Discovery Alert

An international team led by University of British Columbia researcher Dr. Josef Penninger has found a trial drug that effectively blocks the cellular door SARS-CoV-2 uses to infect its hosts. "Our new study provides very much needed direct evidence that a drug -- called APN01 -- hrsACE2 -- soon to be tested in clinical trials by the European biotech company Apeiron Biologics, is useful as an antiviral therapy for COVID-19," says Dr. Art Slutsky, a scientist at the Keenan Research Centre for Biomedical Science of St. Michael's Hospital and professor at the University of Toronto who is a collaborator on the study. The findings are published this week in Cell. Learn More

From health care to education to media, social distancing across the globe due to coronavirus (COVID-19) has created the need to conduct business "virtually" using Skype, web conferencing, FaceTime and any other means available. With this expansive use of mobile and video devices, now more than ever, it is important to understand how the use of these technologies may impact communication. But are all forms of online communication alike? In a first-of-its-kind study, neuroscientists from Florida Atlantic University demonstrate that a person's gaze is altered during tele-communication if they think that the person on the other end of the conversation can see them. Learn More

Being in isolation without access to gyms and sports clubs should not mean people stop exercising, according to a new study from researchers at the University of Bath. Keeping up regular, daily exercise at a time when much of the world is going into isolation will play an important role in helping to maintain a healthy immune system. The analysis, published in the international journal Exercise Immunology Review, involving leading physiologists Dr James Turner and Dr John Campbell from the University of Bath's Department for Health, considers the effect of exercise on our immune function. Learn More

In a study involving thousands of participants, a new blood test detected more than 50 types of cancer as well as their location within the body with a high degree of accuracy, according to an international team of researchers led by Dana-Farber Cancer Institute and the Mayo Clinic. The results, published online this week in the Annals of Oncology, indicate that the test -- which identified some particularly dangerous cancers that lack standard approaches to screening -- can play a key role in early detection of cancer. Early detection can often be critical to successful treatment. Learn More

In a new study, researchers found that half of the patients they treated for mild COVID-19 infection still had coronavirus for up to eight days after symptoms disappeared. The research letter was published online in the American Thoracic Society's American Journal of Respiratory and Critical Care Medicine. In "Time Kinetics of Viral Clearance and Resolution of Symptoms in Novel Coronavirus Infection," Lixin Xie, MD, Lokesh Sharma, PhD, and co-authors report on a study of 16 patients with COVID-19, who were treated and released from the Treatment Center of PLA General Hospital in Beijing between January 28 and Feb. 9, 2020. Patients studied had a median age of 35.5 years. Learn More

How the novel coronavirus that causes COVID-19 made the leap from animals to humans is a puzzle that scientists are trying to solve as humanity comes to grip with the deadly pandemic sweeping the globe. At the frontline of this scientific work is Professor Edward Holmes, an evolutionary virologist who holds a joint position with the School of Life and Environmental Sciences and the School of Medical Sciences at the University of Sydney. He has been working closely with scientists in China and around the world to unlock the genetic code of SARS-CoV-2, which is the virus that causes COVID-19, to understand its origins and assist in the race other scientists are engaged in to find an effective vaccine. Learn More

Vir Biotechnology has announced that laboratory testing showed two of its antibody drugs appeared to neutralize the coronavirus that causes Covid-19 and that it would pursue testing them in people. The company said that human tests of the drugs could begin in three to five months, putting it roughly in line with two other efforts to produce anti-coronavirus antibodies. Regeneron has said that its antibodies could enter trials by early summer - and that its treatment, if it proves effective, could be available for some uses in the fall. Eli Lilly, which is developing anti-SARS-CoV-2 antibodies with AbCellera has said it hopes to begin human tests in four months. Learn More

A new modeling study conducted in a simulated Singapore setting has estimated that a combined approach of physical distancing interventions, comprising quarantine (for infected individuals and their families), school closure, and workplace distancing, is most effective at reducing the number of SARS-CoV-2 cases compared with other intervention scenarios included in the study. While less effective than the combined approach, quarantine plus workplace measures presented the next best option for reducing SARS-CoV-2 cases, followed by quarantine plus school closure, and then quarantine only. All intervention scenarios were more effective at reducing cases than no intervention. The study is published in The Lancet. Learn More

Revealing yet another super-power in the skillful squid, scientists have discovered that squid massively edit their own genetic instructions not only within the nucleus of their neurons, but also within the axon -- the long, slender neural projections that transmit electrical impulses to other neurons. This is the first time that edits to genetic information have been observed outside of the nucleus of an animal cell. The discovery provides another jolt to the "central dogma" of molecular biology, which states that genetic information is passed faithfully from DNA to messenger RNA to the synthesis of proteins. The study is published this week in Nucleic Acids Research. Learn More

Common assumption has long held that Ritalin, Adderall and similar drugs work by helping people focus. Yet a new study from a team led in part by Brown University researchers shows that these medications -- usually prescribed to individuals diagnosed with attention deficit hyperactivity disorder, but often used by otherwise healthy people as a "study aid" -- actually work by directing the brain to fix its attention on the benefits, rather than the costs, of completing difficult tasks. The study, published in the journal Science, marks the first time that scientists have examined precisely how stimulants such as Ritalin alter cognitive function. Learn More

