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Week in Review: March 31–April 4

Transcriptional landscape of the fetal brain; how a parasitic worm invades plants; difficulties reproducing “breakthrough” heart regeneration method; oxytocin and dishonesty

By | April 4, 2014

Gene expression in the developing brain

ALLEN INSTITUTE FOR BRAIN SCIENCEA team led by investigators at the Allen Institute for Brain Science in Seattle this week (April 2) published in Nature a brain-wide map of gene expression across the developing human brain. The researchers said that their resource could help scientists better understand how human brains develop differently from those of other mammals and to ascertain the roots of disorders like autism.

“There is no doubt that this is a . . . resource that will be of use for many developmental scientists,” said Wieland Huttner, a cell biologist and neurobiologist at the Max Planck Institute of Molecular Cell Biology and Genetics in Dresden, Germany, who was not involved in the work.

Worm overthrows plant defense

WIKIPEDIA, ZYANCEThe parasitic sugarbeet nematode (Heterodera schachtii), which invades the roots of sugar beets, cabbages, and broccoli—causing substantial agricultural damage in some regions—exploits the plants’ defense mechanism in order to successfully infiltrate its host, researchers from the University of Bonn in Germany have found. Their work was published in Science Signaling this week (April 3).

Jeff Dangl from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, who studies plant-pathogen interactions but was not involved in the research, said: “This work gives us new clues as to how we might inhibit the ROS [reactive oxygen species]-producing machinery in the root to inhibit nematode infection, which is a huge agricultural problem in many crops.”

Regeneration technique suffers reproducibility issues

STEM CELL REPORTS, ANDERSEN ET AL.When scientists from the University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center in Dallas published a surgery-based approach to regenerate the hearts of newborn mice in 2011, the accomplishment was heralded as a “breakthrough.” But at least one group has had trouble reproducing the results. In a paper published in Stem Cell Reports this week (April 3), a team from the University of Southern Denmark described its failed attempts to induce heart regeneration using the same technique.

“To have different labs get different results doesn’t surprise me,” said Harvard Medical School's Richard Lee, who has had success using the surgical model to regenerate mouse heart tissue. “There are so many things that can affect regeneration and healing,” Lee told The Scientist, “and we’re talking about a model where things may be on the cusp of those two.”

Oxytocin can influence lying

WIKIPEDIA, MINDZIPERResearchers from the University of Amsterdam and Ben-Gurion University of the Negev in Israel showed in PNAS this week (March 31) that inhaling oxytocin was associated with a person’s tendency to lie, at least when she thought it might benefit her peers.

“This is the best evidence yet that oxytocin is not the ‘moral molecule,’” said Carsten de Dreu from the University of Amsterdam, who co-led the study. “It doesn’t make people more moral or immoral. It shifts people’s focus from themselves to their group or tribe.”

Added Carolyn DeClerck from the University of Antwerp, who was not involved in the study: “[These findings are] consistent with more and more research showing that the effects of oxytocin aren’t straightforward,” she said. “They can be social or antisocial, depending on the situation and on individual differences.”

More news:

An Ancient Evolutionary Advantage?
Sequences within the brain lipid-metabolism pathway shared between Neanderthals and modern Europeans highlight questions about how these genetic similarities arose.

Other news in life science:

Mouse Brain Connections Mapped
Achievement represents the most detailed analysis of the mouse brain yet.

Misconduct Found in STAP Case
An investigating committee at Japan’s RIKEN research center finds evidence of falsification and fabrication in two recent Nature papers that touted a new way to induce pluripotency.

The Right to Not Know
Patients should be able to decline learning about incidental genetic findings when undergoing whole-genome screens, according to new expert recommendations.

Virus Continues to Plague Midwest
Researchers identify six new cases of the tick-borne Heartland virus in Missouri and Tennessee.

Bones Tell Black Death Story
Ancient skeletons test positive for plague-causing bacteria.

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Avatar of: Mounthell

Mounthell

Posts: 22

April 4, 2014

"Oxytocin can influence lying": “This is the best evidence yet that oxytocin is not the ‘moral molecule’”

No, but it does enhance one's promotion of one's social network that provides important resources at the expense of competing (other, out-group) networks.

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