Week in Review: October 17–21

Report finds that pathologist involved in anonymous defamation case committed multiple acts of misconduct; growing eggs from stem cells; neutrophils’ role in metastasis; convergent evolution in birds

By | October 21, 2016

Report: Rampant misconduct

Former Wayne State University pathologist Fazlul Sarkar, who is trying to sue anonymous commenters on the PubPeer review site for defamation, is guilty of multiple acts of research misconduct, according to a university investigative panel report obtained by The Scientist. In total, the university investigated more than 140 allegations and recommended that 42 of the researcher’s publications be retracted. According to the lawyers involved in the case—which last month appeared in front of the Michigan Court of Appeals for arguments over whether PubPeer must release the identities of its anonymous commenters who critiqued Sarkar’s papers—the university’s findings could impact his defamation claims. In fact, based on The Scientist’s coverage, PubPeer’s legal team yesterday (October 20) filed a motion with the court asking it to consider the fact that the report exists in its ongoing decision.

Stem cell–derived eggs

By reprogramming murine embryonic stem cells (ESCs) and induced pluripotent stem cells (iPSCs), researchers have successfully grown fully functional oocytes in vitro, according to a study published this week (October 17) in Nature. “This is truly a crowning achievement,” oocyte biologist David Albertini, director of the Center for Human Reproduction in New York City who was not involved in the work, told The Scientist.

NETting cancer

Some studies have suggested neutrophils kill cancer cells; others have found they help cancer spread. Now, worked published this week (October 19) in Science Translational Medicine, finds that neutorphils—and in particular, the stringy DNA webs they extrude—do promote metastasis. Blocking the production of these neutrophil extracellular traps (NETs) reduced the risk of metastasis in mice with cancer. “More research is always needed to see if this will help cancer patients, but in mice it’s looking pretty good. It raises hope,” said cancer biologist Ilaria Malanchi of the Francis Crick Institute in London who was not involved in the work.

Converging birds

Through diverse genetic changes, more than two dozen species of birds that inhabit high-altitude environments evolved hemoglobin molecules that have a greater affinity for oxygen, according to a study published this week (October 20) in Science. “This study is a beautiful look at the molecular basis of convergent evolution,” Joel McGlothlin, who studies evolution at Virginia Tech and was not involved in the work, wrote in an email to The Scientist. “Amazingly enough, there appear to be a huge number of different molecular routes to greater oxygen affinity, and birds seem to have explored many of them.”

More news in life science:

Promiscuous Mice Have Extra-Fast Sperm
The tails of polygamous deer mice sperm have longer midsections than the sperm tails of monogamous individuals of a similar species, and this correlates with improved swimming and competitive ability.

Common STD May Have Come from Neanderthals
Cross-species trysts likely spread human papillomavirus (HPV) to Homo sapiens, according to new research.

Cuban-U.S. Research Collaborations Easier Now
President Obama’s executive actions remove some of the red tape for American and Cuban scientists to work together.

Cellular Cartography
Researchers launch an initiative to generate a complete atlas of all cells in the human body.

NBC Plans Bio-Terror Drama “C.R.I.S.P.R.” with Jennifer Lopez
The show will draw on modern science to explore the threat of bioterrorism.

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