Researchers from Australia's nuclear science agency have suggested that the unique immune system of alpacas could help in curing coronavirus.
The Australian Nuclear Science and Technology Organization (ANSTO) and Walter and Eliza Hall Institute (WEHI) said on Tuesday that they are studying alpaca antibodies in the search for therapies for COVID-19, reports Xinhua.
By immunising alpacas with the spike protein from SARS-CoV-2, researchers have been able to isolate nanobodies and screen them for the ability to inhibit the virus.
They have then been able to use the Microfocus Crystallography (MX2) Beamline at ANSTO's Australian Synchrotron to study how an alpaca's immune system can fight infection by COVID-19.
Michael James, ANSTO's Australian Synchrotron senior principal research scientist, said the Synchrotron - a type of particle accelerator - has also been used to study human proteins responsible for the replication of the virus within cells and the structure of the virus that causes COVID-19.
"Since March, we've been operating a COVID-19 Rapid Access program to enable Australian and international researchers to solve the atomic structure of SARS-CoV-2 viral proteins," he said in a statement.
"We're looking at proteins either by themselves or bound to other biological molecules or anti-viral drugs that can help fight the virus or prevent its spread. In this instance, MX2 is being used to determine the structure of these inhibitory nanobodies in complex with the key region of the spike protein to understand the structural mechanism of inhibition," James said.
"These structures will provide invaluable information that will allow further development of antibody therapies against COVID-19."
Australian researchers have developed a technology that can turn seawater safe to drink in less than 30 minutes by using only a high-tech filter and direct sunlight.
According to the Melbourne-based Monash University, the specially-designed filter is capable of generating hundreds of litres of drinkable water per day, reports Xinhua.
The technology requires only direct sunlight to purify, making the process energy-efficient, low-cost and sustainable.
Metal-organic frameworks (MOFs), a class of compounds consisting of metal ions that form a crystalline material with the largest surface area of any material known, are used in making the filters.
During the desalination process, a functionalised MOF filter firstly adsorbs salt from water, which consumes no energy, then the salt filled MOF can be put under sunlight to regenerate, taking less than four minutes, before it can absorb salt from water again.
Lead author of the research, Professor Huanting Wang from the Department of Chemical Engineering at Monash University, said desalination is a feasible option to address the pressing water shortage crisis around the world.
Desalination has been used to address escalating water shortages globally.
Due to the availability of brackish water and seawater, and because desalination processes are reliable, treated water can be integrated within existing aquatic systems with minimal health risks," Wang said.
"But thermal desalination processes by evaporation are energy-intensive, and other technologies, such as reverse osmosis, have a number of drawbacks, including high energy consumption and chemical usage in membrane cleaning and dechlorination."
With low energy consumption and no chemicals needed during the process, Wang said this highlights the durability and sustainability of this new technology for future clean water solutions.
"This study has successfully demonstrated that the photoresponsive MOFs are a promising, energy-efficient, and sustainable adsorbent for desalination," he said.
The first astronauts launched by Elon Musk's SpaceX company departed the International Space Station on Saturday night for the final and most important part of their test flight: returning to Earth with a rare splashdown.
NASA's Doug Hurley and Bob Behnken bid farewell to the three men left behind as their SpaceX Dragon capsule undocked and headed toward a Sunday afternoon descent by parachute into the Gulf of Mexico.
Despite Tropical Storm Isaias' surge toward Florida's Atlantic shore, NASA said the weather looked favorable off the coast of Pensacola on the extreme opposite side of the state.
It will be the first splashdown for astronauts in 45 years. The last time was following the joint U.S.-Soviet mission in 1975 known as Apollo-Soyuz.
Space station commander Chris Cassidy rang the ship's bell as Dragon pulled away, 267 miles (430 kilometers) above Johannesburg, South Africa. Within a few minutes, all that could be seen of the capsule was a pair of flashing lights against the black void of space.
"It's been a great two months, and we appreciate all you've done as a crew to help us prove out Dragon on its maiden flight," Hurley radioed to the space station.
"Safe travels," Cassidy replied, "and have a successful landing."
The astronauts' homecoming will cap a mission that ended a prolonged launch drought in the U.S., which has relied on Russian rockets to ferry astronauts to the space station since the end of the shuttle era.
In launching Hurley and Behnken from NASA's Kennedy Space Center on May 30, SpaceX became the first private company to send people into orbit. Now SpaceX is on the verge of becoming the first company to bring people back from orbit.
"The hardest part was getting us launched, but the most important is bringing us home," Behnken said several hours before strapping into the Dragon.
A successful splashdown, Behnken said, will bring U.S.-crew launching capability "full circle."
