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Week in Review: May 26–30

Human proteome cataloged; island-separated crickets evolved silence; molecule shows promise for combatting coronaviruses; study replication etiquette; another call for STAP retraction

By | May 30, 2014

Mapping the human proteome

H. HAHNE, TECHNISCHE UNIVERSITÄT MÜNCHENTwo teams presented in Nature this week (May 29) the first near-complete drafts of the human proteome.

“While other large proteomic data sets have been collected that cataloged up to 10,000 proteins, the real breakthrough with these two projects is the comprehensive coverage of more than 80 percent of the expected human proteome which has not been achieved previously,” said Hanno Steen from Boston Children's Hospital, who was not involved in the work.

Both teams have published their respective data sets, Human Proteome Map and ProteomicsDB, online.

“The prevalent view was that information transfer was from genome to transcriptome to proteome. What these efforts show is that it’s a two-way road—proteomics can be used to annotate the genome,” added Steen. “The genomics field can now hugely benefit from proteomics data.”

Toward a treatment for MERS?

VOLKER THIEL, EDWARD TRYBALAK22, a molecule that interferes with the replication vesicles of coronaviruses (CoVs), has shown promise as a potential treatment for SARS and MERS in an in vitro study published in PLOS Pathogens this week (May 29). And the anti-CoV appeared to work against every virus the team tested, suggesting it could be developed into a treatment for other emerging CoVs that make the jump from animals to people.

The vesicles are “not a classical drug target, [but are] a very vulnerable point in the [viral] lifecycle,” said coauthor Volker Thiel of the Institute of Virology and Immunology in Bern, Switzerland.

Crickets evolved silence independently

WIKIMEDIA, NATHAN BAILEYIn order to evade predation by parasitoid flies, males of two populations of field crickets (Teleogryllus oceanicus) independently acquired mutations that silenced their wings, researchers showed in Current Biology this week (May 29). Because female crickets find mates using the male courtship song, the males have come up with a sneaky way to acquire copulations, though wingmen—their songed male peers. But one expert suggested that there are likely more changes to come.

“I would predict that males in the affected populations would, in the near future, evolve to invest more in the other forms of sexual advertisement . . . instead of acoustic sexual signaling,” Raine Kortet from the University of Eastern Finland, who was not involved with this study, wrote in an e-mail.

Beyond the Gut

The Scientist is exploring the many human microbiomes outside of the gastrointestinal tract. This week (May 29), it was the penis microbiome. See also the vagina, placenta and breast milk, and eye. Up next: the lung, mouth, and skin.
 


More news in life science:

Replication Gone Wrong
Efforts to reproduce an experimental psychology study yield failure, accusations, and ultimately, discourse on how to improve the process.

CDC: Meeting Did Not Spread MERS
After more definitive blood tests, the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention says that an Illinois resident who came into close contact with an Indiana MERS patient did not contract the virus, contrary to a prior announcement.

Spotlight on the Cytoskeleton
Technique allows researchers to see the inner workings of cellular scaffolding molecules actin and tubulin.

Newly ID’d Transposons Involve Cas
Researchers uncover a group of mobile genetic elements in bacteria and archaea encoding a Cas enzyme.

Geron hESC Trial to Resume?
Nearly three years after Geron shuttered its stem cell program, BioTime receives funding to relaunch a Phase 1 trial for spinal cord injury.

News of interest elsewhere:

Haruko Obokata, the lead author on the two controversial stimulus-triggered acquisition of pluripotency (STAP) papers published in Nature this January, has agreed to retract one of the publications, Kyodo News reported. And The Japan Times reported that two of Obokata’s coauthors have given their consent to retract the paper. According to the Nature News blog, “ironically, the paper that Obokata has agreed to retract was not the one found by RIKEN to contain manipulation.” (See “Misconduct Found in STAP Case.”)

That the lead author has green-lighted the retraction of one paper but not the other is “peculiar,” wrote Paul Knoepfler from the University of California, Davis, at his blog. “To many in the field it is the Nature STAP cell article that is the more flawed of the two Nature papers on STAP,” Knoepfler wrote. Even so, he added, “the fact that the STAP letter is now likely to be dead only further supports the idea that the whole STAP story is fundamentally flawed and the STAP article cannot survive much longer either.”

Study coauthor Charles Vacanti, the Harvard Medical School and Brigham & Women’s Hospital researcher who in March posted a refined STAP protocol online and has rigorously defended the validity of the work, did not respond to The Scientist’s requests for comment.

(Hat tip: Retraction Watch)

The World Health Organization (WHO) has again postponed its decision whether to destroy the world’s remaining stocks of smallpox virus, the Nature News blog reported: “A central question remains whether research of public-health importance is still needed on the virus, or whether the last stocks should be destroyed to eliminate the threat of an accidental release from the two labs where they are held.” (See “Researchers: Don’t Destroy Smallpox Virus Yet” and “Time to Destroy Remaining Smallpox Virus?”)

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