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Thanks to a group of Chinese researchers and a rare genetic mutation, we're discovering that the world's best bear can get even more adorable. On Sunday, scientists at Wolong National Nature Reserve in Sichuan, China released a photo of an all-white, albino giant panda — believed to be the first of his (or her) kind known to human researchers. The image, taken by the reserve's motion-activated cameras in mid-April, shows the one- to two-year-old panda cub walking through brush, approximately 2,000 meters above sea-level. With white claws, white fur, and red eyes, the unnamed critter carries all the hallmark signs of albinism. According to an official statement from the local conservation authority, the discovery of this rare cub indicates "that there is a 'whitening' mutant gene in the giant panda population in Wolong." Should the cub mate with another wild panda and pass its genetic code along when it is fully grown, it is quite possible that we could be looking at more albino panda cubs down the line — the species' well-known mating issues notwithstanding. Albinism "usually has no significant effect on the animal's activity or reproduction," according to the conservation authority. Outside of being slightly more visible to predators and sensitive to sunlight, our new panda friend should have about as good of a chance at survival as any of its black-and-white peers. "Looking at the photo, the individual appears physically strong, with a steady gait," the statement notes. SEE ALSO: A big red reason not to dig a mine in Alaska's fat bear country The discovery comes as part of a larger conservation effort in southwest China, aiming to learn more about multiple species in the region. Moving forward, researchers intend to tag and track the animal for further study and protection. As of 2016, giants pandas are no longer endangered, but their global population remains vulnerable today. No word yet on when we can expect more photos of the rare baby. Special thanks to Sarah Stebbins for aiding with translation. WATCH: These playful baby pandas have to be separated before bedtime
A Chinese startup called Neolix kicked off mass production of its self-driving delivery vehicles Friday -- saying it’s the first company globally to do so -- and has lined up giants such as JD.Com Inc. and Huawei Technologies Co. as customers. The implications are potentially huge: Billionaire Jack Ma predicts there will be 1 billion deliveries a day in China within a decade and the commercialization of the technology could provide lessons for autonomous vehicles carrying passengers. “Driverless cars will change the world, just like the shift from the carriage to the automobile,” Neolix founder Yu Enyuan, 45, said in an interview at his office in Beijing.
Health officials have now confirmed a total of three cases of rat lungworm disease in travelers who spent time in Hawaii. A report from the Hawaii Department of Health confirms the cases, which are believed to be unrelated to one another.The disease, which is officially known as angiostrongyliasis but is also called "rat lungworm disease," is caused by a parasitic infection. The parasite is known to target rats, hence the name, but its life cycle can bring it into contact with humans as well. The severity of the infection can vary from person to person, but the disease can be deadly in some cases.The parasite in question, a rat lungworm, has a habit of infecting rodents which can spread the parasite through feces. The parasite is known for hitching a ride on slugs and, when a rat finds one of the slimy critters to feast on, the rodent becomes infected and the life cycle begins anew.In humans, the parasite can wreak havoc on the nervous system. Late last year a man died after eating a slug on a dare resulted in a rat lungworm infection that left him paralyzed. He remained in a compromised state for eight full years before he died. One of the three infections confirmed by Hawaii health officials appears to have happened in a similar way."One of the individuals visited East Hawai'i in December 2018 and became infected by purposely eating a slug on a dare," the state Department of Health explains in a statement. "The individual became ill in late December and was not hospitalized for their symptoms."But eating infected bugs isn't the only way a person can become infected. Slugs that carry that parasite can contaminate food supplies when they remain undetected in shipments of vegetables and fruits. If the foods are unwashed before being consumed, the parasite can make the jump to a human host.State officials are strongly urging visitors and residents to remember basic best practices when handling food, including washing produce ahead of eating it to ensure they don't become an unwitting victim of the nasty parasites.
NIH Funding Opportunities
- Bioinformatics Interdisciplinary Predoctoral Fellowship in Diabetes, Endocrinology and Metabolic Diseases (F31)
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- NIMHD Announces Participation in RFA-AG-20-035, "Building Resources for the Basic Biology of Aging in Health Disparities Research (R24 Clinical Trial Not Allowed)"
- Notice of NICHD's participation on PAR-19-326, Reducing Stigma to Improve HIV/AIDS Prevention, Treatment, and Care in Low and Middle-Income Countries (R21 Clinical Trial Optional)
- Notice of Change to Allowable Appendix Materials for RFA-NS-19-038 "The NINDS Human Cell and Data Repository (U24 - Clinical Trial Not Allowed)"