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The Tufts Daily
Where you read it first | Sunday, May 26, 2024

Sarah Sandlow


Collaboration between universities yields novel biodetection methods using proteins, silk

Imagine if there were ways for your mask to detect a COVID-19 infection or your bra to detect signs of breast cancer. Researchers at Tufts University and the University of Washington are working to make these speculations a reality. Labs at the two universities recently developed a novel way to detect viruses, toxins and other biomarkers through the use of de novo protein switches in a silk fibroin matrix. The research, published in Advanced Materials in December 2022, stemmed from a collaboration between the Silklab at Tufts and the Institute for Protein Design at the University of Washington.


Bite-Size Science: Flu season expected to be more severe than previous winters, experts say

Lower temperatures and changing leaves signal the coming of fall, a season of apple picking, pumpkin spice lattes and Halloween movies. The colder months also bring with them an unwelcome guest: influenza season. This year’s flu season is expected to be worse than past winters according to forecasts based on patterns in Australia and New Zealand. Experts look toward countries in the southern hemisphere to predict the upcoming season because winter runs from April to October. According to government surveillance reports, Australia had its worst flu season in five years this year, with an early onset and a peak that was three times higher than average. Public health experts are worried that, along with a COVID-19 peak predicted in early December, two circulating respiratory viruses will be problematic for an already weakened hospital system and are emphasizing that people take the flu season seriously. 


What’s different about COVID-19 transmission rates on college campuses? Experts weigh in.

As the COVID-19 pandemic continues to impact communities around the United States and the world, certain trends have emerged surrounding infection rates and their link with prevention measures including surveillance testing, masking and vaccine mandates. Experts agree that, especially on college campuses, these measures are essential in curbing the spread of COVID-19. 


This Week in Science: Orangutan paintings, engineered bacteria kills tumors, biodegradable glitter

A recent study analyzed drawings done by five orangutans in a Japanese zoo and found that the drawings — especially those of one orangutan, Molly —correlate with environmental factors like seasons, daily life events and even changes in keeper identity. In total, 790 orangutan drawings were studied, 656 of which were chosen randomly from those done by Molly.Researchers found differences in color preferences that related to the current season; the orangutans tended to use purple in the spring and green in the summer and winter. In addition, Molly used more red in her drawings when another orangutan in a separate location was giving birth. The content and patterns of the drawings also changed in relation to more mundane, daily events in Molly’s life. These included new art supplies on one day, when an elementary school class visited on another and the change of her keeper once over the course of the experiment.


European study abroad programs remain on track for fall, could still change

Despite the conditions of the pandemic in many countries in Europe, Tufts Global Education currently plans to continue with its fall semester study abroad programs, but will reconsider if necessary. Mala Ghosh, associate dean of Tufts Global Education, said that the Tufts Global Education department is working with each director abroad on planning for classroom spacing and necessary accommodations, as well as preparing for quarantine, vaccination and testing protocols.


New coronavirus variants prompt concern from Tufts health officials

The potential presence of highly transmissible variants in the community is something the university remains conscious of. Caggiano and Jordan mentioned that the samples collected through surveillance testing and provided to the Broad Institute do not provide information as to whether an individual is infected with a variant.

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