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Couch Potato Gene Identified In Fruit Flies 105

Posted by timothy
from the or-extract-it-straight-from-me dept.
Pickens writes "University of Pennsylvania biologists have discovered a mutation in fruit flies aptly named the 'couch potato' gene that allows them to simply chill out — entering a mild state of quasi-hibernation known as diapause, when winter arrives. 'It's not like they're bears sleeping in a cave,' says Paul Schmidt. 'They just look like they're a little bit more sluggish.' The couch potato gene, first discovered in the early 1990s, got its nickname because flies with mutations in the gene became really sluggish and behaved abnormally. Little is known about the underlying evolutionary genetic architecture, but in diapause, the slacking off is far less severe. The flies' bodily functions slow down, and they are better able to tolerate stress. The fruit fly gene may have implications for human health, as it can help biologists study the function of the nervous system and diseases such as epilepsy, refuting a recent statement by a political candidate that fruit fly research has 'little or nothing to do with the public good.'"
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Couch Potato Gene Identified In Fruit Flies

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  • refuting a recent statement by a political candidate that fruit fly research has 'little or nothing to do with the public good.'

    It might be fashionable to make fun of Palin on Slashdot, where people pretend to be constitutional purists and libertarians. But this type of thinking, "don't cut my program" is why America is $10T in debt, not counting the 79 million baby boomers about to retire and demand their Social Security and Medicare.

    The question isn't whether government programs are well intentioned
    • by Kligat (1244968) on Saturday October 25, 2008 @03:34PM (#25511263)
      I think it's more that they dumb down studies to a sentence that makes them sound like tax payers are paying for scientists to play with bug collections, for the benefit of riling up Joe Sixpack, and generally creating a feeling of anti-science instead of anti-wastefulness. When I hear "Joe Sixpack," I think of it as an insult and picture Cletus [wikipedia.org] from The Simpsons.
      • by Belial6 (794905)
        Seriously! I was shocked to here Palin using that derogatory term. I know that I have been known to use it, but when I do, I am fully aware that I am using an insult. I don't think that Palin realized that she was calling her constituents stupid drunks. Of course, if her constituents didn't realize that she was calling them stupid drunks, maybe she wasn't all wrong.
    • right nex to the sentence you picked, "The fruit fly gene may have implications for human health, as it can help biologists study the function of the nervous system and diseases such as epilepsy", so it's not a complete waste. maybe we should just stop invading random countries and there'll be enough money to pay off our debts and a bit cash in hand to invent anti-gravity

      • right nex to the sentence you picked, "The fruit fly gene may have implications for human health, as it can help biologists study the function of the nervous system and diseases such as epilepsy", so it's not a complete waste. maybe we should just stop invading random countries and there'll be enough money to pay off our debts and a bit cash in hand to invent anti-gravity

        Just because something may have implications for human health in a few areas, doesn't mean it will, or that hose implications will be magical disease cures. Of course a researcher will make every attempt to advocate some sort of use for his expensive research, but there seems to be no evidence that this is plausible. It's not like knowing what a piece of DNA does means we can just fix it in all humans.

        As already said, funding everything is sort of a bad idea. We have to make cuts where we can, and this prog

        • by philspear (1142299) on Saturday October 25, 2008 @05:20PM (#25511973)

          As already said, funding everything is sort of a bad idea. We have to make cuts where we can, and this program honestly looks like it holds little promise without other major scientific advances. Until human gene modification becomes plausible, there's no point in sinking our imaginary dollars into fruit fly programs.

          So you're saying it might be time to change the way we decide who gets scientific funding, that the "Guess a number between one and ten" method we have, where if you guess the right number, your scientific proposal gets funded, might be a BAD system? Maybe we should start thinking about funding only the most important, worthwhile studies? Whoa man...

          Waitafuckingminute, THAT'S ALREADY WHAT WE DO! There's this organization, called the National Institute of Health, that hands out a lot of grant money for biomedical research. Scientists spend a lot of their time filling out grant applications in the vain attempt to get them to fund their research, it's very competitive, a LOT of good studies don't get funding.

          The ones that do are chosen by panels of other scientists and experts (though any scientist who has had a grant rejected will tell you, they're not perfect). They have a deeper understanding of what the benefits of research projects are than Sarah Palin, although that wouldn't be a high bar to clear. Yet they chose to fund fruit fly projects.

