mind virus

¶ Viral Cities by Thomas Fisher

From The Design Observer :

What does it mean to design with viruses in mind today? We might take cues from how we protect ourselves in the digital environment. [9] A computer virus can cripple hardware and subvert software, preventing us from working or communicating. To avoid this, we have at least three options. First, we can go to the source of the virus and try to stop its spread; second, we can erect digital firewalls and install virus-detection software to halt its arrival; and third, we can try to prevent infection by distancing ourselves from it and not opening attachments. While such efforts rarely ensure complete protection, they do reduce the likelihood of a virus crippling your computer. And they suggest techniques for how we might design our cities to respond to viral diseases let loose around the globe.

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With telecommuting comes the need for more mixed-use neighborhoods that can provide a range of services to people working close to home. This might seem to counter the tactic of social distancing, but it reminds us that in earlier eras, before global travel became an easy option, most people lived in comparatively smaller and more stable communities with those who shared exposure and immunity to the same diseases. This made it essential that most daily needs be provided for within a relatively small geographic area — which also served to limit our interactions mainly to those with whom we had diseases in common. In this sense, membership in a community offered more than a social and economic benefit; it was literally a matter of life and death, since traveling too far away from one’s own viral community made a person both a threat to others and vulnerable to infection.

The prospect of pandemic, then, should spur us to rethink one of the prevailing divides in urban design — the divide between those who envision a high-tech metropolis of global connectedness, on the one hand, and those who call for a return to traditional, small-scale, mixed-use settlements, on the other. We will actually need both the high-tech metropolis and the small-scale settlement. The digital environment will globally connect us while the mixed-use settlement will provide us with the diverse local goods and services we will need in a less mobile future.

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¶ Gene therapy for depression

From Nature :

Gene therapy delivered to a specific part of the brain reverses symptoms of depression in a mouse model of the disease — potentially laying the groundwork for a new approach to treating severe cases of human depression in which drugs are ineffective. But the invasive nature of the treatment, and the notorious difficulty in translating neuropsychiatric research from animal models to humans, could complicate its path to the clinic.

Many researchers believe that poor signalling of the neurotransmitter serotonin is responsible for causing depression, and common antidepressants act by increasing serotonin's concentration. Research published today in Science Translational Medicine1 uses a virus to deliver an extra dose of the gene p11 to the adult mouse brain. The protein expressed by the gene is thought to bind to serotonin receptor molecules and ferry them to the cell surface, positioning them to receive serotonin's signals from neighbouring cells.

"I think it awakens the possibility of gene therapy for neuropsychiatric diseases," says Husseini Manji, a senior investigator at Johnson & Johnson Pharmaceutical Research & Development in Titusville, New Jersey, who was not involved in the study. But, he adds, "thinking about delivering a gene to the brain poses all sorts of challenges".

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(via 3QuarksDaily)

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