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  • News

    Placenta protectors no match for toxic Strep B pigment

    A type of bacteria that can cause stillbirth and fatal illness in newborns attacks with an unlikely weapon: an orange pigment made of fat.

    This pigment mutilates infection-fighting immune system cells, enabling the bacteria — Group B Streptococcus — to quickly cross the placenta and invade the amniotic sac, a new study in monkeys shows. In one case, it took as little as 15 minutes for...

    10/14/2016 - 14:00 Microbiology, Cells, Health, Biomedicine
  • Growth Curve

    Baby-led weaning is safe, if done right

    When babies are ready for solid foods, the meal usually arrives on a spoon. Parents scoop up pureed carrots, liquefied banana or soupy rice cereal and deliver it straight to their baby’s mouth (or forehead). But a different way of introducing solids is gaining ground. Called baby-led weaning, the approach is based on letting the baby feed herself whole foods such as a soft pear or a spear of...

    10/14/2016 - 09:00 Human Development
  • Science Ticker

    AI system learns like a human, stores info like a computer

    A GPS app can plan the best route between two subway stops if it has been specifically programmed for the task. But a new artificial intelligence system can figure out how to do so on the fly by learning general rules from specific examples, researchers report October 12 in Nature.

    Artificial neural networks, computer programs that mimic the human brain, are great at learning patterns...

    10/14/2016 - 07:00 Computing, Networks
  • News in Brief

    Cosmic census of galaxies updated to 2 trillion

    Two trillion galaxies. That’s the latest estimate for the number of galaxies that live — or have lived — in the observable universe, researchers report online October 10 at This updated headcount is roughly 10 times greater than previous estimates and suggests that there are a lot more galaxies out there for future telescopes to explore.

    Hordes of relatively tiny galaxies,...

    10/13/2016 - 17:05 Astronomy
  • News

    Erasing stigma needed in mental health care

    Scientists, politicians, clinicians, police officers and medical workers agree on one thing: The U.S. mental health system needs a big fix. Too few people get the help they need for mental ailments and emotional turmoil that can destroy livelihoods and lives.

    A report in the October JAMA Internal Medicine, for instance, concludes that more than 70 percent of U.S. adults who experience...

    10/13/2016 - 15:03 Psychology, Anthropology
  • News

    One-celled life possessed tools for going multicellular

    Scaling up from one cell to many may have been a small step rather than a giant leap for early life on Earth. A single-celled organism closely related to animals controls its life cycle using a molecular toolkit much like the one animals use to give their cells different roles, scientists report October 13 in Developmental Cell.

    “Animals are regarded as this very special branch, as in,...

    10/13/2016 - 12:00 Cells, Evolution
  • Scicurious

    How gene editing is changing what a lab animal looks like

    Anyone who reads news about science (at Science News or otherwise) will recognize that, like the X-Men or any other superhero franchise, there’s a recurring cast of experimental characters. Instead of Magneto, Professor X, Mystique and the Phoenix, scientists have mice, fruit flies, zebrafish and monkeys. Different types of studies use different stand-ins: Flies for genetics; zebrafish for...

    10/13/2016 - 07:00 Genetics
  • Science Ticker

    Hot and spicy pain signals get blocked in naked mole-rats

    Like Marvel’s surly superhero Luke Cage, naked mole-rats are seemingly indestructible, hairless creatures that are impervious to certain kinds of pain. This last power has puzzled researchers, because like other mammals, mole-rats have functional versions of a protein called TRPV1, which responds to painfully hot stimuli.

    It turns out that a different protein, TrkA, is the key to the...

    10/12/2016 - 17:23 Animals, Genetics
  • News in Brief

    Ocean archaea more vulnerable to deep-sea viruses than bacteria

    Deep-sea viruses aren’t just dealers of disease; they’re crucial players in Earth’s nutrient cycles. In marine sediments, virus assassinations of single-celled life-forms called archaea play a much larger role in carbon and other chemical cycles than previously thought, new research suggests. For instance, those microbial murders release as much as 500 million metric tons of carbon annually...

    10/12/2016 - 16:35 Microbiology, Oceans
  • News

    Birds’ honks filled Late Cretaceous air

    Some ancient birds may have sounded like honking ducks.

    For the first time, scientists have discovered the fossilized remains of a voice box from the age of the dinosaurs. The sound-making structure, called a syrinx, belonged to Vegavis iaai, a bird that lived 68 million to 66 million years ago, researchers report October 12 in Nature.

    “It may be a once-in-a-lifetime discovery,”...

    10/12/2016 - 15:53 Paleontology, Animals