Role models are important for aspiring scientists, but new research suggests that scientists who are known for their hard work -- like Thomas Edison -- are more motivating than scientists who are viewed as naturally brilliant, like Albert Einstein. In a series of studies, researchers found that young people were more motivated by scientists whose success was associated with effort than those whose success was attributed to innate, exceptional intelligence, even if that scientist was Albert Einstein. The findings were recently published in Basic and Applied Social Psychology. Learn More

The novel SARS-CoV-2 coronavirus that emerged in the city of Wuhan, China, last year and has since caused a large scale COVID-19 epidemic and spread to more than 70 other countries is the product of natural evolution, according to findings published today in the journal Nature Medicine. The analysis of public genome sequence data from SARS-CoV-2 and related viruses found no evidence that the virus was made in a laboratory or otherwise engineered. "By comparing the available genome sequence data for known coronavirus strains, we can firmly determine that SARS-CoV-2 originated through natural processes," said Kristian Andersen, PhD, an associate professor of immunology and microbiology at Scripps Research and corresponding author on the paper. Learn More

The virus that causes coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) is stable for several hours to days in aerosols and on surfaces, according to a new study from National Institutes of Health, CDC, UCLA and Princeton University scientists in The New England Journal of Medicine. The scientists found that severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus 2 (SARS-CoV-2) was detectable in aerosols for up to three hours, up to four hours on copper, up to 24 hours on cardboard and up to two to three days on plastic and stainless steel. The results provide key information about the stability of SARS-CoV-2, which causes COVID-19 disease, and suggests that people may acquire the virus through the air and after touching contaminated objects. Learn More

Infectious disease researchers at The University of Texas at Austin studying the novel coronavirus were able to identify how quickly the virus can spread, a factor that may help public health officials in their efforts at containment. They found that time between cases in a chain of transmission is less than a week and that more than 10% of patients are infected by somebody who has the virus but does not yet have symptoms. In the paper in press with the journal Emerging Infectious Diseases, a team of scientists from the United States, France, China and Hong Kong were able to calculate what's called the serial interval of the virus. Learn More

Several coronaviruses circulate worldwide and constantly infect humans, which normally caused only mild respiratory disease. Currently, however, we are witnessing a worldwide spread of a new coronavirus with more than 90,000 confirmed cases and over 3,000 deaths. The new virus has been named SARS coronavirus-2 and has been transmitted from animals to humans. It causes a respiratory disease called COVID-19 that may take a severe course. The SARS coronavirus-2 has been spreading since December 2019 and is closely related to the SARS coronavirus that caused the SARS pandemic in 2002/2003. No vaccines or drugs are currently available to combat these viruses. Learn More

How individuals respond to government advice on preventing the spread of COVID-19 will be at least as important, if not more important, than government action, according to a new commentary from researchers at the University of Oxford and Imperial College London in the UK, and Utrecht University and the National Institute for Public Health and the Environment in the Netherlands. As the UK moves into the "delay" phase of dealing with a possible COVID-19 epidemic, a new commentary, published in The Lancet, looks at what we know so far about the new virus. The researchers, led by Professor Sir Roy Anderson at Imperial College and Professor Deirdre Hollingsworth at the University of Oxford's Big Data Institute, also suggest what can be done to minimize its spread and its impact. Learn More

When scientists try to predict the spread of something across populations -- anything from a coronavirus to misinformation -- they use complex mathematical models to do so. Typically, they'll study the first few steps in which the subject spreads and use that rate to project how far and wide the spread will go. But what happens if a pathogen mutates, or information becomes modified, changing the speed at which it spreads? In a new study appearing in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (PNAS), a team of Carnegie Mellon University researchers show for the first time how important these considerations are. Learn More

Plastics are a victim of their own success, so inexpensive, easy to use and versatile that the world is awash in plastic waste. Now researchers from the University of Houston have reported a new method of producing polyolefins -- made from hydrocarbons and the most common building block of plastics -- structured to address one of the biggest stumbling blocks to plastics recycling. The process also would allow plastics to be produced from food oils and other natural substances. Eva Harth, director of the Welch-UH Center for Excellence in Polymer Chemistry, said the process addresses a long-standing need for industrial plastics producers, without requiring a new catalyst or expensive additives. "It's a very simple process," she said. Learn More

Caffeine increases the ability to focus and problem solve, but a new study by a University of Arkansas researcher indicates it doesn't stimulate creativity. "In Western cultures, caffeine is stereotypically associated with creative occupations and lifestyles, from writers and their coffee to programmers and their energy drinks, and there's more than a kernel of truth to these stereotypes," wrote Darya Zabelina, assistant professor of psychology and first author of the study recently published in the journal Consciousness and Cognition. While the cognitive benefits of caffeine -- increased alertness, improved vigilance, enhanced focus and improved motor performance -- are well established, she said. Learn More

