Week in Review: September 15–19

Artificial sweeteners and glucose metabolism; why whooping cough is on the rise; heritable histone modifications; statins and bone growth; postdoc participation

Tracy Vence

Sugar substitutes, gut microbes affect metabolism?

WIKIMEDIA, STEVE SNODGRASSArtificial sweeteners may affect glucose tolerance through a gut microbe-dependent mechanism, according to a study in mice and a small group of people, published in Nature this week (September 11). Researchers from the Weizmann Institute of Science in Israel and their colleagues have uncovered “the unexpected effect that artificial sweeteners drive changes in the [gut] microbiota, which promote glucose intolerance,” explained University of Chicago pathologist Cathryn Nagler who was not involved with the work.

Persistent pertussis (whooping cough)

CDCAn altered vaccine and parents opting-out of inoculations have contributed to ongoing outbreaks of the disease across the U.S.

“[T]ake a vaccine that’s less than perfect and add this [increased opt-out rate], then you’ve got deficient herd immunity to start with,” said  David Witt of Kaiser Permanente in California, where a whooping cough outbreak is ongoing.

Heart of pneumonia-related cardiac...

UTHSCSA, ARMAND BROWNStreptococcus pneumonia bacteria may infiltrate the heart, causing microlesions that can lead to cardiac complications, according to a study published in PLOS Pathogens this week (September 18). Researchers from the University of Texas Health Science Center at San Antonio studied the hearts of pneumonia-infected mice and rhesus macaques, as well as human autopsy samples, finding evidence to suggest that S. pneumonia could affect heart tissue directly.

“These types of adverse events in the heart were previously felt to be part of the sepsis syndrome, where you have multiple organs functioning poorly, and not really a direct result of bacterial infection,” said Victor Nizet, an infectious disease specialist at the University of California, San Diego School of Medicine who was not involved in the study.

Heritable histones

LAURA GAYDOSScientists show how roundworm daughter cells remember the histone modification patterns of their parents.

“They show very elegantly using their system that modified histones can be inherited through multiple rounds of cell division and can be passed on . . . to the next generation,” said Shiv Grewal, an epigenetics and chromatin researcher at the National Cancer Institute who was not involved in the work. “That’s quite remarkable.”

Statins for certain forms of dwarfism?

WIKIMEDIA, GEORGE SHUKLINWhile further study is needed to confirm their results, researchers from Kyoto University in Japan and their colleagues found through a drug screen on human induced pluripotent stem cells (iPSCs) that statins can stimulate bone growth. Their work was published in Nature this week (September 17).

“They definitely show that the cellular model is really working and it’s very interesting to have that,” said Elvire Gouze, who studies achondroplasia, a form of dwarfism, at the French Institute of Health and Medical Research (INSERM) but was not involved in the work.

A “seat at the table”

As the National Postdoctoral Association’s fifth-annual Postdoc Appreciation Week comes to a close, Harvard Medical School’s Jessica Polka shares tips for her fellow postdocs who’d like to participate in discussions on the future of biomedical research.

Other news in life science:

US Military to Join Ebola Fight
President Obama plans to send thousands of military personnel to Africa to streamline infectious disease-response efforts.

Grants Honor Cross-Disciplinary “Geniuses”
The MacArthur Foundation names this year’s cohort of creative problem-solvers.

Genetic Spectra of Schizophrenia
An analysis of three independent genome-wide association studies suggests schizophrenia is a group of heritable disorders associated with distinct clinical syndromes.

Researchers Update STAP Protocol
Two coauthors on the now-retracted stimulus-triggered acquisition of pluripotency studies present yet another revision to the published method.

Small Molecule Superstore
An analysis of bacterial sequences from the Human Microbiome Project has uncovered thousands of biosynthetic gene clusters.

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