Week in Review: September 21–25

Reflecting on the STAP saga; neurons connect the brain to fat; how microbes affect wine chemistry; Nobel predictions

Sep 25, 2015
Tracy Vence

STAP “not a real phenomenon”

HARUKO OBOKATAStimulus-triggered acquisition of pluripotency, or STAP, “is not a real phenomenon,” stem-cell biologist Paul Knoepfler of the University of California, Davis, told The Scientist after reviewing the latest replication attempts reported in Nature this week (September 23). Scientists from the RIKEN Center for Developmental Biology and their colleagues discussed their failures to reproduce STAP cells when using various published protocols.

“It’s always impossible to prove the negative, but you can at least say—under the conditions that were reported—that these were neither robust nor reproducible in the hands of labs that should’ve been expert enough to do it,” said George Daley of Harvard Medical School who analyzed—and helped lead—some of the STAP replication attempts.

Neurons link brain to fat

ANA DOMINGOSFor the first time, scientists from Instituto Gulbenkian de Ciencia (IGC) in Portugal and the Rockefeller University in New York City have found that some sympathetic neurons from the brain indeed terminate within white fat tissue. The team’s results were published in Cell this week (September 24).

“[The authors] took advantage of powerful techniques to solidify the strong suggestion that white adipose tissue is directly innervated by the central nervous system and clearly demonstrate that leptin activates this sympathetic input,” said  Stephanie Fulton of the University of Montreal who was not involved in the work.

Microbial terroir

MAT GODDARDExamining six strains of yeast found in six wine-producing regions of New Zealand, researchers from the University of Auckland and their colleagues identified differences in the grape-dwelling microbes that impacted the chemical profiles of the resulting Sauvignon Blancs. The team’s findings were published in Scientific Reports this week (September 24).

“This is the first quantitative demonstration of a microbial component of terroir,” said oenologist Vladimir Jiranek of the University of Adelaide who did not participate in the study.

Other news in life science:

Immunologist, AIDS Research Advocate Dies
William Paul, the National Institutes of Health’s Laboratory of Immunology chief, passed away at age 79.

Thomson Reuters Predicts Nobelists
The information firm uses citation statistics to forecast potential winners of the 2015 Nobel Prizes in Chemistry and Physiology or Medicine.

Tree of Life v1.0
Researchers map 2.3 million species in a single phylogeny.

People Emit Unique Microbial Clouds
DNA sequencing reveals personalized microbe communities in the air surrounding participants in a small study.

Lab-Grown Kidneys Work In Vivo
Researchers show organoids grown from human stem cells can excrete urine when implanted in rats and pigs.