Scientists say they have used the gene editing tool CRISPR inside someone's body for the first time, a new frontier for efforts to operate on DNA, the chemical code of life, to treat diseases. A patient recently had it done at the Casey Eye Institute at Oregon Health & Science University in Portland for an inherited form of blindness, the companies that make the treatment announced this week. They would not give details on the patient or when the surgery occurred. It may take up to a month to see if it worked to restore vision. If the first few attempts seem safe, doctors plan to test it on 18 children and adults. Learn More

One of the hallmarks of cancer is cell immortality. A Northwestern University organic chemist and his team now have developed a promising molecular tool that targets and inhibits one of cell immortality's underlying gears: the enzyme telomerase. This enzyme is found overexpressed in approximately 90% of human cancer cells and has become an important subject of study for cancer researchers. Normal cells have the gene for telomerase, but it typically is not expressed. The study was published last week by the journal ACS Chemical Biology. Learn More

Researchers from the group of Hans Clevers at the Hubrecht Institute have developed a new genetic tool to label specific genes in human organoids, or mini organs. They used this new method, called CRISPR-HOT, to investigate how hepatocytes divide and how abnormal cells with too much DNA appear. By disabling the cancer gene TP53, they showed that unstructured divisions of abnormal hepatocytes were more frequent, which may contribute to cancer development. Their results were described and published in the scientific journal Nature Cell Biology. Learn More

The sights and sounds of winning on a slot machine may increase your desire to play -- and your memories of winning big, according to new research by University of Alberta scientists. The study, led by Professor Marcia Spetch in the Department of Psychology, shows that people prefer to play on virtual slot machines that provide casino-related cues, such as the sound of coins dropping or symbols of dollar signs. The researchers also found that people preferred to play on machines with these cues no matter how risky the machine was, and regardless of when the sound or visual effects appeared. Learn More

Neurodegenerative diseases, like Huntington's disease and myotonic dystrophy, are often referred to as DNA repeat diseases, named because of long repeated sequences in the DNA of patients. Increasing repeat expansion length in the affected tissues contribute to earlier age of disease onset and worsen the progression and severity of the disease over time. In an international study published in the February 14th online edition of Nature Genetics, scientists from The Hospital for Sick Children (SickKids), Canada, along with research teams from Osaka University, Japan, reveal the ability to reverse this repeat mutation length in the brains of a mouse model with Huntington's disease. Learn More

University of California San Diego researchers have created the first-ever map of all the molecules in every organ of a mouse and the ways in which they are modified by microbes. In one surprising example, they discovered that microbes control the structure of bile acids in both mice and people. The study, published February 26, 2020 in Nature, was led by Pieter Dorrestein, PhD, professor and director of the Collaborative Mass Spectrometry Innovation Center in the Skaggs School of Pharmacy and Pharmaceutical Sciences at UC San Diego, and Robert Quinn, PhD, assistant professor at Michigan State University. Learn More

In search of new ways to sequence human genomes and read critical alterations in DNA, researchers at Johns Hopkins Medicine say they have successfully used the gene cutting tool CRISPR to make cuts in DNA around lengthy tumor genes, which can be used to collect sequence information. The researchers say that pairing CRISPR with tools that sequence the DNA components of human cancer tissue is a technique that could, one day, enable fast, relatively cheap sequencing of patients' tumors, streamlining the selection and use of treatments that target highly specific and personal genetic alterations. Learn More

UT Southwestern researchers have uncovered how cells in general modulate their energy consumption based on their surroundings and, furthermore, how cancer cells override those cues to maximize energy use. The findings, published this week in Nature, extend a report from last year in which the same group discovered that the cell's skeleton can promote cancer cell growth in metastasis or when under chemotherapy assault. According to the researchers, the mechanics of the microenvironment of the cell impact cell functions but it has never been studied how cells might change their energy use based on their microenvironment. Learn More

A Cornell-led team took a novel, interdisciplinary approach to analyzing the behavior of breast tumor cells by employing a statistical modeling technique more commonly used in physics and economics. The team was able to demonstrate how the diversity, or heterogeneity, of cancer cells can be influenced by their chemical environment -- namely, by interactions with a specific protein, which leads to tumor growth. The researchers' paper, "Lymphoidal Chemokine CCL19 Promoted the Heterogeneity of the Breast Tumor Cell Motility Within a 3D Microenvironment Revealed by a Lévy Distribution Analysis," published Feb. 14 in Integrative Biology. Learn More

A Ludwig Cancer Research study has identified a mechanism by which regulatory T cells, which suppress immune responses, adapt their metabolism to thrive in the harsh microenvironment of the tumor. This mechanism, the study finds, is exclusively engaged by regulatory T cells (Tregs) that reside in tumors and could be disrupted to selectively target such Tregs and boost the effects of cancer immunotherapy. Learn More

