abby olena

Abby Olena, PhD

As a freelancer for The Scientist, Abby reports on new developments in life science for the website. She has a PhD from Vanderbilt University and got her start in science journalism as the Chicago Tribune’s AAAS Mass Media Fellow in 2013. Following a stint as an intern for The Scientist, Abby was a postdoc in science communication at Duke University, where she developed and taught courses to help scientists share their research. In addition to her work as a science journalist, she leads science writing and communication workshops and co-produces a conversational podcast. She is based in Alabama.  

Articles by Abby Olena, PhD
A section of a mouse distal colon showing luminal contents with bacteria in magenta, the mucus lining (green) and the epithelial cell barrier of the gut (blue, right).
Mapping the Neighborhoods of the Gut Microbiome
Abby Olena, PhD | Jul 1, 2022 | 7 min read
Researchers are going beyond fecal samples to understand how the patterns of commensal microbes in the gastrointestinal tract influence development and health.
Photo of lab-grown chicken from Eat Just, Inc.
Cultured Meat Advances Toward the Market
Abby Olena, PhD | Feb 14, 2022 | 8 min read
The biotech industry is chipping away at the obstacles standing between the lab and the dinner plate.
An illustration shows circular red blood cells running into a yellow cholesterol blockage in a transverse section of an artery on a blue and purple background
Genetic Variant Discovered in Amish Protects from Heart Disease
Abby Olena, PhD | Dec 2, 2021 | 3 min read
Researchers link a missense mutation in the B4GALT1 gene to lower levels of LDL cholesterol and the blood clotting factor fibrinogen.
The lungfish has a beige face and grey spotted body with a darker tail fin, as well as four long, spindly appendages. It is on a white background.
Lungfish Cocoons Are Alive, Sort Of
Abby Olena, PhD | Nov 17, 2021 | 4 min read
Researchers find that the protective outer layer that lungfish make to survive extended dry periods—once thought to be a simple mucus shell—contains immune cells that trap bacteria and protect the animals from infection.
Rounded red and green fluorescent cells are visible on a light and dark gray background
Neurons Firing Together Generate Spontaneous Pain
Abby Olena, PhD | Nov 10, 2021 | 4 min read
Abnormal sympathetic neuron growth leads to simultaneous activation of clusters of sensory neurons, causing the difficult-to-treat sensation.
A black and brown ant stands over various sizes of whitish purple, oval shaped larvae and yellow, oblong eggs
A Single Transcription Factor Changes Ants to Queens
Abby Olena, PhD | Nov 5, 2021 | 3 min read
The transcription factor can also drive the opposite transition depending on which hormone activates it, according to a new study.
An artist's rendition of an RNA molecule in light blue on a dark blue background
Same RNA Acts in Neurodegeneration and Cancer
Abby Olena, PhD | Oct 29, 2021 | 3 min read
The long noncoding RNA MINCR, implicated in ALS and Alzheimer’s disease as well as several types of cancer, appears to function differently when present at high versus low levels.
Red blood cells are pictured in grayscale on a gray background
Red Blood Cells Activate Innate Immune System
Abby Olena, PhD | Oct 20, 2021 | 4 min read
Researchers link the ability of the cells to bind and present DNA from pathogens and cell death to anemia, which is common in COVID-19, and immune activation.
The head of a tadpole is pictured. Its eye is black, but the rest of its head is various shades of green
Scientists Use Photosynthesis to Power an Animal’s Brain
Abby Olena, PhD | Oct 13, 2021 | 3 min read
Injecting oxygen-generating algae into tadpoles allows brain activity to continue in the absence of oxygen, researchers find.
A brown tick is shown from above as it climbs a green blade of grass
Bacterial Symbionts Tell Ticks When to Eat
Abby Olena, PhD | Oct 1, 2021 | 3 min read
The endosymbiont Coxiella affects tick serotonin production and subsequent blood-feeding behavior, a study finds.