Same-sex mice have babies – BBC News
These are external links and will open in a new window Close share panel Image copyright Leyun Wang Image caption This adult mouse has two mums and no dad, was healthy and able to have healthy pups of her own
Baby mice have been made with two mums and no dad, say researchers at the Chinese Academy of Sciences.
It took a substantial feat of genetic engineering to break the rules of reproduction.
The scientists said the “bimaternal” (two mammas) animals were healthy and went on to have pups of their own.
But there was bad news on the all-male front. Mice with double-dads were attempted, but died within days of being born. Why even try?
The researchers were trying to answer fundamental questions about why we have sex.
Mammals, including us, can make babies only through sexual reproduction – aka you need an egg from mum and a sperm from dad.
But the rest of the natural world doesn’t play by the same rules; some female fish, reptiles, amphibians and birds can go it alone.
Welcome to the bizarre world of virgin births known officially as parthenogenesis. Image copyright Getty Images Image caption The Komodo dragons is one of many species able to reproduce through parthenogenesis
The aim of the Chinese researchers was to work out which rules of reproduction they needed to break to make baby mice from same-sex parents.
That in turn helps understand why the rules are so important.
“It’s an interesting paper… they’re trying to work out what you would have to do to turn us into turkeys,” said Prof Robin Lovell-Badge at the Francis Crick Institute.
(Yes, your Christmas dinner can reproduce without having sex too.) Go on then, how did they do it?
In short, with a lot of cutting-edge science.
It was easier with double mums. The researchers took an egg from one mouse and a special type of cell – a haploid embryonic stem cell – from another.
Both contained only half the required genetic instructions or DNA, but just bringing them together wasn’t enough.
The researchers had to use a technology called gene editing to delete three sets of genetic instructions to make them compatible (more on that later).
The double-dad approach was slightly more complicated.
It took a sperm, a male haploid embryonic stem cell, an egg that had all of its own genetic information removed and the deletion of seven genes to make it all work. Image copyright Leyun Wang Image caption The double dad, or bipaternal, mice died within 48 hours of being born So they broke the rules, what did they learn?
The reason we need to have sex is because our DNA – our genetic code – behaves differently depending on whether it comes from mum or dad, the study in Cell Stem Cell suggests .
And without a female copy and a male copy our whole development gets thrown out of whack.
It’s called genomic imprinting with parts of the DNA in sperm and parts of the DNA in eggs getting different “stamps” that alter how they work.
Errors in genomic imprinting have been implicated in some diseases such as Angelman syndrome.
The bits of DNA carrying these stamps were the ones the researchers had to delete in order to make the baby mice viable.
Dr Wei Li, who conducted the experiments, said: “This research shows us what’s possible.
“We saw that the defects in bimaternal mice can be eliminated and that bipaternal reproduction barriers in mammals can also be crossed.” So can I have a baby with my same-sex partner?
Unless you’re a mouse reading this, and a female one at that, then the answer is not any time soon.
Dr Teresa Holm, from the University of Auckland, thinks there is a chance in the long run.
“[The research] may even lead to the development of ways for same-sex couples to reproduce healthy children of their own,” she says.
But she points out there are “significant ethical and safety concerns that would need to be overcome”.
It would not be allowed to happen until scientists could be sure any resultant children would grow up mentally and physically normal.
Some people have doubts that the mice were completely OK.
Dr Lovell-Badge told the BBC: “Even with two mothers I’m not convinced they’re normal and the success rate is pretty low.
“It is not something I’d hope anyone would contemplate.”
So is sex about to disappear?
“Not yet, no,” he says.
Astronauts escape malfunctioning Soyuz rocket – BBC News
Media playback is unsupported on your device Media caption The malfunction became apparent about 90 seconds into the flight A US astronaut and a Russian cosmonaut were forced to make an emergency landing after their Russian Soyuz rocket malfunctioned en route to the International Space Station (ISS).