Feedback is regarded as a crucial component of a successful business culture. Used correctly, it can enhance performance and teamwork. But how do different types of feedback impact interactions among employees? In a recent study, researchers from the Max Planck Institute for Human Development and the IESE Business School in Barcelona investigated which types of feedback tend to lead to cooperative behaviors and which to competitive behaviors. To this end, 112 students of different disciplines and 28 managers, all of whom had at least seven years of professional experience, were invited to participate in a laboratory experiment. The results have been published in the Journal of Behavioral Decision Making. Learn More

The field of synthetic biology does not only observe and describe processes of life but also mimics them. A key characteristic of life is the ability to ability for replication, which means the maintenance of a chemical system. Scientists at the Max Planck Institute of Biochemistry in Martinsried generated a system, which is able to regenerate parts of its own DNA and protein building blocks. The scientists assembled the artificial genomes from up to eleven ring-shaped pieces of DNA. This modular structure enables them to insert or remove certain DNA segments easily. Learn More

Experts have been unable to explain why cells from bacteria to humans leak essential chemicals necessary for growth into their environment. Previously, biologists could only say that leaking is an inherent property of cell membranes caused by fundamental rules of chemistry. However, researchers used dynamical-system modeling, in combination with computer simulations, to determine that leaking one essential upstream chemical component of the pathway allows the end product to be produced more efficiently. Thus, leaking is something cells do to selfishly enhance their own growth. Learn More

The New England Journal of Medicine has published an article raising questions about the use of observational real-world evidence (RWE), and how part of this drive toward using nonrandomized studies to assess the effects of treatments is due to the expensive and complex way that randomized clinical trials are being conducted. The timing of the article coincides with the US FDA Commissioner Stephen Hahn recently pointing to the importance of RWE, saying, "I believe there is great promise in the effective use and integration of patient-level data or real-world evidence such as electronic health records, clinical trials, medical studies, and patient registries." Learn More

Cell therapies hold great promise for revolutionizing the treatment of cancers and autoimmune diseases. But this multibillion-dollar industry requires long-term storage of cells at super-cold cryogenic conditions, while ensuring they'll continue to function upon thawing. However, these cold temperatures trigger the formation and growth of ice, which can pierce and tear apart cells. Research published in the Journal of the American Chemical Society by University of Utah chemists Pavithra Naullage and Valeria Molinero provides the foundation to design efficient polymers that can prevent the growth of ice that damages cells. Learn More

Researchers from the University of Leeds and University of Nottingham have made a breakthrough in the control of terahertz quantum cascade lasers, which could lead to the transmission of data at the rate of 100 gigabits per second -- around one thousand times quicker than a fast Ethernet operating at 100 megabits a second. What distinguishes terahertz quantum cascade lasers from other lasers is the fact that they emit light in the terahertz range of the electromagnetic spectrum. They have applications in the field of spectroscopy where they are used in chemical analysis. The findings were published this week in Nature Communications. Learn More

Our microbiomes -- the complex communities of microbes that live in, on and around us -- are influenced by our diets, habits, environments and genes, and are known to change with age. In turn, the makeup of our microbiomes, particularly in the gut, is well-recognized for its influence on our health. Given a microbiome skin sample researchers have demonstrated they can now use machine learning to predict a person's chronological age, with a degree of accuracy of roughly 3.8 years. The predictive tool, described in a paper published this week by mSystems, was developed as a collaboration between researchers at University of California San Diego and IBM. Learn More

In a study with implications for the future of drug discovery, Scripps Research scientists showed they were able to turn simple chemicals into unique 3-D structures resembling those found in nature -- structures with desirable properties for medicines. In the process, they found a potential drug lead for inflammatory disease, which is now being investigated further. The research appears in Nature Chemistry. In the field of drug discovery, compounds made by nature are thought to have some advantages over synthetic molecules, which are created from simple chemical feedstocks. Much of it has to do with their shape: so-called "natural products" tend to have complex, spherical 3-D structures. Learn More

Launching a new chapter in the fast-moving cancer immunotherapy field, scientists have blended two cutting-edge approaches: CRISPR, which edits DNA, and T cell therapy, in which sentries of the immune system are exploited to destroy tumors. Two women and one man, all in their 60s-one with sarcoma and two with the blood cancer multiple myeloma-received CRISPR-altered versions of their own cells last year, researchers report online in Science this week. "This is a Rubicon that has been decisively crossed," says Fyodor Urnov, a genome editor at the University of California (UC), Berkeley. The study, he says, answers "questions that have frankly haunted the field." Learn More

Chronic inflammation, which results when old age, stress or environmental toxins keep the body's immune system in overdrive, can contribute to a variety of devastating diseases, from Alzheimer's and Parkinson's to diabetes and cancer. Now, scientists at the University of California, Berkeley, have identified a molecular "switch" that controls the immune machinery responsible for chronic inflammation in the body. The finding, which appears online this week in the journal Cell Metabolism, could lead to new ways to halt or even reverse many of these age-related conditions. Learn More

Scientists from UCLA and the University of Arizona have found that people's ability to fight off the flu virus is determined not only by the subtypes of flu they have had throughout their lives, but also by the sequence in which they are been infected by the viruses. Their study is published in the open-access journal PLoS Pathogens. The research offers an explanation for why some people fare much worse than others when infected with the same strain of the flu virus, and the findings could help inform strategies for minimizing the effects of the seasonal flu. Learn More

