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Week in Review: February 24–28

New PLOS data sharing rules; mouse cortical connectome published; reprogramming astrocytes into neurons and fibroblasts into hepatocytes

By | February 28, 2014

PLOS requires data be shared

FLICKR, MISSERIONWhile the open-access publisher has always promoted data sharing, starting next week PLOS will require authors publishing in their journals to make the raw data behind the results freely available to all.

While many researchers applauded the publisher’s move, others questioned whether submitting authors would be willing to share such information, and at what cost.

“I wonder if most clinical investigators can do this feasibly,” noted Yale University cardiologist Harlan Krumholz. However, added The Cochrane Collaboration’s Tom Jefferson, an epidemiologist and a long-time clinical data-sharing advocate, “If people want to submit stuff for publication [to open-access journals], it’s absolutely right that they should make all the data available.”

New mouse connectome

CELL, ZINGG ET AL.Among the many ongoing efforts to fully map the mouse brain, a University of Southern California-led team has constructed a detailed connectome depicting the neuronal pathways of the murine cortex. The researchers published their work this week (February 27) in Cell and have made the mouse cortical connectome freely available online.

“The one thing I really appreciate about this work is that it combines the large data scale with careful, manual annotation and analysis of the data,” said Pavel Osten, a neuroscientist at Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory in New York, who was not involved in the project.

Astrocytes to neurons

ZHIDA SUAlthough several groups have had success reprogramming neurons, none have shown these transformations to work in vivo. University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center’s Chun-Li Zhang and his colleagues reported in Nature Communications this week (February 25) on a two-step method for transforming astrocytes into spinal neurons within living mice. But the technique must be improved before any clinical potential is realized, Zhang told The Scientist.

“It’s just a proof of principle,” he said. “We got some cells, but we’re not getting the number we really want for repair. We’re working at full force to boost the efficiency.”

Fibroblasts to hepatocytes

MILAD REZVANIApplying a technique that bypasses pluripotency, a team led by investigators at the University of California, San Francisco, has differentiated human fibroblasts into hepatocytes and used these cells to repopulate a mouse liver. Their work was published in Nature this week (February 23).

This modified approach represents “a step forward in the field,” said Alejandro Soto-Gutiérrez, an assistant professor of pathology at the University of Pittsburgh, who was not involved in the work. “The concept is reprogramming, but with a shortcut, which is really cool.”

More news:

Next Generation: Seeing Brain Tumors
A new camera system supports the visualization of gliomas stained with Tumor Paint, a chlorotoxin-based imaging agent that’s currently in clinical trials.

Next Generation: Sensor-Laden Sheath to Monitor the Heart
A flexible, sensor-loaded membrane that fits snugly around the heart provides high-resolution monitoring of multiple cardiac health markers.

Other news in life science:

MERS Common in Camels
Study suggests many camels in Saudi Arabia are infected with the Middle East Respiratory Syndrome coronavirus at some point in their lives.

FDA Considers Three-Way Babies
The agency is soliciting opinions on a new technology that has the potential to circumvent mitochondrial diseases by producing embryos using DNA from three people.

Pheromone Factories
Genetically modified tobacco plants produce pheromones that can trap pests. 

More Evidence of Stem Cell Errors
A committee at the University of Düsseldorf finds misconduct in cardiologist Bodo-Eckehard Strauer’s work. 

Genomenclature?
Researchers propose a naming system based on genomic information for all Earth’s life.

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