Russian supercomputer Employed to Develop COVID-19 Treatment
MOSCOW & OTTAWA, Ontario — The Bioanalytical and Molecular Interaction Laboratory lead by Professor Maxim Berezovski at the University of Ottawa has joined an international science group – from Russia, Finland and Italy – which got high priority access to Russian RSC Tornado supercomputer for studying methods to fight against the COVID-19 coronavirus infection.
The multi-national research team uses a recently upgraded cluster system based on 2nd Generation Intel® Xeon® Scalable processors, which has been deployed by RSC Group, the leading Russian solution provider for high-performance computing.
The international project aims to develop medicine for diagnostics and therapy against the coronavirus contagious disease that became the cause of the global pandemic. Finding treatments to prevent and mitigate the negative impact of COVID-19 is the highest priority in the worldwide scientific community now. The international and multidisciplinary project takes advantages of the latest advances in experimental physics, chemistry, and biology to investigate the life cycle of the virus and to target specifically its specific proteins. Sophisticated simulation methods require supercomputing power to study all details of the interaction between the Spike-protein on coronavirus surface and the human protein ACE2 which is known to be the entry point for SARS and SARS-2 coronaviruses. It will help to complete all research stages within a limited amount of time.
“Rapid global spread of COVID-19 coronavirus infection pandemic has shown that there are no clear global emergency response plans against threats to humankind caused by new viruses. One of the obvious shortcomings is the lack of technologies for the quick development of medicines for diagnostics and therapy. We all have different competencies, knowledge, skills and resources. Our geographically distributed team includes virologists, biologists, chemists, mathematicians and physical scientists. The international cooperation is extremely important to achieve quick progress and rapidly react to the ever-changing situation with global coronavirus pandemic. We hope that our research will actually help to fight the spread of such infections,” explains Anna Kichkailo, Head of Laboratory for Digital Controlled Drugs and Theranostics at the Krasnoyarsk Federal Science Center of Russian Academy of Sciences.
The international team consists of:
- Laboratory for Digital Controlled Drugs and Theranostics and Laboratory of Physics of Magnetic Phenomena, Kirensky Institute of Physics at the Federal Science Center, Siberian Branch of Russian Academy of Sciences (KIP FSC SB RAS, Krasnoyarsk, Russia),
- Laboratory for Biomolecular and Medical Technology, V.F. Voyno-Yasenetsky Krasnoyarsk State Medical University (KSMU, Krasnoyarsk, Russia) – project coordinator,
- Laboratory of Chemical Cybernetics, Department of Chemistry at Lomonosov Moscow State University (MSU, Moscow, Russia),
- Laboratory for Computer Simulation of Biomolecular Systems and Nanomaterials at N. M. Emanuel Institute of Biochemical Physics, Russian Academy of Sciences (IBCP RAS, Moscow, Russia),
- Organic Synthesis Laboratory, Institute of Chemical Biology and Fundamental Medical Science, Siberian Branch of the Russian Academy of Sciences (ICBFM SB RAS, Novosibirsk, Russia),
- The Bioanalytical and Molecular Interaction Laboratory, Department of Chemistry and Biomolecular Sciences, University of Ottawa (Canada),
- Nanoscience Center and Department of Chemistry, University of Jyväskylä, Jyväskylä (Finland),
- Institute for Experimental Endocrinology and Oncology (IEOS), part of National Research Council (CNR), Naples (Italy),
- Department of Molecular Medicine and Medical Biotechnology, Federico II University of Naples (Italy).
