DAILY DOSE: Lab grown meat clears USDA hurdle with chicken approval; Paris offers a glimpse into the flying-car future.

Cultivated meat companies Upside Foods and Good Meat, a subsidiary of Eat Just, have been granted approval by the US Department of Agriculture (USDA) to produce and sell their lab-grown chicken in the US. The development, marking a significant milestone in the cultivated meat industry, follows prior regulatory approval from the Food and Drug Administration (FDA). Cultivated meat, known for being a more sustainable and humane option, is grown in vats similar to those in beer breweries. Good Meat has previously sold its products in Singapore and is planning a partnership with chef José Andrés to launch in a Washington, DC restaurant. Meanwhile, Upside Foods aims to introduce its product at Bar Crenn, a San Francisco restaurant, and intends to expand to other restaurants and supermarkets in the future. (CNN)

New research shows that traveling in the microgravity environment of space affects the human body by reducing the activity of genes in white blood cells (leukocytes) that are crucial to the immune system. The study involved 14 astronauts who spent between 4.5 to 6.5 months on the International Space Station (ISS). Results revealed that gene expression in leukocytes decreased significantly in space but returned to normal shortly after returning to Earth. This offers an explanation for astronauts’ increased susceptibility to infections during space travel. The altered gene behavior might be caused by a phenomenon called “fluid shift” that happens in space due to the absence of Earth’s gravity. This research is a significant step towards understanding immune dysregulation in space. The study builds on previous research showing astronauts experience various health issues in space, such as bone and muscle atrophy, cardiovascular changes, and increased cancer risk from greater radiation exposure. (Reuters)

Global agricultural policies are failing to adequately protect biodiversity. Often, these policies focus narrowly on local effects rather than their overall impacts, causing significant conservation issues. Some popular conservation approaches, like land sharing and organic farming, provide limited benefits and can increase food imports, impacting wildlife overseas. Both have limitations and may not help the most endangered species. Another concept, “land sparing,” involves combining high-yield farming with protected habitat areas. Research suggests land sparing could result in larger populations of most wild species, without displacing production overseas. However, this approach is not widely adopted, largely due to political and economic factors, and an overly local focus in environmental policy. Policymakers are urged to utilize available modelling tools to better understand the broad impacts of their decisions, and apply an evidence-based approach to reconcile agriculture with conservation. (Nature)

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In 2015, the Islamic State group devastated the ancient Assyrian city of Nimrud in Iraq, destroying almost 3000-year-old historical structures and artifacts. Amid the ruins, researchers have recently discovered previously unknown fragments of a large stone monument dedicated to Ishtar, the Mesopotamian goddess of love and war. The artifacts, which show Ishtar with an influential Assyrian king, Ashurnasirpal II, were found in a reconstructed Temple of Ishtar, inside the former capital of the ancient Assyrian Empire. One particular fragment depicts Ishtar inside a star, symbolizing her aspect associated with Venus, marking the first known representation of Ishtar Sharrat-niphi. The find forms part of a larger effort to salvage and protect Nimrud’s remains from natural elements and potential looters, in hopes of restoring Iraq’s long-standing cultural heritage. (Science)

A team of archaeologists has discovered an ancient Maya city, named “Ocomtún”, deep in the jungle of Campeche State, Mexico. The site, believed to have been an important population center between 250 CE and 900 CE, spans 125 acres within the Balamkú ecological reserve. The University of Houston’s National Center for Airborne Laser Mapping used a LiDAR laser scan to chart the area, revealing ruins on an elevated hilltop. The Slovenian-led team found multiple pyramids, a ball court, squares, courtyards, a road, and a large acropolis. Stone cylinders thought to be used in entryways were also found, and some structures were thought to be markets or communal ritual spaces. Shrines built with materials from surrounding buildings could indicate population changes relating to the city’s decline, adding to the debate over the collapse of the Ancient Maya civilization. (Hyperallergic)

The aviation industry is preparing for the advent of electrically-powered flying taxis, with the Paris region planning to launch a small fleet during the 2024 Olympic and Paralympic Games. German firm Volocopter is aiming to be the first to fly taxis commercially, pending European regulatory approval. However, several challenges remain for this nascent industry. Current battery technology limits range and passenger capacity, and advances in airspace management are required to prevent crashes with drones and other aircraft. The goal is to deploy these electric vertical take-off and landing aircraft (eVTOLs) in cities and on niche luxury routes in the coming decade, starting on existing helicopter routes. Meanwhile, skepticism exists among some aviation analysts about the feasibility of eVTOLs becoming affordable and convenient alternatives to ride-hailing in the near future. Despite these concerns, proponents of the technology remain optimistic about its potential to revolutionize urban transit. (Associated Press)

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

WORDS: The Biology Guy. (@thebiologyguy)

IMAGE CREDIT: Volocopter.

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