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Blind man’s vision partially restored after algae gene therapy

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Blind man's vision partially restored after algae gene therapy

Breakthroughs in blindness are coming to light thanks to algae.

A new case study published in Nature Medicine has scientists “excited” for the possibility of reversing vision loss after one man had his eyesight partially restored through a type of gene therapy that targets the proteins involved in retinal nerve cells.

After years of near-complete darkness, the treatment has restored the patient’s ability to discern light and shapes.

“The findings provide proof-of-concept that using optogenetic therapy to partially restore vision is possible,” said Botond Roska, professor and researcher at the University of Basel in Switzerland, in an international press release.

Their case study involved an unnamed man from Brittany, France who was diagnosed 40 years ago, at the age of 18, with a degenerative eye condition called retinitis pigmentosa. Due to a genetic malfunction, patients with retinitis pigmentosa experience a gradual breakdown of photoreceptor cells in the retina, causing vision loss and eventually, for some, total blindness.

Unlike healthy cells, the faulty genes associated with the disease, which affects 1 in 4,000 according to the National Institutes of Health’s Eye Institute (NEI), fail to prompt cells to produce the proteins, called rhodopsins, necessary for the retina to function.

However, optogenetic therapy aims to replace loss of rhodopsin function by replacing the malfunctioning proteins of the human retina with similar such light-sensitive receptor proteins derived from unicellular green algae, specifically a subfamily called channelrhodopsins, which encourage the photosynthetic goo to reach for the light. A re-engineered version of the protein was made to react only to colors on the red end of the UV spectrum, which scientists hoped would facilitate the detection of light.

Scientists didn’t replace the proteins from algae to the human eye outright; rather, they planned to retrain cells to produce the proteins necessary for sight, by transferring the genetic instructions for making rhodopsins provided by algae’s DNA into the man’s eye.

Several months after optogenetic therapy, the man’s brain had relearned to see using this new genetic pathway, with added assistance from specially designed goggles that help translate the light signals for the patient’s retina, according to the MIT Technology Review.

At this time, the man’s vision is still limited to nebulous shapes and a monochromatic picture as scientists continue to refine the goggles and brain-training exercise.

“This patient initially was a bit frustrated because it took a long time between the injection and the time he started to see something,” said lead author Dr. José-Alain Sahel, from the Institute of Vision in Paris. “But when he started to report spontaneously he was able to see the white stripes to come across the street you can imagine he was very excited.”

“We were all excited,” Sahel told BBC.

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Europe carbon prices expected to soar amid tougher climate goals

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Steam rises from the cooling towers of the coal power plant of RWE, one of Europe's biggest electricity and gas companies in Niederaussem, Germany, March 3, 2016.

LONDON – Carbon prices in the European Union’s emissions trading system are expected to rise significantly in the next decade due to tougher climate goals, market participants said in an industry survey published on Monday.

The EU’s emissions trading system (ETS) is the largest carbon market in the world, covering around 45% of the bloc’s output of greenhouse gases and charging emitters for every tonne of carbon dioxide they emit.

The survey by the International Emissions Trading Association (IETA) found members expect carbon prices in the EU ETS to average $57 a tonne between 2021 and 2025 and $71.06 a tonne between 2026 and 2030.

This is mainly due to a tougher EU goal of cutting emissions by at least 55% by 2030, compared to 1990 levels.

Last year’s survey predicted an average price of 31.71 euros a tonne for the third phase of the ETS which runs from 2021 to 2030. Benchmark prices in the ETS currently trade around $64.24 a tonne.

Britain’s domestic emissions trading scheme started trading in May this year. The majority of survey respondents expect it will link with the EU scheme by 2023.

Participants anticipate that the average global carbon price needed by 2030 to put the world on track to meet goals to curb global temperature rise is $76.61 a tonne, up from last year’s expectation of $67.84 a tonne.

IETA’s members include banks, exchanges and energy and industrial firms. The association received responses from 158 member representatives for the survey.

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Chicago man jumps into Lake Michigan for 365th straight day

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Dan O'Conor, the "Great Lake Jumper," makes his 365th leap into Lake Michigan, Saturday, June 12, 2021, in Chicago's Montrose Point.

