Daily briefing: A real-world test for capturing carbon in weathered rock

A green-sand beach will put enhanced mineral weathering to the test. Plus, organoids reveal how the coronavirus ravages the body and Black researchers outline steps for action.

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US President Donald Trump speaks during a roundtable meeting.

US President Donald Trump has issued new immigration restrictions that will affect people working in science, technology, engineering and mathematics.Credit: Saul Loeb/AFP via Getty

Trump to suspend new visas for scholars

The United States will not issue H-1B visas for the rest of the year. Tens of thousands of university researchers and industrial scientists and engineers use the visas to enter the country each year. The Trump administration says the suspension will help to prioritize the US workforce during the pandemic. Exemptions are possible, but the path ahead is not clear for foreigners working in or hoping to work in the United States. “It is really sad that when this country has so many of the greatest research institutions in the world, greatest universities in the world, that when something like a pandemic happens, one of the first things the government does is to blame international researchers for unemployment,” says Mehmet Doğan, a Turkish physicist at the University of California, Berkeley. “That’s crazy, but it’s also very sad.”

Nature | 4 min read


The proportion of people in science and engineering jobs in the United States who were born outside the country, according to the National Science Foundation. (Nature | 4 min read)

COVID-19 coronavirus update

SARS-CoV-2-infected human liver ductal organoid

Organoids made from human liver ductal cells infected with SARS-CoV-2 (red).Credit: Bing Zhao

Mini organs show path of destruction

The new coronavirus can infect not only lungs, but also blood vessels, kidneys, livers and other organs, according to various experiments with laboratory-made organoids. Organoids, created from stem cells, assemble various cell types that comprise organs in the body. This allows them to model what happens in reality better than standard cell-line experiments can. Doctors knew that various organs were injured in the course of a coronavirus infection, but they didn’t know whether that damage was a direct result of the virus entering those organs. The experiments suggest it is. “We are fairly confident now that the virus that causes COVID-19 can infect tissue outside the lung and significantly contribute to disease,” says genetic engineer Josef Penninger. Nature | 6 min read

Notable quotable

“I think that wherever there’s wood to burn, this fire is going to burn it.”

The coronavirus pandemic is like a forest fire that will burn relentlessly through the summer, says infectious-disease epidemiologist Michael Osterholm. (The New York Times | 8 min read)

Coronavirus research highlights: 1-minute reads

CRISPR pinpoints host genes that aid viral invasion

A trawl through a monkey genome using the CRISPR–Cas9 genome-editing system has identified a handful of genes that might help the new coronavirus to infect its hosts. The discovery of host genes that aid viral activity could assist in the development of new therapies, and reveal why some people are more susceptible to COVID-19 than others.

Reference: bioRxiv preprint (not yet peer reviewed)

More than one billion people face increased risk

A host of common health problems, such as diabetes and cardiovascular problems, boost a person’s risk of becoming seriously ill with COVID-19. An analysis of 188 nations reveals that more than 20% of the world’s population has at least one underlying condition that raises the risk of severe disease. The researchers also estimate that nearly 350 million people — some of whom do not have underlying conditions — would require hospitalization if infected.

Reference: Lancet Global Health paper

Evidence that children are less susceptible to infection

Children and the elderly are less likely than adults under the age of 65 to show evidence of past SARS-CoV-2 infection, according to a survey of people in Geneva, Switzerland. Only one out of the 123 tested children aged 5–9 came back positive, although 21 of them lived with someone who had COVID-19 antibodies. A separate study in Guangzhou, China found that people under the age of 20 had a 5.2% risk of being infected by a member of their household, compared with a 14.8% risk for people aged 20–59.

Reference: The Lancet paper & Lancet Infectious Diseases paper

Bars, karaoke and gyms can aid ‘superspread’

Clusters of coronavirus infections are often linked to events where many people breathe heavily while packed together, such as karaoke parties and gym sessions, according to a survey in Japan. Many of the 61 ‘superspreading’ incidents identified by the survey occurred in hospitals, nursing homes and other care facilities, but a little more than half took place at venues such as musical events, restaurants and workplaces. One concert, for example, was the source of infection for more than 30 people, including performers, audience members and staff.

Reference: Emerging Infectious Diseases paper

Modified mice could aid the quest for vaccines and drugs

Two teams have developed a short cut to generating COVID-19 mouse models: using a harmless adenoviruses to make the rodents’ cells susceptible to infection. Researchers used adenoviruses — a workhorse of gene therapy — to deliver the human ACE2 gene to the lung cells of mice. The SARS-CoV-2 virus invades a human cell by attaching to receptors, including ACE2, on its surface.

Reference: Cell paper 1 & Cell paper 2

Get more of Nature’s continuously updated selection of the must-read papers and preprints on COVID-19.

Features & opinion

Black researchers outline steps for action

“I say to my white colleagues: you have the most power in the geosciences; you benefit the most from racism and lack of diversity,” says geophysicist Vashan Wright. “It is therefore your job to fix the system. But I’ll help you.” He is one of six Black scientists who spoke to Nature about the effects of racism on their careers, their advice to white colleagues and their thoughts on meaningful institutional actions.

Nature | 13 min read

Can green sand help to clean up our carbon?

On an undisclosed Caribbean island, researchers are poised to test whether green sand could help to clean up our atmospheric mess. Project Vesta aims to sequester carbon by speeding up the natural weathering process of a mineral called olivine. The olivine will be ground up into sand and spread on the beach, where — in theory — the wave action will accelerate the sequestration process. The project hopes to show whether ‘enhanced mineral weathering’ can be done in a cost-effective way that’s safe for the marine environment (and acceptable to people who might not fancy the idea of a green-sand beach).

Technology Review | 13 min read

Women engineers still fight stereotypes

On International Women in Engineering Day, historian Emily Rees Körner writes about Britain’s Women’s Engineering Society (WES) — the world’s first organization of its kind. WES was founded in 1919, a time when women were being forced out of their engineering jobs to make space for men coming back from the First World War. WES founders were fresh from having forced UK elections to include women voters for the first time, and they delighted in breaking stereotypes and telling tales of their “unladylike exploits with wiring”. But despite a century of efforts, to this day only 12% of practising engineers in the United Kingdom are women.

The Guardian | 5 min read

Where I work

Dixon Chabanda sits on a Friendship Bench with a group of matriarchs outside a primary healthcare clinic in Mbara, Zimbabwe

Dixon Chibanda is a psychiatrist at the University of Zimbabwe and director of the African Mental Health Research Initiative.Credit: Rainer Kwiotek

Yesterday our Rockhopper master of disguise, Leif Penguinson, tried to blend in at the waterhole at Etosha National Park in Namibia. Did you spot the penguin? When you’re ready — here’s the answer.

Flora Graham, senior editor, Nature Briefing

With contributions by David Cyranoski and Davide Castelvecchi

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