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Are You Afraid of the Dark?

The three established branches of life — bacteria, archaea, and eukaryotes — may soon be joined by a fourth, says New Scientist's Colin Barras. In a new study published in PLoS One, researchers at the University of California, Davis, Genome Center have identified gene sequences hidden in samples of seawater — these sequences are "so unusual they seem to have come from organisms that are only distantly related to cellular life as we know it," Barras says. "So distantly related, in fact, that they may belong to an organism that sits in an entirely new domain." The UC Davis researchers teamed up with Craig Venter and his team to sequence the samples, and found some sequences belonging to two "superfamilies" of genes, recA and rpoB, that are "unlike any seen before," Barras adds. Now the team is trying to find out where these genes are from, and conjecture that they could belong to an entirely new kind of life.

The Scan

Not as High as Hoped

The Associated Press says initial results from a trial of CureVac's SARS-CoV-2 vaccine suggests low effectiveness in preventing COVID-19.

Finding Freshwater DNA

A new research project plans to use eDNA sampling to analyze freshwater rivers across the world, the Guardian reports.

Rise in Payments

Kaiser Health News investigates the rise of payments made by medical device companies to surgeons that could be in violation of anti-kickback laws.

Nature Papers Present Ginkgo Biloba Genome Assembly, Collection of Polygenic Indexes, More

In Nature this week: a nearly complete Ginkgo biloba genome assembly, polygenic indexes for dozens of phenotypes, and more.