Week in Review: September 19–23

Congress’s failure to fund Zika response; another DNA vaccine against Zika shows promise; convergent evolution of caffeine production in plants; MacArthur “Geniuses” announced; Thomson Reuters issues Nobel predictions

Tracy Vence
Sep 22, 2016

Convergent evolution of caffeine production

Examining the caffeine-producing pathways across various plants, scientists at Western Michigan University resurrected extinct enzymes, which hinted how the diverse species evolved to synthesize the same compound in their own ways. The team’s results were published in PNAS this week (September 20). “This is a very nice article that illustrates the multiplicity of adaptive pathways utilized in biochemical evolution,” said evolutionary biologist Michael Clegg of the University of California, Irvine, who was not involved in the study.

DNA vaccine protects animals against Zika

A DNA vaccine protected Rhesus macaques from viral infection and led to the production of neutralizing antibodies in mice, a team led by researchers at the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases reported in Science this week (September 22). “This [DNA vaccine], if proven safe and [that it] generates the type of immune response in humans seen here in animals, is on the path to potentially become the first public health tool to mitigate the Zika virus epidemic in the Americas,” said Nelson Michael of the Walter Reed Army Institute of Research in Silver Spring, Maryland, who was not involved in the study.

Opinion: Congress’s inaction on Zika

“With the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) close to exhausting available funds for Zika preparedness and response, Congress’s failure [to fund outbreak response] is fueling concerns about how Zika will impact the health of U.S. citizens,” wrote Ana Santos Rutschman of DePaul University in an article first published at The Conversation.

More news in life science:

Life Scientists Receive “Genius” Grants
Among this year’s 23 MacArthur Foundation Fellows are pioneering biologists.

Thomson Reuters Predicts Nobelists
According to citation statistics, researchers behind programmed cell death pathways and CRISPR/Cas9 are among those in line for Nobel Prizes this year.

Ocean Viruses Cataloged
An international research team triples the number of known virus types found in marine environments.

Two More Corrections for Criticized Researchers
A university investigation has so far found no wrongdoing by the principal investigator.

Further Support for Early-Life Allergen Exposure
Egg and peanut consumption during infancy is linked to a lower risk of allergy to those foods later in life, according to a meta-analysis.

Reviewing Results-Free Manuscripts
An open-access journal is trialing a peer-review process in which reviewers do not have access to the results or discussion sections of submitted papers.