          Hmm... a panel of biomedical experts think fruit fly research isn't a waste. Maybe they are crazy or corrupt, or maybe you don't really know as much about it as you think you do.

          You can't jump right to the end in science, there is a lot of preliminary data you need to know usually before you can get a cure for X disease. For instance, with syphilis we had to first realize what bacteria were, realize it was a bacteria, realize that penicillin could kill bacteria, THEN we were able to cure it. You could have dumped all the money in the world into finding a cure for syphilis before we knew anything about that. You may have gotten lucky, but it's unlikely.

          Similar with human diseases, knowing the genetics involved is ABSOLUTELY essential knowledge, even if we can't directly cure the genes yet.

          Cancer treatments have improved greatly because of genetic work often done in flies. We can identify genes involved, then find out what they're doing in human cancers, then make treatments based on that.

          One current hot prospect in cancer research is knocking out members of the kinesin family, a protein that moves along the cytoskeleton and is involved in cell division. Cell division goes haywire in cancer, if we could affect only one time of kinesin, it would stop cancer pretty well.

          Know how we discovered kinesin? By studying squids and fruit flies.

          To sum up: unless you're out there reading whole grant applications, don't say a study is worthless or scientists are lying about the outcomes of their research, because you really have no earthly idea and are maligning people who DO know what they are talking about.

          (PS. don't quote me on the squids, I could be mistaken on that)

          • unless you're out there reading whole grant applications, don't say a study is worthless

            Why not? No one here seems to mind when someone comes up with exact opposite conclusion based upon the same level of information.

    • by Abcd1234 (188840) on Saturday October 25, 2008 @03:37PM (#25511285) Homepage

      But this type of thinking, "don't cut my program" is why America is $10T in debt

      Uhh... no. America is $10T in debt because:

      a) People demand their programs stay, while simultaneously refusing tax hikes to actually pay for them.
      b) Prosecuting a war the country can't afford, then *cutting taxes* in the meantime.
      c) Allowing the financial industry to run off a cliff, forcing the government to take action to prevent a complete economic meltdown.

      Is pork a problem? Yup. But as Obama has pointed out *many* times, earmarks, where much of this pork comes from, account for a truly *miniscule* sum compared to the broader budget, which is dominated by military expenditures and various entitlement programs. Unfortunately, Americans are, apparently, unwilling to actually *pay* for those military expenditures and entitlement programs, and so you get mind-bogglingly large debt.

      Incidentally, on a side note, here in my country, Canada, we have universal healthcare, universal education, university tuition that's actually affordable, old age security benefits, and a welfare system. And we're running a *surplus*. Just a little food for thought.

      • by roman_mir (125474)

        Incidentally, on a side note, here in my country, Canada, we have universal healthcare

        - yeah, it only works well as long as you are young and healthy. My wife and I routinely drive to Buffalo, NY from Toronto ON to get prompt medical attention and once every couple of years fly to Germany for stuff that would be prohibitively expensive to do in the US but that is still light years better of what Canadian system has to offer.

        universal education

        - in US, don't they have universal education for primary and high schools just as well?

        university tuition that's actually affordable

        - and doctors who are useless after these universities.

        old age security benefits

        - and the gov't that pr

        • by Abcd1234 (188840)

          - yeah, it only works well as long as you are young and healthy. My wife and I routinely drive to Buffalo, NY from Toronto ON to get prompt medical attention and once every couple of years fly to Germany for stuff that would be prohibitively expensive to do in the US but that is still light years better of what Canadian system has to offer.

          Yes. Welcome to the world of triage. Either we triage based on who needs the care more, or who can afford it. Suck it up. Better than a large fraction of your populat

          • by roman_mir (125474)

            Yes. Welcome to the world of triage. Either we triage based on who needs the care more, or who can afford it. Suck it up. Better than a large fraction of your population going completely uncovered.

            - are you familiar of the concept of false dichotomy? Germany has a dual system that works better than either the US or Canadian.

            Did I say they didn't? No. That said, I've heard *many* people here on /. rail against the American public school system, and given how it rates relative to the rest of the world, I'd say it is, to put it mildly, mismanaged.

