Keep bacteria guessing

FLICKR, ROBSON#Switching up the antibiotics used to treat bacterial infections is by no means a revolutionary concept. “Cycling—or rotating antibiotics—has been a hope for a number of years,” Rush University’s Robert Weinstein told The Scientist. The hope is to effectively “confuse the bacteria by changing the class of antibiotics you use,” he added.

A pair of researchers from Technical University of Denmark this week proposed a new approach, called collateral sensitivity cycling, which they said could be used to both better treat illness and to spurn the emergence of drug resistance. Lejla Imamovic and Morten Sommer analyzed wild-type Escherichia coli and strains evolved in the laboratory to be resistant to 23 commonly used antibiotics, then treated the bacteria with pairs of drugs in a cyclical fashion. The research revealed sets of antibiotics that successfully killed the E. coli colonies without allowing the bacteria to evolve...

The study “is an in-depth analysis of resistance linkages and susceptibilities,” said Weinstein, who was not involved in the work. “It’s an important topic because . . . development of antimicrobial drugs is expensive and time-consuming, and there aren’t very many in the pipeline, so other ways to control resistance are very important.”

The team’s next steps will be to initiate validation studies “to find out how we can test this in a setting that is more clinically relevant,” Sommer said.

Could NIH and NSF Learn from NASA?

ESA/NASA“Doctors and clinical researchers would do well to take a lesson from space sciences,” Didier Schmitt argued this week in an opinion piece at For example, he noted, the space field is already adept at collecting and managing environmental and individual health data via satellite communication and remote sensing—something that could make great strides toward the health-care sector’s long-sought goal of personalized medicine. At the same time, space science could take a tip or two from the life sciences, Schmitt wrote. “In order to boost multidisciplinary work, the space sector needs to open up more to the health sector, and the health professionals need to become familiar with the potential that space applications can bring.”

Schmitt, who is the scientific adviser and foresight coordinator in the bureau of European policy advisers to the president of the European Commission, also noted that scientists from both disciplines ought to collaborate with their colleagues from seemingly disparate fields. “Mixing various disciplines is key,” he wrote.

Sleeping fearful memories off

SXC.HU, KIMBERLY VOHSENSeveral studies have touted the benefits of taking naps, such as helping to consolidate memories, but a paper published this week suggested that napping could even help people overcome learned fears. Researchers from Northwestern University in Chicago first conditioned study participants to fear certain images and scents. They then exposed the participants to the fear-associated odors while they napped. Once they awoke, the participants showed diminished fear of the odor-image pairs that had previously scared them and reported no recollection of exposure to the smells while they slept.

“What is unexpected is the reactivation of the memory by presenting the odor context during sleep  . . .  in fact leads to an extinction process rather than enhancing the learned, classically conditioned fear response,” University of Tübingen neuroscientist Jan Born, who was not involved in the study, told The Scientist. He added that sleep is more than a time to consolidate memories—it’s a “transforming process.”

Revisiting the translational research “crisis”

FLICKR, _TAWCANIn response to a recent opinion article published by The Scientist suggesting translational research was in a state of “crisis,” Jan Brábek and Michael Fernandes this week proposed reasons for the R&D freeze. “The key question at hand remains unaddressed: What are the factors that drive scientists—who know better—to perform inadequate research that predictably lead to outcome dead-ends?” Brábek and Fernandes wrote. To overcome the hurdles holding up the translation of basic cancer research discoveries into therapeutics, a significant regulatory shift is required, they argued.

“Often, the first question addressed to academic scientists submitting a research proposal is: What are the chances of clinical benefit? On the other hand, the first question posed to pharma scientists is: Is there a clear regulatory pathway?” the authors noted. “This helps explain the dichotomy in anticancer R&D,” and the current crisis.

Other news in life science:

Influential Ecologist Dies
Ruth Patrick, who pioneered freshwater pollution monitoring, has passed away at age 105.

Celebrated Neuroscientist Dies
Candace Pert, who helped discover opioid receptors, has passed away at age 67.

“Genius” Life Scientists Get Grants
The MacArthur Foundation has awarded six researchers five-year grants worth $625,000 each.

Citations Predict Nobel Winners?
Thomson Reuters makes its annual data-based picks for which scientists could collect medals in Stockholm later this year.

New Organelle: The Tannosome
Researchers identify a structure in plants responsible for the production of tannins

Sources of MERS Still Unknown
As the death toll rises, scientists scour the Middle East respiratory syndrome coronavirus genome for clues as to how it first infected humans.

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