How Social Media Has Been Sciencified

On June 30th, 2010, World Social Media Day was created to bring people together and recognize the impact that social media has on communication globally. What started as a communication method for friends and families is now an integral tool for news, discussion, professional connections, and marketing.

In its short life, social media has redefined how we interact and communicate with one another. People have flocked to social media ever since the beginning of MySpace in 2003. However, it’s no secret that the pandemic accelerated social media usage, acceptance, visibility, and engagement. For many of us, it’s a great way to keep up with family, connect with friends, and, well, be social. But with more conversations happening online than ever, the question is, how does the scientific community fit into this ever-changing virtual world?

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Tracking African Swine Fever in Domestic Pigs

Domestic pigs on a farm. African Swine Fever can wreak havoc in domestic herds.

African Swine Fever is a highly contagious disease caused by the African Swine Fever Virus (ASFV) that can spread among populations of both wild and domestic pigs. While not transmissible to humans, it is passed between pigs through direct contact with bodily fluids or feces, through the consumption of contaminated food or through tick-borne transmission. With a mortality rate nearing 100%, this virus can easily devastate large populations of pigs.

ASFV is extremely resilient and is predominantly carried by wild pigs and soft ticks of the Ornithodoros genus. It can survive extended periods of time in processed meat, and contaminated pig products are a common source of transmission, posing a serious threat to the global pig industry due to rising demand for pork. The consequences of unchecked spread of ASFV can include a disruption in the production and exportation of pork products, job losses and other devastating effects. Among those countries with pig populations vulnerable to the spread of ASFV is the Philippines.

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Explore the World From a New Lens with Nature Photography

Each year, on June 15, we celebrate Nature Photography Day. This globally recognized day was designated by the North American Nature Photography Association (NANPA) to embrace the value of nature and encourage the enjoyment of nature photography.

Photography helps us explore the natural world and advance conservation efforts to protect plants, nature, and wildlife both locally and globally. One of the great things about Nature Photography Day is that you can participate wherever you are, with whatever equipment you have—nature is all around us!

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Protecting Pollinators: What is All the Buzz About “No Mow May”?

Pollinators A bee pollinating a wildflowers

Ah summer. The time for lazy afternoons spent dozing in a hammock, lulled to sleep by the quiet buzz of bees hard at work collecting nectar and pollen from the first flowers of the year. It sounds idyllic, but unfortunately such afternoons are falling increasingly silent. As uniformly green lawns replace patchworks of dandelions and clover, the bees are disappearing.

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Migratory Birds and Light Pollution

May 14 is World Migratory Bird Day (WMBD). The overall mission of this globally recognized event is to raise awareness of migratory birds and protect them through recognizing issues related to their conservation. Over the years, WMBD has focused on issues such as climate change, plastic pollution, the illegal killing of birds, and barriers to migration. This year’s theme is focused on light pollution.

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Cytochrome P450 Inhibition: Old Drug, New Tricks

multiwell screening plate and various pills on a table

Cytochrome P450 (CYP) inhibitors are often used as boosting agents in combination with other drugs. This drug development strategy is front and center for Paxlovid, the new anti-SARS-CoV-2 treatment from Pfizer. Paxlovid is a combination therapy, comprised of two protease inhibitors, nirmatrelvir and ritonavir. It significantly reduces the risk of COVID-19 hospitalization in high-risk adults and is ingested orally rather than injected, which is an advantage over other SARS-CoV-2 treatments, such as Remdesivir.

Nirmatrelvir was originally developed by Pfizer almost 20 years ago to treat HIV and works by blocking enzymes that help viruses replicate. Pfizer created another version of this drug to combat SARS in 2003, but, once that outbreak ended, further development was put on pause until the advent of the COVID-19 pandemic. After developing an intravenous form of nirmatrelvir early in the pandemic, Pfizer created another version that can be taken orally and combined it with ritonavir.

