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First six reference-quality bat genomes released and analysed.

For the first time, the raw genetic material that codes for bats’ unique adaptations and superpowers such as the ability to fly, to use sound to move effortlessly in complete darkness, to survive and tolerate deadly diseases, to resist ageing and cancer – has been fully revealed.

Bat1K (Bat1K.com), a global consortium of scientists dedicated to sequencing the genomes of every one of the 1421 living bat species, has generated and analyzed six highly accurate bat genomes that are ten times more complete than any bat genome published to date, in order to uncover bats’ unique traits.

The genetic basis of bats superpowers revealed

Image credit: U.S. National Park Service, Public Domain

“Given these exquisite bat genomes, we can now better understand how bats tolerate viruses, slow down ageing, and have evolved flight and echolocation. These genomes are the tools needed to identify the genetic solutions evolved in bats that ultimately could be harnessed to alleviate human ageing and disease,” Emma Teeling, University College Dublin, Co-Founding Director of Bat1K and Senior Author.

To generate these exquisite bat genomes, the team used the newest technologies of the DRESDEN-concept Genome Center, a shared technology resource in Dresden, to sequence the bat’s DNA, and generated new methods to assemble these pieces into the correct order and to identify the genes present.

“Using the latest DNA sequencing technologies and new computing methods for such data, we have 96 to 99 percent of each bat genome in chromosome level reconstructions – an unprecedented quality akin to for example the current human genome reference which is the result of over a decade of intensive “finishing” efforts. As such, these bat genomes provide a superb foundation for experimentation and evolutionary studies of bats’ fascinating abilities and physiological properties” Eugene Myers, Director of Max Planck Institute of Molecular Cell Biology and Genetics, and the Center for Systems Biology, Dresden, Germany, Senior Author.

Relationship to other mammals

The team compared these bat genomes against 42 other mammals to address the unresolved question of where bats are located within the mammalian tree of life. Using novel phylogenetic methods and comprehensive molecular data sets, the team found the strongest support for bats being most closely related to a group called Ferreuungulata that consists of carnivores (which includes dogs, cats and seals, among other species), pangolins, whales and ungulates (hooved mammals).

To uncover genomic changes that contribute to the unique adaptations found in bats, the team systematically searched for gene differences between bats and other mammals, identifying regions of the genome that have evolved differently in bats and the loss and gain of genes that may drive bats’ unique traits.

“Our genome scans revealed changes in hearing genes that may contribute to echolocation, which bats use to hunt and navigate in complete darkness. Furthermore, we found expansions of anti-viral genes, unique selection on immune genes, and loss of genes involved in inflammation in bats. These changes may contribute to bats’ exceptional immunity and points to their tolerance of coronaviruses.” Michael Hiller, Max Planck Research Group Leader, Max Planck Institute of Molecular Cell Biology and Genetics in Dresden, Max Planck Institute for the Physics of Complex Systems, and the Center for Systems Biology, Dresden, Senior Author.

Tolerance against viruses

The team also found evidence that bats’ ability to tolerate viruses is reflected in their genomes. The exquisite genomes revealed “fossilised viruses”, evidence of surviving past viral infections, and showed that bat genomes contained a higher diversity than other species providing a genomic record of historical tolerance to viral infection.

Given the quality of the bat genomes the team uniquely identified and experimentally validated several non-coding regulatory regions that may govern bats’ key evolutionary innovations.

“Having such complete genomes allowed us to identify regulatory regions that control gene expression that are unique to bats. Importantly we were able to validate unique bat microRNAs in the lab to show their consequences for gene regulation. In the future we can use these genomes to understand how regulatory regions and epigenomics contributed to the extraordinary adaptations we see in bats.” Sonja Vernes, Co-Founding Director Bat 1K, Max Planck Institute for Psycholinguistics, Nijmegen, Senior Author.