Corporate Communications Director, RSC Group
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NASA's Perserverance rover to drill into Mars using part made on Vancouver Island – Yahoo News Canada
Local Journalism Initiative
Two Yukon First Nations are renewing calls for a regional land use plan to be completed before any new development on their traditional territories is considered, including a mineral exploration project right next door to Tombstone Territorial Park. Tr’ondëk Hwëch’in First Nation and the First Nation of Na-Cho Nyäk Dun recently sent letters to the Yukon Environmental and Socio-economic Assessment Board stating that approving the quartz exploration project, called Antimony Creek, without a land use plan for the Dawson region would violate their rights. The board is in the midst of evaluating whether Ryanwood Exploration Inc., the Dawson City-based company behind the project, has provided enough information to develop the project without adversely affecting the environment. The assessment board is responsible for issuing recommendations to the Yukon and federal governments, which ultimately decide whether to greenlight a project. Regional land use plans determine what can and cannot occur in a particular region, essentially balancing conservation values, First Nations’ rights and industrial pursuits. These plans are created by independent commissions and signed off on by the Yukon government and affected First Nations. Creating them is a requirement under the Umbrella Final Agreement, which was signed by 11 First Nations in 1990 and paved the way for their self-governance. However, most First Nations have been waiting decades for these plans. Resource development in the absence of an approved land use plan “will negatively affect Tr’ondëk Hwëch’in rights under the Tr’ondëk Hwëch’in final agreement,” Tr’ondëk Hwëch’in’s Jan. 14 letter states. “This is unacceptable.” Antimony Creek is on Tr’ondëk Hwëch’in and Na-Cho Nyäk Dun territory and about 2.5 kilometres away from Tombstone, the territory’s flagship park that boasts towering, jagged peaks and abundant wildlife. The project is in an area of great importance to Tr’ondëk Hwëch’in, whose citizens frequently harvest plants and wildlife for cultural and subsistence purposes. Traditional gravesites and heritage travelling routes are a short distance away from the project area. According to the company’s April 2020 permit application, up to 300 holes will be drilled per year, with some burrowing 10,000 metres into the earth, to find what appears to be gold and silver deposits. The 10-year project involves the construction of an access road, a network of trails and a drill pad. The company is proposing up to 883 round-trip helicopter flights on an annual basis to transport workers and supplies. According to GeoYukon, a Yukon government mapping tool, the project area covers roughly 86 square kilometres. Ryanwood Exploration Inc. didn’t return a request for comment. In its permit application, the company said First Nations haven’t been engaged, “but discussions will be conducted.” According to a 2020 assessment board report, the company intends to regularly host discussions with affected First Nations “to ensure that this project does not adversely affect surrounding local and First Nations lands, culture and people.” The Dawson Regional Planning Commission is in the process of developing a land use plan that will manage and monitor lands, waters and industry within the region — a roughly 40,000 square-kilometre area representing about 10 per cent of the territory’s land mass. According to a Jan. 26 letter the commission sent to the assessment board, permitting development before the completion of a land use plan “may impact the commission’s ability to develop recommendations for the appropriate use of land, water and other renewable and non-renewable resources within the planning region.” Sue Thomas, a spokesperson for Yukon’s Department of Energy, Mines and Resources, told The Narwhal in an email land use planning doesn’t negate tenure holders’ ability to develop their mineral claims. “Development and/or exploration projects, like any other industrial and non-industrial uses, are allowed to continue while the planning process is underway,” she said. Allowing industry to explore in a region where land use planning is underway could rule out protecting areas with high conservation values, Sebastian Jones, wildlife and habitat analyst at the Yukon Conservation Society, told The Narwhal. “It’s no secret that if projects like this can get permitted before the land use plan is in place, it will [predetermine] land use planning,” he said, adding that projects like Antimony Creek are designed to eventually result in a large mine. Jones said miners likely recognize their days are numbered to develop claims in sensitive areas, which explains why they appear to be racing to get permits before land use plans are completed. “It’s very likely that developing a mine will not be one of the approved activities in the project area,” he said. If mineral deposits are located, several mines could crop up, leading to cumulative impacts on an otherwise undisturbed area, Jones said. In a Jan. 8 letter to the assessment board, the Yukon Conservation Society recommended the project not proceed, saying access roads and the eventual building and operation of mines would cause cumulative impacts on the region. The Antimony Creek project area is in a region that’s of very high cultural value to Tr’ondëk Hwëch’in citizens, according to the First Nation’s letter. The region, known as the “cultural integrity area,” which contains roughly 88 per cent of the Tr’ondëk Hwëch’in’s settlement land, provides critical habitat for caribou, moose, sheep and salmon. It is also home to mineral licks, rare plants and old-growth forests, all of which help sustain wildlife and, in turn, Tr’ondëk Hwëch’in harvesters. “The whole ecosystem contributes to our lifestyle and our culture,” Chief Roberta Joseph told The Narwhal. “It’s not only about food value — it’s about ensuring our connection and our spirituality with the land, it’s about bonding and passing on traditional teachings through stories and teaching about harvesting.” There are also significant heritage sites in the area. The project is located about 300 metres away from a settlement land parcel that was originally selected to protect traditional