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Seeds of 5,000 plants kept for safekeeping in a South Korean mountain

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Hidden in a South Korean mountain tunnel designed to withstand a nuclear blast, the seeds of almost 5,000 wild plant species are stored for safekeeping against climate change, natural disaster and war.

Plant extinction is progressing at a disturbing rate, researchers warn, driven by increasing human population, pollution and deforestation, even before many species are cataloged.

The Baekdudaegan National Arboretum Seed Vault Center preserves almost 100,000 seeds from 4,751 different wild plant species to ensure they are not lost to “apocalyptic events”, says its head Lee Sang-yong.

It is one of only two such facilities in the world, he told AFP: dissimilar to more commonplace seed banks, where samples are stored and regularly withdrawn for various purposes, deposits in seed vaults are meant to be permanent, with use intended only as a last resort to prevent extinction.

The vault is designated as a security installation by South Korea’s National Intelligence Service, surrounded by wire wall and many cameras, with restrictions on recording in place and police patrolling on a regular basis.

Inside, a lift leads about eight stories down to a cavernous concrete tunnel, where two heavy steel entryways monitor the storage room and its hand-cranked racking racks, kept at minus 20 degrees Celsius to preserve the seeds and 40 percent humidity to keep them viable.

The vault’s samples are largely of vegetation from the Korean promontory, but with a capacity of two million seeds, the South makes its space available to other countries, with Kazakhstan and Tajikistan among those to have taken up the offer.

Depositors retain ownership of their samples and control over withdrawals.

But Lee pointed out: “The seed vault stores seeds to prevent their extinction, so the best situation would be that the seeds never have to be taken out.”

Despite its Judgment day defying role, it was built by a country that in 1950 was invaded by the neighboring North, and Pyongyang has since developed a nuclear and missile arsenal.

The facility was built in the “safest spot” in South Korea, Lee said, designed to withstand a 6.9-magnitude earthquake and even an atomic strike.

“It’s geographically very safe,” Lee said. “And we paved a 46 meter-deep underground tunnel to ensure it’s safe from war and nuclear threats.”

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Philips recalls breathing machines, ventilators, citing potential cancer-causing object

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The Dutch medical organization Philips, one of the largest manufacturers of rest apnea machines and ventilators, will recall between three-4,000,000 machines because of a froth part that might degrade and become toxic, potentially causing cancer.

Froth, used to dampen the machines’ sound, can degrade and emit little particles that irritate airways, the group said as it announced the recall. Gases released by the degrading froth may also be toxic or convey cancer risks.

Most machines being recalled from USA

According to the organization, the majority of the supplies in the USA are being recalled at the moment as 2/3 of Philips CPAP machine deals are in the USA only. The recall affects three million to 4,000,000 machines, more than half of which are in the U.S. The organization says that they received some complaints about the devices, representing 0.03 per cent of those sold in 2020.

The organization has released this particular arrangement of devices, which they are recalling from the market, for repair/replacement. India Today has reached out to the Philips organization in an email to know whether the recall will also impact India. This article will be updated once a response comes from them.

Organization spokesman Steve Klink said about 80% of the affected devices were machines used to assist people with rest apnea, known as Continuous Positive Airway Pressure (CPAP) machines. Users of those machines were advised to halt usage. Around two-thirds of Philips, CPAP machine deals are in the United States, a Reuters report states.

The other 20% of affected devices were ventilators. Doctors and patients using life-sustaining ventilators should first consider whether the potential danger from the froth outweighs other risks, the organization said.

Organization statement

The organization has put out a voluntary recall notification on its website. “For any question, one needs to register the device(s) on the recall website www.philips.com/src-update or follow these process: The website provides you current information on the status of the recall and how to receive permanent corrective action to address the two (2) issues,” the notification said.

It added, “The website also provides you instructions on the best way to locate your device Serial Number and will guide you through the registration process. Call 1-877-907-7508 in the event that you cannot visit the website or don’t have internet access.

For patients using life-sustaining mechanical ventilator devices:

Try not to stop or alter your prescribed therapy until you have talked to your doctor. Philips recognizes that alternate ventilator options for therapy may not exist or may be severely limited for patients who require a ventilator for life-sustaining therapy, or in cases where therapy disruption is unacceptable. In these situations, and at the discretion of the treating clinical team, the benefit of continued usage of these ventilator devices may outweigh the risks.

