On the southern outskirts of the city of Owensboro in Kentucky, US, there is a square, nondescript building. Inside, rows and rows of small plants are growing under artificial lights. This is a new generation biotech venture: a molecular farm. Others are springing up across the US and elsewhere – and they farm vaccines. This means that if we find a coronavirus vaccine that works, their produce could be used by households worldwide.
As the Earth warms, heatwaves are expected to occur more often, with sharper intensity and for longer periods. Rising temperatures adversely affect worker productivity and human health, but for policymakers to take substantive action for heat adaptation, and meet what researchers see as a life-saving Paris climate agreement, making an economic case is key.
More than six months into the coronavirus crisis, data show that not just age, but also biological sex plays a pivotal role in the manifestation and response to Covid-19, with more men dying from acute infections versus women in the short term. This discrepancy has shined a spotlight on a key theme that has gained traction in recent years: is enough being done to account for sex and gender in disease and medicine? Not enough, says Dr Sabine Oertelt-Prigione, the chair of sex and gender-sensitive medicine at Radboud University in the Netherlands and a member of the European Commission’s expert group on gendered innovations.
Infants born early, before 37 weeks of pregnancy, have a higher risk of dying in childhood and often suffer from lifelong health problems. But two novel devices could help cut this risk – one by improving how risk of an early birth is assessed and the other by offering personalised nutritional advice for premature babies.
Current regulations on air pollution mainly focus on the mass of particles of a particular size range in a sample, and this has been used as a marker for their threat to human health. But these air quality standards do not address the medical implications of the very smallest particles – nor other attributes that may be damaging, such as their chemical makeup.
A ‘bio-artificial’ pancreas grown in a lab with the aid of placental stem cells, and a DIY insulin-monitoring and release system are being developed to give people with insulin-dependent diabetes an alternative to waiting for a pancreas transplant.
The emergency rooms in Barcelona were collapsing under the pressure. Hundreds of patients were arriving in desperate need as they struggled to breathe, while intensive care units struggled to cope with the sudden influx of respiratory problems. Epidemiologists scrambled to trace the source of the outbreak.
People in cities experienced cleaner air during lockdowns, but a permanent shift to greener modes of transport and habits is ‘extremely complex to achieve’ given how much space is devoted to cars and the groups resisting change, says Dr Basile Chaix, who studies the health trade-offs we make as we travel.
The fact that teenagers worry isn’t necessarily a concern – it’s when the adolescent brain amplifies and distorts a simple worry that mental health problems can arise. As scientists aim to unlock why teenagers get anxious, and how infancy and upbringing are implicated, early intervention strategies are being refined to redirect harmful thoughts and teach adolescents to read the emotions of others – a crucial way to keep their own distressing feelings in check.
Different people respond to medication in different ways – and the results can be fatal.
Prof. Christine Stabell Benn is studying the wider effects of common vaccines.
Dr Kate Rychert studies ocean plate structures.