This is just a beginning. The remaining ~1400 living bat species exhibit an incredible diversity in ecology, longevity, sensory perception and immunology, and numerous questions still remain regarding the genomic basis of these spectacular features. Bat1K will answer these questions as more and more exquisite bat genomes are sequenced, further uncovering the genetic basis of bats’ rare and wonderful superpowers.

Source: MPG




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Xbox Series X, Series S India Pre-Order Time, Online Retailers Announced

India pre-orders for Xbox Series X and Series S will go live at 9am IST on Tuesday, September 22, Microsoft India has announced. Both Series X and Series S will be available on Amazon, Flipkart, and Reliance Digital’s online store. No offline stores have been announced. India is one of 37 countries where the new Xbox Series family will be up for pre-order on Tuesday, in addition to the US, the UK, Canada, Australia, New Zealand, and parts of Europe, Middle East, and Africa.

While the Xbox Series X and Series S pre-order date was announced alongside the prices — Rs. 49,990 for the Series X and Rs. 34,990 for the Series S — and launch date (November 10) last week, we didn’t have details on an exact pre-order time and where it would be available. Now we know. Gadgets 360 has also reached out to Microsoft India on details regarding special discounts (credit / debit card cashback offers) and financing options (no-cost EMIs), and we will update if we hear back.

For those outside India, here’s where you can pre-order the Xbox Series X and Series S. In the US, pre-orders go live Tuesday, September 22 at 8am PT / 11am ET on Microsoft Store, Amazon, Best Buy, GameStop, Walmart, Target, Sam’s Club, Newegg, and other participating retailers. Up north in Canada, pre-orders also go live at 8am PT / 11am ET on Microsoft Store, Amazon, Walmart, Best Buy, EB Games, The Source, and other participating retailers.

Across the pond in the UK, Xbox Series X and Series S pre-orders will be available Tuesday 8am BST on Microsoft Store, GAME, Amazon, Dixons, Currys PC World, Argos, John Lewis, Smyths Toys, VERY, AO, Tesco, Simply Game, Shopto and other participating retailers. In mainland Europe, as well as the Middle East and Africa, you can pre-order online starting at 9am CEST on Microsoft Store, Amazon, MediaMarkt, GameStop, FNAC, Elkjøp/Elgiganten, and other participating retailers.

Down under all the way in Australia, Xbox Series X and Series S pre-orders kick off Tuesday, September 22 at 8am AEST on Microsoft Store, JB Hifi, EB Games, Telstra, Harvey Norman, and other participating retailers. And in nearby New Zealand, you can pre-order both new Xbox Series consoles starting 8am NZST on Microsoft Store, JB HiFi, EB Games, Spark, and other participating retailers.

In select markets, both Xbox Series X and Series S are available under a subscription programme, Xbox All Access, which bundles the consoles with the Xbox Game Pass membership.

Xbox Series S and Series X will launch in 37 countries — including India — on November 10, and 41 countries during “holiday 2020”.

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Netflix engineer builds SnapCamera lens to bring a comic book vibe to video calls

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Snapchat’s Lens Studio has built-in recognition for 5 hand gestures that means you don’t have to unmute to say hi or BRB.

If you need something to ease the frustration of conversations via video chat, consider a new Snap Camera lens. Cameron Hunter, a senior software engineer at Netflix, created Meeting Gestures. Instead of unmuting to say, “hi,” or “ok,” this lens communicates the information with a gesture instead. 

When you raise your index finger, “Question” pops up on your video feed in a red comic-book word bubble. Hunter used the smile recognition in Snap Camera to display “ha, ha” bubbles. Moving outside the frame brings up “I’ll be right back” in a word bubble that fills the screen.

He tweeted that he used five built-in hand gestures in Snap Lens Studio to create the lens. 

