aerial view of a shore with algae

DAILY DOSE: Chinese scientist supposed to be Covid-patient-zero says its ridiculous; Microalgae not the fossil fuel alternative we banked on, unfortunately.

The Office of the Director of National Intelligence (ODNI) released declassified information on COVID-19 origins. Despite speculation about sick researchers at the Wuhan Institute of Virology (WIV) potentially being the virus’s initial victims, ODNI’s report was not entirely conclusive. It acknowledged that some WIV staff were ill in fall 2019 with symptoms akin to COVID-19 but did not confirm any hospitalizations. Notably, three scientists, Hu, Yu Ping, and Zhu Yan, working in Shi Zhengli’s lab, which specializes in bat coronaviruses, have been the focus of media scrutiny due to the “gain-of-function” research conducted. The origins of the virus remain contentious, with an October 2021 ODNI assessment revealing split opinions among intelligence agencies between natural origin and lab-leak hypotheses. The report’s release follows a law enacted in March demanding ODNI declassify COVID-19 origin documents within 90 days. (Science)

Recent research has raised doubts over the viability of biodiesel derived from microalgae as an environmentally friendly alternative to fossil fuels. The study, conducted by Decerna, a UK-based low-carbon economy consultancy, found that the energy required in the production process exceeded the energy output of the biofuel. Additionally, the infrastructure and electricity necessary for the large-scale cultivation and processing of microalgae offset any environmental benefits from using the biofuel. The authors, however, acknowledged that changes in production methods, such as using natural light and less energy-intensive processes, could potentially improve the viability of microalgae-based diesel. The study’s conclusions align with the recent decision of Exxon to withdraw from its significant investments in algae research. (Hakai Magazine)

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A decade-long study involving over 500,000 women in England revealed a dramatic decrease in the risk of death following a breast cancer diagnosis since the 1990s. The research, led by University of Oxford oncologist Carolyn Taylor, demonstrated a reduction in the five-year mortality risk from 14.4% for women diagnosed in 1993–99 to 4.9% for those diagnosed in 2010–15. The decrease spanned almost all age groups, irrespective of whether the cancer was identified through screening. The exact reasons for this drop remain unclear, with increased awareness, improved screening, and more effective treatments all potentially contributing factors. Funded by Cancer Research UK, the study emphasized the importance of tracking treatment outcomes to inform future research, funding, and patient decisions. (Nature)

Scientists have discovered that the gene expression in astronauts’ white blood cells changes significantly upon reaching the International Space Station (ISS), possibly causing increased susceptibility to infections. A study led by Dr. Odette Laneuville of the University of Ottawa, and funded by the Canadian Space Agency, monitored gene expression in 14 astronauts from 2015 to 2019. Two clusters of genes, mostly related to immune functions and cellular structures, were found to alter their expression patterns upon reaching space and returning to Earth, which may cause a rapid decrease in immune system strength. Most genes returned to their pre-flight expression levels within weeks to a year after returning to Earth, suggesting that gravity plays a role in optimal immune system functioning. The team believes this change in gene expression may be triggered by the “fluid shift” phenomenon experienced in microgravity. The findings will aid in the design of measures to prevent immune suppression in space. (Frontiers In Blog)

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

WORDS: The Biology Guy. (@thebiologyguy)

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