Jef Akst

Recent Articles

Stately STAT

By | July 1, 2009

By Jef Akst Stately STAT © Stem Jems / Photo Researchers, Inc. The paper: X. O. Yang et al., "STAT3 regulates cytokine-mediated generation of inflammatory helper T cells," J Biol Chem, 282:9358–63, 2007. (Cited in 118 papers) The finding: Chen Dong and his colleagues at the M.D. Anderson Cancer Center in Houston, Texas, modulated the expression levels of a transcription factor called STAT3 in undifferentiat

Snakes trick prey for easy meal

By | June 26, 2009

Water snakes trick their fish prey into swimming directly into their waiting jaws, according to a linkurl:study published in PNAS; last week (June 19). With a subtle body movement, the tentacled snakes trigger a preprogrammed escape response in fish, causing them to flee in a predictable direction so that the snakes know just where to positions their heads for an easy meal. Image: Ryan Somma, Wikimedia commons"It's a very clever ma

A downside to female promiscuity

By | June 25, 2009

A new study has revealed a mating conundrum in the animal kingdom: Less fit male seed beetles father more offspring than their high quality competitors when they mate with the same female, says a linkurl:paper published online; today in Science. The findings contradict the widespread belief that females can benefit from taking multiple mates by allowing the best male to father the kids. Female (right) and male seed beetles in mating p

Evolution speeds up in the tropics

By | June 24, 2009

Tropical mammals are evolving faster than those found at high latitudes or elevations, according to a study published online today (June 23) in Proceedings of the Royal Society B. This pattern had previously been found in plants and marine protists but until now was assumed to apply only to cold-blooded organisms. Structure of DNA helixImage: Richard Wheeler, Wikimedia Commons "There's lots of reasons to believe that temperature plays a substantial role in generating [differences in the rate of

Finch researchers win Kyoto Prize

By | June 20, 2009

linkurl:Peter; and linkurl:Rosemary Grant,; emeritus professors at Princeton University who were the first to document natural selection in action, have won the 2009 Kyoto Prize in the category of Basic Sciences for their work on evolutionary adaptations in response to environmental flux. Image: Denise ApplewhitePrinceton University"I can

Ancient bivalve had huge sperm

By | June 18, 2009

Sexually reproducing ancient crustaceans had sperm that were literally larger than life, according to a new study to be published in next week's issue of Science. The finding suggests that despite the extreme energetic costs of producing such sperm, the trait might be quite evolutionarily stable, the researchers say. Electron micrograph imageof ostracode spermImage: Renate Matzke-Karasz"This study fills a real gap by, for the first time, actually going back into the fossil record and examining

Can monkeys mislead?

By | June 3, 2009

Capuchin monkeys cry "predator" to trick more senior members of their troop into fleeing the dinner table, leaving more food for themselves, according to a linkurl:study published online this week; in Proceedings of the Royal Society B. Image: Brandon Wheeler"This is one of the only studies which has actually [used] an experimental paradigm to look at tactical deceptio

Geckos invade Philly museum

By | May 29, 2009

Geckos get around. They're among the most diverse and widely distributed lizards, populating every continent except Antarctica and inhabiting everything from tropical beaches and humid rainforests to chilly mountain ranges and arid deserts. This Saturday (May 30), geckos are making an appearance at The Academy of Natural Sciences (ANS) in Philadelphia. The traveling exhibit, "Geckos -- Tails to Toepads" will be open for public viewing until Labor Day (September 7). The exhibit, operated by link

Is tenure worth saving?

By | May 28, 2009

The economy is depressed, money is tight, and universities are feeling the pinch. One radical proposal for trimming budgets is to eliminate tenure-track positions, shifting faculty to part-time and full-time non-tenure-track positions. The move away from tenure has been slowly brewing for decades. While core tenure-system positions comprised approximately 55% of all faculty in 1970s, by 2003 that number had dropped to 41% and further still to 31% in 2007. Dan Clawson Image: University of Massa

Immunity can be lymph-less

By | May 27, 2009

Researchers have overturned the long-standing notion that lymph nodes are always necessary for launching the mammalian immune response. Fluorescently-labeled mouse liver Image: Burkhard Becher According to a linkurl:study; published in this month's issue of PLoS Biology, in the absence of lymph nodes, cell-mediated immunity can be activated in the liver. The findings undercut immunology "dogma," which says the immun

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