The latest issue (No. 33) of Vilnius University’s (VU) popular science magazine, Spectrum, has just been published.
This issue features articles about the aging of societies, the challenges of modern leadership and motherhood, genome research of the “liquidators” who cleaned up after the meltdown of the Chernobyl nuclear power plant, the attitude of Lithuanians towards vaccines, the search for extraterrestrial life, Soviet gastronomy, the mission of hospices among other topics.
The lead article of the magazine describes alternative technologies developed both in Lithuania and elsewhere for the development of rapid PCR tests. One of these technologies is the adaptation of “gene scissors” – the CRISPR endonucleases. Using this and other innovative technologies, Lithuanian scientists are developing the next generation COVID-19 saliva-based tests which you can carry in your pocket and which can be used at home, in a hospital or a nursing home setting, and where the test results can be obtained in half an hour or simply displayed on the screen of the device itself or on a mobile phone.
You can also read about how mathematicians can help doctors treat heart diseases. Scientists are working on developing mathematical methods and computer tools that will allow cardiovascular disease pathologies to be modeled on a computer screen prior to a surgical intervention. The research focuses on modeling the geometry of the left atrial appendage. These studies can help solve the problem of clot formation in the left atrium.
The researchers who are collecting information from the “liquidators” who helped with cleaning up after the Chernobyl nuclear power plant disaster are trying to answer the question of what is in the genes of the liquidators that allowed them survive the greatest accident in the history of nuclear energy and what protects against ionizing radiation.
Spectrum also offers an article on the topical issue of Lithuanians’ attitudes toward vaccines. There have always been people who doubted the benefits of vaccines and who believed there would be terrible consequences and side effects. Never has this skepticism been more relevant than in today’s COVID-19 pandemic. With the development of suitable vaccines in a record short time, discussion on vaccination has become particularly heated. Austė Valinčiūtė, a researcher from the VU Faculty of Communication, studied people’s attitudes to vaccines in Lithuania. She found that over the past decades three out of ten Lithuanians have had concerns about the safety of vaccines, and according to current public opinion polls, only one in every two people is prepared to be vaccinated against COVID-19.
Motherhood is usually seen as a natural evolution in the life of every woman. Lithuanian society respects this image and it has been seen as granting status and as even being heroic. However, studies of motherhood as a multidimensional phenomenon, which began 50 years ago, reveal that there is a difference between real and theoretical motherhood. It appears that motherhood may not only bring pleasure, but also trauma. Some women might regret becoming a mother and even be very reluctant to become one.
The cover of this new issue of Spectrum and four articles in the magazine have been illustrated by the young, talented illustrator, Jekaterina Budrytė. The illustrations feature fragments of the exhibits from the VU Library science and cultural heritage funds which have been publicly available since 2021.