            - Canadian public school system is just as mismanaged, nothing to be proud of here.

            Uhh... okay. If you say so.

            I can say that Canadian universities are *extremely* well regarded in areas of computing science, biotechnology, and nanotech, among others.

            - nice to know that there are lucky people out there who get good professionals as opposed to useless ones, who can't even diagnose correctly, forget about treatment.

            Yes, welcome to the free rider problem. Suck it up.

            - why suck it up? There is no reason why it should be impossible to get rid of the free riders, this is a political problem of a

            • by Abcd1234 (188840)

              - are you familiar of the concept of false dichotomy? Germany has a dual system that works better than either the US or Canadian.

              Great! I'd love to hear about it! Seriously.

              Here's a hint: Just because I think Canada's system is better than the US's, doesn't mean I think it's perfect or infallible. Only an idiot is that closed minded.

              - Canadian public school system is just as mismanaged, nothing to be proud of here.

              Bitch bitch bitch. Again, my point isn't that Canada is perfect. It's that the American

              • by roman_mir (125474)

                I have a point as well, just because you think Canada is so much better at these things than the US doesn't make it so. The health care system is pathetic here, I don't want it even for free, not to mention that we pay for it in taxes (including the Dalton McGuinty's 900/year extra tax that didn't make the waiting lines any shorter.)

                You believe that Canadian economy is somehow stronger than the US economy and that people will hurt less here, well if US closes its borders to most of the Canadian exports the

    • Re: (Score:2, Troll)

      by IdleTime (561841)
      Ladies and Gentlemen!

      Above you can see an example of a early 21st century Homo Americanensis thinking. The species died out shortly after due to brain starvation.

      One of the characteristics about this failed species was their egocentric orientation and allergy towards the common good. It eventually led to isolationism and the world turning towards more lucrative areas and the species faded avay quickly... Now if you will follow me into the next exhibition hall..
      • There's a difference between the "common good" and helping people out, and having other people demand it of you, though; a lot of the left doesn't seem to understand that.

        A problem of society in general is that people aren't giving enough and use their money to buy petty things, it's true. But I'm very uncomfortable with others telling me what I "owe" them.

        Truthfully, no one is really against the common good, except maybe the true antisocial person, which is probably more apathetic to it than evil, and are

        • by IdleTime (561841)
          And this is basically an idea that is force fed you from childhood onwards. It results in an egocentric society like USA is today, socially, USA is already a third world country, the southern coast line from Pensacola to the Mexican border looks like you average third world country.

          Every year passing by, with some form of natural disaster, the society is sinking deeper into the abyss because nobody feel it is a common interest and good for the country to pool money together and rebuild these areas. Today
        • by rtb61 (674572)

          Some people are really confused. Social security and the various welfare benefits are much more about running a stable, sociable, low stress society. For example universal health means, that we people are suffering, and parent worry about a child serious illness or injury, they do not also have to worry about how they are going to pay for it.

          The underlying principles of effective social welfare nets are two fold, firstly there is the basic philosophical principle of society via declared ownership of all

          • If censoring certain speech would make society more "stable", "sociable", and "low stress", would you accept that?

            What about a police state of sorts?

            What if, if it were determined, that having everyone's job picked out for them by the government and all wealth was shared equally, and freedom of speech was put under tight controls actually was THE best way to go about fulfilling these goals? Would you STILL support it? Granted, most people would be happy, but a few would very much not be.

            • by Tycho (11893)

              If censoring certain speech would make society more "stable", "sociable", and "low stress", would you accept that?

              If the speech blocked and prosecuted was speech that openly gave plans and detailed instructions seriously advocating the commission of serious crimes, like a violent revolution, then I have absolutely no problem with that. I think that one would have to be a pretty serious whack job to think otherwise.

              What about a police state of sorts?

              A police state would most likely one of the intermediate s

      • Nice name-calling. If a Republican tried that kind of country-bashing, it would be modded flamebait by indignant liberals (much like my grandparent post has been for daring to dissent from liberal nanny state orthodoxy).

