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  • News in Brief

    A fake organ mimics what happens in the blink of an eye

    AUSTIN, Texas — A new artificial organ gives a new meaning to the phrase “making eyes.”

    For the first time, researchers used human cells to build a model of the surface of the eye that’s equipped with a fake eyelid that mimics blinking. This synthetic eye could be used to study and test treatments for eye diseases, researchers reported February 16 in a news conference at the annual...

    02/20/2018 - 17:15 Biophysics, Technology, Cells
  • News

    Americans would welcome alien life rather than fear it

    AUSTIN, Texas — If alien microbes crash-land on Earth, they may get a warm welcome.

    When people were asked how they would react to the discovery of extraterrestrial microbial life, they give generally positive responses, researchers reported at a news conference February 16 at the annual meeting of the American Association for the Advancement of Science.

    This suggests that if...

    02/16/2018 - 17:00 Astrobiology, Microbiology, Science & Society
  • News

    Study debunks fishy tale of how rabbits were first tamed

    Domesticated bunnies may need a new origin story.

    Researchers thought they knew when rabbits were tamed. An often-cited tale holds that monks in Southern France domesticated rabbits after Pope Gregory issued a proclamation in A.D. 600 that fetal rabbits, called laurices, are fish and therefore can be eaten during Lent.

    There’s just one problem: The story isn’t true. Not only does...

    02/14/2018 - 13:30 Genetics, Animals, Archaeology
  • News

    Genes could record forensic clues to time of death

    Dying, it turns out, is not like flipping a switch. Genes keep working for a while after a person dies, and scientists have used that activity in the lab to pinpoint time of death to within about nine minutes.

    During the first 24 hours after death, genetic changes kick in across various human tissues, creating patterns of activity that can be used to roughly predict when someone died,...

    02/13/2018 - 17:12 Epigenetics, Microbes, Science & Society
  • News

    A peek into polar bears’ lives reveals revved-up metabolisms

    View the video

    Female polar bears prowling springtime sea ice have extreme weight swings, some losing more than 10 percent of their body mass in just over a week. And the beginnings of bear video blogging help explain why.

    An ambitious study of polar bears (Ursus maritimus) in Alaska has found that their overall metabolic rate is 1.6 times greater than thought, says wildlife...

    02/01/2018 - 15:24 Animals, Physiology, Climate
  • Science Visualized

    Here’s how cells rapidly stuff two meters of DNA into microscopic capsules

    Frequent fliers, take note. Scientists have figured out how cells quickly pack long chromosomes into compact, organized bundles — a key step before cells divide. The new finding unifies two competing ideas about the process: whether it involves winding chromosomes into a spiral staircase or into a set of loops. It turns out cells use two different ring-shaped proteins called condensins to do...

    01/29/2018 - 16:30 Cells, Genetics
  • News

    Scientists find 10 new defense systems used by bacteria

    Since long before it gained fame as a precise gene-editing tool, CRISPR has had another job defending bacteria against viral invaders. And it’s far from alone. Ten sets of bacterial genes have similar, newly discovered defense roles, researchers report online January 25 in Science.

    The discovery “probably more than doubles the number of immune systems known in bacteria,” says Joseph...

    01/25/2018 - 16:16 Genetics, Microbiology
  • News

    Baby macaques are the first primates to be cloned like Dolly the Sheep

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    Meet Zhong Zhong and Hua Hua, the first primates cloned by reprogramming adult cells.

    Two decades after Dolly the Sheep was successfully cloned (SN: 3/1/97, p. 132), Chinese researchers have used the same technique — somatic cell nuclear transfer — to clone two healthy baby macaque monkeys. The results, reported January 24 in Cell, could lead to more efficient...

    01/24/2018 - 13:30 Genetics, Animals, Biomedicine
  • News

    New twist on a flu vaccine revs up the body’s army of virus killers

    Sometimes an old fight needs a new hero. With the United States in the midst of a tough flu season — and with evidence from Australia that the current flu shot is only 10 percent effective against the strains responsible for most illnesses — a different approach to flu vaccine development may do the trick.

    Vaccines traditionally protect against illness by stimulating antibodies to block...

    01/19/2018 - 15:42 Health, Immune Science
  • News

    Cilia in the brain may be busier than previously thought

    Nerve cells in the brain make elaborate connections and exchange lightning-quick messages that captivate scientists. But these cells also sport simpler, hairlike protrusions called cilia. Long overlooked, the little stubs may actually have big jobs in the brain.

    Researchers are turning up roles for nerve cell cilia in a variety of brain functions. In a region of the brain linked to...

    01/19/2018 - 13:16 Neuroscience, Genetics