Painful hypodermic needles may not be needed in the future to give shots, inject drugs and get blood samples. With 4D printing, Rutgers engineers have created tiny needles that mimic parasites that attach to tissues and could replace hypodermic needles, according to a study in the journal Advanced Functional Materials. While 3D printing builds objects layer by layer, 4D goes further with smart materials that are programmed to change shape after printing. Time is the fourth dimension that allows materials to morph into new shapes. Learn More

Around 45% of plastic waste is recycled annually in the UK and is on the increase. However, one of the problems with current plastic recycling methods is that you end up with a lower quality plastic with worse properties than the original. Now scientists from the Universities of Bath and Birmingham have developed a new way of chemical recycling -- converting plastics back into their constituent chemical molecules -- so that they can be used to make new plastics of the same quality as the original. The team's method, published in ChemSusChem, uses lower temperatures and more environmentally friendly catalysts than previous methods. Learn More

Scientists have developed a new TREE method (an acronym short for transient reporter for editing enrichment, or TREE), which allows for bulk enrichment of DNA base-edited cell populations -- and for the first time, high efficiency in human stem cell lines. Using a new update to the CRISPR base editing technology originally developed in the lab of David Liu at Harvard, this new system has vastly outperformed previous efforts by making highly accurate, single DNA base editing with an efficiency of up to 90% of human stem cells. The results were published in the journal Stem Cell Reports. Learn More

Human cells have a defense mechanism that protects them from microbial attacks, a Canadian-led team of international researchers has discovered. When microbes enter our body, they liberate toxins that can damage cells by poking holes in the external cell layer. To defend themselves from the intrusion, cells scramble their membrane fat (lipid) into a more liquid form that allows them to fix the holes, the research team found. Those repairs prevent the cells from breaking up and dying. Led by André Veillette, an Université de Montréal medical professor and researcher at the Montreal Clinical Research Institute (IRCM), the discovery was recently published in Cell Reports. Learn More

For a long time, anecdotes have connected stressful experiences with the phenomenon of hair graying. Now, for the first time, Harvard University scientists have discovered exactly how the process plays out: stress activates nerves that are part of the fight-or-flight response, which in turn cause permanent damage to pigment-regenerating stem cells in hair follicles. The study, published in Nature, advances scientists' knowledge of how stress can impact the body. Learn More

Michigan State University and Stanford University scientists have invented a nanoparticle that eats away -- from the inside out -- portions of plaques that cause heart attacks. The results, published in the current issue of Nature Nanotechnology, showcases the nanoparticle that homes in on atherosclerotic plaque due to its high selectivity to a particular immune cell type -- monocytes and macrophages. Once inside the macrophages in those plaques, it delivers a drug agent that stimulates the cell to engulf and eat cellular debris. Basically, it removes the diseased/dead cells in the plaque core. By reinvigorating the macrophages, plaque size is reduced and stabilized. Learn More

An interdisciplinary Munich research team led by scientists from TUM has for the first time succeeded in correcting the mutated dystrophin gene in living pigs. In order to cut the defective gene sequence from the DNA of the animals' muscle and heart cells, the researchers modified the Crispr-Cas9 gene scissors. "These gene scissors are highly efficient and specifically corrected the dystrophin gene," says Prof. Wolfgang Wurst, developmental geneticist at TUM and the German Research Center for Environmental Health. It became then again possible to viably read the gene which had been unreadable because of the genetic defect, thus allowing for a successful protein biosynthesis. Learn More

Findings published in Nature Immunology this week, show potential in using our body's immune system to treat all cancers. Researchers from Cardiff University have found a way of killing cancers that range from prostate, lung and breast in lab tests. Scientists were looking for different ways that our immune system reacts to tumors or cancer cells. They then recognized a T-cell in people's blood that could provide a way to fight the cells. This T-cell is an immune cell that aids the body in scanning whether there is a threat that needs to be defeated. The difference is that this T-cell could help attack a wide range of cancers as opposed to a single tumor type. Learn More

UT Southwestern Simmons Cancer Center researchers have discovered a two-drug combo that halts the growth of cancer cells that carry HER2 mutations. The findings were prompted by the observation that, after an initial response, patients with cancers harboring HER2 mutations eventually develop resistance to a promising new cancer drug currently in clinical trials. The scientists found that another drug, already on the market, counters that resistance and blocks the cancer, thereby providing the basis for a novel drug combination against cancers with mutations in the HER2 gene. Their findings were published this week in the journal Cancer Cell. Learn More

Salk researchers have discovered that a powerful combination of two experimental drugs reverses the cellular and molecular signs of osteoarthritis in rats as well as in isolated human cartilage cells. Previous research had pinpointed two molecules, alpha-KLOTHO and TGF beta receptor 2 (TGFβR2), as potential drugs to treat osteoarthritis. While each drug alone had only moderately curbed osteoarthritis, Izpisua Belmonte and his colleagues discovered through their research that the two drugs are more effective in concert. Their results were published in the journal Protein & Cell on January 16th, 2020. Learn More

