WALK THIS WAY.
In a groundbreaking experiment, a new type of spinal cord implant has notably improved the walking abilities of a man with advanced Parkinson’s disease, as reported in Nature Medicine. Developed by the EPFL in Switzerland, the implant delivers targeted electrical stimulation to the spinal cord, enabling the patient to walk and navigate smoothly, overcoming severe gait issues caused by Parkinson’s. This improvement has been sustained for two years.
While traditional treatments have had limited and inconsistent success, the EPFL team’s approach, which places the implant over the lumbosacral spinal cord, tailors stimulation to individual walking patterns and deficits. The experiment’s success with the participant, Marc Gauthier, has led to plans for further trials with more patients. Despite these positive results, larger studies are necessary to determine the treatment’s efficacy for the wider Parkinson’s population. The researchers are also exploring advanced deep brain stimulation (DBS) systems to further enhance gait control through feedback mechanisms. (Nature)
SANOFI UNDER FIRE.
French prosecutors have initiated a preliminary investigation into Sanofi, a global pharmaceutical company, for potential market manipulation. The inquiry, started in March 2023 by the French financial prosecutor, focuses on allegations of spreading false or misleading information and manipulating stock prices based on the company’s financial communications. Sanofi has denied any knowledge of the investigation regarding their 2017 financial statements, affirming the reliability and accuracy of their published financial information, which has been audited by two firms. Following the adjustment of its future earnings forecast last month, Sanofi’s shares have decreased by 6.8% for the year. The company has also indicated its readiness to legally counter any spurious or slanderous claims. (CNBC)
KETAMINE THERAPY NEEDS MORE RESEARCH.
The rise of ketamine as a treatment for pain and mental health issues comes as the U.S. reduces opioid use. With scant evidence for pain management, ketamine prescriptions are increasing, largely driven by for-profit clinics and telehealth services. Research indicates significant side effects in patients, without a corresponding drop in opioid prescriptions. Relaxed during the pandemic, telehealth prescribing rules for ketamine have been extended despite FDA concerns over the unregulated nature of compounded ketamine products. This burgeoning industry faces minimal regulation, prompting worries about safety and the potential for abuse similar to the opioid crisis. (Associated Press)
OLDEST BLACK HOLE DISCOVERED.
Using NASA telescopes, astronomers have discovered the most distant X-ray emitting black hole, located in a galaxy named UHZ1, which is 13.2 billion light-years away from Earth. This black hole, with a mass similar to its host galaxy’s, may provide insights into the formation of the universe’s first supermassive black holes. Data from the Chandra X-ray Observatory and the James Webb Space Telescope, along with the phenomenon of gravitational lensing, allowed researchers to detect this early-stage black hole from a time when the universe was just 3% of its current age. Findings suggest the black hole was born massive, challenging existing theories on supermassive black hole growth. These discoveries align with theoretical predictions for “Outsize Black Holes” directly forming from massive gas clouds. The results contribute to understanding black hole development and the early universe, with further studies planned utilizing Webb’s data. (NASA)
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ASTEROIDS CAN HAVE MOONS TOO.
NASA’s Lucy spacecraft, while on a practice flyby, discovered that the asteroid Dinkinesh has a small satellite, or “mini moon.” The spacecraft, currently on a mission in the main asteroid belt beyond Mars, revealed that Dinkinesh is about half a mile wide with its moon being one-tenth of a mile in size. This rehearsal is in preparation for Lucy’s primary mission to study Trojan asteroids near Jupiter starting in 2027, with the goal to explore at least 11 of these asteroids over six years. The name Dinkinesh, which means “you are marvelous” in Amharic, echoes the sentiment of the lead scientist Hal Levison from the Southwest Research Institute, and also honors the famous hominid remains found in Ethiopia, after which the spacecraft is named. (Associated Press)
ELECTRIC PLANES ARE HERE.
Chris Caputo, a pilot with extensive military and commercial experience, embarked on a unique journey in an electric plane from Beta Technologies, flying from Vermont to Florida. This plane, part of a new era of electric aircraft promising greener aviation, was handed over to the Air Force for testing. Electric planes like Beta’s are quieter and simpler to operate than traditional aircraft, and while they currently have a limited range, they are seen as a future alternative to helicopters and cars for short trips. Beta has raised significant funding and is establishing an electric vehicle charging network while awaiting FAA certification for its aircraft. The company envisions these planes initially serving less accessible rural areas, potentially changing the dynamics of transportation and service delivery across the country. (New York Times)
ALGAL BLOOMS PUT THE SQUEEZE ON CORAL REEFS.
Marine scientists are raising alarms about a red algae species proliferating on coral reefs. Initially observed by Peter Edmunds in 2012, the algae now cover a significant portion of some Caribbean reefs. Their expansion is also noted across the Pacific, with 48 new species identified in Guam alone. While some scientists call for more rigorous research to understand the algae’s impact, the consensus is that they represent another stressor for corals already vulnerable to climate change. (Science)
WHO CAN YOU TRUST?
A global survey has indicated that over 85% of people are concerned about the effects of online disinformation, with 87% believing it has negatively impacted their country’s politics. This concern is underscored by the UN’s Unesco, which has outlined the urgency for regulation to protect information access while upholding human rights and freedom of expression. Social media, the primary news source for 56% of internet users across 16 countries, is perceived as the main platform for fake news, despite lower trust compared to traditional media. Disinformation is widely viewed as a concrete threat, especially during elections, prompting calls for action from governments and social media companies. Unesco’s governance blueprint, developed from a broad consultation process, proposes seven key principles for regulation, emphasizing human rights and calling for coordinated global efforts to manage content and uphold information reliability. (The Guardian)
Thanks for reading. Let’s be careful out there.
WORDS: The Biology Guy.