This flu season is especially bad. Researchers may have developed a universal vaccine.
Georgia State University researchers have created a novel nanoparticle vaccine.
- A nanoparticle influenza vaccine developed at Georgia State University proved effective in mice.
- The researchers combined a pair of influenza proteins in a novel approach to vaccination.
- They plan on loading it onto microneedle patches for skin vaccinations in the next phase of testing.
Twice a year, researchers have a difficult decision to make: choosing influenza strains to include in the flu vaccine. Of course, they don't always get it right. In 2014, for example, the flu vaccine was only 19 perfect effective, though just the year before it proved to be 52 percent effective. The vaccine is the product of educated guesswork, one that medical professionals would love to see improved upon. Sadly, this year it does not appear to be especially effective.
A potential breakthrough occurred last year when researchers at Georgia State University and Emory University tweaked an old influenza remedy and discovered that it cured ferrets of the virus. Further testing awaits on humans, but it represents an important step. A new study conducted at the Institute for Biomedical Sciences at Georgia State University has resulted in another big step: the potential development of a universal flu vaccine.
Worldwide, over 600,000 people die from influenza every year. While there are only three strains of influenza that affect humans (a fourth might make us sick, though we're not certain), each strain has a number of subtypes. Guessing which of these is going to appear makes the vaccination results unpredictable. Though a major epidemic hasn't hit us in a century—in 1918, 500 million people were affected by the flu, resulting in 50 million deaths—any year could result in such devastation. The 2017-2018 season broke the record for number of deaths in America.
Could a Universal Flu Vaccine Replace the Seasonal Flu Shot?
Researchers at Georgia State University created a novel nanoparticle vaccine by combining a pair of influenza proteins: matrix protein 2 ectodomain (M2e) and neuraminidase (NA). Mice immunized with this vaccination received long-lasting protection against influenza. According to first author of the study, Ye Wang, this approach might help in the development of a universal vaccine.
"This nanoparticle antigen combination conferred mice with strong cross protection. It can protect mice from different strains of influenza virus. Each season, we have different flu strains that affect us. By using this approach, we hope this nanoparticle vaccine can protect humans from different strains of influenza virus."
Co-author Gilbert Gonzalez states that previous flu vaccines haven't focused on NA, which might explain the broad efficacy of this new vaccine.
"NA is becoming a more important antigen for influenza vaccine research. Previously, it had been ignored or discounted because hemagglutinin (HA) is much more dominant. When you get a flu infection, your body reacts to the HA."
A child holding a sign at an anti-vaccination rally. The parents of the Iowan girl that went blind offer one piece of advice: get your child vaccinated.
Photo by Erik McGregor/LightRocket via Getty Images
The flu isn't broadly discussed until it affects large populations. Yet every year it causes major damage. The most endangered populations are seniors and children. Last week, a four-year-old girl in Iowa became blind after combating this year's flu. Two Nebraskan children and two children in Michigan have reportedly died this season. A new meta-analysis, combining 19 controlled studies, found that pregnant woman that receive the flu vaccine help protect their newborn.
Vaccination is especially important given that experts predict 2020 to be a particularly bad year. In Erie County, New York, there have been over 700 reported flu cases already this year, resulting in at least one pediatric death. At this point last year there were only 100 cases. Sixteen people have died this season in Minnesota, doubling the number of deaths from 2019.
The team at Georgia State University plan on loading this vaccine onto microneedle patches and testing it out via skin vaccination. Hopefully this research will pan out, as a universal vaccine would be of great benefit to an under-discussed yet persistent killer.
What would happen if you tripled the US population? Join Matthew Yglesias and Charles Duhigg at 1pm ET on Monday, September 28.
The idea of 'absolute time' is an illusion. Physics and subjective experience reveal why.
- Since Einstein posited his theory of general relativity, we've understood that gravity has the power to warp space and time.
- This "time dilation" effect occurs even at small levels.
- Outside of physics, we experience distortions in how we perceive time — sometimes to a startling extent.