        But the United States didn't become the world's lone economic superpower in a mere two hundred years through Marxism. It was through rugged individualism, self-reliance, initiative, innovation, and plain hard work. Never before has so much capital been amassed in such a short time. You se
    • by Dr. Tom (23206)
      Well, we could stop spending so much public money killing brown people.
      • If we truly only wanted to kill brown people, Iraq would be glowing a pale shade of green by now.
        • by Dr. Tom (23206)
          OK, so there are other reasons for our presence there. Are they economically justifiable?
        • If we truly only wanted to kill brown people, Iraq would be glowing a pale shade of green by now.

          True, the objectives are more subtle: killng all the brown people who are unwilling to accept US elites' rule. Otherwise known as "Standard Imperial Procedure". Nuking Iraq is incompatible with the doctrine of Pax Americana whereby the (mostly) US-centred economic feudal nobility gets to rule and own pretty much everything, including the natural resources of places like Iraq. All pretences of any other purpose

    • by guidryp (702488) on Saturday October 25, 2008 @04:00PM (#25511445)

      "It might be fashionable to make fun of Palin on Slashdot, where people pretend to be constitutional purists and libertarians. But this type of thinking, "don't cut my program" is why America is $10T in debt, not counting the 79 million baby boomers about to retire and demand their Social Security and Medicare."

      When Bush took over the debt was 5 Trillion and was shrinking under budget surpluses.

      Large unsustainable tax cuts with a trillion dollar war of choice are the main culprits in the current 10 Trillion Debt level. Your grand children will suffer mainly from the Bush legacy. Not fruit file research.

      • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

        Your grand children will suffer mainly from the Bush legacy. Not fruit file research.

        Yes but fruit file research will suffer for other reasons; mostly because it's very difficult to get all those oddly shaped fruits into manila folders.

    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      My displeasure with Palin in this case(like my displeasure with McCain in the "3 million dollar overhead projector" case) is not about spending policy, it is about disingenuous rhetoric.

      I may or may not agree, depending on the instance; but I fully support people debating the merits of various projects, either in the broad sense of "what are the principles that guide what we do and do not pay for and how?" or in the narrow "is this particular project worth it or not?" sense. What I find objectionable, tho
      • I like how she's careful to include that obviously rehearsed "Paris, France" barb. First of all there's still this negative attitude toward France for trying to warn us against a disastrous war. Second there's this implicit mockery of the fact that we're investigating an invasive species from the Mediterranean at a research facility in liberal FRANCE instead of one in the Good Old USA where the flies can escape to infest surrounding areas.

        I'm really going to miss this lady.

    • by matt4077 (581118)
      While there is truth in your argument, I'd say it's important to remember the amounts we are talking about. Spending on basic, IMHO useful research such as Drosophila (which is one of the best model organisms, especially in genetics and neurosciences) makes up a minuscule percentage of government spending. Defense, on the other hand, is still (again) at cold war levels.

      Even if someone has the opinion that spending on the sciences should be cut, it's not an excuse to be a redneck-pandering idiot and mock t
    • Yes, there is unnecessary government spending but to say that the money spent scientific research is the reason the country is in debt is laughable. Ok, it's not, it's actually pretty sad. I guess for someone who believes that all the knowledge is contained in an ancient book and that a magical being in the sky is controlling everything that goes on on Earth, any money spent on science is wasted. ( http://www.google.com/search?q=palin+religious+beliefs [google.com] )
      • by Dr. Tom (23206)
        You're talking about the Flying Spaghetti Monster, right?
      • Yes, there is unnecessary government spending but to say that the money spent scientific research is the reason the country is in debt is laughable

        This is exactly my point. It's only a million here, a million there. Somehow, we get to $3 Trillion. 60 percent of which is spent on entitlements ($1.8T). As grandparent poster, my point is that this kind of thinking, "it's only XX million," and "not my program" is how we get there.

        You see, when spending other peoples' money, "it's only XX million" doesn't
        • I understood your point, but my comment was aimed at Palin for picking out the science expenditure out of all things that the government is spending money on, and the possibility that she picks her targets in order to placate the religious right (or possibly even out of her own genuine religious beliefs which would be even worse) more than in order to reduce the government spending in general
    • not counting the 79 million baby boomers about to retire and demand their Social Security and Medicare

      Which is paid for out of taxes that come out of every paycheck.

