DAILY DOSE: Flooding turns deadly in China; Scientists engineer a virgin birth in the lab.

Heavy rainfall from the remnants of Typhoon Doksuri has transformed roads into rivers in Beijing and its western suburbs, killing at least two people and trapping hundreds despite tens of thousands being evacuated from their homes. Record rainfall, averaging 176.9mm with the highest at a station in Mentougou reaching 580.9mm, caused flooding across the capital, affecting 358 roads and resulting in over 200 cancelled flights and 600 delayed. Nearby regions, including Tianjin and Hebei province, were also inundated. Approximately 55,000 people were evacuated from Baoding city after some houses were washed into the Yongding River. The weekend’s storm was one of China’s strongest in years, leading to widespread flooding and displacement of people. Authorities warn of further potential damage from the approaching Typhoon Khanun, particularly to crops already affected by Doksuri. (Channel News Asia)

Groundbreaking Alzheimer’s treatments that remove the toxic protein beta amyloid may benefit white individuals more than Black Americans, whose disease may be influenced by different factors, Alzheimer’s experts suggest. The drugs in question, Leqembi by Eisai and Biogen, and Eli Lilly’s experimental treatment donanemab, represent significant advancements in the battle against Alzheimer’s. However, Black and Hispanic individuals were excluded at higher rates from the trials due to lower levels of amyloid. This is despite these groups experiencing dementia at higher rates than white people. The disparity has prompted speculation that dementia in these populations could be due to factors other than Alzheimer’s or that the disease presents differently. Biological markers, like amyloid, are increasingly used in Alzheimer’s detection. However, some tests may perform differently among Black and white patients. Research is ongoing to understand the different drivers of Alzheimer’s among diverse populations. (Reuters)

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For the first time, scientists have induced ‘virgin birth’ or parthenogenesis in animals that normally require a male to reproduce. The team at the University of Cambridge identified genes involved in parthenogenesis by sequencing the genomes of two strains of Drosophila mercatorum flies: one sexually reproducing and another reproducing through parthenogenesis. They identified 44 potential genes and modified the equivalent genes in Drosophila melanogaster, a species typically incapable of asexual reproduction. This genetic alteration led to about 11% of female flies reproducing parthenogenetically, with some offspring also capable of parthenogenesis. Interestingly, the offspring weren’t always clones of their parent, with some possessing three sets of chromosomes instead of two. This groundbreaking study could help understand the evolution of parthenogenesis and devise strategies against pests that use parthenogenesis to rapidly multiply. (Nature)

Horseshoe crabs, helmet-shaped invertebrates that have been around for over 400 million years, play an essential role in the production of vital medicines and in sustaining coastal ecosystems. Their blue blood is used to detect impurities in medicines. The harvesting of these creatures for blood and as fishing bait has raised concerns among conservationists, especially since their decline threatens the survival of the red knot, a bird species dependent on their eggs. Recently, regulators have revised guidelines for handling horseshoe crabs to keep more of them alive. However, wildlife advocates argue that the voluntary nature of these guidelines is insufficient to protect the red knot. Industry members are also working towards synthetic alternatives, though they stress the continuing importance of horseshoe crabs in drug safety. Conservationists have been advocating for stronger protection of horseshoe crabs and the preservation of their eggs to aid the recovery of the red knot species. (Associated Press)

Bioengineers have used artificial intelligence (AI) to perform a molecular ‘de-extinction’, applying computational methods to protein data from modern humans and extinct species like Neanderthals and Denisovans. This approach allowed the researchers to identify molecules that can kill disease-causing bacteria, offering potential for new drug development. As the pace of antibiotic development has slowed and antibiotic-resistant bacteria have increased, the need for new treatments is becoming urgent. The researchers trained an AI algorithm to recognize peptide-creation sites on human proteins and used it to find new peptides in protein sequences of Homo sapiens, Homo neanderthalensis, and Denisovans. This approach identified peptides which, when tested, showed potential in halting the growth of a common bacteria causing hospital-borne infections. Despite limitations, the study offers a new pathway for thinking about drug discovery, by exploring the genetic heritage of extinct species. (Nature)

The Hangzhou Zoo in eastern China has denied rumors that its sun bears are people in costumes after photos of the animals standing upright circulated online. The controversy started when internet users questioned the authenticity of the zoo’s bears, due to their human-like standing posture and their smaller size compared to other bear species. In response, the zoo confirmed that the Malaysian sun bears are real, explaining that they are smaller than other bears and naturally stand on their hind legs. Sun bears, which are the size of large dogs, can stand up to 1.3 meters tall on their hind legs, compared to up to 2.8 meters for species like grizzlies. The zoo is arranging visits for reporters to validate the authenticity of the bears. This incident occurs in the backdrop of other Chinese zoos accused of disguising dogs and donkeys as other species. (Associated Press)

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

WORDS: The Biology Guy.

IMAGE CREDIT: Screenshot.

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