What makes certain groups more vulnerable to COVID-19? Researchers look to animals to find clues in proteins involved in infection — ScienceDaily

What makes the elderly and people with underlying conditions more vulnerable to COVID-19? According to a new study led by McGill University researchers, clues can be found in the proteins involved in initiating infection, as the virus binds to host cells of different animals. Greater cellular oxidation with aging and sickness may explain why seniors and people with chronic illness get infected more often and more severely.

Over 60 million people have been infected and around 1.5 million have died from COVID-19. The virus is disrupting economies and food supply chains all over the world. Understanding why some animals get infected and others do not could be the key to unlocking new treatments and therapies. In a study published in Computational and Structural Biotechnology Journal, researchers analyzed available protein sequences of the virus and host cell receptors across different spices to find out why.

“We know that the virus can

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3-D protein modeling suggests why COVID-19 infects some animals, but not others

3D protein modeling suggests why COVID-19 infects some animals, but not others
3D structure model of the receptor-binding domain of SARS-CoV-2 (in blue) interacting with the human ACE2 receptor (in gray). Amino acids important to the interaction, which are present only in COVID-susceptible animal species are highlighted in yellow. Sugars bound to the proteins are shown in pink. Credit: Rodrigues et al. 2020 (CC-BY 2.0)

Some animals are more susceptible to COVID-19 infection than others, and new research suggests this may be due to distinctive structural features of a protein found on the surface of animal cells. João Rodrigues of Stanford University, California, and colleagues present these findings in the open-access journal PLOS Computational Biology.


Previous research suggests that the current pandemic began when the virus that causes COVID-19, SARS-CoV-2, jumped from bats or pangolins to humans. Certain other animals, such as cattle and cats, appear to be susceptible to COVID-19, while others, such as pigs and chickens, are not. One

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Global warming likely to increase disease risk for animals worldwide — ScienceDaily

Changes in climate can increase infectious disease risk in animals, researchers found — with the possibility that these diseases could spread to humans, they warn.

The study, conducted by scientists at the University of Notre Dame, University of South Florida and University of Wisconsin-Madison, supports a phenomenon known as “thermal mismatch hypothesis,” which is the idea that the greatest risk for infectious disease in cold climate-adapted animals — such as polar bears — occurs as temperatures rise, while the risk for animals living in warmer climates occurs as temperatures fall.

The hypothesis proposes that smaller organisms like pathogens function across a wider range of temperatures than larger organisms, such as hosts or animals.

“Understanding how the spread, severity and distribution of animal infectious diseases could change in the future has reached a new level of importance as a result of the global pandemic caused by SARS-CoV-2, a pathogen which appears

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Fossils purported to be world’s earliest animals revealed as algae

Nov. 23 (UPI) — Fossils previously heralded as the earliest evidence of animal life have been revealed to be algae. The reinterpretation, announced Monday in the journal Nature Ecology and Evolution, will force scientists to reconsider early animal evolution.

“It brings the oldest evidence for animals nearly 100 million years closer to the present day,” study co-author Lennart van Maldegem said in a news release.

“We were able to demonstrate that certain molecules from common algae can be altered by geological processes — leading to molecules which are indistinguishable from those produced by sponge-like animals,” said van Maldegem, a postdoctoral research fellow at the Australian National University.

The new research reverses the trend of fresh discoveries pushing the emergence of animal life further and further back on the evolutionary timeline.

For decades, scientists have struggled to pinpoint the origins of animal life, but recently, a series of discoveries suggested sponge-like

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How animals use iridescent color signals — ScienceDaily

A new paper from the University of Melbourne reveals how animals use beautiful but unreliable iridescent colours as communication signals. Special adaptations enable animals to control how these shifting colours appear so that they can convey reliable information.

The new work now published in Trends in Evolution and Ecology draws together studies from across the animal kingdom to discover how animals control the appearance of iridescent colors in nature.

“Iridescence is tricky to study because the hue that you see depends on the position of the viewer and the direction of light,” said senior author, Dr Amanda Franklin from the School of BioSciences.

“That means that iridescent colors change constantly, so it’s hard to see how they can convey reliable information. The number one rule for communication is that the information must be reliable — it’s the same for both animals and humans!”

But paradoxically, iridescent colours, like dazzling butterfly

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Existing antidepressant helps to inhibit growth of cancer cells in lab animals — ScienceDaily

New research has shown that the antidepressant sertraline helps to inhibit the growth of cancer cells. The substance acts on a metabolic addiction that allows different types of cancer to grow. This is shown by a study on cell cultures and lab animals performed by various research labs of KU Leuven. Their findings were published in Molecular Cancer Therapeutics, a journal of the American Association for Cancer Research.

Cancer cells use different biological mechanisms to stimulate their growth. In certain types of breast cancer, leukemia, skin cancer, brain tumours and lung cancer, among others, the malignant cells produce large amounts of serine and glycine, two amino acids. This production stimulates the growth of cancer cells to such an extent that they become addicted to serine and glycine.

“This mechanism is an interesting target because cancer cells are so dependent on it,” says Professor Kim De Keersmaecker, head of the

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Researchers suggest AI can learn common sense from animals

AI researchers developing reinforcement learning agents could learn a lot from animals. That’s according to recent analysis by Google’s DeepMind, Imperial College London, and University of Cambridge researchers assessing AI and non-human animals.

In a decades-long venture to advance machine intelligence, the AI research community has often looked to neuroscience and behavioral science for inspiration and to better understand how intelligence is formed. But this effort has focused primarily on human intelligence, specifically that of babies and children.

“This is especially true in a reinforcement learning context, where, thanks to progress in deep learning, it is now possible to bring the methods of comparative cognition directly to bear,” the researchers’ paper reads. “Animal cognition supplies a compendium of well-understood, nonlinguistic, intelligent behavior; it suggests experimental methods for evaluation and benchmarking; and it can guide environment and task design.”

DeepMind introduced some of the first forms of AI that combine deep

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New study shows evidence of nonhuman animals selecting who they socialize during aging — ScienceDaily

No new friends and no drama.

When humans age, they tend to favor small circles of meaningful, already established friendships rather than seek new ones. People are also more likely to lean toward positive relationships rather than ones that bring tension or conflict. These behaviors were thought to be unique to humans but it turns out chimpanzees, one of our closest living relatives, have these traits, too. Understanding why can help scientists gain a better picture of what healthy aging should look like and what triggers this social change.

The work is described in the journal Science and is authored by a team of psychologists and primatologists, including current and former researchers from the Harvard Department of Human Evolutionary Biology.

The study draws on 78,000 hours of observations, made between 1995 and 2016, which looked at the social interactions of 21 male chimpanzees between the ages of 15 and 58

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