      • yeah, but we've been raiding their retirements for years now because they had a surplus *then*. If those idiots in congress hadn't raided social security, it could still be a self-sustaining program, as it was intended.

    • by MindlessAutomata (1282944) on Saturday October 25, 2008 @04:17PM (#25511559)

      I'm not sure why your complaints are directed at libertarians (or liberals/phony libertarians? Your signature is confusing me!) All the libertarians--ALL OF THEM--scoff at the excuses you gave. Some libertarians are unfortunately the Social Darwinist type, as well, and think the homeless should "just get jobs" and don't understand the roots of homelessness. Many libertarians I know are also a bit dogmatic on issues such as free will and don't want to admit that people are machines and simply put some people just don't function as well as others and may need psychological help to fix whatever is contributing to their homelessness.

      Not all libertarians are like that--libertarianism is, at its core, a political philosophy, like socialism or anarchism or similar, and generally it's rather consistent although I think many libertarians are rather dogmatic, almost utopian (although they are not true utopians and don't think of themselves as utopian) in nature towards how things will turn out. Quite strange, as they are often bent on economics and talk about (rightly, I feel) subjective value and things are often a system of tradeoffs.

      All ideology aside, fruit fly research, like most scientific research, is valuable no matter where the funding comes from. No, I'm not making any argument on where it should come from, or that the ends justify the means. But many people do not have a great understanding of science, particularly evolution and comparative biology, and want these programs cut because their intuition tells them search on cow farts or fruit flies is useless and provides little help to humans. Not that there isn't useless research, but you often have to understand the field on some level to understand why the research is important and its implications.

      This leads me back to Americans and science. Americans don't understand science. Just ask Joe Schmoe to explain evolution, you'll get a lot of stuttering and probably some mixed-up talk of fish growing legs or something. Which is quite sad, because all they really need is the basics of natural selection and individual variation to explain how evolution works. The fact that people don't understand evolution is exactly why things like fruit fly research is mocked, by the way--they don't understand that despite being vastly different creatures, there are often many things that can be extrapolated from vastly different species to humans or other creatures, despite hearing stories about fish being genetically engineered to glow in the dark from firefly genes, or such!

      The true libertarians, not the Bill Maher type or the "South Park" type, are against all government funding based on the belief that democracy is inherently immoral and unjustified and, from that, taxes are generally tantamount to stealing, because libertarianism is based NOT on "the greater good" but on the individual being the base unit of morality and that no amount of social consensus justifies infringing on the individual's right to autonomy; they generally reject the utilitarian arguments (although, in my experience, tend to employ them when they feel the arguments are in their favor and tend to deny the existence of any downsides of a libertarian system) in favor of "natural rights" either in its original sense or as a personal/ethical/political code. Libertarianism does not mean "generally Republican on economic issues, generally liberal on social issues" although the term is starting to evolve more into that direction and judging by Bob Barr's Libertarian nomination, it appears the Libertarian Party has gone that route as well.

    • by Mex (191941)

      I assure you what the USA spent in one year in the Iraq war surpasses by an order of magnitude the budget of all sorts of research projects around the world, combined, in the same time period.

      How much was the Iraq spending again? 200 billion per month?

    • by AySz88 (1151141)
      Oh, so it has nothing to do with unnecessary war and poor economic management, then? Wow, and here I thought...
      • Yes, this war was unnecessary in that we were not attacked by Iraq and it costs money. But put away your emotion and knee-jerk ideology and Bush Derangement Syndrome and note some important facts:

        1) Compared to the chief role of the US government today - redistribution of wealth [csmonitor.com] - The Iraq War is a mere drop in the bucket;

        2) Compared to other wars, this one is rather cheap [freerepublic.com], and we are spending about 38% on the military today compared to what we did in 1960;

        3) The war won't last forever. Government
        • by AySz88 (1151141)
          This is the same fallacious argument that says that we shouldn't regulate carbon dioxide emissions because incoming solar radiation is so much higher than the radiative forcing from carbon dioxide. It ignores the easiest thing to do to reduce global warming. (Analogously, getting rid of the war would have been the easiest way reduce the growth in the national debt.)
    • by raind (174356)

      I doubt that, why between the 1T or more bailout of wall street and the flawed and failing war in Iraq that's alot of dough right there, no?

