Week in Review: December 14–18

Camel vaccine against MERS show promise; E. coli keeps evolving in a constant environment; engineered cells treat psoriasis in mice; Congress considers NIH budget boost 

Tracy Vence
Dec 17, 2015

MERS vax for camels

WIKIMEDIA, PERETZ PARTENSKYResearchers this week (December 17) reported in Science the first small trial of a vaccine against the Middle East respiratory syndrome coronavirus (MERS-CoV) in camels and, separately, the first direct evidence of camel-to-human MERS-CoV transmission.

“The state of the science on this emerging pathogen is still relatively young and there is much to learn about MERS-CoV biology, pathogenesis, and epidemiology,” Kayvon Modjarrad the Walter Reed Army Institute of Research in Bethesda, Maryland, who was not involved in the study, wrote in an email to The Scientist.

50,000 generations strong

WIKIMEDIA; BRIAN BAER, NEERJA HAJELAEscherichia coli bacteria kept in a constant environment for nearly three decades show signs of continuing evolution, scientists at Michigan State University reported in Proceedings of the Royal Society B this week (December 16). Among other things, the team observed subpopulations of these bacteria increasing in fitness over...

“We would certainly expect, in the real world, where environments are more heterogeneous, where populations are coevolving with other populations, that evolution is going to continue,” said John Thompson of the University of California, Santa Cruz, who did not take part in the study. “But what this [paper] says is that, even in the absence of any external forces . . . evolution is going to be relentless nonetheless.”

Psoriasis-treating cells

SCHUKUR ET AL.A team led by investigators at the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology in Zürich (ETH Zürich) described in Science Translational Medicine this week (September 16) designer cells that can detect early biomarkers of a psoriasis flare-up in mice and release therapeutic compounds to alleviate associated inflammation.

“The cell recognizes the disease metabolite and coordinates a specific response,” explained study coauthor Martin Fussenegger of ETH Zürich. “That leads to the production, secretion, and delivery of a therapeutic protein which goes back to the bloodstream.”

“This is a marvelous demonstration . . . as to how engineered cells can be designed to function as living diagnostics and living therapeutics,” MIT’s James Collins, who was not involved with the work, wrote in an email to The Scientist.

Other news in life science:

NIH Set for Big Budget Bump
The US National Institutes of Health would receive a $2 billion increase if the 2016 spending bill makes it through Congress unchanged.

Year in Review: CRISPR Blossoms
As researchers work to improve the precision gene-editing technology, the community discusses the best way to use it.

Earnings for New PhDs
A project examining the relationship between research funding and economic productivity offers insights into where new graduates work and what they earn.

Trending Positively
Analyzing three decades’ worth of PubMed-indexed abstracts, scientists find a notable increase in the frequency of positive words, such as “innovative” and “novel,” over time.

Dog Origins Disputed
A genomic study suggests that dogs diverged from wolves in Southeast Asia 33,000 years ago, contrary to reports placing their origins elsewhere on the continent.

Interested in reading more?

Week in Review: December 14–18

The Scientist ARCHIVES

Become a Member of

Receive full access to more than 35 years of archives, as well as TS Digest, digital editions of The Scientist, feature stories, and much more!
Already a member?