Hope for the Tasmanian Devil (Abstract Science, Aug. 2 - 8)
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Mary Parker

Hope for the Tasmanian Devil (Abstract Science, Aug. 2 - 8)

Also: asymptomatic COVID carriers, and early detection of dementia 

Tasmanian devil research offers new insights for tackling cancer in humans 

(ScienceDaily, 8/6/20) 

A genetic mutation that has saved some Tasmanian devils from devil facial tumor disease (DFTD) may someday aid researchers in related human cancers. The Tasmanian devil has been decimated by this cancer, which is spread through bites and is extremely lethal. Researchers believe that the mutation activates a gene that causes the tumor to regress, and hope that further research could shed light on treatments for human cancers such as prostate and colon cancer. 

Even Asymptomatic People Carry the Coronavirus in High Amounts 

(Apoorva MandavilliThe New York Times, 8/6/20) 

Researchers in South Korea studied 193 symptomatic and 110 asymptomatic people, finding that the viral load of asymptomatic people could be just as high as that of people displaying COVID-19 symptoms. Of the 110, 89 remained asymptomatic throughout the study. The research may help explain how seemingly healthy people can still transmit the disease. 

Dampening of the Senses Is Linked to Dementia Risk 

(Christopher Intagliata, Scientific American, 8/5/20) 

This short podcast discusses the research of epidemiologist Willa Brenowitz from the University of California, San Francisco. She tracked the cognitive functions of almost 2,000 older people enrolled in the Health, Aging and Body Composition Study over a 17 year period, and found that dulled senses like loss of smell were connected with early indications of dementia. Early detection of dementia could be a key factor in effective treatments in the future. 

—Stories compiled by Senior Scientific Writer Mary Parker