Week in Review: April 29 – May 2

The brain’s role in aging; tracking disease; understanding the new flu virus; no autism-Lyme link; one drug’s journey from bench to bedside

Jef Akst
Jef Akst

Jef (an unusual nickname for Jennifer) got her master’s degree from Indiana University in April 2009 studying the mating behavior of seahorses. After four years of diving off the Gulf...

View full profile.

Learn about our editorial policies.

May 3, 2013

Brain controls aging

WIKIMEDIA, RAMANew research suggests that inflammation in the hypothalamus may underlie aging of the entire body. Specifically, the inflammatory protein nuclear factor κB (NF-κB), when over-activated in the brain region of mice, suppressed gonadotropin-releasing hormone (GnRH), which stimulates adult neurogenesis. This resulted in  numerous aging-related changes in mice, including cognitive deficits, muscle atrophy, thinning skin, loss of bone mass, deterioration of cartilage in their tails, and early death.

“Many different aspects of aging are being slowed together,” Richard Miller, a biogerontologist at the University of Michigan, told The Scientist. “That means that whatever [NF-κB is] working on is somehow slowing that basic aging process itself.”

Mapping disease

FLICKR, MOONLIGHTBULBOne approach to understanding infectious disease outbreaks is to map their patterns of occurrence. Such techniques were used as early as the 19th century, when, for example, John Snow tracked the source of a cholera outbreak...

Characterizing H7N9’s lineage

WIKIMEDIA, THEGREENJLast week, The Scientist’s Kate Yandell reported the most up-to-date knowledge on the zoonotic flu virus that has infected more than 100 people in China since February. The Chinese government was commended by scientists around the world who were analyzing the viral sequence, which was posted by Chinese researchers in an open-access repository in late March, as well as researchers who had received samples of the live virus for study. This week, The Lancet published new results suggesting that the deadly flu descended from at least four different bird flu strains.

Autism not linked to Lyme

Adult deer tickWIKIMEDIA, SCOTT BAUERThe largest study to date on the possible link between autism disease and the Lyme-causing bacterium, Borrelia sp., finds no evidence of the infection in autism patients, debunking a theory in some corners of the autism community that had some doctors prescribing antibiotics known to fight Lyme disease to children with autism. Some question the detection method used, however, and speculate that autism trigged by the bacterium can remain even after the infection has disappeared.

An impactful discovery

Daniel DruckerCOURTESY OF ANNIE TONGDaniel Drucker, a senior investigator at Mount Sinai’s Samuel Lunenfeld Research Institute in Toronto, Canada, tells the story of a discovery he made in his lab 17 years ago involving a gut hormone called GLP-2, which this year became available to short bowel syndrome patients as a new drug, called teduglutide, or Gattex.

Other news in life science:

Jamestown Settlers Practiced Cannibalism

Newly discovered remains provide the first hard evidence that the ill-fated colonists of the 17th century resorted to eating human flesh when their food supply ran out.

Obama Backs Science

In a recent speech, the President defended spending on science and the peer-review process.

Toddler Gets Synthetic Windpipe

Doctors culture a custom-made trachea from plastic fibers and human cells, and successfully implant it into a child who was born without the organ.

Website Tracks Happiness Using Twitter

The day of the Boston Marathon bombings scored lower on the index than any other day since measurements began nearly 5 years ago.

Republicans Say Peer Review Isn’t Enough

Representative Lamar Smith (R-TX) is writing legislation to change the rules of the NSF’s grant review process.