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Amid the leaked Anthony S Fauci emails and independent investigations into the Wuhan lab secrets, reports have emerged again that the Wuhan Institute of Virology in China was funded by the US government and the virology lab, headed by Shi Zhengli, received nearly $600,000 in ‘gain-of-function research.
At a US Senate hearing on May 11, Senator Rand Paul (R-Ky) said that scientists in the US have long known how to mutate animal viruses to infect humans.
“For years, Dr. Ralph Baric, a virologist in the US, has been collaborating with Dr. Shi Zhengli of the Wuhan Virology Institute, sharing his discoveries about how to create super viruses. This gain-of-function research has been funded by the NIH. Dr. Fauci, do you still support funding of the NIH funding of the lab in Wuhan?” he told the hearing.
Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, replied: “Senator Paul, with all due respect, you are entirely and completely incorrect that the NIH has not never and does not now fund gain-of-function research in the Wuhan Institute of Virology.”
However, according to documents obtained by Daily Mail last year, the controversial Wuhan Institute of Virology in China undertook coronavirus experiments on bats and other wild animals which were funded by a $3.4 million grant from the US government.
Zhengli, also known as the ï¿½Bat Women,’ is back in limelight as the conversation around the ï¿½gain-of-function’ research has once again started to dominate the headlines.
In 2014, the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, the NIH arm that Fauci heads, awarded a $3.4 million grant to the New York-based EcoHealth Alliance, which aims to protect people from viruses that jump from species to species.
The group hired the virology lab in Wuhan to conduct genetic analyses of bat coronaviruses collected in Yunnan province, about 800 miles southwest of Wuhan, Tampa Bay Times reported last month.
“The research was considered crucial in part because coronaviruses had previously emerged in China and begun to spread among humans. EcoHealth Alliance paid the lab $598,500 over five years. The lab had secured approval from both the U.S. State Department and the NIH,” the report mentioned.
All parties involved in the grant to the Wuhan Institute of Virology have denied that it involved gain-of-function research.
In Wuhan, China, where the first cases of the coronavirus emerged in late 2019, at least two labs studied coronaviruses that originate in bats ï¿½ the Wuhan Institute of Virology (WIV) and the Wuhan Center for Disease Control and Prevention (WHCDC).
“Both are close to the seafood market that was originally deemed the source of the outbreak. The WIV is about eight miles (nearly 13 km) away. The WHCDC is right around the corner,” according to a report in the Washington Post.
The WIV is where Zhengli works. The WIV has a biosafety level 4 (BSL-4) laboratory, the most secure, where researchers wear protective suits.
“But some of WIV’s more controversial experiments on bat coronaviruses are believed to have been done at BSL-2 labs, where researchers wear white lab coats and gloves, as in a dental office,” the report mentioned.
Many experts have until recently denied the lab-leak theory and claimed that Covid-19 originated as a natural infection leaping from animals to humans. But now, there has been a shift.
A team of 18 scientists from Universities in the US, Canada, the UK, and Switzerland has signed a letter in the journal Science arguing the need to determine the origin of the Covid-19 pandemic.
Various other studies have hinted at Covid-19 as a result of the Wuhan lab leak.
“There is some smoke here,” said the Washington Post report. (IANS/KB)
(controversial experiments, coronavirus controversy, scientific controversies of covid, Wuhan lab leak)
The US researchers have discovered a class of immune cells that plays a role in miscarriage, which affects about a quarter of pregnancies.
Researchers at the University of California-San Francisco found that the recently discovered subset of cells known as extrathymic Aire-expressing cells in the immune system may prevent the mother's immune system from attacking the placenta and fetus.
The researchers showed that pregnant mice who did not have this subset of cells were twice as likely to miscarry, and in many of these pregnancies fetal growth was severely restricted.
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"When you're pregnant, the immune system is seeing the placenta for the first time in decades -- not since the mother made a placenta when she herself was a fetus," said Eva Gillis-Buck, from UCSF.
"Our research suggests that this subset of immune cells is carrying out a sort of 'secondary education' -- sometimes many years after the better-known population of the educator cells have carried out the primary education in the thymus -- teaching T cells not to attack the fetus, the placenta and other tissues involved in pregnancy," she added. The findings are published in the journal Science Immunology.
