection. Any realistic look at the U.S. response to Covid-19 can only call it humbling. https://reut.rs/3K17Kgr


Beijing’s strict zero-Covid policy continues to provide head-scratching examples of overzealous public health decision making. Per the Associated Press, “A third Chinese city has locked down its residents because of a COVID-19 outbreak, raising the number confined to their homes in China to about 20 million people. The lockdown of Anyang, home to 5.5 million people, was announced late Monday after two cases of the omicron variant were reported. Residents are not allowed to go out and stores have been ordered shut except those selling necessities. Another 13 million people have been locked down in Xi’an for nearly three weeks, and 1.1 million more in Yuzhou for more than a week. It wasn’t clear how long the lockdown of Anyang would last, as it was announced as a measure to facilitate mass testing of residents, which is standard procedure in China’s strategy of identifying and isolating infected people as quickly as possible.” Two cases. One lockdown. 5.5 million people. Surely there must be a more targeted way of dealing with Covid-19 cases. https://bit.ly/3Fhcxqx


Ever late to the dance, the world’s global public health leader has announced that more research needs to be done regarding how the Omicron variant is affected by current vaccines. Per Reuters, “The World Health Organization said on Tuesday more research is needed to find out if existing COVID-19 vaccines provide adequate protection against the highly contagious Omicron variant, even as manufacturers develop next generation shots. The global health agency’s latest technical brief aims to answer some of the big outstanding questions about the heavily mutated variant which first emerged in November, such as on severity, transmissibility and ability to evade vaccines. It also fixes priorities for its member states.” https://reut.rs/3zMWm2S


For the first time ever, a pig heart has been successfully transplanted into a human without the latter’s body rejecting it. Per FierceBiotech, “According to University of Maryland Medicine, Bennett has end-stage heart disease and opted into the experimental treatment after exhausting his other options. Three days after the eight-hour procedure, though he remained on a heart-lung bypass machine, Bennett’s body appeared to be responding well to the porcine heart, his doctors reported… The procedure required some ‘clever plastic surgery’ because of the ‘squirrelly’ anatomical challenges that come with placing a pig organ into a human body, Griffith said, but once connected to Bennett’s blood supply, ‘the heart fired right up.’” The global shortage in transplantable organs has made procedures like this very important. https://bit.ly/339bkVc

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

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