This week’s Nature Podcast looks at: Triggering swarming behaviour in locusts, antibody therapies as a bridge to Covid-19 vaccine, and new insights into how humans synchronize.
In this episode:
01:56 Understanding swarming behaviour
Swarms of migratory locusts regularly devastate crops across the world, but why these swarms form has been a mystery. Now, a team of researchers have identified a compound that causes solitary locusts to come together in their billions – a finding that could have practical applications for preventing this behaviour. Research article: Guo et al.; News & Views: Catching plague locusts with their own scent
We discuss the role that monoclonal antibodies may have as therapeutics to treat COVID-19. Although promising, there are numerous hurdles to overcome before these drugs can be used. News: Antibody therapies could be a bridge to a coronavirus vaccine — but will the world benefit?
15:30 Research Highlights
A satellite’s fecal find reveals that Antarctica’s emperor penguin population is much larger than previously thought, and changing how genes are named to avoid Excel’s autocorrect. Research Highlight: Satellites find penguins by following the poo; Research article: Bruford et al.
17:49 An out-of-sync arts project
A collaborative art-science project featuring a network of connected violinists has given new insights into how humans synchronize. Research article: Shahal et al.
23:51 Briefing Chat
We take a look at some highlights from the Nature Briefing. This time we find out about the odd immune system of the anglerfish, and the beetle that can pass through a frog’s digestive system without coming to harm. Wired: The Anglerfish Deleted Its Immune System to Fuse With Its Mate; Research paper: Sugiura
With antibodies having implications for both our understanding of previous coronavirus infections and potential future immunity, Nicola Davis talks to Prof Eleanor Riley about how best to test for them and asks whether antibodies are the only thing we should be looking for.
Staff Writer Jon Cohen joins host Sarah Crespi to talk about using monoclonal antibodies to treat or prevent infection by SARS-CoV-2. Many companies and researchers are rushing to design and test this type of treatment, which proved effective in combating Ebola last year.
See all of our News coverage of the pandemic here, and all of our Research and Editorials here. And Karen Holl, a professor of environmental studies at the University of California, Santa Cruz, joins Sarah to discuss the proper planning of tree-planting campaigns. It turns out that just putting a tree in the ground is not enough to stop climate change and reforest the planet.
Benjamin Thompson, Noah Baker, and Amy Maxmen discuss the role of antibody tests in controlling the pandemic, and how public-health spending could curtail an economic crisis. Also on the show, the open hardware community’s efforts to produce medical equipment.
In this episode:
02:08 Betting on antibodies
Antibody tests could play a key role in understanding how the virus has spread through populations, and in ending lockdowns. We discuss concerns over their reliability, how they could be used, and the tantalising possibility of immunity.
10:25 Economy vs public health, a false dichotomy
Jim Yong Kim, former president of the World Bank, argues that strong investment in public health is crucial to halt the ongoing pandemic and to prevent a global financial crisis. We discuss his work with US governors to massively increase contact tracing, and his thoughts on how researchers can help steer political thinking.
19:00 One good thing this week
Our hosts talk about staying positive, and pick a few things that have made them smile in the last 7 days, including a tiny addition to the team, a newspaper produced by children in lockdown, and a gardening update.
22:51 Open hardware
Researchers are stepping up efforts to design and produce ventilators and personal protective equipment for frontline medical staff. We hear how the open hardware movement is aiding these efforts, and the regulations that teams need to consider if their designs are to make it into use.