The immune system has to be educated not to attack one's own tissues and organs to prevent autoimmune disease. But pregnancy presents a unique challenge since the fetus expresses proteins found in the placenta as well as proteins whose genetics are distinct from the mother.
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"It was a conceptual leap to link Aire-expressing cells, which are critical for preventing autoimmune disease, to pregnancy," said Tippi Mackenzie, Professor of Surgery at UCSF's Center for Maternal Foetal Precision Medicine.
In the thymus, Aire-expressing cells begin interacting with other immune cells very early in life to teach them what not to attack. The thymus begins to shrink and is nearly gone by adulthood, by which time most immune cells have been educated. But as the thymus shrinks, the population of eTACs in lymph nodes and the spleen expands, the researchers explained.
The study suggests a healthy pregnancy may depend on having these cells around, they added. (IANS/KB)
The tiny emojis being shared on billions of devices worldwide can play a major role in digital communication, with most people saying that emoji compels them to feel more empathy towards others, according to an Adobe report.
Adobe's global emoji study found that emoji even helps people overcome language barriers and form connections that would otherwise be difficult to do.
"We were surprised and delighted by the discoveries made in the survey, most notably how enthusiastic respondents were for emoji as a means to express themselves," the company said in a statement.
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Emojis sometimes get criticized for being overly saccharine, but this sweetness is key when it comes to diffusing some of the heaviness of online communication.
"Many of the emoji are focused on positive emotions, so it's easy to insert them into our conversations and lighten the mood," the Adobe study said.
It's not surprising that over half of those surveyed feel more comfortable using emojis than talking on the phone or in person.
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This applies to less intense situations too. Dating, for example, can be tricky — especially when it's online or via digital apps, as it often is now.
The study also found that emoji even helps people overcome language barriers and form connections that would otherwise be difficult to do.
In celebration of World Emoji Day on Saturday, Adobe's '2021 Global Emoji Trend Report' surveyed 7,000 people in the US, the UK, Germany, France, Japan, Australia, and South Korea. (IANS/KB)
Following the grand Richard Branson show where he carried Andhra Pradesh-born Sirisha Bandla and fellow space travelers on his shoulders after successfully flying to the edge of space, it is time for Amazon Founder Jeff Bezos to applaud Sanjal Gavande, one of the key engineers who designed the New Shephard rocket set to take Bezos and the crew to space on July 20.
Billionaire Bezos is set to fly to the edge of space aboard what is touted as the world's first unpiloted suborbital flight. Born in Kalyan, Maharashtra, Gavande is a systems engineer at Blue Origin who always dreamt of designing aerospace rockets.
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After completing Bachelor's in mechanical engineering from the University of Mumbai, she flew to the US in 2011 to pursue a Master's in mechanical engineering from the Michigan Technological University. She also applied for an engineering job at the US space agency NASA but finally landed her dream job at Blue Origin
Sirisha flew to the US in 2011 to pursue a Master's in mechanical engineering from the Michigan Technological University.IANS
Bezos, his brother Mark, aviation pioneer Mary Wallace 'Wally' Funk, and other passengers are set to liftoff from west Texas and travel just beyond the edge of space on July 20. Blue Origin announced this week that Oliver Daemen, an 18-year-old high school graduate from the Netherlands, would join the crew.
Oliver is the son of millionaire Joe Daemen, Founder, and CEO of the Dutch investment company Somerset Capital Partners. Blue Origin, however, did not reveal how much Daemen paid for his son's trip to space. Bezos chose July 20 as the launch date to honor the 52nd anniversary of the Apollo 11 moon landing.
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The launch site for Blue Origin's first human flight will be in a remote location north of Van Horn, Texas, from where the firm had launched New Shepard for previous flights. Blue Origin has received final approval from the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) to carry humans on the New Shepard rocket into space.
On July 12, Bandla touched the edge of space with three others, including Virgin Galactic's billionaire CEO Richard Branson. Bandla vaulted into space onboard VSS Unity 22. After the successful spaceflight, Branson carried the Indian-American on his shoulders while celebrating their flight to space, at Spaceport America in New Mexico. (IANS/KB)