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DAILY DOSE: Experimental HIV drug clears 97% of virus; Physicists create a wormhole using a quantum computer.


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An HIV vaccine has been the Holy Grail for almost half a century. An experimental proof-of-concept drug has produced stunning results. According to a study published in Science,

Each year, more than 1 million new HIV infections occur, highlighting the need for effective HIV vaccines. Vaccine strategies that induce broadly neutralizing antibodies (bnAbs) have promise to combat HIV and other pathogens but have not yet been tested in humans. Leggat et al. report the results of a phase 1 clinical trial showing that a germline-targeting priming immunogen was safe and feasible and induced targeted bnAb-precursor responses in 97% of vaccine recipients at substantial frequencies in each individual (see the Perspective by Moore). bnAb-precursor responses made favorable gains in mutation and affinity after a booster vaccination. The results establish proof of principle for this reductionist vaccine approach and encourage the development of additional boosters to induce bnAbs.

This is an incredible development. Once upon a time, HIV infection resulted in 100% mortality.

The future is almost now when it comes to boundary-pushing human-machine interfaces, in particular brain implants. Twitter’s controversial new owner’s other company, Neuralink is poised to begin testing its technology in people as soon as they receive the green light from the F.D.A. Per the Associated Press,

Tech billionaire Elon Musk said his Neuralink company is seeking permission to test its brain implant in people soon.

In a “show and tell” presentation livestreamed Wednesday night, Musk said his team is in the process of asking U.S. regulators to allow them to test the device. He said he thinks the company should be able to put the implant in a human brain as part of a clinical trial in about six months, though that timeline is far from certain.

Musk’s Neuralink is one of many groups working on linking brains to computers, efforts aimed at helping treat brain disorders, overcoming brain injuries and other applications.

The field dates back to the 1960s, said Rajesh Rao, co-director of the Center for Neurotechnology at the University of Washington. “But it really took off in the 90s. And more recently we’ve seen lots of advances, especially in the area of communication brain computer interfaces.

Neuralink hasn’t invented the technologies employed in its device but it has been able to effectively bring various advances together into one functional product.

In today’s installment of real-life sci-fi, scientists have created a wormhole using quantum computers. Per Nature,

Physicists have used a quantum computer to perform a new kind of quantum teleportation, the ability of quantum states to be transported between distant places, as though information could travel instantly. Although teleportation is an established technique in quantum technology, the purpose of the latest experiment was to simulate the behaviour of a passage called a ‘wormhole’ through a virtual universe.

The researchers behind the experiment, described in Nature on 30 November1, say that it is a step towards using ordinary quantum physics to explore ideas about abstract universes where gravity and quantum mechanics seem to work harmoniously together. Quantum computers could help to develop a quantum theory of gravity in these ‘toy’ universes (developing a quantum theory of gravity for our own Universe is one of the biggest open questions in physics). “It’s a test of quantum-gravity ideas on a real lab experimental testbed,” says Maria Spiropulu, a particle physicist at the California Institute of Technology who led the study.

The promise of quantum computers is immense. Wish they were developed to the point of being so widely available that they are on the consumer market.

Sometimes, the amount of information available to the masses makes it feel like most of what needs to be known is known. This is particularly true about the animal world. There’s no shortage of animal shows on television that are so authoritative that they give the impression that discoveries have become far and few between. Nothing could be further from the truth. A recent study investigated the biodiversity of Madagascar. Their findings are eye-opening. Per Science,

We highlight humid forests as centers of diversity and endemism because of their role as refugia and centers of recent and rapid radiations. However, the distinct endemism of other areas, such as the grassland-woodland mosaic of the Central Highlands and the spiny forest of the southwest, is also biologically important despite lower species richness. The documented uses of Malagasy biodiversity are manifold, with much potential for the uncovering of new useful traits for food, medicine, and climate mitigation. The data presented here showcase Madagascar as a unique “living laboratory” for our understanding of evolution and the complex interactions between people and nature. The gathering and analysis of biodiversity data must continue and accelerate if we are to fully understand and safeguard this unique subset of Earth’s biodiversity.

The amount of biodiversity on that island is really incredible.

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


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