Hello BMSA readers! It’s about that time to knuckle down for finals! With that in mind, this is going to be the last WWR of this Winter Term. We really hope you enjoy the selection of articles we’ve hand-picked for March 2021. Stay focused and reach your goals, Mustangs.
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How Canada can become a global leader in health innovation during the pandemic and beyond
Contributor Si-Cheng Dai
It’s been almost a year since the World Health Organization declared a global pandemic, and Canada, along with the rest of the world, has strongly felt the impacts of COVID-19. However, from strife often comes innovation, and the Canadian government seems to realize this. Funding for COVID-19-related research projects has since sprouted. Yet compared to the United States, we still lack in the number of healthcare startups and biotech companies. Perhaps one of the reasons for this is our different focus. We may need to conduct research for the purposes of socio-economic utility, and conjoin our efforts with entrepreneurship to realize its true potential. Read the rest of this article for a breakdown on how Canada can shed its skin and become a global leader in health innovation.
A brave new world of plant cyborgs, spinach that emails
Contributor Sabrina Ke
Have you heard the saying, “The fields have eyes, the forest has ears''? Well, research suggests that this may actually be the case, although perhaps not quite as literally. Many studies suggest that plants can “hear” sound in their environment and now, with the help of plant nanobiotics, they may be able to communicate as well. In order to monitor and detect toxic substances and chemicals in groundwater, researchers at the Massachusetts Institute of technology have embedded sensors in plant tissues that send signals when the plant has taken up certain substances or chemicals. In particular, living spinach plants were embedded with carbon nanotubes that detected the amount of chemical the plants absorbed from the groundwater. The infrared signal released could then be received by a smartphone or be emailed to the researchers. In this way, plants could serve as communication devices to provide an innovative solution in detecting buried and/or missing explosives and landmines leftover from past wars. But that's not all, further research shows the countless possibilities of plant nanobiotics in developing plants that communicate information regarding drought and temperature, or even creating plant desk lamps and street lights! So to all the plant lovers out there, talk to your plants or play music for them because they just might be listening!
COVID-19: No variants can escape human antibodies yet, though some can infect mice
Contributor Saniyah Qureshi
It has been over one year since the World Health Organization declared a Global Pandemic. After spotting the new B.1.1.7 (the variant of concern) in the UK, scientists have looked into whether any variant is capable of escaping all of the human antibodies. According to a study published on bioRxiv, no single variant can escape. Researchers observed mutations in coronavirus variants and their impact on our antibodies’ potential to target the virus spike region, also known as the receptor-binding domain (RBD). Jesse Bloom, coauthor of the Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center stated, “several lineages have mutations that reduce binding by two of the antibody classes, but so far no lineages have mutations that escape all three classes.” In other news, scientists discovered that mice are susceptible to coronavirus variants. The wild-type strain was incapable of infecting mice since the spikes on SARS-CoV-2 were unable to bind to the ACE2 receptor protein. Findings of whether mice could then transfer the variant virus to humans remain under review.
White House confirms it is sending vaccines to Canada
Contributor Nicole Lagace
With vaccinations underway, many Canadians have been wondering when they are going to receive theirs. It has been a slow process, and there have been complaints that Canada is not keeping up with vaccinating the population in comparison with other developed nations. In an effort to speed up vaccinations and reopen the North American land borders, the White House has confirmed a shipment of 1.5 million doses of the AstraZeneca vaccine heading to Canada, and another 2.5 million being sent to Mexico. Currently, just over 4.5 million vaccines have been distributed in Canada so far, so this shipment of doses will likely push Canada towards getting up to speed with vaccinations. These vaccine doses were sitting in a U.S. vaccine stockpile and were not predicted to be used, especially as the FDA has been slow to approve the AstraZeneca vaccine. With the risk of expiry for these vaccine doses, a move was made by the White House to ship the vaccine doses out to Canada and Mexico, where it has been approved. This powerful political move made by the U.S. will help out their geographic neighbours at a crucial turning point in the pandemic. Hopefully, this large shipment will boost Canadian vaccination rates and help us take a step towards bringing this pandemic to a close.