photo of moon hologram floating on water near people inside room

DAILY DOSE: Is the moon about to become a massive billboard?; The era of psychedelic therapy is here.

If anyone ever harbored dreams that space would remain pristine, uncommercialized, unexploited territory, that vision is dying faster than you can say lunar landing. In fact, the floodgates may be less than a week from splintering into pieces. Per Nature,

“The Moon is about to get some visitors — and it won’t be the usual suspects.

As early as 25 April, the Tokyo-based firm ispace will attempt to become the first private company to land successfully on the lunar surface. If the spacecraft touches down safely, it will deliver rovers from the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency and from the United Arab Emirates to the Moon.

That would mark the start of a new era in lunar exploration. A series of commercial missions to Earth’s closest neighbour are set to launch this year as part of a wave of projects by various companies and countries.

“A lot of people are looking at this optimistically, as the beginning of the furthering of expansion into space,” says Stephen Indyk, director of space systems at Honeybee Robotics in Greenbelt, Maryland, who chairs a commercial advisory board for a NASA lunar-science advisory committee…

One day, a swarm of these mini-rovers could roam across the lunar surface, harvesting water and minerals for space explorers, says Medina Tanco, an astrophysicist at the National Autonomous University of Mexico in Mexico City, who leads the project. “The future is there,” he says. “You can consider the Moon a new economy.”

How long till we look up and see the moon turned into a massive billboard?

Meanwhile, here on planet Earth, temperatures continue to rise, particularly in the Global South. Per The Guardian,

A severe heatwave has swept across much of Asia, causing deaths and school closures in India and record-breaking temperatures in China.

Maximiliano Herrera, a climatologist and weather historian, described the unusually high temperatures as the “worst April heatwave in Asian history”.

In China, local media reported that record temperatures for April had been observed in many locations, including Chengdu, Zhejiang, Nanjing, Hangzhou and other areas of the Yangtze River delta region.

Unusually hot temperatures have also been reported in south-east Asia, including in Luang Prabang, Laos, which recorded 42.7C this week, the highest reliable temperature in its history, according to Herrera. In Thailand, the meteorological department said temperatures reached 44.6C in Tak province on Sunday – matching the previous record reached in Mae Hong Son on 28 April 2016. It is predicted that temperatures could reach 45C this week.

In Bangladesh, temperatures got so hot in the capital, Dhaka that road surfaces started to melt, according reports.

Targeted cancer vaccines received a boost from a recent study. Per Science,

A novel cancer vaccine tailored to genetic changes in a person’s tumor is showing promise in the clinic. In a study of about 150 people who had surgery for melanoma, a type of skin cancer, those given a personalized vaccine along with an immunotherapy drug were more likely to remain free of cancer 18 months later than patients who did not receive the vaccine.

The results, reported today at the annual meeting of the American Association for Cancer Research (AACR), offer the first clear evidence that a vaccine designed to target mutations within a patient’s tumor can prevent its regrowth. That would be a milestone for the cancer vaccine field, which has struggled for decades to show results. It could also add to a growing arsenal of drugs, known as immunotherapies, that harness the immune system to fight cancer. “I was really, really excited to see these data,” says Patrick Ott of the Dana-Farber Cancer Institute, who works on similar vaccines. Although small, the new study is “a very exciting first step,” says cancer vaccine researcher Nina Bhardwaj of the Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai.

Cancer vaccines aim to teach the immune system’s T cells to attack a tumor by exposing them to a protein, or antigen, that pokes out from a cancer cell. But most vaccines so far haven’t worked well because the same antigens found on tumors also appear on normal cells.

This is positive news, particularly considering where immunotherapy used to be in the pecking order. If only things could move a little faster…

Another day, another erratic Elon Musk-dictated change to Twitter’s transgender policies. Per the Associated Press,

Twitter has quietly removed a policy against the “targeted misgendering or deadnaming of transgender individuals,” raising concerns that the Elon Musk-owned platform is becoming less safe for marginalized groups.

Twitter enacted the policy against deadnaming, or using a transgender person’s name before they transitioned, as well as purposefully using the wrong gender for someone as a form of harassment, in 2018.

On Monday, Twitter also said it will only put warning labels on some tweets that are “potentially” in violation of its rules against hateful conduct. Previously, the tweets were removed.

It was in this policy update that Twitter appears to have deleted the line against deadnaming from its rules.

Twitter is as Twitter does.

If advances in immunotherapy has moved at a glacial pace, the adoption of psychedelics in therapy settings is right there with it. Things appear to be on the verge of turning the proverbial corner. Per Science,

For Rick Doblin, 2023 could be a landmark year: the year that the US government decides whether it will allow the use of hallucinogenic drugs to treat mental illness.

Doblin, who is based in Belmont, Massachusetts, is the founder and president of the non-profit organization Multidisciplinary Association for Psychedelic Studies (MAPS). He has spent nearly 40 years researching whether the experience produced by the psychedelic drug MDMA — also called ecstasy or molly — can help people with post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). In 2021, MAPS’s phase III clinical trial of 90 people with PTSD found that those who received MDMA coupled with psychotherapy were twice as likely to recover from the condition as were those who received psychotherapy with a placebo1 (see ‘Response to MDMA therapy’).

MAPS has now completed a second, larger trial that it says has also produced positive results. After that study is published in the coming months, MAPS plans to ask the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) to approve the drug as a legal treatment for PTSD, probably by October. FDA approval would mark a turning point for psychedelic drugs, which have long been illegal and thus difficult to study. With MAPS nearing the finish line, Doblin is optimistic that things will go smoothly. “I don’t think there’ll be tricky questions or anything, the results are great,” he says.

This shift towards taking psychedelic therapy seriously is happening outside the United States as well. In February, Australia approved MDMA as a treatment for PTSD, although the drug will remain highly restricted. Doblin and others hope that the changing attitudes will open the door for other therapeutic psychedelics, including ketamine, ayahuasca, LSD (acid), psilocybin (the active ingredient in magic mushrooms) and many synthetic chemicals currently in development. One analysis has projected that the psychedelics market could be worth more than US$8 billion by 2028.

The harmful stigma placed on psychedelics – for reasons too various to address here – has been difficult to shake and people have suffered for it. Under proper and controlled circumstances, drugs like MDMA can change lives.

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


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