Good News Tuesday

Okay, I forgot about this last week . . . President’s Day made me lose track of the days. But back to good news posts this week!

In medicine:

Drug combination defeats dengue, Ebola in mice, study finds

Which is weird because these are both cancer drugs so why expect them to be effective against nasty viruses? Also apparently dengue fever and ebola are very different from each other. Nevertheless:

“We’ve shown that a single combination of drugs can be effective across a broad range of viruses — even when those viruses hail from widely separated branches of the evolutionary tree,” said the study’s senior author, Shirit Einav, MD, assistant professor of infectious diseases and of microbiology and immunology.

Certainly good news, especially if we see another outbreak of ebola any time soon.

Here’s another excellent development:

Is a new class of painkillers on the horizon?

Scientists are chasing a new lead on a class of drugs that may one day fight both pain and opioid addiction. It’s still early days, but researchers report that they’ve discovered a new small molecule that binds selectively to a long-targeted enzyme, halting its role in pain and addiction while not interfering with enzymes critical to healthy cell function. The newly discovered compound isn’t likely to become a medicine any time soon. But it could jumpstart the search for other binders that could do the job.

Speaking as someone who deals with chronic pain, usually but not always low-level pain … faster, please.

Moving on to cool stuff:

Ancient Giant Penguin Unearthed in New Zealand

We’re all penguin fans, right?

The newly-discovered bird waddled the Earth during the Paleocene epoch. … It was about 5 feet (1.5 m) tall…

*I’m* hardly over five feet tall! How wonderful, a penguin nearly my height!

Another neat paleontological find:

This telltale tail shows dinosaur feathers in ‘exquisite detail’ after 99 million years

This was not the first time that paleontologists examined feathers trapped in Cretaceous amber. But without underlying body parts, doubt remained that the plumage once sprouted from dinosaurs. This amber held eight vertebral segments as well as soft tissues. … X-ray images revealed that no ancient bird grew this tail. The tail tip belonged to a two-legged dinosaur called a theropod. “We can tell that this specimen came from a theropod dinosaur because the tail is flexible and the vertebrae articulate with each other, instead of being fused together to form a solid rod — which is a characteristic of modern birds and their closest relatives,” McKellar said. Specifically, the researchers hypothesized the animal was a type of dinosaur called a coelurosaur, and likely a juvenile.

Artistic interpretation of the little animal at the link.

Last, had you heard about this?

Seven Alien ‘Earths’ Found Orbiting Nearby Star

Seven rocky planets orbiting a nearby star may be roughly the size of Earth and could even be right for water—and maybe life—to adorn their surfaces, researchers announced Wednesday.

The planets, which circle a star called TRAPPIST-1 just 39 light-years away, are tucked together so tightly that they routinely spangle each others’ skies, sometimes appearing as shimmering crescents and at other times as orbs nearly twice as large as the full moon.

You know I won’t be satisfied with bacteria. I want jungles teeming with complicated creatures! But this is a promising start.

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2 thoughts on “Good News Tuesday”

  1. Drugs are weird. The first ever anti-depressant was a TB drug whose properties were discovered when TB patients were strangely elated about being treated — which must have been strange indeed, since they were being treated for a fatal, nasty, and heretofore incurable disease. And the sole known treatment for the negative symptoms of schizophrenia is an antibiotic — again discovered by accident.

  2. Mary, you’re so right . . . both those are strange.

    I remember a psychiatrist mentioning that when someone asked him decades ago about the treatment of serious mental illnesses, he said, “Well, we have no idea what the future may bring, but one thing we can be sure of is there will be no simple treatment for conditions such as bipolar disorder.” The next year, boom, lithium.

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