Week in Review: February 17–21

Human vs. dog brains; widespread neuronal regeneration in human adult brain; honeybee disease strikes wild insects; trouble replicating stress-induced stem cells

By | February 21, 2014

Human, dog brains respond similarly to sounds

ENIKO KUBINYIDogs and humans process sounds similarly, according to a comparative neuroimaging study published in Current Biology this week (February 20). Using functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) on dogs and humans listening to experimental sounds and silent controls, researchers from Eötvös Loránd University in Budapest and the Hungarian Academy of Sciences found that both species responded most strongly to conspecific vocalizations and processed vocal cues in similar parts of the brain.

Gregory Berns of Emory University in Atlanta, Georgia, who was not involved in the work, told The Scientist that whereas most comparative fMRI work has focused on humans and nonhuman primates, this study “is really interesting because it’s looking at comparative anatomy and auditory processing between dogs and humans.”

Widespread neuronal regeneration in human adult brain

WIKIMEDIA, LIFE SCIENCE DATABASESome neurons in the human striatum are renewed through adult life, researchers have found. Jonas Frisén from the Karolinska Institute in Sweden and his colleagues used a variety of techniques—including 14C dating—to show that interneurons in the striatum were regularly replaced. They published their results in Cell this week (February 20).

“This is the clearest demonstration that [adult neurogenesis in the striatum] is happening in humans,” said Arnold Kriegstein, a University of California, San Francisco, developmental neurobiologist who was not involved in the study. “It reenergizes the notion that . . . in the future, it would be possible to harness these cells in some way to repair the injured brain.”

Commercial honeybee disease affecting wild bees in the U.K.

MATTHIAS A. FURSTThe honeybee disease deformed wing virus (DWV) may be transferred from commercial hives into wild bee populations, scientists reported in Nature this week (February 19). “Spillover . . . could represent a major cause of mortality of wild pollinators wherever managed bees are maintained,” Royal Holloway University’s Mark Brown and his colleagues wrote in their paper.

“The results show that managed honeybee populations, with their high density of pathogens, might pose a threat to wild pollinators,” said Elke Genersch from the Institute for Bee Research in Hohen Neuendorf, Germany, who was not involved in the study.

Replication attempts call stress-induced stem cells into question

HARUKO OBOKATAThe stem cell research community was abuzz last month when a team led by investigators at Japan’s RIKEN Center for Developmental Biology reported a new method of reprogramming somatic cells using an external stressor, such as an acid bath or a mechanical squeeze. But other groups are having trouble replicating the studies’ results using the published protocol, leading some to believe that stimulus-triggered acquisition of pluripotency (STAP) stem cells are difficult, if not impossible, to create.

“A lot of people have been trying [to replicate the studies’ results], but I have not heard any positive results yet,” said Sheng Ding, a stem cell researcher at the Gladstone Institutes in San Francisco, who did not participate in the work and has not himself attempted to reproduce STAP. “But it’s early. It has only been a few weeks.”

“If other labs don’t have the detailed, step-by-step protocol, it can be hard to reproduce experiments,” added Paul Knoepfler from the University of California, Davis, who is chronicling scientists’ attempts to reproduce the STAP study at his blog.

More news:

How a Microbe Resists its Own Antibiotics
Researchers reveal the molecular mechanisms of Streptomyces platensis’s defense from its own antibiotics, which inhibit fatty acid synthesis in other microbes.

Next Generation: Photoswitch Chemical Restores Sight
In blind mice, a light-stimulated small molecule temporarily confers photosensitivity to retinal ganglion cells despite rod and cone damage.

Other news in life science:

Esteemed Primatologist Dies
Alison Jolly, who discovered that females dominate social hierarchy in lemurs, has passed away at age 76.

Genetic Atlas
Researchers trace the mixing of human populations using DNA.

Monkey Mind Control
The brain activity of one monkey dictated movements of a second, sedated animal, a study shows.

Teaching Moments
Professors at Clayton State University in Morrow, Georgia, are using retracted studies to teach biology and chemistry students about the process of science.

Not Swine Flu
The strain of influenza that caused the 1918 pandemic probably came from birds, a study shows.

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