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Physics Meets Biology

In a multidisciplinary research effort, University of Michigan astrophysicist Katherine Freese and her colleagues are working with Harvard geneticist George Church and his colleagues to detect dark matter with DNA, reports Wired UK's Olivia Solon. As they write in a new paper available at arXiv, the researchers have created a directional dark matter detector. Dark matter can't be seen, so the team says it can detect these particles, called weakly interacting massive particles or WIMPs, using DNA strands hanging from a thin gold sheet. "The theory is that a particle of dark matter will smash into the heavy gold nucleus, pushing it out of the gold sheet and through into the DNA 'forest', knocking the strands out as it travels," Solon says. "These strands fall onto a collection tray. Each of them has a unique identifier showing where they were located on the gold sheet, so researchers can reconstruct the path of the gold particle with incredible precision." This will allow for detection with nanometer resolution, which is orders of magnitude more accurate than current detection methods, she adds.

The Scan

Renewed Gain-of-Function Worries

The New York Times writes that the pandemic is renewing concerns about gain-of-function research.

Who's Getting the Patents?

A trio of researchers has analyzed gender trends in biomedical patents issued between 1976 and 2010 in the US, New Scientist reports.

Other Uses

CBS Sunday Morning looks at how mRNA vaccine technology could be applied beyond SARS-CoV-2.

PLOS Papers Present Analysis of Cervicovaginal Microbiome, Glycosylation in Model Archaea, More

In PLOS this week: functional potential of the cervicovaginal microbiome, glycosylation patterns in model archaea, and more.