In the event that your doctor determines that you must continue using this device, use an inline bacterial filter. Consult your Instructions for Use for direction on installation.

For patients using BiLevel PAP and CPAP devices:

Discontinue use of your device and work with your doctor or Durable Medical Equipment (DME) provider to determine the most appropriate options for continued treatment.”

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Space pups are here: Mouse sperm stored on Space Station produces healthy offspring

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Japanese researchers discovered mouse sperm exposed to high levels of grandiose radiation for almost six years produced a large brood of healthy, unremarkable “space pups.”

Their study was published Friday in Science Advances – which noted no signs so far of Mousezillas or rodent Hulks. The sperm was stored in the International Space Station in freeze-dried form. Once brought back to Earth and rehydrated, it resulted in the birth of 168 youthful, free of genetic defects.

Developmental biologist and lead author Teruhiko Wakayama told AFP on Thursday that there was little difference between mice fertilized by space sperm and sperm that had remained confined to our planet. “All pups had normal appearance,” he said, and when researchers examined their qualities “no abnormalities were found.”

In 2013, Wakayama and colleagues at the University of Yamanashi in Japan launched three boxes, each containing 48 ampoules of freeze-dried sperm, to the ISS for the long-term study. They wanted to determine whether long term exposure to radiation in space would damage DNA in reproductive cells or give mutations to offspring. That could be a problem for our own species in future space exploration and colonization missions.

Batches were returned to Earth for fertilization after the first nine months, then after two years, and finally after six years, leading to hundreds of births. Freeze-dried sperm was selected for the experiment because it can be preserved at room temperature, rather than needing a freezer. The ampoules were also little and very light, about the size of a little pencil, further cutting dispatch costs.

At the point when the space mice reached adulthood, they were randomly mated and the next generation appeared normal also. Wakayama, now director for Advanced Biotechnology Center at the University of Yamanashi, told AFP he had been inspired by the sci-fi of Heinlein and Asimov and once wanted to be an astronaut. Though he settled on becoming a scientist, the feeling of wonder and eccentricity about space exploration never left him.

“In the future, when the time comes to migrate to other planets, we should mantain the diversity of genetic resources, not only for humans but also for pets and domestic animals,” Wakayama and colleagues wrote in their paper.

Getting to other planets implies departing the safety of Earth’s protective atmosphere and magnetic field – which also extends to the ISS, 400 kilometers (250 miles) above the surface. Deep space is filled with strong radiation from both solar particles and galactic enormous beams from outside our system.

Solar flares from the surface of the Sun generate particles that can have particularly devastating impacts on human health and penetrate current generation spaceships. According to Wakayama, the process of freeze drying sperm increases its tolerance compared to fresh sperm, since the former doesn’t contain water inside its cell cores and cytoplasms.

According to the team’s calculations, freeze-dried sperm could be stored for up to 200 years on board the orbital outpost. Humanity might also want to spread its genetic resources off planet in case of a disaster on Earth, the paper added.

The study noted it is still important to investigate the effects of space radiation on frozen female eggs and fertilized embryos before humans take this next step into the space age.

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Top official says WHO cannot force China to give more information on beginning of Covid-19

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Top official says WHO cannot force China to give more information on beginning of Covid-19. Atop World Health Organization official said on Monday that the WHO cannot compel China to reveal more data on Covid-19’s beginnings, while adding it will propose studies needed to take understanding of where the virus emerged to the “next level”.

Pressed by a reporter on how the WHO will “compel” China into being more open, Mike Ryan, director of the agency’s crises program, said at a press conference that the “WHO doesn’t have the power to compel anyone in this regard”.

“We completely expect cooperation, input and support of all of our member states around there,” Ryan said.

There are competing theories: that the virus jumped from animals, possibly starting with bats, to humans, or that it escaped from a laboratory in Wuhan, China. Members of a WHO team that visited China earlier this year hunting for Covid-19’s starting points have said they didn’t have access to all data, powering continued debate over the country’s transparency.

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