gravesites, according to the letter. The letter suggests there are likely even more burial sites, as not all heritage areas have been mapped by the First Nation. “It is concerning that there could be potential impacts on our ancestors who may have been buried in the area near the proposed application,” Joseph said. “There needs to be regard and consideration on the burials of our ancestors, wherever they’re buried throughout our traditional territory.” “It’s just a matter of ensuring that our heritage as First Nations people of this land, since millennia, is being respected in accordance to our final agreements and the spirit and intent of our final agreements.” The area is considered so important to Tr’ondëk Hwëch’in citizens because it has yet to be disturbed by industry, the letter states. “Until a land use plan is in place that takes into account Tr’ondëk Hwëch’in rights under the final agreement, the cultural integrity area must remain intact in order for land and wildlife to thrive and for traditional pursuits to continue,” the letter states. Staking should be off-limits in the Dawson region until a land use plan is in place, according to a Jan. 20 letter Na-Cho Nyäk Dun sent to the assessment board. The letter said completion of the plan is “an essential prerequisite of any further permitting in this area.” Chief Simon Mervyn didn’t reply to a return for comment. According to the letter, land use planning helps facilitate development because it provides certainty “for all.” “It will allow for Na-Cho Nyäk Dun, other Indigenous nations, public government and industry to make decisions together respecting priorities, values and criteria for development and minimize future land use conflicts by making clear where development can and cannot be pursued,” the letter states. “Most importantly, it will ensure that development respects and supports, rather than undermines, the Treaty Rights of Na-Cho Nyäk Dun.” Former vice-chair of the Dawson land use planning commission Art Webster also recently called for a halt on staking in the Dawson area. “By allowing the staking of mineral claims, it basically sends out a message saying, ‘This is the highest value of this land, the extraction of minerals’ … at the expense of considering any other values for that land,” Art Webster told The Narwhal in an interview. According to Na-Cho Nyäk Dun’s letter, the First Nation has been waiting for a completed land use plan in its traditional territory since it signed its final agreement 25 years ago. This would be separate from the Dawson land use plan. While Na-Cho Nyäk Dun is not an official party to the land use planning process in the Dawson region, it has observer status, as its territory overlaps with that of the Tr’ondëk Hwëch’in. The nations have an agreement in place to settle possible disputes linked to overlapping traditional territories. “In the view of Na-Cho Nyäk Dun, public government’s failure to initiate a land use planning process for the Na-Cho Nyäk Dun traditional territory is a fundamental breach of a key commitment enshrined in our treaty, and is flatly inconsistent with the honour of the Crown,” the letter states. The Antimony Creek project is only one mining application on Tr’ondëk Hwëch’in’s traditional territory, Joseph said. “There are many of them every year,” she said. A similar quartz exploration project, called Coal Creek (Monster) located roughly 85 kilometres north of Dawson City is making its way through the environmental assessment process. The Vancouver-based proponent, Go Metals, is searching for battery metals such as copper, gold and silver, according to the project proposal. According to a letter Tr’ondëk Hwëch’in sent to the assessment board, the First Nation continues “to strongly oppose” any development in the northern reaches of its traditional territory, which is relatively intact and undisturbed wilderness. Go Metals spokesperson, Scott Sheldon, told The Narwhal in an email, “We’re committed to continuing our conversations with local First Nations and we look forward to progress being made by the Dawson Regional Planning Commission to help us create better exploration plans for our battery metals project.” The Coffee Gold project, a proposed hard rock mine in a remote corner of Yukon, is also on the traditional territories of Na-Cho Nyäk Dun and Tr’ondëk Hwëch’in. Yukoners can submit feedback on that project until March 26. If this proposal is approved, the mine would be the largest in Yukon’s history. Julien Gignac, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, The Narwhal
Little Foot fossil scan sheds light on human origins – CBC.ca
Sophisticated scanning technology is revealing intriguing secrets about Little Foot, the remarkable fossil of an early human forerunner that inhabited South Africa 3.67 million years ago during a critical juncture in our evolutionary history.
Scientists said on Tuesday they examined key parts of the nearly complete and well-preserved fossil at Britain’s national synchrotron facility, Diamond Light Source. The scanning focused upon Little Foot’s cranial vault — the upper part of her braincase — and her lower jaw, or mandible.
The researchers gained insight not only into the biology of Little Foot’s species but also into the hardships that this individual, an adult female, encountered during her life.
Little Foot’s species blended ape-like and human-like traits and is considered a possible direct ancestor of humans. University of the Witwatersrand paleoanthropologist Ron Clarke, who unearthed the fossil in the 1990s in the Sterkfontein Caves northwest of Johannesburg and is a co-author of the new study, has identified the species as Australopithecus prometheus.
“In the cranial vault, we could identify the vascular canals in the spongious bone that are probably involved in brain thermoregulation — how the brain cools down,” said University of Cambridge paleoanthropologist Amélie Beaudet, who led the study published in the journal e-Life.
“This is very interesting as we did not have much information about that system,” Beaudet added, noting that it likely played a key role in the threefold brain size increase from Australopithecus to modern humans.
Little Foot lived in a tropical forested area, “and for some reason, she fell into the cave,” said Clarke.
Beaudet told the BBC that it’s believed Little Foot fell through an opening in the floor of the cave where she was found.
