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News briefs

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Testing zero-gravity genomics in “vomit comet”

Nature reports that geneticists from Johns Hopkins University have successfully performed genetics experiments onboard NASA’s reduced-gravity aircraft — known as the “vomit comet” — to see whether astronauts will be able to sequence their own DNA during future long-term spaceflights. “The researchers tested two key tools in zero-gravity: one might aid long-term storage of genetic material; another is a small, transportable genetic sequencer”, known as a MinION. They also tried three pipetting methods on their flights — best results came when they used a small plunger inside the pipette, which touches the sample directly, ensuring that no air gets in. “And the pipette’s tip is small enough to avoid ruining the surface tension, which would let fluid escape up the tube.” One of the researchers, Andrew Feinberg said: “I really have to give NASA huge credit in allowing us to do this”, he says. “They’re very curious people. They really want to know.”

Taking off protective clothing spreads germs

A new study in JAMA Internal Medicine shows 46% of carefully removed protective clothing still showed contamination with a fluorescent lotion used to simulate germs or other dangerous matter, The Washington Post

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