SEE: TechRepublic Premium editorial calendar: IT policies, checklists, toolkits, and research for download  (TechRepublic Premium)

Snap Camera is simple to install and use. It works on Zoom, Skype, Microsoft Teams, and  Twitch. Once you’ve got Snap Camera installed, set your video conference camera to Snap Camera. You have to run Snap Camera and your web conferencing software at the same time. 

From the home screen of Snap Camera, paste this into the search box: https://www.snapchat.com/unlock/?type=SNAPCODE&uuid=16839bd69c67492696d6ccf1296ad31e&metadata=01 

Most lenses have a more user friendly name. On Tuesday, Hunter said he was working with SnapChat to resolve an issue with the name of the lens.

That link will bring up Hunter’s lens. The word bubbles will look backward to you but will read correctly for viewers. 

Build your own lens

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Hunter’s Twitter post sparked several ideas about additional gestures for the Snap Camera library, including sign language. Hunter tweeted that you can lock messages or images to tracked objects such as a hand or a head. Snap Lens Studio does not support the middle finger gesture. Twitter user Johnny Xmas suggested the Meeting Gestures lens would be helpful during a large-scale scrum.

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Ryan Brown, content and creative lead at Twitter, built his own meeting friendly lens. When you hold up an open palm, a flash of fire pops up and a heart flashes up when you hold up an index finger. 

Lens Studio has a guide that explains how to make a lens. You can create Face Lenses for front camera experiences and World Lenses for rear camera experiences. 

There are numerous templates for both types. The General section covers 2D, 3D, face tracking, audio, and scripting. You can even define a hint that will display for a user when a lens is turned on. There are also guidelines on how to submit a lens to the Snap Camera gallery.

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New cancer screening study could affect treatment for thousands in the UK

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The first UK study to estimate the proportion of womb cancers caused by an inherited cancer predisposition called Lynch syndrome has been carried out by The University of Manchester.

Almost 3% of womb cancers are linked to a hereditary condition named Lynch syndrome, according to new clinical research findings published in the journal, PLOS Medicine. The results of the new study have caused the National Institute for Health and Care Excellence (NICE) to advocate a change in testing practices across the UK.

Knowing that a person has Lynch syndrome can help determine which cancer treatments are likely to be successful. It also means that patients’ family members can be screened for the syndrome and those who test positive can be offered bowel-cancer screening to detect and remove pre-cancerous polyps. This has been shown to save lives. Whilst the link between Lynch syndrome and bowel cancer is well established, however, the link with womb cancers is less well studied.

The University of Manchester has now led the first prospective UK study to determine the prevalence of Lynch syndrome in 500 women newly diagnosed with womb cancer and found 16 to have Lynch syndrome.

Thirteen of the women did not know they had Lynch syndrome and their diagnosis prompted genetics referral, cascade testing of family members and access to prevention interventions (like colonoscopy and aspirin chemoprevention) that will hopefully prevent them (and their relatives) developing other cancers in the future.

The study was led by Professor Emma Crosbie at The University of Manchester and supported by the Medical Research Council and the National Institute for Health Research Manchester Biomedical Research Centre.

Professor Crosbie said: “If all women with womb cancer were tested for Lynch syndrome, we would identify around 220 women every year who didn’t know they had it, plus on average 3 family members per index case. This is around 1,000 people every year in the UK alone who would be diagnosed with Lynch syndrome and empowered to reduce their future cancer risk through proven interventions.

“More people could be enrolled in cancer prevention and screening programmes, and this may reduce the number of people being diagnosed with cancer, particularly at a young age.

“Because womb cancer often presents first, it may be the first sign that a patient has Lynch syndrome and is therefore at risk of developing bowel cancer and other Lynch-related cancers later in life. Finding out they have Lynch syndrome could enable them to take action to protect themselves and their family members from these cancers.”

A similar proportion of bowel cancers are caused by Lynch syndrome, which has led to guidance from the National Institute for Health and Care Excellence (NICE) that anyone diagnosed with bowel cancer should be tested for the condition.

Source: University of Manchester




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