It’s already the end of August and more than half of the year has passed. However, we are continuing the fight against COVID-19 and are discovering new ways to protect ourselves: In Brazil, for example, the Minister of Health has already announced a date for increasing the vaccine in priority groups, while antibodies abroad neutralize all variants of the coronavirus. In addition to COVID, we have news from the fields of genetics, neuroscience and endocrinology. You can follow all of this now and very quickly here at Giro da Saúde!
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Good news for the elderly and the immunocompromised! These patients will receive the third dose of the COVID-19 vaccine starting September 15 in Brazil. This means that anyone with immunosuppression who has received the second dose of the vaccine for at least 21 days can take the booster. Elderly people must be between 70 and 80 years of age in this first wave and the second dose must have been given more than six months ago.
According to Minister Marcelo Queiroga, the booster vaccine will be that of Pfizer. And the date is no coincidence: by the next 15th, the entire population over 18 years of age should have taken at least the first dose of the vaccine against the coronavirus.
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Could homosexuality have a “genetic justification”? Science never tires of studying this subject, and recently a large genomics study attempted to solve the mystery of the possible existence of a “gay gene” in human DNA.
So far, international research has had to work out the existence of one or more genes that determine a person’s sexual orientation even before they are born. But it’s not because this evidence couldn’t be found that the research isn’t looking for scientific explanations for human behavior related to sexuality.
The Australian study identified some genetic patterns that can be linked to homosexuality. However, the same patterns, when observed in other groups, can help people find mates of different sexes and, consequently, reproduce. From previous research and the new analysis, scientists have observed that people who have had at least one same-sex partner tend to share patterns with small genetic differences that are spread across the genome. However, none of these variations appeared to affect sexual behavior per se, which supports previous research that found no independently strong signals of the “gay gene”.
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A recent Portuguese survey caught the attention of the scientific community last week by publishing the results of a study showing how the brain processes the fat that surrounds our organs, also called visceral fat. For scientists, the nervous and immune systems worked together to control visceral fat, based on signals the two systems transmitted to control the adipose tissue around the lungs. However, there was no such notification to other bodies.
In experiments with mice, the team from Portugal identified the specific brain regions responsible for controlling visceral fat and discovered a cellular mediator that translates and actively regulates neural signals. This intermediary receives instructions that come mainly from the hypothalamus. “It is as if the nerve and immune cells do not speak the same language and this mediator acts as an interpreter,” emphasize the researchers. It is noteworthy that, despite the discovery of the mechanism, the study is preliminary and further research is needed in the area.
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What would happen to a potato if its genome were edited and modified to harbor one – only one – human gene? That’s what a team of American researchers did: in a kind of genetic trick, they cut out a human gene linked to obesity and fat mass and built it into plants to increase the potato harvest.
The fat-regulating protein resulted in identical potato plants producing 50% higher yields. By growing more food without taking up more space for agriculture, scientists want their work to help fight global hunger – without increasing the burden on the climate. “That was really a bold and bizarre idea. In fact, we had expected catastrophic effects, ”emphasized the researchers.
But what happened anyway? According to experts, growth has been sustained and regulated by a variety of genes, and there is no genetic system to keep it under control. The good surprise was when these effects resulted in larger potatoes, rather than dead potato stems or damaged potatoes.
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One of the greatest challenges in understanding the behavior of the coronavirus is that the pathogen has mutations that lead to variants – which in turn behave differently than previous strains. Are the vaccines we are using today to neutralize them? Is the Delta variant “stronger” than the others? And the original strain is still infecting all over the world? With so many questions just shining a light at the end of the tunnel: a study published in the New England Journal of Medicine immunized survivors of the Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS) outbreak in 2003 with the Pfizer vaccine and led to the discovery of antibodies, all of them can neutralize known variants of SARS-CoV-2.
The researchers recruited eight people who had recovered from SARS-CoV-1, which was responsible for the SARS epidemic in 2003, as well as 10 healthy people and 10 COVID-19 survivors. They then compared the immune responses of the three groups before and after vaccination with the vaccine. Prior to vaccination, SARS-CoV-1 survivors had detectable neutralizing antibodies to SARS-CoV-1, but small amounts of neutralizing anti-SARS-CoV-2 antibodies. But after they received two doses of the vaccine, they all had high levels of antibodies, like it was a protective chimera.
The finding is interesting and encouraging because once the potentially neutralizing antibodies of new variants are discovered, new strategies can be developed to develop more accurate next-generation vaccines that will prevent future coronavirus pandemics.
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