Week in Review: November 17–21

Gut microbes affect the brain; virus protects mouse gut; mapping the interactome; comparing mice and humans

Nov 21, 2014
Tracy Vence

Gut microbes and the blood-brain barrier

V. ALTOUNIANGut microbes appear to influence the development of the blood-brain barrier in mice, before and soon after they’re born, according to a study published in Science Translational Medicine this week (November 19).

“It’s absolutely fascinating to think that gut bacteria can control permeability of the blood-brain barrier,” Caltech microbiologist Sarkis Mazmanian, who was not involved in the study, told The Scientist.
 

Stress breeds success?

FLICKR, WOODLEYWONDERWORKSResearchers often recount the perils of early-life stress, but, according to a mouse study published in Nature Communications this week (November 18), unpredictable maternal separation combined with unpredictable maternal stress may make the animals more resilient—and this trait may be passed on to their pups, epigenetically.

“It’s interesting . . . that now we’re seeing some of those beneficial effects of stress being passed, as well,” said Deena Walker of Mount Sinai School of Medicine in New York City who was not involved in the research.

Human interactome mapped

THOMAS ROLLANDA new human interactome map, published this week (November 20) in Cell, depicts 14,000 pairwise interactions between proteins. This map, the result of a nine-year effort to systematically screen 13,000 humans proteins, could help researchers better understand processes leading to cancer and other diseases.

“Our goal is to help facilitate the expansion and robustness of the human interactome to the point that it can really provide insight into every chronic disease,” said Joseph Loscalzo of Harvard Medical School who was not involved in the work.

Viral back-up

WIKIMEDIA, GLEIBERGIn germ-free or antibiotic-treated mice, a murine norovirus (MNV.CR6) appears to recover some of the beneficial functions of missing commensal bacteria, according to a study published in Nature this week (November 19). “[That] an intestinal virus can have beneficial effects for the host [has] never really been shown before, at least for mammalian viruses,” said Julie Pfeiffer, a microbiologist at the University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center who was not involved in the work.
 

Differences across tissues

WIKIPEDIA, RAMAResults published in PNAS this week (November 17) point to differences between mouse and human gene expression across a variety of tissues. “We might think that humans and mice are very similar [genetically], but when we compare their transcriptomes, they’re more different than we thought,” said Mark Gerstein of Yale University who was not involved in the work.



Other news in life science:

Push For Data Disclosure
Two federal health agencies released proposed rules that would tighten up the requirements for reporting clinical trial results.

Scientists Decry Axing EU Head Scientist Post
Researchers in Europe are universally dismayed over the decision to eliminate the European Commission’s Chief Scientific Advisor role.

Virus May Explain “Melting” Sea Stars
Researchers discover a densovirus that is strongly associated with sea star wasting disease.

Sealed With a Kiss
A single intimate smooch can transfer upwards of 80 million bacteria.

Brain Structure Rediscovered
First described in the late 19th century, then lost from the literature for more than 100 years, the vertical occipital fasciculus appears to be important in visual processing.