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Looking for Life on Mars

Astrobiology Magazine's Michael Schirber looks into Harvard Medical School's Gary Ruvkun's Search for Extraterrestrial Genomes project. In that project, Ruvkun and his colleagues are testing the panspermia theory, which says that biological materials can travel through space and initiate life in other locations, such as Mars or the Earth. The researchers have developed a thermocycler that uses 16S ribosomal RNA primers — which they say is likely to be conserved in Martian life as it is in Earth-bound life — to identify and amplify any Martian DNA that is closely related to Earth-based DNA. They plan to field-test the tool in Argentina this year with funding from NASA's Astrobiology Science and Technology Instrument Development program. However, some argue that searching for Martian DNA is premature. "If there were other signs of life, more specifically biomass, I would applaud DNA analysis," adds Norman Pace at University of Colorado, Boulder in the article. "Without even trace target biomass, talking about DNA sequences seems premature to me."

The Scan

UCLA Team Reports Cost-Effective Liquid Biopsy Approach for Cancer Detection

The researchers report in Nature Communications that their liquid biopsy approach has high specificity in detecting all- and early-stage cancers.

Machine Learning Improves Diagnostic Accuracy of Breast Cancer MRI, Study Shows

Combining machine learning with radiologists' interpretations further increased the diagnostic accuracy of MRIs for breast cancer, a Science Translational Medicine paper finds.

Genome Damage in Neurons Triggers Alzheimer's-Linked Inflammation

Neurons harboring increased DNA double-strand breaks activate microglia to lead to neuroinflammation like that seen in Alzheimer's disease, a new Science Advances study finds.

Long COVID-19 Susceptibility Clues Contained in Blood Plasma Proteome

A longitudinal study in eBioMedicine found weeks-long blood plasma proteome shifts after SARS-CoV-2 infection, along with proteomic signatures that appeared to coincide with long Covid risk.