Week in Review: July 28–August 1

See-through organs and animals; distinguishing white from brown and beige fat cells; chipping away at genetic mosaicism; catching up with the blogger behind Street Anatomy

By | August 1, 2014

Seeing it all clearly

BIN YANG AND VIVIANA GRADINARUThe ability to see through organs and whole animals, reported in Cell this week (July 31) by Caltech researchers and their colleagues, could be a boon to a variety of biomedical disciplines. Biologist Viviana Gradinaru has improved upon a tissue-clearing method developed by Stanford University’s Karl Deisseroth, called CLARITY, by enabling 3-D visualization of cellular structures and connections throughout a mouse or other model organism.

“This is a paper that develops the CLARITY technology to the next level,” Deisseroth told The Scientist.

Telling “good” and “bad” fat apart

SIEGFRIED USSARResearchers from the Helmholtz Center Munich and their colleagues have identified three adipocyte-specific cell surface markers that can be used to distinguish white from brown and beige fat cells. Their work was published in Science Translational Medicine this week (July 30).

“These markers look pretty selective and the key is that they are cell-surface markers, which will allow their use in a variety of applications in the future,” said Patrick Seale, an adipose tissue researcher at the University of Pennsylvania in Philadelphia who was not involved in the work. “I think these are going to be a really great resource.”

The mystery of genetic mosaicism

WIKIMEDIA, SCIENCEGENETICSWhen a child is born with a genetic disorder, caused by a mutation that neither of her parents have, clinicians are likely to deem the mutation de novo. But some mysterious clinical cases led a team at the Baylor College of Medicine to search for certain mutations that most genetic screens might miss: those present only in a small number of one parent’s cells.

“I wouldn't call this surprising—we know, anecdotally, that it's happening,” Michael Ronemus, a research assistant professor at Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory in New York who was not involved in the work, told The Scientist in an e-mail. Even so, noted Steve McCarroll, a geneticist at Harvard Medical School who also was not involved in the research, “I think this is an important paper that will clarify scientific thinking about when and where new mutations arise.”

Hibernation proteins may serve another purpose

FLICKR, MARC DALMULDERProteins that make up the hibernation protein (HP) complex can be found even in non-hibernating animals at varying levels throughout the year, suggesting that the molecules may be involved in other processes. A team led by investigators at the Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine published this finding in The Journal of Experimental Biology this week (July 30).

The work “demonstrates the universality of these genes,” said biologist Matthew Andrews of the University of Minnesota, Duluth, who was not involved in the study. “It really is a fine example of how the genes involved in hibernation are found in other mammals, but in other organisms they might be used for different purposes at different times of the year.”

Culture Friday:

Anatomy for Everybody
Meet Vanessa Ruiz, the medical illustrator behind the popular art blog Street Anatomy (and check out some of the work she has featured).

Other news in life science:

CDC Lab Resumes After Safety Lapses
A high-security tuberculosis lab at the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention may return to transferring hazardous materials.

Misconduct Ruling for Old Retractions
Zhihua Zou, formerly of Nobel Laureate Linda Buck’s lab, engaged in research misconduct that resulted in the retraction of two highly cited papers.

Prominent Animal Behaviorist Dies
Peter Marler, best known for his groundbreaking work on bird song, has passed away at age 86.

Fossil Freshens Views on Dinosaur Feathers
A feather-covered herbivorous dinosaur offers a surprising perspective on plumage.

Zebrafish Brain in Action
Researchers use light-sheet microscopy to map central nervous system activity in zebrafish larvae.

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