Shortly after taking off from Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan, Nick Hague and Alexey Ovchinin reported a problem with the rocket’s booster.
The men were forced into a “ballistic descent”, with their capsule landing a few hundred miles north of Baikonur.
They have been picked up by rescuers.
“The search and recovery teams have reached the Soyuz spacecraft landing site and report that the two crew members… are in good condition and are out of the capsule,” US space agency Nasa said.
Russia said it was suspending any further manned flights, and an investigation into what went wrong had begun.
What happened to the rocket? The launch appeared to be going smoothly, but some 90 seconds later Nasa, on its livestream, reported that a problem seemed to have occurred with the booster rocket between the first and second stages of separation.
Footage from inside the capsule showed the two men being shaken around at the moment that the fault happened.
Shortly afterwards, Nasa said they were making a “ballistic descent” meaning their capsule descended at a much sharper angle than normal and would have been subjected to greater G-force – the force imposed on a body by rapid acceleration.
The capsule separated from the failing rocket and later deployed parachutes to slow its descent.
Skip Twitter post by @NASA Thursday, @AstroHague is preparing to launch on his first space mission – a six-month stay on @Space_Station . Launching at 4:40am ET, six hours later, he and his crewmate will dock to the station at 10:44am ET. Details on how to watch live: https://t.co/N2Sukhxuom pic.twitter.com/Efu50Tkk4c
— NASA (@NASA) October 11, 2018 Report End of Twitter post by @NASA
Analysis: An uncomfortable ride back to Earth By Jonathan Amos, BBC science correspondent
Image copyright AFP Soyuz is one of the oldest rocket designs but also one of the safest. The malfunction appeared to occur around what is termed “staging”, where the ascending vehicle goes through the process of discarding its empty fuel segments.
The onboard astronauts were certainly aware that something was not right because they reported feeling weightless when they should have felt pushed back in their seats. The escape systems are tested and ready for exactly this sort of eventuality. It would have been an uncomfortable ride back to Earth, however. The crew would have experienced very sharp accelerations and decelerations on the return.
There is already much discussion about the current state of Russian industry and its ability to maintain the standards of yesteryear. Whatever the outcome of the inquiry, this event will only heighten those concerns and will underline to the US in particular the need to bring online new rocket systems. These vehicles, produced by the Boeing and SpaceX companies, are set to make their debut next year.
How are the crew? Image copyright AFP They seem to have been unharmed by the experience.
Search and rescue teams were quickly on the scene, 500km (310 miles) north-east of Baikonur, near the Kazakh city of Dzhezkazgan.
They reported that Mr Hague and Mr Ovchinin were alive and well and the Russian civilian space agency, Roscosmos, later issued photos of them having their hearts and blood pressure monitored.
“The emergency rescue system worked, the vessel was able to land in Kazakhstan… the crew are alive,” Roscosmos tweeted. Nasa described them as being in good condition. They reportedly did not need medical treatment.
Nasa added that the two men were being taken to the Gagarin Cosmonaut Training Centre outside Moscow , and it was “monitoring the situation carefully”.
You might also like to read:
What’s it like to live on the ISS? Tim Peake special: How to be an astronaut What happens now? Russia’s Deputy Prime Minister Yuri Borisov said no further manned missions would take place “until we believe that the entire situation guarantees safety”.
He rejected suggestions it could harm US relations, saying they recognised it was a “hi-tech industry linked to risk”, but he added: “We certainly won’t conceal the reasons, it is uncommon for such situations”.
Space co-operation is an area which has survived otherwise tense relations between Russia and the US. Nasa has been paying for seats on Soyuz rockets to ferry its astronauts to the International Space Station since the Space Shuttle programme ended in 2011.
The crew already on the ISS will not be affected by Thursday’s aborted mission, Russia’s Tass news agency reported, quoting an unnamed source as saying they have enough supplies.
