At-a-glance updates: AI reveals protein structures, impact of racism on memory, and rising tiger numbers | Science

INFECTIOUS DISEASE

Progress toward ending AIDS has stalled

The world’s response to the HIV/AIDS pandemic is faltering amid falling spending and the COVID-19 pandemic, according to an annual update from the United Nations Joint Program on HIV/AIDS (UNAIDS) released last week. In a campaign announced in 2015 to “End AIDS as a Public Health Threat” by 2030, UNAIDS has set targets for 2025 that the new report says are far from being met. 1.5 million people became infected with HIV last year, 1 million more than the 2025 target. Of the 38.4 million people living with the virus in 2021, 10 million are still not receiving life-saving antiretroviral drugs, and last year saw the lowest number of new people started treatment in a decade. Alarmingly, UNAIDS finds that 52% of infected children go untreated.

It’s embarrassing for the FDA…to let its employees go to a company that is a leading manufacturer of death products.

  • Michael Berman
  • a public health law expert at Ohio State University, commented The New York Times after the head of the Office of Science at the Food and Drug Administration’s Center for Tobacco Products switched to a job at tobacco giant Philip Morris International.
HEART DISEASE

Boost for Heart Gene Cures

The British Heart Foundation will award £30 million (US$36 million) over 5 years to an international team to develop genetic cures for some inherited heart diseases known as cardiomyopathies. The group, called CureHeart, beat three other candidates shortlisted in the Big Beat Challenge, a competition created in 2019 to fund transformative heart disease research. The team aims to use one-off injections of gene-editing tools to precisely correct or silence mutations that cause heart muscle cells to produce too little or a harmful form of a needed protein. These cardiomyopathies affect one in 250 people, putting them at risk for heart attacks and heart failure; some need a heart transplant. Within 5 years, CureHeart members in the United States, United Kingdom and Singapore hope to develop one or more treatments to the point where companies are picking them up for clinical trials.

HEALTH INEQUALITIES

Racism eats away at memory

Two studies presented at the Alzheimer’s Association International Conference in San Diego this week show that people who have experienced racism and discrimination have lower memory scores, a symptom of dementia. The work supports the findings of previous research, and systemic injustices such as limited access to health care are likely to blame. Systemic injustices such as limited access to health care are likely responsible. In an analysis of nearly 1000 middle-aged Black, Hispanic, and White adults in the United States, researchers found that past experiences of individual and structural racism, such as life. The hardest hit were black people, who are more likely to have Alzheimer’s and other dementias. In the other study of nearly 450 Asian, Black, Hispanic, White and multiracial people aged 90 or older, those who experienced discrimination throughout their lives had lower semantic memory — general world knowledge that had accumulated over time – no discrimination compared to those who had little experience.

ARTIFICIAL INTELLIGENCE

AI reveals structures of almost all proteins

Structure of a protein from the thale cress plant
AlphaFold has predicted the structure of a protein from the thale cress plant that may confer disease resistance.DEEPMIND/EMBL EBI

In a potentially transformative event for drug development and biology studies, artificial intelligence (AI) company DeepMind last week revealed the likely structures of almost every known protein, totaling more than 200 million, from organisms ranging from bacteria to humans. The structure bonus comes from AlphaFold, one of the new AI programs that cracked the protein folding problem and learned how to accurately infer 3D shapes of proteins from their amino acid sequences. DeepMind published around 350,000 predicted structures last year, and AlphaFold has since continuously produced new structures, which takes around 10 to 20 seconds per protein, as per https://alz-journals.onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/10.1002/dad2 .12067g the company emerges. The latest structures were added to an existing database through a partnership with the European Bioinformatics Institute of the European Molecular Biology Laboratory. “With this new addition of structures that shed light on almost the entire protein universe, we can expect more biological mysteries to be solved every day,” tweeted Eric Topol, director of the Scripps Research Translational Institute, of the achievement.

INFECTIOUS DISEASE

China replaces its CDC chief

Virologist George Gao, who helped forge China’s response to the COVID-19 pandemic, was replaced as director of the China Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CCDC) on July 26. The internationally connected and respected Gao, who has headed the CCDC since 2017, has been more outspoken than most Chinese scholars and encouraged international collaboration. CCDC said Gao, 60, was replaced because of his age, but observers suspect the change is part of a broader bureaucratic reorganization to increase political control over the agency. In an email to Science, Gao wrote that it’s “hard to say” what’s next in his career, but indicated an ongoing interest in public health, noting that emerging diseases and climate change are “two of humanity’s most pressing issues.” be. Gao’s successor is Shen Hongbing, a public health researcher and former president of Nanjing Medical University.

Senate advises on research spending

The US Senate last week released proposed 2023 budgets for key research agencies that are close to levels agreed by the House of Representatives in June (see below, $ billions). However, the final figures will probably not be adopted until after the November elections.

2022 Biden 2023 request house bills Senate bills
Core of the National Institutes of Health 45 50.5 47.5 47
ARPA Health 1 5 2.7 1
National Science Foundation 8.8 10.5 9.6 10.3
NASA Science 7.6 8th 7.9 8th
Institute for Energy Science 7.5 7.8 8th 8th
NIST core laboratories 0.9 1 1 1
EPA Science 0.7 0.9 0.9 0.9
WHITE HOUSE; CONGRESS
SPACE

Mars mission is being revised

NASA and the European Space Agency announced last week that they will make greater use of the Mars-based Perseverance rover — with helicopters as backup — to retrieve samples from the planet in a mission launching later this decade. Since 2021, Perseverance has been collecting samples of Martian rock and sealing them in finger-sized tubes. The agencies originally planned to send a new Rover to collect the tubes for return, but are now betting Perseverance will be fit enough to deliver them in person. When a lander arrives around 2030, it will use an arm to load 31 tubes into a rocket that will launch and meet up with an orbiter waiting to return home to Earth. If the Perseverance shows signs of weakness before then, operators can order it to drop its cargo. Then two small helicopters brought down from the lander, resembling Perseverance’s hovering companion, Ingenuity, will collect the dropped tubes. In any case, the most expensive half a kilogram of earth in history – given the mission cost of $7 billion – will land in Utah in 2033.

CONSERVATION

Nepal has record numbers of tigers

The number of wild tigers in Nepal has nearly tripled since 2009, the country announced last week. In 2010, as populations declined due to poaching and habitat loss, countries with tigers pledged to increase wild numbers from 3,200 to more than 7,000 by that year. As of December 2021, a conservation group estimated fewer than 5,600 in 13 Asian countries. But with a wildlife survey that counted 355 of the big cats within its borders, Nepal has far surpassed its 2022 goal of 250 such animals. Tiger populations are also increasing in China and Thailand. Part of the apparent global increase may be due to improved survey methods and tools such as remote cameras. But in Nepal, much of the resurgence is thanks to conservationists’ focus on habitat restoration, such as B. the reforestation of forests as corridors for tigers. Nepal has also reduced tiger deaths by helping villagers better protect livestock from the cats with fences and compensating farmers when tigers kill their animals.

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