A team at Flinders University led by Professor Janni Petersen and the St Vincent's Institute of Medical Research have found a link between a metabolic system in a yeast, and now mammals, which is critical for the regulation of cell growth and proliferation. This project, outlined in a new paper in Nature Metabolism, looked at two major signalling networks. The findings provide a new opportunity for cancer treatment strategies aimed at suppressing cell proliferation in the nutrient-poor tumor microenvironment, the research concludes. Learn More

Drugs for diabetes, inflammation, alcoholism -- and even for treating arthritis in dogs -- can also kill cancer cells in the lab, according to a study by scientists at the Broad Institute of MIT and Harvard and Dana-Farber Cancer Institute. The researchers systematically analyzed thousands of already developed drug compounds and found nearly 50 that have previously unrecognized anti-cancer activity. The surprising findings, which also revealed novel drug mechanisms and targets, suggest a possible way to accelerate the development of new cancer drugs or repurpose existing drugs to treat cancer. The new work appears in the journal Nature Cancer. Learn More

Research conducted at Swansea University and the University of Milan has shown that students who use digital technology excessively are less motivated to engage with their studies and are more anxious about tests. This effect was made worse by the increased feelings of loneliness that use of digital technology produced. About 25% of the students reported that they spent over four hours a day online, with the rest indicating that they spent between one to three hours a day. The main uses of the internet for the student sample were social networking (40%) and information seeking (30%). Learn More

It started out as "sort of a stupid thing to do", recalls Joe Bondy-Denomy, a microbiologist at the University of California, San Francisco. As a graduate student in the early 2010s, he tried to infect bacteria with viruses that, on paper, shouldn't have stood a chance. He knew that these viruses, or phages, were susceptible to CRISPR-Cas, the bacterial defense system that scientists have harnessed as a powerful tool for gene editing. And in most cases, he was right: the CRISPR machinery chopped the incoming phages into bits. But in a few instances, against the odds, the intruders survived. Learn More

A molecular switch has the ability to turn on a substance in animals that repairs neurological damage in disorders such as multiple sclerosis (MS), Mayo Clinic researchers discovered. The early research in animal models could advance an already approved Food and Drug Administration therapy and also could lead to new strategies for treating diseases of the central nervous system. Research by Isobel Scarisbrick, Ph.D., published in the Journal of Neuroscience finds that by genetically switching off a receptor activated by blood proteins, named Protease Activated Receptor 1 (PAR1), the body switches on regeneration of myelin, a fatty substance that coats and protects nerves. Learn More

A research team has reproduced and visualized the earliest developmental steps in human immune cell production in the laboratory. One day the advance could lead to a patient's own skin cells being used to produce new cells for cancer immunotherapy or to test autoimmune disease interventions. The group, led by Professors Ed Stanley and Andrew Elefanty, from the Murdoch Children's Research Institute in Melbourne, Australia, said the work has added definitive evidence about how the body's earliest immune cells are formed. The research combined genetic engineering and a novel way of growing stem cells, to make the breakthrough, which has been published in the journal Nature Cell Biology. Learn More

A novel nanoparticle vaccine that combines two major influenza proteins is effective in providing broad, long-lasting protection against influenza virus in mice, showing promise as a universal flu vaccine, according to a study by the Institute for Biomedical Sciences at Georgia State University. The double-layered nanoparticle vaccine contains the influenza virus proteins matrix protein 2 ectodomain (M2e) and neuraminidase (NA). Mice were immunized with the nanoparticle vaccine before being exposed to influenza virus, and they were protected against six different strains of the virus. The findings are published in the journal Advanced Healthcare Materials. Learn More

Increasing abundance of plastic waste has alarmed the society, the environmental fate of microplastics has been difficult to trace. A research group used carbon isotope labeling to follow the fate of polyethylene in the food chain. To the researchers' surprise, plastic carbon was transformed into beneficial fatty acids, omega-3 and omega-6, by the microbes originating from humic lakes. In the recently published study, Dr. Sami Taipale and his co-workers studied biodegradation of polyethylene, which is one of the most used plastics. Polyethylene was labelled with 13C-isotope, which enables the most sensitive technology for studying the fate of slowly degrading materials. Learn More

Mitochondria, tiny structures present in most cells, are known for their energy-generating machinery. Now, Salk researchers have discovered a new function of mitochondria: they set off molecular alarms when cells are exposed to stress or chemicals that can damage DNA, such as chemotherapy. The results, recently published online in Nature Metabolism, could lead to new cancer treatments that prevent tumors from becoming resistant to chemotherapy. "Mitochondria are acting as a first line of defense in sensing DNA stress. The mitochondria tell the rest of the cell, 'Hey, I'm under attack, you better protect yourself,'" says Gerald Shadel, a professor in Salk's Molecular and Cell Biology Laboratory. Learn More

