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Campaigns to quash tuberculosis (TB), measles and polio have all been set back by the need to divert medical resources to COVID-19. Half a million more people than usual might have died of TB last year because of a drop in the number of people who received life-saving treatment, according to World Health Organization estimates. The data suggest that the knock-on effects of the pandemic could be larger than those caused by COVID-19 itself — and that they will linger long after the pandemic has ended.
Genetically engineered pigs could soon provide a safe source of meat for people with a tick-bite-induced allergic reaction to a sugar molecule found on the surface of porcine cells. The US Food and Drug Administration authorized the production of the pigs, which lack the gene needed to produce galactose-α-1,3-galactose, late last year. Researchers say the approval is an important first step towards the goal of using organs from engineered pigs for transplants into humans. But many technical and regulatory hurdles remain. When it comes to gene-edited animals “the system is set up as if you’re dealing with kryptonite”, says animal geneticist Alison Van Eenennaam.
On Monday, NASA’s Ingenuity drone made the first powered flight on another world. The robot rotorcraft — part of NASA’s Perseverance mission — lifted off from the surface of Mars for almost 40 seconds. Watch the historic moment and explore what it means for the future of space exploration.
Features & opinion
Since the 1990s, researchers have suspected that stem cells in cancers hold the key to disease recurrence, cancer spread (or metastasis) and resistance to therapies. But cancer stem cells seem to defy characterization. They bear no defining molecular markers; they might not exist in every tumour; and, perhaps most frustratingly of all, correlate little with disease aggressiveness or treatment outcomes. Now, researchers are exploiting methods from developmental biology to understand whether — and how — cancer stem cells spur disease.
A move by the United States and several European countries to stop supporting fossil-fuel projects abroad will entrench poverty in regions such as sub-Saharan Africa, but do little to reduce the world’s carbon emissions, argues economist Vijaya Ramachandran. Africa accounts for around 17% of the world’s people but less than 4% of annual global carbon emissions: in 4 days, the average person in the United States consumes the electricity that the average Ethiopian consumes in a year. And most of the legacy emissions causing global warming came from rich countries. Instead, rich countries should help African governments to pursue a broad portfolio of energy sources for rapid, sustainable development.
A hypothetical fundamental particle called the axion could provide a missing piece of the standard model of particle physics and offer an answer to the mysterious nature of dark matter. Physicist Chanda Prescod-Weinstein explains the theory behind the axion, how experimental physicists are searching for it and how its delights drew her to become an expert in a field she once considered boring.