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Week in Review, May 20–24

Journals plagiarizing journals; new immune cells combat diabetes; TB-killing vitamin C; analog cell computers; real time fish memory; ant-pitcher plant mutualism

By | May 24, 2013

Journals behaving badly

WIKIMEDIA, GEORGY90An investigation conducted by The Scientist uncovered what appears to be systemic plagiarism at two journals, Science Reuters and Insight Biomedical Science. Both journals republished papers that had already appeared in PLOS journals and elsewhere. After being contacted by The Scientist and informed of the apparent malfeasance, the editor-in-chief of Science Reuters, one Subha Ganguly, resigned his post. “After hearing from you about all such irregularities in publication from the Science Reuters editorial office, I am withdrawing my name permanently from the position of editor-in-chief for the 'Science Reuters' journal magazine,” he wrote in an email.

Diabetes has a new immune cell foe

Australian scientists have discovered a new type of immune cell that plays a critical role in type 1 diabetes. Named for CD52, a protein they produce in large quantities, CD52hi cells are regulatory T-cells that may be important in preventing diabetes by modulating the activities of other T-cells. “We can’t claim yet that these cells are important for preventing diabetes in humans, but the evidence suggests that they are,” said Len Harrison from the Walter & Eliza Hall Institute of Medical Research in Australia, who led the research, published Sunday (May 19) in Nature Immunology. And CD52hi may even prove to be an important target for other diseases. “This finding will assist in the development of targeted therapies to manipulate the immune response and improve human health,” added Jane Buckner from the Benaroya Research Institute in Seattle, who was not involved in the study.

Vitamin C kills TB

Scanning electron micrograph of Mycobacterium tuberculosisWIKIMEDIA, CDC/JANICE CARRHigh doses of the essential nutrient, vitamin C, can decimate whole populations of even drug-resistant strains of the bacterium that causes tuberculosis, according to new research published on Tuesday (May 21) in Nature Communications. Vitamin C took a few weeks to cleanse petri dishes of Mycobacterium tuberculosis cultures. Researchers suspect that the vitamin was driving an iron-dependent reaction that produces reactive oxygen species (ROS), which can induce cell death via DNA damage in the pathogenic microbes. “We’re not saying vitamin C is the cure for TB,” said Catherine Vilcheze of the Albert Einstein Medical College at Yeshiva University in New York, who was first author on the study. “But we should look at trying to find ways to mimic the way it kills TB bacteria [in vitro], because it is very, very effective.”

Cell-based calculators go analog

WIKIMEDIA, Mattosaurs/NIAIDMIT researchers unveiled a strategy to construct gene circuits that respond to a range of inputs in an analog, as opposed to a digital, fashion. The approach, said senior author and MIT synthetic biologist Timothy Lu, results in analog circuits that accomplished more nuanced tasks, such as maximizing the expression of a protein while not permitting toxic levels.

 

Memory recall in real time

Active neurons in a zebrafish telencephalon.ADAPTED FROM AOKI ET AL.For the first time, scientists have recorded memory in action, in the brains of zebrafish. Japanese researchers trained zebrafish whose brains expressed a fluorescent protein to swim to different sides of a tank in response to different colored lights. When the fish recalled that a red flash meant an electric shock was coming, they’d swim to the other side of the tank to avoid it. In fish that were trained to evade the shock, but were immobilized with a muscle relaxant, calcium would flood into the telencephalon, a brain region that correlates with the mammalian cortex where long-term memories are stored.

Ants foil pitcher plant nutrient thieves

The pitcher plant Nepenthes bicalcarata.FLICKR, AJ CANNA species of ant that lives exclusively on one species of pitcher plant in Borneo helps its plant home by consuming parasitic larvae that develop inside the pitcher, reported researchers in PLOS One on Wednesday (May 22). By policing the water that collects inside pitcher plants, the ants limited the theft of plant nutrients by fly and mosquito larvae. The nutrients were instead returned to the pitcher plant through the ants waste products and the ants own bodies when they died.

 

Other news in life science:

 

Selling an Anthrax Scare?

A US government advisor warned officials of the dangers of antibiotic-resistant anthrax while profiting from antitoxin sales.

Bribes for Research Data

Three NIH-funded scientists have been arrested for sharing nonpublic data with a company and a Chinese government-sponsored institute.

Macrophages Drive Regeneration

The activity of one type of immune cell helps regrow the limbs of amputated salamanders.

Arctic Bacteria Thrives at Mars Temps

Researchers discover a microbe living at -15°C, the coldest temperature ever reported for bacterial growth, giving hope to the search for life elsewhere in the cosmos.

Recycling Kidneys

Researchers are trying to use discarded donor kidneys as a scaffold for building new ones.

Scientists Take Aim at Impact Factor

A declaration asks the scientific community to put less weight on the metric, widely used to evaluate journals’ prestige.

 

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