Teeth ‘quite worn’
Little Foot’s teeth also were revealing.
“The dental tissues are really well preserved. She was relatively old since her teeth are quite worn,” Beaudet said, though Little Foot’s precise age has not yet been determined.
The researchers spotted defects in the tooth enamel indicative of two childhood bouts of physiological stress such as disease or malnutrition.
“There is still a lot to learn about early hominin biology,” said study co-author Thomas Connolley, principal beamline scientist at Diamond, using a term encompassing modern humans and certain extinct members of the human evolutionary lineage. “Synchrotron X-ray imaging enables examination of fossil specimens in a similar way to a hospital X-ray CT-scan of a patient, but in much greater detail.”
Little Foot, whose moniker reflects the small foot bones that were among the first elements of the skeleton found, stood roughly 4-foot-3-inches (130 centimetres) tall. Little Foot has been compared in importance to the fossil called Lucy that is about 3.2 million years old and less complete.
Both are species of the genus Australopithecus but possessed different biological traits, just as modern humans and Neanderthals are species of the same genus – Homo – but had different characteristics. Lucy’s species is called Australopithecus afarensis.
“Australopithecus could be the direct ancestor of Homo – humans – and we really need to learn more about the different species of Australopithecus to be able to decide which one would be the best candidate to be our direct ancestor,” Beaudet said.
Our own species, Homo sapiens, first appeared roughly 300,000 years ago.
The synchrotron findings build on previous research on Little Foot.
The species was able to walk fully upright, but had traits suggesting it also still climbed trees, perhaps sleeping there to avoid large predators. It had gorilla-like facial features and powerful hands for climbing. Its legs were longer than its arms, as in modern humans, making this the most-ancient hominin definitively known to have that trait.
“All previous Australopithecus skeletal remains have been partial and fragmentary,” Clarke said.
Rare 'locked' letter sealed 300 years ago is finally opened virtually – CTV News
Three hundred years ago, before envelopes, passwords and security codes, writers often struggled to keep thoughts, cares and dreams expressed in their letters private.
One popular way was to use a technique called letter locking — intricately folding a flat sheet of paper to become its own envelope. This security strategy presented a challenge when 577 locked letters delivered to The Hague in the Netherlands between 1689 and 1706 were found in a trunk of undelivered mail.
The letters had never reached their final recipients, and conservationists didn’t want to open and damage them. Instead, a team has found a way to read one of the letters without breaking its seal or unfolding it in any way. Using a highly sensitive X-ray scanner and computer algorithms, researchers virtually unfolded the unopened letter.
“This algorithm takes us right into the heart of a locked letter,” the research team said in a statement.
“Sometimes the past resists scrutiny. We could simply have cut these letters open, but instead we took the time to study them for their hidden, secret, and inaccessible qualities. We’ve learned that letters can be a lot more revealing when they are left unopened.”
The technique revealed the contents of a letter dated July 31, 1697. It contains a request from Jacques Sennacques to his cousin Pierre Le Pers, a French merchant in The Hague, for a certified copy of a death notice of Daniel Le Pers.
The details may seem prosaic, but the researchers said the letter gives fascinating insight into the lives of ordinary people — a snapshot of the early modern world as it went about its business.
The trunk of correspondence belonged to a postmaster called Simon de Brienne and his wife, postmistress Marie Germain. It was acquired by the Museum voor Communicatie in The Hague in 1926.
In addition to the unopened letters, it contains 2,571 opened letters and fragments that for one reason or another never reached their destination.
At that time, there was no such thing as a postage stamp and recipients, not senders, were responsible for the postal and delivery charges. If the recipient was deceased or rejected the letter, no fees could be collected and the letters weren’t delivered.
A NEW WAY TO MINE HISTORICAL DOCUMENTS
The X-ray scanners were originally designed to map the mineral content of teeth and have been used in dental research — until now.
“We’ve been able to use our scanners to X-ray history,” said study author David Mills, a researcher at Queen Mary University of London, in a statement.
“The scanning technology is similar to medical CT scanners, but using much more intense X-rays which allow us to see the minute traces of metal in the ink used to write these letters. The rest of the team were then able to take our scan images and turn them into letters they could open virtually and read for the first time in over 300 years.”
The new technique has the potential to unlock new historical evidence from the Brienne trunk and other collections of unopened letters and documents, the study said.
One tantalizing application could be to virtually unfold sealed items and letters in the Prize Papers — an archive of documents confiscated by the British from enemy ships between the 17th and 19th centuries.
“Using virtual unfolding to read an intimate story that has never seen the light of day — and never even reached its recipient — is truly extraordinary,” the researchers said in the statement.
The research was published in the journal Nature Communications on Tuesday.
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