CLOSE

The Centaur that Killed the Common Cold

A promising series of tests of a new antiviral drug has researchers so jazzed up about its potential success that they're throwing around wild mythology-inspired comparisons to herald its ingenious lethality. If the drug's daunting name—DRACO—isn't enough to unnerve pesky viruses, sending them scurrying to the darkest recesses of your outermost extremities in search of safe haven, then Bucknell University molecular virologist Marie Pizzorno's explanation of how it mimics the attributes of a centaur surely will:

"The horse is one piece of a protein that normally we make and that can recognize the [long double-stranded DNA] made by the virus, and the man is something that triggers the cell-death pathway."

Most viruses act "sort of like the aliens in the Alien movies," explains Todd Rider, the co-author of the drug study. They enter a cell, replicate inside it, create double-stranded RNA, and destroy the cell from the inside. Up until now, most attempts to attack viruses with antiviral medications have been target specific, with each drug aimed at a particular strain of virus. This has allowed viruses to mutate or become resistant to any given medication.

According to this very illuminating National Geographic post, what DRACO does, inventively, is work with the body's natural defenses to detect the whereabouts of virus-generated double-stranded RNA. The body naturally releases proteins that latch onto the viral RNA to prevent replication. DRACO hitches a ride with these proteins, then triggers the cell's self-destruct mechanism when it locates a virus... halting it in its tracks.

Researchers believe that DRACO's ability to work against multiple viruses simultaneously might signal a sea-change in the way we combat viral infections, much like antibiotics changed the way we dealt with bacterial infections. In addition to possibly eradicating major viruses like HIV, Ebola, and smallpox, the drug might one day help eliminate the supremely aggravating common cold. Though still in its early stages of development, and probably about ten years away from your local pharmacy's highly ineffectual Cold and Flu remedy shelf, DRACO is doing its best Chiron impersonation against our most deadly viruses.

Original image
Ian Hitchcock/Getty Images
arrow
Space
Can’t See the Eclipse in Person? Watch NASA’s 360° Live Stream
Original image
Ian Hitchcock/Getty Images

Depending on where you live, the historic eclipse on August 21 might not look all that impressive from your vantage point. You may be far away from the path of totality, or stuck with heartbreakingly cloudy weather. Maybe you forgot to get your eclipse glasses before they sold out, or can't get away from your desk in the middle of the day.

But fear not. NASA has you covered. The space agency is live streaming a spectacular 4K-resolution 360° live video of the celestial phenomenon on Facebook. The livestream started at 12 p.m. Eastern Time and includes commentary from NASA experts based in South Carolina. It will run until about 4:15 ET.

You can watch it below, on NASA's Facebook page, or on the Facebook video app.

Original image
iStock
arrow
science
What Makes a 'Moon'? (The Answer Is More Complicated Than You'd Think)
Original image
iStock

Not all moons look like the spherical glowing orb that hovers above Earth. In fact, to be a moon, a space rock technically only has to be the natural satellite of a star’s satellite.

That said, these rocks don’t all look, or act, alike. They come in a variety of shapes, sizes, and types, and they all have unique behaviors. For example, Jupiter has 53 known moons—including the solar system’s largest moon, Ganymede—and many of them have elliptical, backwards orbits. Meanwhile, Mars has two moons, and they're irregularly-shaped, dark satellites that orbit the planet’s equator in circles.

Since there are hundreds of moons—and even more conditional ones—in our solar system, this raises a question: Should we deem each and every one of these secondary satellites a “moon”? And if not, should the distinguishing criteria include factors like orbit, size, shape, or visibility from a planet’s surface?

MinuteEarth’s Kate Yoshida explores these questions in the video below.

SECTIONS

arrow
LIVE SMARTER
More from mental floss studios