DAILY DOSE: Darwin’s stolen notebooks mysteriously returned; Beijing struggles with Shanghai outbreak.

BAD NEWS FROM SHANGHAI.

Shanghai continues to contain its largely Omicron-driven outbreak. Per the Associated Press, “The COVID-19 outbreak in China’s largest metropolis of Shanghai remains ‘extremely grim’ amid an ongoing lockdown confining around 26 million people to their homes, a city official said Tuesday. Director of Shanghai’s working group on epidemic control, Gu Honghui, was quoted by state media as saying that the outbreak in the city was ‘still running at a high level.’… China has sent more than 10,000 health workers from around the country to aid the city, including 2,000 from the military, and is mass testing residents, some of whom have been locked down for weeks. Most of eastern Shanghai, which was supposed to reopen last Friday, remained locked down along with the western half of the city.” https://bit.ly/3LNXOXx


IT’S NOT ALL BAD THOUGH.

In some better news, Shanghai officials are now allowing parents to stay with Covid infected children rather than separating them. https://bit.ly/37lfcE6 In addition, a startling number of the city’s infections are asymptomatic, stumping public health experts.


DECIPHERING SEVERE COVID-19 ONSET.

Recent studies have shed light on the causes of severe Covid-19 as well as the immune cells most likely responsible for triggering respiratory distress. Per Nature, “Immune cells infected with SARS-CoV-2 can trigger a massive inflammatory response that contributes to severe COVID-19, suggest two papers — one published today in Nature, and a preprint posted online on 1 April. Since the early days of the pandemic, research has suggested that inflammation leads to significant respiratory distress and other organ damage, hallmarks of severe COVID-19. But scientists have struggled to pinpoint what triggers the inflammation. The latest studies implicate two types of white blood cells — macrophages in the lungs, and monocytes in the blood — which, once infected with the virus, trigger the inflammation. The studies also provide conclusive evidence that the virus can infect and replicate in immune cells — and reveal how it enters those cells. Evidence of such infections has been mixed until now.” https://go.nature.com/3KfFMxj


CASE OF CRYING WOLF?

It feels like the United Nations is constantly issuing dire climate change reports. The latest one stressed that if the world is going to effectively address climate change, the world needs to start making moves now and not later. Per Reuters, “Drastic cuts to fossil fuel use. Growing forests and eating less meat. These are just some of the actions needed in this decade to contain global warming to 1.5 degrees Celsius above preindustrial temperatures, a major report by the U.N. climate science agency said Monday.” It’s really difficult to speculate on how effective these reports are. https://reut.rs/3DJvsv1


SEVERE WEATHER CRIPPLING ENERGY INFRASTRUCTURE.

Severe weather events appear to be taking a toll on America’s aging energy infrastructure. Per the Associated Press, “Power outages from severe weather have doubled over the past two decades across the U.S., as a warming climate stirs more destructive storms that cripple broad segments of the nation’s aging electrical grid, according to an Associated Press analysis of government data. Forty states are experiencing longer outages — and the problem is most acute in regions seeing more extreme weather, U.S. Department of Energy data shows. The blackouts can be harmful and even deadly for the elderly, disabled and other vulnerable communities. Power grid maintenance expenses are skyrocketing as utilities upgrade decades-old transmission lines and equipment. And that means customers who are hit with more frequent and longer weather outages also are paying more for electricity.” Maybe the lack of electricity can convince some people that climate change is real and needs to be addressed immediately? Doubt it. https://bit.ly/3uTtX9s


HAS COVID-19 CHANGED BIOTECH FOR GOOD?

Fierce Biotech has taken a look at how Covid-19 has changed the biotech/pharmaceutical industry. According to the article, “COVID-19 is shifting to an endemic disease, and life is getting back to whatever this new normal will be. But for biotech, the pandemic made for Earth-shattering disruptions that will have a long-lasting impact on drug development timelines—and bottom lines. The pandemic turned R&D on its head as many biopharmas rushed to develop therapeutics and vaccines to varying levels of success. See Pfizer, BioNTech and Moderna for the upside of that, and Inovio, CytoDyn and many, many more for the flip side. But clinical trials were also rocked in ways no one could have imagined. Not all of this was bad. For instance, we’re seeing an explosion in decentralized clinical trials that has had the positive side effect of boosting diversity in studies as well.” The non-healthcare related effects of the pandemic continue to grow. Historians will have a ball analyzing the historic event. https://bit.ly/3r6s6wX


A PLANET IS BORN.

There are all sorts of strange things in the universe that are being discovered all the time. The latest one is a massive blob in a galaxy far, far away that appears to be an exoplanet in the process of formation. Per Science, “Using the Subaru Telescope and the Hubble Space Telescope, the team zoomed in on a bright blob in one of the spiral arms of AB Aurigae’s disk. It could simply be a denser part of the disk that scatters more starlight, but Currie says the nature of the light indicates it’s illuminated from within by a protoplanet still glowing hot from formation, the team reports today in Nature Astronomy. The blob’s large size—bigger than the distance between the Sun and Earth (1 astronomical unit, or AU)—shows it’s still shrouded in gas, inflating its apparent size. The proposed planet, dubbed AB Aurigae b, is estimated to be nine times Jupiter’s mass and very distant from its star, three times farther than Neptune is from the Sun. ‘The nice variety of data sets support the reality of the source, which might in fact be a forming giant planet embedded in the AB Aurigae disk,’ says Aki Roberge of NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center, who was not involved in the study.” https://bit.ly/38q6ncJ


WELCOME BACK.

Now for some great – but really mysterious – news. The so-called Transmutation Notebooks belonging to Charles Darwin has reappeared safe and sound. Per The Guardian, “The plot was worthy of a Dan Brown thriller – two Charles Darwin manuscripts worth millions of pounds reported as stolen from Cambridge University library after being missing for two decades. The disappearance prompted a worldwide appeal with the help of the local police force and Interpol. Now, in a peculiar twist, the notebooks – one of which contains Darwin’s seminal 1837 Tree of Life Sketch – have been anonymously returned in a pink gift bag, with a typed note on an envelope wishing a happy Easter to the librarian. The bag was left on the floor of a public area of the library outside the librarian’s office on the fourth floor of the 17-storey building on 9 March, in an area not covered by CCTV. Who left them and where they had been remains a mystery.” There is something serious not right there… Something is missing, no pun intended. https://bit.ly/3x84HyU

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


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