Have there been similar incidents in the past? Thursday’s incident is thought to be the first launch mishap for a Russian Soyuz booster since a Soyuz mission was aborted in 1983. A rocket malfunctioned shortly before launch, and the crew vehicle was ejected to safety.
In recent years, Russia’s space programme has faced a number of technical failures – 13 since 2010.
Last year, contact was lost with a Soyuz rocket’s Fregat upper stage, which was carrying a new weather satellite and 18 secondary satellites.
Earlier in 2017, at least nine of a payload of 73 satellites were reported “dead on arrival or severely degraded” after separation from their Soyuz-2.1 launch vehicle.
In August, a hole appeared in a Soyuz capsule already docked to the ISS which caused a brief loss of air pressure and had to be patched. In this instance, Russia said the hole may have been drilled “deliberately” .
One of the most serious but non-fatal US incidents involved Apollo 13 – a mission to the Moon in 1970. An oxygen tank exploded two days after launch causing a loss of power and leading to the mission being aborted. The crew were able to carry out repairs and return to Earth six days later.
While space missions may often encounter technical difficulties, fatalities have been relatively rare:
2003: Seven astronauts died when the Columbia space shuttle broke up up on re-entry into the Earth’s atmosphere due to a damaged protective tile 1986: Seven astronauts died when the Challenger space shuttle broke apart after lift off because of faulty seals on the booster rockets 1971: The three-men crew aboard Soyuz 11 suffocated as the result of an air leak after undocking from the Salyut 1 space station. They were found dead inside the capsule after landing 1967: Crash of Soyuz 1 , with one cosmonaut killed as the spacecraft’s parachute, intended to slow down descent, became tangled on re-entry 1967: Three-man crew of Apollo 1 died as their command module caught fire on the launch pad
Standing desks ‘boost work performance’ – BBC News
Standing desks ‘boost work performance’ 11 October 2018 These are external links and will open in a new window Close share panel Image copyright Alamy New research suggests that standing desks, which allow employees to alter their position during the day, may boost performance at work.
A number of NHS staff were given new desks and set goals for standing time.
After a year, researchers found sitting time was reduced by more than an hour a day compared with their colleagues.
Employees who reduced time sitting, by using desks that also allowed them to work while on their feet, also said they were less tired and more engaged. Could offices change from sitting to standing?
The research team, led by Loughborough University and experts from Leicester, assessed 146 mainly sedentary NHS staff.
Seventy-seven were put in an intervention group and given height-adjustable workstations – also known as sit-stand desks – while the remaining 69 continued with their standard desks.
Working time spent sitting was measured at the start of the study and again three, six and 12 months later.
At the start of the study, overall sitting time was 9.7 hours per day.
Over the course of the experiment, sitting time was lower by 50.62 minutes per day at three months, 64.4 minutes per day at six months, and 82.39 minutes per day at 12 months.
Those who were given sit-stand desks also reported improvements in musculoskeletal problems, according to the research published in the British Medical Journal (BMJ).
A questionnaire filled out by the participants also suggested employees who used the sit-stand desks were less anxious and cited an improved quality of life – but no notable changes were found for job satisfaction, cognitive function or sickness absence. Health benefits
Medical research has suggested constant sitting is harming our health – potentially causing cardiovascular problems or vulnerability to diabetes.
A survey by the British Heart Foundation in 2015 found that the average person sat for almost all of the nine hours spent in the office.
But it’s not the case everywhere.
In Sweden, sit-stand working is commonplace – and in 2014, Denmark made it mandatory for employers to offer their staff sit-stand desks.
However, the authors of the report say more research is needed to gauge the longer-term benefits.
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Hurricane Michael: Record-breaking ‘hell’ storm mauls US News
Media playback is unsupported on your device Media caption Aerial footage shows the destruction in Mexico City, Florida One of the strongest storms in recorded history to hit the US has battered north-west Florida, flooding homes, washing out beaches and snapping trees.
