Welcome to the first edition of our science and healthcare newsletters. In this edition, I have covered the recent news about a colossal whale discovery, the discovery of a new gene important in nerve health and all neurodegenerative diseases, the genetic mutations that led COVID to be asymptomatic and evidence for a huge whale unearthed in Peru. Hope you enjoy reading it!
17 years later, NASA's STEREO-A spacecraft returns home for Earth flyby
Launched way back in 2006, NASA's STEREO-A spacecraft, part of the Solar TErrestrial RElations Observatory (STEREO) mission, completed its first Earth flyby in August 2023 after 17 years in space. The mission has provided groundbreaking views of the sun, including a 3D perspective and a complete sphere view. During the flyby, STEREO-A collaborated with other solar observatories, optimizing its 3D vision to study active regions and test theories about coronal loops. This unique opportunity also allowed scientists to gather multipoint measurements of Earth-directed solar material, offering valuable insights into the sun's behaviour as it approaches solar maximum in 2025.
Is there a 5th force of nature?
Scientists at Fermilab in the US have discovered that a tiny particle called the muon is wobbling more than expected. They believe this might be due to an unknown force. This new evidence builds on a previous experiment in 2021 but with even more data and reduced uncertainty. If these findings are confirmed and the theoretical issues are resolved, it could be a significant breakthrough in physics, comparable to a major development from 50 years ago.
Read more on Livescience.com.
India gearing up to send people to space
The Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO) is gearing up to send people to space, as part of its Gaganyaan program. They have recently successfully conducted a series of Drogue Parachute Deployment Tests. The Gaganyaan mission entails the safe transportation of astronauts to space and back. Drogue parachutes will help to reduce speed during re-entry back to Earth from space.
Researchers crack the genetic mutation leading to asymptomatic COVID infections
During the recently receded COVID-19 pandemic, a section of people were found infected with SARS-CoV2 but never showed any symptoms of the infection. These infections were termed asymptomatic. Now, researchers have drilled down and identified that a common variant of the human leukocyte antigen (HLA) was strongly associated with asymptomatic COVID infections. The research involved over 29,000 individuals with high-resolution HLA genotyping data. The HLA-B15:01 variant was strongly associated with asymptomatic infection in two separate cohorts.
Read more on Nature.com.
Larger than the largest Blue Whale
The blue whale (Balanoptera musculus) is considered to be the largest animal to have ever lived on Earth. It is larger than even the largest known dinosaur. However, new archaeological evidence unearthed from Peru revealed another giant larger than the blue whale. Named Perucetus colossus, researchers estimated this giant might have lived 39 million years ago and could weigh nearly double that of today's largest blue whale.
US Department of Energy Commits $1.2 Billion to Carbon Capture Hubs
The US Department of Energy is investing $1.2 billion to create regional hubs capable of removing and storing over 1 million metric tons of carbon dioxide annually, a crucial effort in fighting climate change. These hubs will use direct air capture (DAC) technology, with initial projects in Texas and Louisiana receiving the bulk of the funding. This investment is part of a larger $3.5 billion allocation, which aims to significantly expand global carbon removal capacity, according to Carbon180, a nonprofit advocating for carbon dioxide removal and reuse.
Read more on MIT Technology Review.
Researchers identify the LONRF2 gene as crucial for nerve health
Researchers discovered that the gene LONRF2 plays a vital role in maintaining the quality of proteins in non-dividing neurons. They show that it is especially important in managing misfolded proteins. LONRF2, primarily found in neurons, helps eliminate abnormally structured proteins. When LONRF2 was absent, it lead to motor neuron degeneration and cerebellar ataxia in experimental mice, suggesting its importance in nerve cell health. This discovery indicates that LONRF2 loss might contribute to neurodegenerative diseases, such as amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS), and highlights its potential as a therapeutic target.
Thanks for reading the inaugural edition of our science and healthcare newsletter. Through these daily newsletters, I keep myself up to date on the latest trends in science and healthcare. You can subscribe too and receive a copy every day in your inbox.