At a farewell ceremony earlier in the day, Cassidy, who will remain on board with two Russians until October, presented Hurley with the small U.S. flag left behind by the previous astronauts to launch to the space station from U.S. soil. Hurley was the pilot of that final shuttle mission in July 2011.
The flag — which also flew on the first shuttle flight in 1981 — became a prize for the company that launched astronauts first.
SpaceX easily beat Boeing, which isn't expected to launch its first crew until next year and will land in the U.S. Southwest. The flag has one more flight after this one: to the moon on NASA's Artemis program in the next few years.
"We're a little sad to see them go," Cassidy said, "but very excited for what it means to our international space program to add this capability" of commercial crew capsules. The next SpaceX crew flight is targeted for the end of September.
Hurley and Behnken also are bringing back a sparkly blue and purple dinosaur named Tremor. Their young sons chose the toy to accompany their fathers on the historic mission.
NASA has launched its new Mars rover, Perseverance, on a six-month journey to the Red Planet as part of an ambitious, long-range project to bring the first Martian rock samples back to Earth to be analysed for evidence of ancient life, reports AP.
The biggest, most sophisticated Mars rover ever built — a car-size vehicle bristling with cameras, microphones, drills and lasers — blasted off on Thursday morning.
NASA’s Perseverance rode a Atlas V rocket into a clear morning sky in the world’s third and final Mars launch of the summer.
NASA’s science mission chief, Thomas Zurbuchen, pronounced the launch the start of “humanity’s first round trip to another planet.”
“There’s a reason we call the robot Perseverance. Because going to Mars is hard,” NASA Administrator Jim Bridenstine said just before liftoff. “In this case, it’s harder than ever before because we’re doing it in the midst of a pandemic.”
The overall cost has been estimated more than $8 billion.
The plutonium-powered, six-wheeled rover will drill down and collect tiny geological specimens that will be brought home in about 2031 in a sort of interplanetary relay race involving multiple spacecraft and countries.
China and the United Arab Emirates got a head start last week, but all three missions should reach their destination in February after a journey of seven months and 300 million miles (480 million kilometers).
The US, the only country to safely put a spacecraft on Mars, is seeking its ninth successful landing on the planet, which has proven to be the Bermuda Triangle of space exploration, with more than half of the world's missions there burning up, crashing or otherwise ending in failure.
China is sending both a rover an orbiter. The UAE, a newcomer to outer space, has an orbiter en route.
It’s the biggest stampede to Mars in spacefaring history.
The opportunity to fly between Earth and Mars comes around only once every 26 months when the planets are on the same side of the sun and about as close as they can get.
Launch controllers wore masks and sat spaced apart at the Cape Canaveral control center because of the coronavirus outbreak, which kept hundreds of scientists and other team members away from Perseverance’s liftoff.
About an hour into the flight, controllers applauded, pumped their fists and exchanged air hugs and pantomimed high-fives when the rocket flawlessly broke out of orbit around the Earth and began hurtling toward Mars.
The launch went off on time at 7:50am despite a 4.2-magnitude earthquake 20 minutes before liftoff that shook the Jet Propulsion Laboratory.
Perseverance will aim for treacherous unexplored territory: Jezero Crater, riddled with boulders, cliffs, dunes and possibly rocks bearing the chemical signature of microbes from what was once a lake more than 3 billion years ago.
The rover will store half-ounce (15-gram) rock samples in dozens of super-sterilized titanium tubes.
It also will release a mini helicopter that will attempt the first powered flight on another planet, and test out other technology to prepare the way for future astronauts.
That includes equipment for extracting oxygen from Mars' thin carbon-dioxide atmosphere.
Two other NASA landers are also operating on Mars: 2018′s InSight and 2012′s Curiosity rover. Six other spacecraft are exploring the planet from orbit: three from the US, two from Europe and one from India.
An international research group, led by Israeli experts, claimed to have successfully tested a drug for children with autism that was originally developed for Alzheimer's disease.
Tel Aviv University (TAU) disclosed the information on Tuesday, reports Xinhua.
TAU researchers and their colleagues from the Czech Republic, Greece, Belgium and Croatia tested the experimental drug called NAP.
They published their study in the journal Translational Psychiatry.
The drug may help children with ADNP syndrome, one of the 10 most common genetic syndromes on the autism spectrum and characterised by mental impairment.
This syndrome is caused by a mutation in the ADNP gene, leading to a deficiency and malfunctioning of the ADNP protein which is essential for brain development.
The team found NAP effective in treating nerve cells in a model of ADNP syndrome, as damaged nerve-like cells returned to normal function after being treated.
Researchers said the results show that treatment with the experimental drug will aid cognitive improvement in autistic children, and will enhance their memory and learning skills.