When ritonavir was originally developed, it wasn’t considered particularly useful because it metabolized so quickly in the body. Now it is recognized as a pharmacokinetic enhancer in combination with other drugs. Ritonivir inhibits CYP3A4, an enzyme which plays a key role in the metabolism of drugs and xenobiotics. By inhibiting CYP3A4, ritonivir slows the metabolism of other drugs. In the case of Paxlovid, this allows nirmatrelvir to stay in the body longer at a high enough concentration to be effective against the virus. This ultimately means that patients can be given lower doses of the drug with reducing efficacy.

Diagram of Nirmaltrelvir mechanism of action.
Nirmatrelvir inhibits the viral 3CL protease, so that functional, smaller viral proteins cannot be produced.
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Volunteering. A Celebration of Service, Community and Connection

Promega Madison employees volunteering to gather trash from roadside ditches.
Promega Madison employees gather trash from roadside ditches.

Volunteering is willingly giving your time and effort without expecting something in return. The month of April is volunteer month, and April 20 is national volunteer recognition day, so we are taking this chance to celebrate volunteers and the work they do that benefits us all. Fundamentally, volunteering is about service to others, but that service can take on many different forms. Promega recognizes the benefits that volunteering brings to our employees as well as our local and global communities. Our Promega in Action program offers Madison-based employees the chance to volunteer their time and talents; applicants get up to 40 hours of extra paid time off to work with the charity or organization of their choice.

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Studying the Genetic Basis of Type 2 Diabetes with An Automated Maxwell® Workflow

Blood collection tubes in a rack. Researchers are learning more about  Type 2 diabetes

Over the past few decades, the prevalence of diabetes has been on the rise. According to the WHO, 422 million people worldwide have diabetes, causing an estimated 1.5 million deaths every year. Among those with diabetes, 95% have type 2 diabetes—which is caused by the body’s resistance to insulin. It is known that risk factors for type 2 diabetes include older age, excess weight, poor diet and family history. However, the precise genetic basis of type 2 diabetes is still largely a mystery.

Dr. Mark McCarthy’s lab at the Oxford Center for Diabetes, Endocrinology and Metabolism (OCDEM) focuses on understanding the genetic causes of type 2 diabetes. Identifying which genes contribute to type 2 diabetes could provide opportunities for developing new therapeutics. Chris Grove, former lab manager in Dr. McCarthy’s lab, explained how they have approached this challenge.

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Small Wins, Personal Commitment and Concrete Solutions Add Up to Big Victories in Sustainability

Sustainability. Maybe it is your way of life, or you feel like it is a buzzword used and abused. Perhaps you are tired of hearing about it or convinced that society doesn’t do enough. Well, welcome to Switzerland, the country of Heidi, of mountains and chocolate, and where many are passionate about their environment and fight to preserve it. The team of Promega Switzerland is no exception. Take the General Manager, Mauro Ciglic, for example. He is someone who cares about people, nature, and the environment in the broadest sense. For him, sustainability is an attitude. It’s about questioning one’s lifestyle, behaviors, and habits, reflecting on what one can do personally, and continuously challenging oneself to be and do better for others and the environment. Mauro is aware that economic, social, and environmental aspects are intertwined and that changes in the environment, good or bad, directly impact people, thus society at large. As the person responsible for the Swiss Branch of Promega, Mauro can bring positive change using the company’s financial strength and workforce. He focuses on the opportunities and not the challenges and, with the team, works hard to bring concrete solutions.

“One of the hardest things for people to wrap their heads around tends to be the idea that small wins add up to big victories. However, if we want to make a big difference for the future of our planet and its people, we have to overcome our indifference towards so many small things in life.”

– Mauro Ciglic, General Manager, Promega Switzerland
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Take a Break, Take A Walk!

Elderly father adult son and grandson out for a walk in the park.

For many of us, we’re used to getting our steps in when walking from one meeting room to the next. However, since the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic, we shifted to new communication modes. Meetings transitioned to simply clicking from one zoom to the other, increasing the amount of time we stay sedentary. For those who are still working remotely, this is a reminder to make time for movement! Contrary to how long periods of sitting have negative effects on the body, walking has a long list of benefits. In the spirit of National Walking Day, here are some reasons why you should take a break and take a walk.

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