Scientists learn the origin of Chinese viral outbreak, how earth’s first magnetic fields shaped life and other top research news of the week

Impact Insider – Weekly Round Up of Trending Research

Volume 1 | Issue 7

A lonely virus will leave you alone


If you can’t get rid of the uninvited guest, perhaps you could prevent them from reaching your house by trapping them inside their transport vehicle with a bunch of sentries?

That’s exactly what a group of scientists from the University of California San Diego did with the dengue virus. In an unconventional sci-fi-esque approach to tackling dengue, the scientists gave human antibodies to the dengue messenger mosquito, Aedes aegypti. This antibody, once in the mosquito’s blood, was able to prevent the replication and spread of the virus in the mosquito’s body, thereby preventing the virus’ transfer to the human body.

It seems, soon dengue-prevention ads may say something along the lines of “Immunize the mosquito, defeat the disease”!

Magnetic field in the early days of Earth was the catalyst to the origin of life

magnetic fields

In the beginning, there was a protector who stood tall over the Earth and shielded it from the sun’s evil rays… so to speak. Researchers have now found that 4.5 billion years ago, when the earth was still a molten ball of lava rapidly cooling into rocks, in a time geologists have named ‘The Hadean’, there was a strong magnetic field produced by our planet. In fact, this field was so strong, that it ensured that the zircon crystals, which are tiny crystalline structures forming in some rocks as they cool from lava, all had aligned magnetic fields, which can only happen if they were exposed to a magnetic field during formation. Scientists suggest that the protection of this shield may have helped change the conditions of earth to suit the origin of life. So, while we live on, we must thank the ancient silent protector for helping life begin.

Your favorite drink will now age gracefully. Thanks, Science!


Beer is the third most popular drink in the world overall, after water and tea. Studies have even shown that the nerves on our taste buds react to beer the same way as they react to a reward. Ain’t that special? Well, scientists have now added to the knowledge of beer and the different ways to improve your experience of getting tipsy with your favorite tipple.

Unlike wine and whisky, beer worsens as it ages. The “stale” or spoilt taste of beer is known to be because of certain chemical compounds called aldehydes, which develop in stored beer over time. A bunch of scientists recently used brewer’s yeast that were genetically engineered to contain higher levels of a biomolecule called NADH. NADH is an “assistant” molecule for some enzymes that break down aldehydes into other products. More NADH meant greater activity of such enzymes, which then meant that fewer aldehydes were produced and that too very slowly. All of this means an increased shelf-life for the most popular alcoholic drink in the world. Cheers to that!

Snakes- the culprit behind the coronavirus outbreak in Wuhan, China

China Map

A very recent study by Peking University, China has provided some important insights on the potential origins of the most recent outbreak of viral pneumonia in China, which started in the middle of December and now is spreading to Hong Kong, Singapore, Thailand, Japan, and the United States. The patients who became infected with the virus called coronavirus, named after ‘solar corona’ due to their structural similarity–were exposed to wildlife animals at a wholesale market in Wuhan, where seafood, poultry, snake, bats, and farm animals were sold.

This virus likely resides in snakes (the Chinese krait and the Chinese cobra) before being transmitted to humans. Unfortunately, there hasn’t been any approved vaccine or antiviral treatment available for the coronavirus infection.

What’s mystifying is the easy adaptation of the virus to both the warm-blooded and cold-blooded hosts. To sum it up, a bat virus mutates, then it infects snakes, and finally it infects humans? That’s not terrifying at all!

Rachana Bhattacharjee, Anupama Prakash, Sharang Kolwalkar, Indrani Das.

Image Credits:
‘Mosquito’ by Shutterstock
‘Earth‘ by stein egil liland/Pexels
‘Beer’ by Matan Segev/Pexels
‘China map’ by CDC, National Health Commission of the People’s Republic of China

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