Folding protein 🧬 Plant memories 🌱 Forced labour 😓 !

Technology News

DeepMind’s latest AI breakthrough can accurately predict the way proteins fold

As part of its work for the 14th Critical Assessment of Protein Structure Prediction, or CASP, DeepMind’s AlphaFold 2 AI has shown it can guess how certain proteins will fold themselves with surprising accuracy. In some cases, the results were perceived to be “competitive” with actual, experimental data. “We have been stuck on this one problem – how do proteins fold up – for nearly 50 years.” DeepMind relied on 128 of Google’s cloud-based TPUv3 cores, which ultimately gave AlphaFold 2 the ability to accurately determine a protein’s structure within just days, though in some cases, predictions can be generated in a matter of hours. 

Amazon is bringing macOS to its AWS cloud

New Mac mini instances will be available on Amazon’s Elastic Compute Cloud (EC2), allowing developers to create apps for iPhones, iPads, Macs, and more all on AWS. Amazon’s introduction of macOS instances is significant for developers. They now have a big cloud provider that will let them run Xcode and Swift development tools in the cloud, moving away from having to maintain and patch dedicated Mac machines. Apple software and hardware can now be leased to individuals or organizations for permitted developer services, as long as it’s “for a minimum period of twenty-four (24) consecutive hours.”

Science News

Chemical memory in plants affects chances of offspring survival

Researchers have uncovered the mechanism that allows plants to pass on their ‘memories’ to offspring, which results in growth and developmental defects. The researchers identified two proteins in Thale Cress, previously known only to control the initiation and timing of flowering, that are also responsible for controlling ‘plant memory’ through the chemical modification (demethylation) of histone proteins. They showed that plants unable to reset these chemical marks during sexual reproduction, passed on this ‘memory’ to subsequent generations. “The next step is to work out how to manipulate such ‘memories’ for plant breeding purposes.”

Drug reverses age-related cognitive decline within days

In a new study, researchers showed rapid restoration of youthful cognitive abilities in aged mice, accompanied by a rejuvenation of brain and immune cells that could help explain improvements in brain function. “ISRIB’s extremely rapid effects show for the first time that a significant component of age-related cognitive losses may be caused by a kind of reversible physiological “blockage” rather than more permanent degradation.” They found that common signatures of neuronal aging disappeared literally overnight: neurons’ electrical activity became more sprightly and responsive to stimulation, and cells showed more robust connectivity.

Business News

Nike and Coca-Cola Lobby Against Xinjiang Forced Labor Bill

Nike and Coca-Cola are among the major companies and business groups lobbying Congress to weaken a bill that would ban imported goods made with forced labor in China’s Xinjiang region. The legislation, called the Uyghur Forced Labor Prevention Act, has become the target of multinational companies including Apple whose supply chains touch the far western Xinjiang region. Lobbyists have fought to water down some of its provisions, arguing that while they strongly condemn forced labor and current atrocities in Xinjiang, the act’s ambitious requirements could wreak havoc on supply chains that are deeply embedded in China.

Unilever to try out four-day working week in New Zealand

Unilever said all 81 staff members at its offices across New Zealand will be able to participate in the trial which will run for 12 months until December next year. There is no manufacturing in New Zealand and all the staff are in sales, distribution and marketing. The employees will be paid for five days while working just four. Unilever New Zealand managing director Nick Bangs said the aim was to change the way work is done, not increase the working hours on four days. After 12 months, Unilever will assess the outcome of the move and look at how it could work for the rest of its 155,000 employees globally.

Miscellaneous News

Amazon deforestation hits 12-year high under President Bolsonaro

The Amazon rainforest has suffered its worst deforestation for 12 years. An area of 11,088 km2 – seven times the size of London – was lost in a year. The data from Brazil’s space research agency showed a 9.5% annual increase. Brazil will now miss its own target to keep deforestation to around 3,900km2. President Bolsonaro has been criticised for his attitude to the Amazon. He has weakened Brazil’s environmental enforcement agency and urged more commercial farming and mining in the Amazon, saying it will help fight poverty.

Stockholm mother arrested ‘after keeping son for decades in flat’

Swedish police have arrested an elderly woman suspected of having kept her son confined to their flat in a Stockholm for up to three decades. She denied false imprisonment and grievous bodily harm after the son was found injured and living in squalor. He was discovered by a relative after his mother fell ill and was taken to hospital. He is now undergoing surgery in hospital for his injuries. The woman, who is aged 70, is expected to remain in police custody while the investigation continues. If she is found guilty of false imprisonment, police say she could face up to ten years in jail.

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