Rescue services are beginning to assess the full impact of Hurricane Michael, which made landfall on Wednesday afternoon as a category four storm with 155mph (250km/h) winds.
At least six people have been killed, most of them in Florida.
Having weakened to a tropical storm, Michael has been hitting the Carolinas.
In pictures: Hurricane Michael hits Florida How to survive a monster storm Email email@example.com . Storm-surge warnings are still in place, the US National Hurricane Center says, and residents across the southern US have been warned of the continuing danger from downed powerlines, flash floods and landslides.
Media playback is unsupported on your device Media caption Storm Michael’s trail of devastation There are fears for people who ignored evacuation warnings in some of the areas now flooded.
Hundreds of thousands of homes and businesses were left without electricity in Florida, Alabama and Georgia.
Image copyright Getty Images Image caption Debris in Panama City, Florida How powerful was Michael when it landed? Michael made landfall near Mexico Beach, Florida, at around 14:00 (18:00 GMT) on Wednesday.
It ranks among the most powerful hurricanes to hit the US in terms of wind speed and barometric pressure, comparable to Hurricane Andrew in 1992.
Image copyright Getty Images Image caption Trailer homes were ravaged in Panama City, Florida Image copyright Getty Images Michael was so strong as it swept into Florida that it remained a hurricane for hours as it moved further inland, before being downgraded to a tropical storm.
Its rapid intensification caught many by surprise, although the storm later weakened.
Are hurricanes getting worse? A guide to the world’s deadliest storms Unusually warm waters in the Gulf of Mexico turbo-charged the storm from a tropical depression on Sunday.
Media playback is unsupported on your device Media caption Hurricane Michael strikes Florida On Tuesday it was still a category two hurricane but by Wednesday morning it had reached borderline category five, the highest level.
Who are the victims? Florida officials say at least four people died as a result of the storm in Gadsden County.
In Seminole County, Georgia, a metal car-shelter lifted by a gust of wind hit a mobile home, killing a girl of 11.
And a man died when a tree fell on his car near Charlotte, North Carolina on Thursday.
Michael earlier reportedly killed at least 13 people as it passed through Central America: six in Honduras, four in Nicaragua and three in El Salvador.
How badly was Florida hit? The storm has knocked out power to more than 900,000 homes and businesses.
More than 370,000 people in Florida were ordered to evacuate but officials believe many ignored the warning.
The coastal city of Apalachicola reported a storm surge of nearly 8ft (2.5m).
Image copyright Reuters Image caption This McDonald’s sign was twisted by the storm in Panama City Beach “There are so many downed power lines and trees that it’s almost impossible to get through the city,” local mayor Van Johnson was Quote: d as saying by Reuters news agency.
Florida Governor Rick Scott said the US Coast Guard had carried out 10 missions overnight, saving at least 27 people.
“So many lives have been changed forever,” he told reporters. “So many families have lost everything. This hurricane was an absolute monster.”
Images from Mexico Beach show many homes submerged in water, and there was severe damage to buildings in the state’s Panama City area.
A journalist with the Tampa Bay Times said neighbourhoods in that city “looked like a child’s playroom after a massive tantrum”.
Media playback is unsupported on your device Media caption Hurricane Michael as seen from space Hurricanes A guide to the world’s deadliest storms
Hurricanes are violent storms that can bring devastation to coastal areas, threatening lives, homes and businesses.
Hurricanes develop from thunderstorms, fuelled by warm, moist air as they cross sub-tropical waters.
Warm air rises into the storm.
Air swirls in to fill the low pressure in the storm, sucking air in and upwards, reinforcing the low pressure.
The storm rotates due to the spin of the earth and energy from the warm ocean increases wind speeds as it builds.
When winds reach 119km/h (74mph), it is known as a hurricane – in the Atlantic and Eastern Pacific – or a typhoon in the Western Pacific.
