TS Picks: October 17, 2016

Problematic dietary advice; the man whose cells were fixed with CRISPR; treating toads

Kerry Grens
Kerry Grens
Oct 17, 2016


Selections from The Scientist’s reading list:

  • The effect of food on our bodies is complicated—so why aren’t dietary guidelines? During years when there has been a drop in the consumption of sugar or fat, obesity rates continued to rise. Undark last week (October 13) explored the phenomenon. Perhaps it’s because of public health messages urging people to cut back on these dietary culprits. “Partitioning macronutrients into good and bad guys is a big mistake,” Luc Tappy of the University of Lausanne in Switzerland told Undark, because their impact “varies according to food consumed.” The problem, it seems, is that more complicated—and, likely, more accurate—guidelines that focus on diet more holistically get ignored.
  • MIT Technology Review humanizes the technological advances in CRISPR that could one day contribute to curing disease, in this case, Duchenne muscular dystrophy. Tech Review introduces readers to Benjamin Dupree, whose genetic defect was corrected in a dish. “I try to be realistic with my expectations,” said Dupree. “But that gave me a sense of ‘Wow, this is here.’”
  • FiveThirtyEight reported from the field—“a swampy pond at 10,000 feet elevation in Colorado’s San Isabel National Forest,” to be precise—on an effort to protect toads from chytrid fungus. The treatment involves soaking the amphibians in a purple solution of antifungal bacteria while the researchers listen to Prince’s “Purple Rain.” The effort faces daunting challenges, including animals too weak to endure tagging injections. “Instead, ]biologist Valerie McKenzie] modified the experiment,” FiveThirtyEight described. “Both the treated and untreated toads would be kept in separate ‘toad hotels’—temporary terrariums in plastic bins—and she and her team would camp in the mountains for several days, watching the toads and periodically swabbing them for samples of their microbiomes.”