Week in Review: March 16–20

Making homozygous Drosophila mutants with CRISPR; restoring beneficial bacteria in antibiotic-treated mice; skin T-cell survey; cost of doing science in Argentina

Tracy Vence
Mar 20, 2015

More-efficient Drosophila mutations

UCSD, VALENTINO GANTZ AND ETHAN BIERResearchers from the University of California, San Diego, have developed an approach that utilizes CRISPR/Cas9 technology in Drosophila melanogaster to develop homozygous mutants in half the time it would take using traditional crosses. The team described its approach in Science this week (March 19).

“The study is well done and also very elegant,” said Ji-Long Liu of the University of Oxford who was not involved in the research. Liu called the method “a really clever way to . . . make the magic happen.”

Restoring gut microbes post-antibiotic

OZ OZKAYA, INSTITUTO GULBENKIAN DE CIENCIAA team led by investigators at Portugal’s Instituto Gulbenkian de Ciencia (IGC) has found that, following streptomycin treatment in mice, delivering a quorum-sensing molecule called pan-species autoinducer-2 (AI-2) to the animal’s guts can help reestablish beneficial bacterial populations there. The group’s results appeared in Cell Reports this week (March 19).

“While the vast majority of studies on the microbiome identify different bacteria present in the gastrointestinal tract, what is different and important about [this] approach . . . is in trying to manipulate the signaling in the GI tract,” said William Bentley, a bioengineer at the University of Maryland who was not involved in the work.

“It’s a proof of principle that we can increase the fitness of specific microbial groups in the gut,” added Marvin Whiteley, a microbiologist at the University of Texas at Austin who also was not involved.

Skin T cells

WIKIMEDIA, HELENA PAFFENResearchers from the Brigham and Women’s Hospital in Boston and their colleagues presented a comprehensive survey of memory T cells of human skin this week (March 18) in Science Translational Medicine. The group homed in on four particular cell types, including two resident and two recirculating cells.

This survey is “a critical and groundbreaking redefinition of the cutaneous immune system,” dermatologist James Krueger of Rockefeller University in New York City, who was not involved in the work, told The Scientist.

Argentinian science cost woes

WIKIMEDIA, SERGIO ANDRES SEGOVIAWhile research supplies are exempted from import restrictions on goods brought into Argentina, scientists in the country are still feeling the squeeze, with some tools and reagents costing more than double their normal retail value. “The government charges 35 percent over any payment made outside the country, and thus this amount is at the investigator’s expense,” neuroscientist Lidia Szczupak of the University of Buenos Aires told The Scientist.

“With the restrictions the importers are not importing things very fast. Sometimes it takes several months to get things here,” said Pablo Cerdán, a plant molecular biologist at the Leloir Institute in Buenos Aires. “It makes our work less productive and takes much more time.”

As a result of these regulations, some said they’ve chosen to forego certain costly or time-consuming experiments altogether. “It takes unjustifiable efforts for an item that is central to the project of my research,” said Szczupak.

Other news in life science:

Irisin Skepticism Goes Way Back
Post-publication peer reviewers had questioned data about the supposed fat-browning enzyme from the get-go.

Three Retractions for Highly Cited Author
Robert Weinberg’s team at MIT is pulling three papers, noting some figure panels were composites of different experiments.

On the Origins of Life
A new experimental system demonstrates that precursors of ribonucleotides, amino acids, and lipids may have simultaneously arisen from the same prebiotic chemistry.

Chameleon Skin Mimic
Researchers create material that changes color when pushed or pulled.

Virus Denier Ordered to Pay Up
A biologist who offered €100,000 to anyone who could prove that measles is a virus must pony up, a German court says.