‘’Your weekly informant’’

24 February- 3 February

1. How some gut microorganisms cause their neighbors to become infected with ‘zombie’ viruses

Some gut bacteria have a strange superpower: they can reanimate viruses that have been dormant in other microbes. This viral awakening causes full-fledged infections, which kill virus-carrying cells. They discovered that a cryptic chemical called colibactin can awaken the killer viruses from their hibernation. In the confined surroundings of the gut, microbes frequently produce toxic substances to assault one another. But, according to Balskus, colibactin stands out among these chemical weapons. Humans have long sought after the powerful substances produced by microorganisms. “We know a lot about their chemical qualities,” explains Breck Duerkop, “We purify them in the lab and use them as medicine, including antibiotics.” However, why bacteria produce these chemicals and what impact they have on nearby organisms remain unanswered. For years, scientists have known that colibactin may cause havoc in human cells.

2. 27 milion ancestors make up the world’s largest human family tree

Human genetic research has advanced dramatically in the last two decades, yielding genomic data for hundreds of thousands of people, including thousands of prehistoric people. Until now, the primary obstacles to realizing this goal were figuring out how to merge genomic sequences from many databases and developing algorithms to handle such large amounts of data. Researchers have developed a novel method that can readily merge data from numerous sources and scale to handle millions of genomic sequences. In the last two decades, human genetic research has progressed considerably, generating genomic data for hundreds of thousands of people, including thousands of prehistoric people. The main roadblocks to achieving this goal until now have been figuring out how to combine genetic sequences from many databases and developing algorithms to handle such vast amounts of data. The Big Data Institute has created a novel approach for combining data from several sources and scaling to millions of genetic sequences. A total of 3,609 individual genome sequences from 215 populations were included in the study, which combined data on present and ancient human genomes from eight separate databases. The ancient genomes contained samples from all across the world, ranging in age from a few thousand years to over 100,000 years. To explain patterns of genetic variation, the algorithms projected where common ancestors must be present in evolutionary trees. Almost 27 million ancestors were found in the resulting network.

3. COVID-19 killed young, healthy adults due to an ECMO shortage, according to a study

Despite being young and having few underlying health conditions, over 90% of COVID-19 patients who qualified for, but did not get, ECMO (extracorporeal membrane oxygenation) during the peak of the pandemic perished in the hospital due to a lack of resources. Despite the fact that both groups were young and had few comorbidities, 90 percent of patients for whom the health system ability to offer ECMO was unavailable died in the hospital, compared to 43 percent of patients who received ECMO. Once a patient’s medical eligibility for ECMO was determined, a separate assessment of the health system’s resources to offer ECMO was conducted. The patient was not transported to an ECMO centre and did not get ECMO because the health system’s resources equipment, personnel, and intensive care unit beds — were unavailable. 90 patients (37.5 percent) with COVID-19 who were referred for ECMO were found to be medically eligible for it and were included in the research. Patients who underwent ECMO at a specialized center had a risk of death that was roughly half that of those who did not. There has been a dispute over how much help ECMO gives because some patients die despite receiving it.

4. A biohybrid fish generated from human cardiac cells moves in the same way that the heartbeats

The scientists created the first autonomous biohybrid fish using cardiomyocytes produced from human stem cells in this study. The design and swimming motion of a zebrafish inspired this invention. The biohybrid zebrafish, unlike earlier devices, has two layers of muscle cells, one on each side of the tail fin. The other side expands when one side compresses. That stretch opens a mechanosensitive protein channel, which generates a contraction, which causes another stretch, and so on, creating a closed-loop mechanism capable of propelling the fish for more than 100 days. A fascinating discovery, isn’t it?

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