    • [a href="http://www.whitehouse.gov/omb/budget/fy2008/summarytables.html]USA Government Budget[/a] for 2006, 2007, 2008, etc.

      i'm sure if you look at the budget figures even with a [i]cursory[/i] glance you will notice that [b]defense[/b] spending, and interest payments on current debt constitute an enormous bulk of USA's debt (well over 50%!). that doesn't even include the MASSIVE $700B bailout package to wallstreet; a number that dwarfs even the defense budget!

      [i]Table S-2[/i] has your basic budget figures
    • Does anyone care about this mod abuse?
    • by Chrisje (471362)

      You, sir, strike me as a dipshit.

      The Baby Boomers paid their tax dollar all their working lives, seeing it squandered on "Patriotic" Pet Wars and Lobbies Against Gun Control, and now people like you are complaining they actually want a pension? You seem to forget that the same baby boomers built the roads you drive on, the cars you drive in, the houses you sleep in and the Walmart you shop at. Hell, they even grew the potato you bought at the Walmart.

      The fact that the US is 10T in the hole has much, much mo

  • Sweet (Score:4, Funny)

    by guyminuslife (1349809) on Saturday October 25, 2008 @03:28PM (#25511213)

    I'm one step closer to getting my disability check when they identify the gene for humans. It's not laziness, it's a disease.

    • by couchslug (175151)

      "I'm one step closer to getting my disability check when they identify the gene for humans. It's not laziness, it's a disease."

      A disease with a nice ring to it. "I'm Diapausic!"

      Combine this with Asperger's and I have a medical excuse for being a lazy asshole.

  • by Anonymous Coward

    Couch potatoes like a banana fritter. With syrup.

  • So, this "mutation" occurs in fruit flies and that is news because...we haven't found it before except in other flies in the 90s? Do we have a better grasp on this couch potato gene thanks to fruit fly research? Are you sure that some researcher wasn't just toking up in the lab? I mean, seems I get sluggish and act abnormally when I get high - I don't go hibernate like a bear, I just do things slower and differently.

    High flies.
  • fly brain (Score:1, Troll)

    by Dr. Tom (23206)
    I guess that political candidate has some mutations in his brain also.
    • by Dr. Tom (23206)

      Oh, excuse me, her brain. I was speaking metaphorically anyway.

      I love these recent studies about the genetic and personality differences between Rs and Ds. Of course, there are some nature~nurture, urban~rural, and educated~uneducated arguments too, but the brain has duality built into it, and some people think more emotionally, and some people think more rationally. We all do both, all the time, but some people are more one-sided than others. Mutants. Strongly opinionated.

      Did you see Linus talk about git?

  • How amny ridiculous genes do we have already? And now the couch potato gene. It's just dumbing down results of research too much so the public can understand it. Please stop this nonsense.

  • Of course (Score:3, Funny)

    by EdIII (1114411) * on Saturday October 25, 2008 @04:40PM (#25511725)

    refuting a recent statement by a political candidate that fruit fly research has 'little or nothing to do with the public good.'

    That scientific paper the politician had in his hands had "couch", "potato", "fruit", "fly" and "diapause" in it.

    Try publishing a paper with the words "penis", "growth", "stamina", "huge", "could beat an animal to death with it in the forest" and see how fast you get bipartisan funding.

  • If I wanted political commentary, I would have signed up for the "politics" section. Just give me the science and technology, please.

  • I'm not quite sure why we even consider the ludicrousness of our government expenditures. The U.S. government spends millions on funding fictitious colleges, medicare abuses, frivolous lawsuits, and studies that remind me of the song, "Things that make you go hmmm". I would sure like to know why my co-workers are so lazy and why we cant create more "worker bees" in this world. And how did this turn to politics anyway? Weren't we talking about flies???
  • by Anonymous Coward

    That people who don't believe in science should just stop trying to talk about it.

  • Something to keep in mind -- there is always a fair chance that humans may turn out to have some related version of this gene. Even if it may no longer perform the same types of function in the same place as the fly.

    Famous example might be the hedgehog genes, loss-of-function mutations in them turned fruitfly embryos into little hedgehog-shapes. Much later, homologues were found in humans, with involvement in congenital defects (Leading to unfortunate situations where a doctor has to tell a mom her child

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