By: Kaitlin Morabito
Our weekly linkpost, bringing you interesting and informative links on science policy issues buzzing about the internet.
Giant virus resurrected from 30,000-year-old ice – Scientists from Aix-Marseille University in France discovered an ancient giant virus, dubbed Pithovirus sibericum, frozen in Siberian permafrost. Since the known giant viruses, Mimivirus and Pandoraviruses, infect ameobae, the group incubated permafrost samples with amoebae and watched for cell death. Within these dying amoebae, the scientists, lead by Jean-Michel Claveria and Chantal Abergel, could visualize the virus within the walls of the amoebae via microscope. Despite similarities with the other giant viruses in host, size, and shape, Pithovirus sibericum has very different properties including mechanism of replication and a much smaller genome. As global temperatures rise and glaciers melt, the virome in the frozen environment may potentially have an impact on human health. (Ed Yong)
Rare gene protects against Type 2 Diabetes even in obese people – A mutation in one allele of a gene, known as ZnT8, has been shown to mitigate Type 2 diabetes even among the overweight and obese. The gene was initially identified in a studying comparing 758 people on either end of the weight, age, and risk spectrum. Of these 758 people, only 2 people in the high-risk group with diabetes had this mutation. To confirm these results, the researchers added 18,000 people to their study and found an additional 31 obese individuals who were seemingly protected from diabetes. The findings were further authenticated using bioinformatics. Interestingly, the mutation of the gene has the opposite result in mice, causing Type 2 diabetes. Researchers are now focuses on developing drugs which targets the ZnT8 gene. (Gina Kolata)
U.S. Army agriculture development teams – To help combat counterinsurgency in Afghanistan, the United States Army National Guard has deployed Agriculture Development Teams (ADT) made up of environmental scientists, engineers, and professors, who tackle projects aimed at improving agriculture and agricultural education in rural Afghanistan. An example of militarized aid, this program is focused on small scale, local efforts to engender a good rapport with the United States Army and Afghan government in rural areas where counterinsurgency is problematic. These projects not only involve endeavors such as delayed-action dams, but are also highly education focused, so the locals and universities can continue to reap benefits after the ADTs leave. (Alexander Stewart)
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