Researchers at Rice University, Texas A&M University, Biola University and Durham (U.K.) University showed that motorized molecules developed in the Rice lab of chemist James Tour are effective at killing antibiotic-resistant microbes within minutes. The motors target the bacteria and, once activated with light, burrow through their exteriors. While bacteria can evolve to resist antibiotics by locking the antibiotics out, the bacteria have no defense against molecular drills. Antibiotics able to get through openings made by the drills are once again lethal to the bacteria. The researchers reported their results in the American Chemical Society journal ACS Nano. Learn More

Scientists at Sanford Burnham Prebys Medical Discovery Institute have shown that worms live longer lives if they produce excess levels of a protein, p62, which recognizes toxic cell proteins that are tagged for destruction. The discovery, published in Nature Communications, could help uncover treatments for age-related conditions, such as Alzheimer's disease, which are often caused by accumulation of misfolded proteins. While the scientists see much potential in their findings, they urge caution for direct translations to humans as high levels of p62 have been shown to be associated with cancer in humans. Learn More

In mouse models of Alzheimer's disease, the investigational drug candidates known as CMS121 and J147 improve memory and slow the degeneration of brain cells. Now, Salk researchers have shown how these compounds can also slow aging in healthy older mice, blocking the damage to brain cells that normally occurs during aging and restoring the levels of specific molecules to those seen in younger brains. The research, published last month in the journal eLife, suggests that the drug candidates may be useful for treating a broader array of conditions and points out a new pathway that links normal aging to Alzheimer's disease. Learn More

Seqirus has announced the results from a trial led by a team of researchers from Brown University that showed FLUAD®, an adjuvanted trivalent influenza vaccine (aTIV), was more effective than standard non-adjuvanted trivalent influenza vaccine (TIV) in reducing the risk of all-cause hospitalizations, as well as hospitalization for influenza and pneumonia, in adults 65 years and older living in United States(U.S.) nursing homes during the 2016/17 influenza season. These findings were presented at the recent National Foundation for Infectious Diseases (NFID) 2019 Clinical Vaccinology Course (CVC), which took place in Washington, D.C. Learn More

In November 2018, He Jiankui, a researcher in Shenzhen, China, claimed he utilized CRISPR-Cas9 gene editing to alter the DNA of embryos for seven couples. However, aside from the public presentations and the resulting controversy and government crackdown on He Jiankui in China, the actual technical results have not been published. This week, the MIT Technology Review announced they had received a copy of He's unpublished manuscript titled "Birth of Twins After Genome Editing for HIV Resistance" and subjected it to a thorough review. Among their observations, that the claims that He and his team made are not supported by the data and that the supposed medical benefits are dubious at best. Learn More

Placebo groups have long been viewed as a necessary evil by the medical profession when no other option is available. Nowadays, wherever possible, clinical trials will involve an 'active' control, where the new therapy is measured against the current standard of care available rather than just a placebo. However, a clarification in 2002 by the World Medical Association stated placebo-controlled trials are ethically acceptable even when a proven therapy is available. Fortunately, a potential solution to the ethical quandary raised by placebo groups is on the horizon. The digitisation of health records means real world evidence could be used to create a synthetic control arm to replace clinical trials' existing control arms. Learn More

Over the course of several months, researchers in Israel at the Weizmann Institute of Science created Escherichia coli strains that consume CO2 for energy instead of organic compounds. This achievement in synthetic biology highlights the incredible plasticity of bacterial metabolism and could provide the framework for future carbon-neutral bioproduction. The work appears November 27th in the journal Cell. Learn More

Genentech presented positive results from the Phase III Iclinical trial of Tecentriq in combination with Avastin in unresectable hepatocellular carcinoma (HCC) in people have haven't received previous systemic therapy. Tecentriq is the company's PD-L1 checkpoint inhibitor. Avastin is an antibody that binds to VEGF and interferes with tumor blood supply. In the trial, the drug combination showed statistically significant and clinically meaningful improvements in overall survival (OS) and progression-free survival (PFS) compared to the cohort receiving the tyrosine kinase inhibitor sorafenib. Learn More

With a shortage of new tuberculosis drugs in the pipeline, a software tool from the University of Michigan can predict how current drugs -- including unlikely candidates -- can be combined in new ways to create more effective treatments. "This could replace our traditional trial-and-error system for drug development that is comparatively slow and expensive," said Sriram Chandrasekaran, U-M assistant professor of biomedical engineering, who leads the research. Dubbed INDIGO, short for INferring Drug Interactions using chemoGenomics and Orthology, the software tool has shown that the potency of tuberculosis drugs can be amplified when they are teamed with antipsychotics or antimalarials. Learn More

In a breakthrough with important implications for the future of immunotherapy for breast cancer, UC San Francisco scientists have found that blocking the activity of a single enzyme can prevent a common type of breast cancer from spreading to distant organs. While studying a mouse model that replicates key features of early-stage human breast cancer, the researchers discovered that a ubiquitous enzyme called MMP9 is an essential component of the cancer's metastasis-promoting machinery, helping to create a hospitable environment for itinerant cancer cells to form new metastatic tumors. The new study is published this week in the journal Life Science Alliance. Learn More

