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Metabolite Trail

People leave a trail of metabolites behind them and researchers are increasingly able to identify them, the Economist writes, adding that these metabolites could be used to uncover personal information about people.

It notes that only recently have researchers been able to sample metabolites from more sources than blood or urine — they can now analyze sweat, saliva, and dental plaque — and databases for identifying metabolites based on their GC/MS profiles have improved. Such data, the Economist says, could reveal a lot about people: how much they exercise, what they eat, or if they take any drugs or medications.

While there are protections in the US barring employers or health insurers from using genetic information, the Economist notes there are no such protections for metabolic data and, further, that others like law enforcement could be interested in what such tests might reveal. 

"The day is coming soon," the University of Oklahoma's Cecil Lewis tells it, "when it will be possible to swab a person's desk, steering wheel, or phone and determine a wide range of incredibly private things about them."

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.