Physics without time<p>In his book "The Order of Time," Italian theoretical physicist Carlo Rovelli suggests that our perception of time — our sense that time is forever flowing forward — could be a highly subjective projection. After all, when you look at reality on the smallest scale (using equations of quantum gravity, at least), time vanishes.</p><p style="margin-left: 20px;">"If I observe the microscopic state of things," writes Rovelli, "then the difference between past and future vanishes … in the elementary grammar of things, there is no distinction between 'cause' and 'effect.'"</p><p>So, why do we perceive time as flowing <em>forward</em>? Rovelli notes that, although time disappears on extremely small scales, we still obviously perceive events occur sequentially in reality. In other words, we observe entropy: Order changing into disorder; an egg cracking and getting scrambled.</p><p>Rovelli says key aspects of time are described by the second law of thermodynamics, which states that heat always passes from hot to cold. This is a one-way street. For example, an ice cube melts into a hot cup of tea, never the reverse. Rovelli suggests a similar phenomenon might explain why we're only able to perceive the past and not the future.</p><p style="margin-left: 20px;">"Any time the future is definitely distinguishable from the past, there is something like heat involved," Rovelli wrote for the <a href="https://www.ft.com/content/ce6ef7b8-429a-11e8-93cf-67ac3a6482fd" target="_blank"><em>Financial Times</em></a>. "Thermodynamics traces the direction of time to something called the 'low entropy of the past', a still mysterious phenomenon on which discussions rage."</p>
The strange subjectivity of time<p>Time moves differently atop a mountain than it does on a beach. But you don't need to travel any distance at all to experience strange distortions in your perception of time. In moments of life-or-death fear, for example, your brain would release large amounts of adrenaline, which would speed up your internal clock, causing you to perceive the outside world as moving slowly.<br></p><p>Another common distortion occurs when we focus our attention in particular ways.</p><p style="margin-left: 20px;">"If you're thinking about how time is <em>currently</em> passing by, the biggest factor influencing your time perception is attention," Aaron Sackett, associate professor of marketing at the University of St. Thomas, told <em><a href="https://gizmodo.com/why-does-time-slow-down-and-speed-up-1840133782" target="_blank">Gizmodo</a></em>.<em> "</em>The more attention you give to the passage of time, the slower it tends to go. As you become distracted from time's passing—perhaps by something interesting happening nearby, or a good daydreaming session—you're more likely to lose track of time, giving you the feeling that it's slipping by more quickly than before. "Time flies when you're having fun," they say, but really, it's more like "time flies when you're thinking about other things." That's why time will also often fly by when you're definitely <em>not</em> having fun—like when you're having a heated argument or are terrified about an upcoming presentation."</p><p>One of the most mysterious ways people experience time-perception distortions is through psychedelic drugs. In an interview with <a href="https://www.theguardian.com/books/2018/apr/14/carlo-rovelli-exploding-commonsense-notions-order-of-time-interview" target="_blank"><em>The Guardian</em></a>, Rovelli described a time he experimented with LSD.</p><p style="margin-left: 20px;">"It was an extraordinarily strong experience that touched me also intellectually," he said. "Among the strange phenomena was the sense of time stopping. Things were happening in my mind but the clock was not going ahead; the flow of time was not passing any more. It was a total subversion of the structure of reality."<br></p><p>It seems few scientists or philosophers believe time is completely an illusion.</p><p style="margin-left: 20px;">"What we call <em>time</em> is a rich, stratified concept; it has many layers," Rovelli told <em><a href="https://physicstoday.scitation.org/do/10.1063/PT.6.4.20190219a/full/" target="_blank">Physics Today</a>.</em> "Some of time's layers apply only at limited scales within limited domains. This does not make them illusions."</p>What <em>is</em> an illusion is the idea that time flows at an absolute rate. The river of time might be flowing forever forward, but it moves at different speeds, between people, and even within your own mind.
Dominique Crenn, the only female chef in America with three Michelin stars, joins Big Think Live.
Having been exposed to mavericks in the French culinary world at a young age, three-star Michelin chef Dominique Crenn made it her mission to cook in a way that is not only delicious and elegant, but also expressive, memorable, and true to her experience.
Controversial physics theory says reality around us behaves like a computer neural network.
- Physicist proposes that the universe behaves like an artificial neural network.
- The scientist's new paper seeks to reconcile classical physics and quantum mechanics.
- The theory claims that natural selection produces both atoms and "observers".
Vanchurin interview:<span style="display:block;position:relative;padding-top:56.25%;" class="rm-shortcode" data-rm-shortcode-id="539759cbfd8fcd5b6ebf14a3b597b3f9"><iframe type="lazy-iframe" data-runner-src="https://www.youtube.com/embed/bmyRy2-UhEE?rel=0" width="100%" height="auto" frameborder="0" scrolling="no" style="position:absolute;top:0;left:0;width:100%;height:100%;"></iframe></span>
Vanchurin on “Hidden Phenomena”:<span style="display:block;position:relative;padding-top:56.25%;" class="rm-shortcode" data-rm-shortcode-id="18886ffd5e5840bb19d4494212f88d82"><iframe type="lazy-iframe" data-runner-src="https://www.youtube.com/embed/2NDVdNwsHCo?rel=0" width="100%" height="auto" frameborder="0" scrolling="no" style="position:absolute;top:0;left:0;width:100%;height:100%;"></iframe></span>Vitaly Vanchurin speaking at the 6th International FQXi Conference, "Mind Matters: Intelligence and Agency in the Physical World." The Foundational Questions...
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