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News about Climate Change and our Planet

Graduate student

Water-to-land transition in early tetrapods

(Harvard University, Department of Organismic and Evolutionary Biology) The water-to-land transition is one of the most important major transitions in vertebrate evolution. However, there is still uncertainty about when the water-land transition took place and how terrestrial early tetrapods really were. A new paper in Nature addresses these questions and shows although these early tetrapods were still tied to water and had aquatic features, they also had adaptations that indicate some ability to move on land.

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New material ‘mines’ copper from toxic wastewater

A team of scientists has designed a new material — called ZIOS (zinc imidazole salicylaldoxime) — that targets and traps copper ions from wastewater with unprecedented precision and speed. The technology offers the water industry and the research community the first blueprint for a water-remediation technology that scavenges heavy metal ions with a measure of control that far surpasses the current state of the art.

Engineered immune cells elicit broad response to HIV in mice, offering hope for vaccine

Unlike so many other deadly viruses, HIV still lacks a vaccine. The virus has proven especially tricky to prevent with conventional antibodies, in part because it evolves so rapidly in the body. A solution would require coaxing the body into producing a special type of antibody that can act broadly to defeat multiple strains of the virus at once. Scientists have moved closer to attaining that goal with an approach that would rely on genetically engineered immune cells from the patient’s body.

The secret social lives of giant poisonous rats

The African crested rat is the only mammal known to sequester plant toxins for chemical defense. A new study confirmed that the rabbit-sized rodent licks poison from the bark of Acokanthera schimperi, known as the poison arrow tree, into specialized fur. The researchers also discovered an unexpected social life — the rats appear to be monogamous and may even form small family units with their offspring.

Vibrations of coronavirus proteins may play a role in infection

New research finds vibrations of the protein spikes on coronaviruses, including SARS-CoV-2, play a crucial part in allowing the virus to penetrate human cells. The findings could help determine how dangerous different strains or mutations of coronaviruses may be, and might point to a new approach to developing treatments.