End of Iranian enrichment

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  • 4 | NewScientist | 30 November 2013

    ITS a serious telling off. The US Food and Drug Administration has ordered personal genetics company 23andMe to stop marketing its popular DNA screening kit.

    In a letter to the Californian company, sent on 22 November, the FDA stated concerns about the public health consequences of inaccurate results.

    23andMe sells a DNA testing kit for $99, which it claims can provide customers with data on the potential effect of their genetics on their health. This includes their risk of developing 254 conditions, including diabetes and heart disease. The company states that these tests enable users to take steps toward mitigating serious diseases.

    The FDA said that after several interactions with 23andMe, including more than 14 meetings

    Genetic troubles and hundreds of email exchanges, the agency still hasnt received any assurance that 23andMe has analytically or clinically validated their tests for their intended uses.

    The FDA is particularly concerned about the gene tests offered by 23andMe that claim to inform customers of their susceptibility to breast cancer.

    If the test wrongly diagnosed a woman as susceptible, she may undergo unnecessary corrective surgery or drug treatment, and a missed diagnosis would allow cancers to develop unchecked, the FDA warned. Likewise, incorrect results for sensitivity to drugs, such as blood-thinning warfarin, could put people at risk of blood clots or other complications if they alter their medication.

    In a statement, 23andMe acknowledged receiving the FDAs warning letter and failing to meet the administrations expectations regarding timeline and communication regarding our submission. We are committed to fully engaging with them to address their concerns, the company said.

    Lunar thyme lordsTURNIPS, cress and basil could sprout on the moon in 2015 if NASAs first plan to grow plants on a world other than Earth comes to fruition.

    The aim is to find out if the crews of moon bases will be able to grow some of their own greens a capability that has proved psychologically comforting to research crews isolated in Antarctica and the International Space Station, NASA says.

    The space agency is developing

    a sealed canister with five days worth of air, in which seeds can germinate on nutrient-infused filter paper. The idea is that water will be released on touchdown and sunshine will do the rest.

    The 1 kilogram greenhouse will be a paid-for stowaway on an uncrewed Google Lunar X-Prize lander mission most probably the Moon Express mission planned for late 2015.

    Researchers will monitor plant growth and movement via cameras and compare the results with ground-based controls.

    No sanctions, no bombs

    End of Iranian enrichmentWE HAVE reached an agreement, tweeted Mohammad Javad Zarif, Irans foreign minister, on 24 November. In exchange for a limited reprieve from economic sanctions, Iran will freeze uranium enrichment for six months ending years of diplomatic stalemate.

    Does this mean that a permanent deal can be reached? The terms are tougher on Iran than expected, so weapons experts are optimistic. It is not often we get to see the hinge of history swing, says Joe Cirincione of anti-proliferation foundation the Ploughshares Fund in San Francisco.

    Concerns about Irans nuclear activities focus on its enrichment of uranium beyond the 3.5 per cent needed for energy-producing reactor fuel 90 per cent enrichment is needed for a nuclear bomb.

    Under the agreement, Iran will stop all enrichment past the 5 per cent mark and blend its existing 20 per cent stockpile to below 5 per cent or turn it into uranium oxide, which is hard to enrich further. The deal also stops Iran from making, installing or upgrading centrifuges, or building a heavy-water reactor at Arak, which could potentially produce plutonium.

    Inspectors from the International Atomic Energy Agency will also gain access to centrifuge production plants and uranium mines and mills, which were all previously off limits.

    Missing are inspections of sites such as Parchin, where warheads were allegedly tested. But if Iran signs a further deal in six months, it may have to allow inspections anywhere.

    The FDA are concerned about the public health consequences of inaccurate results

    ITS been a while since the moon has had house guests. China is due to send a lander and a rover as early as next week to the lunar surface the first attempt to land there in 37 years.

    Two previous Chinese probes took images of the moon from orbit. This mission, Change-3, will be Chinas first lunar touchdown. It includes a six-wheeled rover that has been named Yutu, or Jade Rabbit.

    The craft will land on a flat plain known as the Bay of Rainbows. The

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    rover will then be able to travel up to 3 kilometres from the landing site. It will carry a ground-penetrating radar system, cameras and a scoop for collecting soil samples.

    But Chinas historic moon mission could spell trouble for a NASA spacecraft already in orbit. That probe, called LADEE, recently began investigating the moons almost non-existant atmosphere, and the Chinese landing will kick up gases and dust that may contaminate the data.

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    131130_N_Upfront.indd 4 26/11/13 17:53:31

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