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A visual guide to the latest COVID vaccines
Updates to existing COVID-19 vaccines will always be a step behind the evolving virus, so scientists are looking to different technologies to deliver long-lasting protection that is resilient to viral change. From ‘mosaic’ nanoparticles to self-amplifying RNA and vaccines that target viral components other than the spike protein, this graphical guide will give you a rundown of some promising candidates. Beyond the scientific challenge, any next-generation jab will have to fight to enter a crowded market: there are more than 50 approved vaccines, hundreds in clinical trials and hundreds more abandoned ones.
There’s plenty of materials for renewables
There’s enough aluminium, steel and rare-earth metals to build the renewable-energy infrastructure needed to meet climate-change targets. This good news comes from an analysis of the geological reserves of the raw materials that are required to build solar panels, wind turbines and other technologies that can generate renewable electricity. The researchers found that there is even room in the emissions budget for mining and processing those materials, but it could cause significant environmental damage and human-rights violations if not done responsibly. “We really need to come up with solutions that get us the material that we need sustainably, and time is very short,” says Demetrios Papathanasiou, global director for energy and extractives at the World Bank.
MIT Technology Review | 4 min read
‘De-extinction’ company looks to the dodo
A company that made headlines two years ago with its plan to bring the mammoth back from extinction now says it wants to revive the dodo. Colossal Biosciences, which was co-founded by geneticist George Church, says it will investigate how to ‘de-extinct’ a Raphus cucullatus by piggybacking on the genome and reproductive cycle of its closest living relative, the Nicobar pigeon (Caloenas nicobarica). The effort is not expected to make money, but would be a symbolic win for Colossal’s genetic technologies, the company says. Others call it a wasteful distraction. “Preventing species from going extinct in the first place should be our priority, and in most cases, it’s a lot cheaper,” says biologist Boris Worm.
Scientific American | 7 min read & Associated Press | 4 in read
Read more: Before making a mammoth, ask the public (Nature | 5 min read, from 2021)
Features & opinion
Overwork culture needs to stop
Working 12 hours a day, 7 days a week, wasn’t uncommon for psychologist Natalia Ingebretsen Kucirkova. After all, she was passionate about her work, and more hours meant more results — but her health suffered. “But I now realize that, by hiding behind passion, I was excusing my contribution to a toxic burnout culture in research,” Kucirkova explains. She’s now fighting to redefine academic success, for herself and others, in ways that aren’t tied to extreme working hours.
Africa could be the future for genomics
Funds for the Human Heredity and Health in Africa (H3Africa) initiative will run dry this year. The US$176-million programme, funded by the US National Institutes of Health and the UK biomedical charity Wellcome, began in 2010 and supported some 51 projects led by African scientists, resulting in nearly 700 publications. The chance to build on the success of this initiative must not be missed, argue Zané Lombard and Guida Landouré, writing on behalf of the H3Africa Steering Committee. “Africa could become the birthplace for a new kind of genomics,” they write. “One that brings better health to all.”
Beyond the serotonin theory of depression
The root cause of depression might not be as simple as a chemical imbalance — a realization that is causing scientists to rethink the origins of the condition. In a 2022 review of more than 350 studies, researchers found no convincing evidence of a link between lower levels of the neurotransmitter serotonin and depression. Scientists have begun to look for clues elsewhere — in other candidate chemicals linked to depression, gut microbes and differences in genes and neural wiring in people with depression, as well as chronic inflammation. The answer could lie in a combination of many factors.
Reference: Molecular Psychiatry paper
Image of the week
In December, a winter storm known as a bomb cyclone left these houses in Fort Erie, Canada, coated in thick ice. The blizzard caused fatal car crashes in the northern United States and Canada, knocked out power for more than one million people and caused major travel disruptions during the holiday season. The cyclone was caused by cold Arctic winds — the polar vortex — moving south.
See more of the month’s sharpest science shots, selected by Nature’s photo team. (Cole Burston/AFP/Getty)