“Everybody has a plan until they get punched in the face. Well, we’re about to get punched in the face.”
Florida Mayor Bob Buckhorn, ahead of Hurricane Irma (2017)
The central eye of calmer weather is surrounded by a wall of rainstorms.
This eyewall has the fastest winds below it and violent currents of air rising through it.
A mound of water piles up below the eye which is unleashed as the storm reaches land.
These storm surges can cause more damage from flooding than the winds.
“Urgent warning about the rapid rise of water on the SW FL coast with the passage of #Irma’s eye. MOVE AWAY FROM THE WATER!”
Tweet from the National Hurricane Center
The size of hurricanes is mainly measured by the Saffir-Simpson scale – other scales are used in Asia Pacific and Australia.
Some minor flooding, little structural damage.
Storm surge +1.2m-1.5m
Roofs and trees could be damaged.
Storm surge +1.8m-2.4m
Houses suffer damage, severe flooding
Storm surge +2.7m-3.7m
Hurricane Sandy (2012) caused $71bn damage in the Caribbean and New York
Some roofs destroyed and major structural damage to houses.
Storm surge +4m-5.5m
Hurricane Ike (2008) hit Caribbean islands and Louisiana and was blamed for at least 195 deaths
Serious damage to buildings, severe flooding further inland.
Storm surge +5.5m
Hurricane Irma (2017) caused devastation in Caribbean islands, leaving thousands homeless
“For everyone thinking they can ride this storm out, I have news for you: that will be one of the biggest mistakes you can make in your life.”
Mayor of New Orleans Ray Nagin ahead of Hurricane Gustav, 2008
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What happens next? As of early Thursday morning local time, the storm winds had dropped to 60mph, the NHC said.
It warned that communities in north-west Florida and North Carolina faced the threat of life-threatening flooding as rising water moved inland from the coast.
The Carolinas are still recovering from the floods of Hurricane Florence .
States of emergency have been declared in all or parts of Florida, Alabama, Georgia and North Carolina.
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Sierra Leone cancels China-funded Mamamah airport – BBC News
Seven surprising numbers from China-Africa trade
Aviation Minister Kabineh Kallon told the BBC that the project, which was due to have been completed in 2022, wasn’t necessary and the country’s current international airport would be renovated instead.
He said current President Julius Maada Bio “didn’t see any need for Mamamah [the proposed airport]” and was considering building a bridge from the capital to Lungi airport – the only international airport in the country. Currently passengers need to get a boat or helicopter to reach Freetown.
Mr Kallon said he did not know whether the cancelled contract would lead to financial implications, and Sierra Leone remained on good terms with China.
“I do have the right to take the best decision for the country,” he told the BBC’s Focus on Africa programme.
China’s ambassador to Sierra Leone, Wu Peng, told the BBC that relations would not sour between the two countries.
“I don’t think the airport project should affect our future bilateral relations,” he said.
China is now the single largest bilateral financier of infrastructure in Africa – surpassing the African Development Bank (ADB), the European Commission, the European Investment Bank, the International Finance Corporation, the World Bank and the Group of Eight (G8) countries combined.
Critics say China is luring countries into debt traps by lending them money for massive infrastructure projects.
In August, 16 American senators voiced their concern about “predatory Chinese infrastructure lending” in a letter to US Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin and Secretary of State Mike Pompeo.
Zambia’s government has had to publicly deny reports that China could seize some of its parastatal companies if it defaulted on loan repayments.
But China has denied claims that it is leading countries into a debt trap.
“If we take a closer look at these African countries that are heavily in debt, China is not their main creditor,” China’s special envoy for Africa, Xu Jinghu, told a news conference in September.
“It’s senseless and baseless to shift the blame onto China for debt problems.”
Some Africans are also wary of the high levels of debt being built up and say the costs of some projects have been inflated by corruption, while others welcome China’s involvement, saying that the roads, ports, railways and other projects are badly needed. Related Topics