I, Science News- 27 January 2020

Welcome back to your weekly I, Science News Roundup! This week we continue coverage of the mystery virus in China as it continues to spread; Boris Johnson’s new ‘Global Talent’ visa aimed at attracting scientists; and an immune discovery that could help in the fight against cancer.

Wuhan coronavirus continues to spread

The coronavirus that originated in the Chinese city of Wuhan has now reached at least 13 countries with over 2700 cases, 81 deaths, and tens of thousands being kept under medical supervision.

Human to human transmission of the virus has been confirmed, as well as the fact that the virus can spread before symptoms show. Chinese Health minister Ma Xiaowei also says that the ability of the virus to spread seems to be strengthening.

Whilst not fully confirmed, genetic analysis suggests the virus may have been passed onto humans from snakes, which most likely originally got it from bats. Both snakes and bats were being sold at the food market in Wuhan.

Boris Johnson’s new ‘Global Talent’ visa

The Government has announced that they’ll be implementing a fast-track visa next month to attract world-leading scientists.

The system will begin on 20 February, and there will be no cap to the number of people that can come to the UK under this visa. The UK Research and Innovation Agency (UKRI) will manage applications rather than the Home Office so that their scientific credentials can be quickly assessed by those qualified to do so.

Research organisations have been lobbying the Government to put together a new system amid fears that Brexit could lead to a brain drain from Britain, however concerns remain around the UK’s future role in EU research programmes.

New immune discovery that ‘may treat all cancer’

A recently discovered part of our immune system (specifically, a new T cell receptor) has been shown to kill breast, lung, prostate and other cancers in the lab whilst leaving normal cells untouched.

Whilst the research is still in early stages and hasn’t been tested in patients yet, the researchers believe it could have ‘enormous potential’.

T-cell therapies and other immunotherapies for cancer do exist, but are highly specific and have had most success in blood cancers, so a potential broad-stroke treatment would be a big breakthrough.

This week’s news was written by Harry Jenkins, who is studying for an MSc in Science Communication at Imperial College London.

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