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Week in Review: April 28–May 2

Male scientists stress mice out; using SCNT to reprogram adult cells; acetate can reach mouse brain, reduce appetite; WHO sounds “post-antibiotic era” alarm

By | May 2, 2014

Male presence linked to mouse stress

WIKIMEDIA, RAMAMale scientists could be skewing research results, according to a study published in Nature Methods this week (April 28). McGill University’s Jeff Mogil and his colleagues found that the scent of male experimenters—and even of other mammals—triggered a physiological stress response in mice, whereas female odors did not.

“It’s definitely a study that will impact the field of behavioral phenotyping for biomedical research,” behavioral biologist Lars Lewejohann of the University of Osnabrück told The Scientist. “It’s something that’s going to have to be in the back of the mind of any researcher doing [rodent] research,” agreed Robert Hallock from Skidmore college who, like Lewejohann, was not involved in the work.

Second SCNT success in as many weeks

NYSCF, DIETER EGLIWriting in Nature this week (April 28), scientists from the New York Stem Cell Foundation Research Institute and their colleagues reported successfully reprogramming adult skin cells into human embryonic stem cells (hESCs) through somatic cell nuclear transfer (SCNT). Just two weeks ago (April 17), a team from Korea’s CHA Stem Cell Institute and the firm Advanced  Cell Technologies reported similar success using SCNT to reprogram hESCs from adult skin cells, in Cell Stem Cell.

“This is an important demonstration that SCNT works and can be used to model and perhaps one day treat disease,” stem-cell researcher George Daley from the Harvard Stem Cell Institute wrote in an e-mail to The Scientist.

From the gut to the brain

CERAN AND PEREZDietary fiber is known to reduce appetite, and researchers have long attributed this trait to the release of gut hormones upon fermentation.  But a study in mice suggested that some amount of acetate, a short-chain fatty acid produced as a result of fiber fermentation within the colon, actually infiltrates a food-intake-associated area of the brain, dampening appetite. Scientists from Imperial College London published a paper describing the phenomenon in Nature Communications this week (April 29).

For the first time, the researchers have traced “a link between fermentation in the lower part of the gut—the colon—with activity in the brain,” said Patrice Cani, who co-leads the Metabolism and Nutrition Research Group at Université Catholique de Louvain in Belgium, and was not involved in the work. “The originality was to show that acetate can in fact circulate and reach the brain . . . and affect appetite.”

Rare lipid stores enable insect cryopreservation

WESTERN UNIVERSITY

While most animals store fats as long-chain triacylglycerols (lcTAGs), the Goldenrod gall fly (Eurosta solidaginis) can survive freezing-cold Canadian winters thanks to large stores of a rare lipid, acetylated triacylglycerols (acTAGs). These antifreeze lipids allow the insect to stay put for the cold season, only to thaw out and resume activities come spring. Researchers from the University of Western Ontario published their finding in The Journal of Experimental Biology this week (April 30), although they are not yet sure how acTAGs prevent tissue damage in such harsh environmental conditions.

“We speculate that the unique conditions of Eurosta fat body cells—lots of lipid, intracellular freezing—may have made acTAGS selectively advantageous,” study coauthor Brent Sinclair told The Scientist. “Possibly, this is the only species to have evolved this molecule for this purpose.”

More news:

Rebuilding Missing Muscle
An acellular matrix can help guide stem cells to injury sites and regrow muscles in both mice and humans, a study finds.

Epigenetic Effects of Mom’s Diet
Molecular markers of a mother’s nutrition around the time of conception can be found in her child’s DNA.

Other news in life science:

It’s an Antibiotic-Resistant World
Bacteria all over the globe are evolving tricks to survive humanity’s arsenal of antibiotics, and the World Health Organization has officially sounded the alarm.

Something Is Killing Asian Carp
Half a million invasive silver carp are dead in a Kentucky river, and nobody knows why.

Toward Stopping MERS Spread
Independent teams culture the Middle East respiratory system coronavirus and identify human antibodies that could inform therapies.

A Mite-y Fast Arthropod
Move over, cheetah. A mite from Southern California sets the new record for world’s fastest land animal relative to body size.

Obesity Research Pioneer Dies
Douglas Coleman, the biochemist and geneticist whose early experiments led to the discovery of leptin, has passed away at age 82.

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