CHICAGO — A Chicago bus driver looking for a way to relieve stress during the coronavirus pandemic jumped into Lake Michigan for a 365th straight day on Saturday.

Dan O’Conor said he started jumping into the lake at Montrose Harbor on the city’s North Side last year to relieve stress.

“It was during the pandemic, it was during the protest, it was during an election year. … So it was somewhere where I could come down here and block all that noise out and kind of be totally present with me in the lake, and find some moments of Zen,” said the father of three.

He continued jumping into the lake through the fall before the hard part: Hacking a hole in the ice on the frozen lake that was big enough for him to jump through during the winter. He said when he got home after one such jump, he found about 20 scrapes and cuts on his body.

Dan O'Conor, the "Great Lake Jumper," reacts after making his 365th leap into Lake Michigan, Saturday, June 12, 2021.
Dan O’Conor, the “Great Lake Jumper,” reacts after making his 365th leap into Lake Michigan. He says he started as a way to “find some moments of Zen” during a tumultuous year.
AP

He was encouraged by the response he got for his undertaking.

“People started asking me what this was benefiting and how they could support — and when I say people, I’m talking strangers online, you know. When I started posting the videos on Twitter and Instagram … I got more wind in my sails there because people started commenting like, ’This makes my day, it’s nice to see this,” he said.

Saturday was special because it was the culmination of doing it for a full year.

“I just wanted to celebrate just that drive to dive for 365,” O’Conor said.

Dan O'Conor, the "Great Lake Jumper," shares a "High-5" with one of his well-wishers after his 365th leap into Lake Michigan, Saturday, June 12, 2021, in Chicago's Montrose Point.
O’Conor celebrates with one of his well-wishers after his 365th leap into Lake Michigan.
AP

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Father of ‘world’s largest family’ dead at 76 in India

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FILE PHOTO: Ziona poses for a picture in Baktawng village in the northeastern Indian state of Mizoram

The purportedly most prolific father in the world has passed away. 

Ziona Chana, 76, died on Sunday in the northeastern Indian state of Mizoram, the BBC reported. Chana, who was the head of a polygamist Christian sect, is survived by an estimated 38 wives, 89 children and 36 grandchildren — thus making him, by some reports, the head of the “world’s largest family” during his lifetime. 

“With heavy heart, #Mizoram bid farewell to Mr. Zion…believed to head the world’s largest family, with 38 wives and 89 children,” Mizoram’s chief minister, Zoramthanga, tweeted in condolence on Sunday. “Mizoram and his village at Baktawng Tlangnuam has become a major tourist attraction in the state because of the family. Rest in Peace Sir!”

Chana was declared dead on arrival at a hospital Sunday after deteriorating at his home, doctors told the news agency PTI, according to the BBC. He allegedly suffered from both diabetes and hypertension. 

During his extreme life, Chana made headlines across the globe, and he and his record-breakingly large family’s mansion in Baktawng Tlangnuam became a local attraction. The four-story, 100-room home features a dormitory shared by Chana’s wives, located close to his private bedroom, according to past media reports. 

ziona-chana-family
A view of Chana’s four-story house in the northeastern Indian state of Mizoram on Oct. 6, 2011.
REUTERS

Reuters previously reported that Chana was born in 1945 and met his oldest wife, who’s three years his senior, at the age of 17. The sect he led, Chana Pawl, has approximately 2,000 followers and was founded by Chana’s grandfather in 1942. 

While Chana and his family have been twice featured on the TV series “Ripley’s Believe It or Not!” others have challenged him to the title of most plentiful patriarch, and his alleged 181-person household’s exact number is difficult to confirm. 

“Reports are different. Quoting the last known accepted record with locally accepted picture. Thanks and regards !” Zoramthanga noted in a reply to his initial tweet. 

Chana at age 66 in 2011.

REUTERS

FILE PHOTO: Family members of Ziona poses for group photograph outside their residence in village Baktawng

Family members of Chana pose for a group photograph outside their residence on Oct. 7, 2011.

REUTERS

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