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Thomas Brock Dies

Thomas Brock, the microbiologist who discovered the bacterium whose polymerase enables PCR reactions, has died, the New York Times reports. He was 94.

According to the Times, Brock stopped off at Yellowstone National Park during a drive to the west coast since he had never been and, in an interview posted by the University of Wisconsin-Madison to YouTube, says he was stunned by all the microbes living in the hot springs there and thought that they would be interesting to study.

Among the bacteria he collected and cultured was Thermus aquaticus, a polymerase from which was later used by Kary Mullis to develop PCR, since it could work well at high temperatures. "PCR is fundamental to everything we do in molecular biology today," Yuka Manabe from Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine tells the Times. "Mullis couldn't have done PCR without a rock-stable enzyme."

In the video, Brock said that work like his emphasizes the importance of basic research. "[Basic research] made it possible for somebody to look for a DNA polymerase that might be useful," he added.

The Scan

Could Mix It Up

The US Food and Drug Administration is considering a plan that would allow for the mixing-and-matching of SARS-CoV-2 vaccines and boosters, the New York Times says.

Closest to the Dog

New Scientist reports that extinct Japanese wolf appears to be the closest known wild relative of dogs.

Offer to Come Back

The Knoxville News Sentinel reports that the University of Tennessee is offering Anming Hu, a professor who was acquitted of charges that he hid ties to China, his position back.

PNAS Papers on Myeloid Differentiation MicroRNAs, Urinary Exosomes, Maize Domestication

In PNAS this week: role of microRNAs in myeloid differentiation, exosomes in urine, and more.