Researchers led by Simon Cook at the Babraham Institute have found that cellular recycling (autophagy) is repressed during the process of cell division, and how repression of autophagy during mitosis utilizes a different master regulator. The findings address a long-standing point of contention in biology. The research uncovered the molecular intricacies of the cell signaling cascades that function to maintain genome integrity by repressing autophagy during the dynamic process of cell division. Researchers utilized cell signaling, autophagy, mass spectrometry and imaging expertise to resolve the fundamental question. Their findings were published this week in the journal Molecular Cell. Learn More

Researchers at McGill University's Faculty of Medicine have made important strides in understanding the functioning of enzymes that play an integral role in the production of antibiotics and other therapeutics. "This includes compounds made in microbes by massive enzymes called nonribosomal peptide synthetases, or NRPSs. NRPSs synthesize all sorts of antibiotics, which can kill dangerous fungi and bacteria, as well as compounds to help us fight off viral infections and cancers. In order to synthesize these drugs, NRPSs operate similar to a factory assembly line, consisting of a series of workstations. Learn More

Through the use of cutting-edge gene sequencing, a team of researchers from Abbott Laboratories discovered a new strain of HIV, the first time a new subtype of HIV-1 has been identified in nearly 20 years. The Abbott research marks the first time a new subtype of "Group M" HIV virus has been identified since guidelines for classifying new strains of HIV were established in 2000. Group M viruses are responsible for the global pandemic, which can be traced back to the Democratic Republic of Congo in Sub-Saharan Africa, Abbott said. The findings from the Abbott research have been published in the Journal of Acquired Immune Deficiency Syndromes (JAIDS). Learn More

Cell culture media have been an essential tool of biology for more than 70 years. Remarkably, the composition of these potions hasn't fundamentally changed much over that time, primarily because they deliver what scientists need: Cells that stay viable and rapidly divide. But Jason Cantor is thinking about cell culture media from another angle: Can we make it more human? Cantor, a metabolism investigator at the Morgridge Institute for Research and assistant professor of biochemistry at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, is a pioneer in the new development of "physiologic media," which are intended to place laboratory cells into an environment that very closely mimics real biological conditions. Learn More

A new type of micromotor -- powered by ultrasound and steered by magnets -- can move around individual cells and microscopic particles in crowded environments without damaging them. In one demonstration, a micromotor pushed around silica particles to spell out letters. Researchers also controlled the micromotors to climb up microsized blocks and stairs, demonstrating their ability to move over three dimensional obstacles. The micromotors are hollow, half capsule-shaped polymer structures coated with gold. They contain a small piece of magnetic nickel in their bodies, which allows them to be steered with magnets. The inner surface is chemically treated to repel water so that when it is submerged in water, an air bubble spontaneously forms inside the micromotor. Learn More

A nationwide team of researchers has found an antibody that protects mice against a wide range of potentially lethal influenza viruses, advancing efforts to design of a universal vaccine that could either treat or protect people against all strains of the virus. The study, which Scripps Research conducted jointly with Washington University School of Medicine in St. Louis and Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai in New York, points to a new approach to tackle severe cases of the flu, including pandemics. The research is published in the October 25th, 2019 issue of Science. Learn More

For all its well-earned fame, the gene-editing tool CRISPR is, in reality, pretty hard on the genome. It's a pair of DNA scissors that cuts the double helix, and what's called "editing" is actually a cell's hasty attempt to patch things back together. That introduces errors: critics have even called these unpredictable changes a form of "genome vandalism." This week, in the latest-and possibly most important-of recent improvements to CRISPR technology, researchers at Harvard have introduced "prime editing," a molecular gadget they say can rewrite any type of genetic error without actually severing the DNA strand, as CRISPR does. Learn More

Gene therapy has broadened the treatment possibilities for those with immune system deficiencies and blood-based conditions, such as sickle cell anemia and leukemia. But today's standard process for administering gene therapy is expensive and time-consuming -- a result of the many steps required to deliver the healthy genes into the patients' blood stem cells to correct a genetic problem. In a discovery that appears in the journal Blood, scientists at Scripps Research believe they have found a way to sidestep some of the current difficulties, resulting in a more efficient gene delivery method that would save money and improve treatment outcomes. Learn More

Cancer cells are masters at avoiding detection, but a new system developed by Yale scientists can make them stand out from the crowd and help the immune system spot and eliminate tumors that other forms of immunotherapies might miss, the researchers reported on October 14th, 2019 in the journal Nature Immunology. The new system reduced or eliminated melanoma and triple-negative breast and pancreatic tumors in mice, even those located far from the primary tumor source, the researchers report. "This is an entirely new form of immunotherapy," said Sidi Chen, assistant professor of genetics and senior author of the study. Learn More

A research group at Ontario's Institute for Cancer Research has discovered a novel cancer-driving mutation in the vast non-coding regions of the human cancer genome, also known as the "dark matter" of human cancer DNA. The mutation, as described in two related studies published in Nature on October 9, 2019, represents a new potential therapeutic target for several types of cancer including brain, liver and blood cancer. This target could be used to develop novel treatments for patients with these difficult-to-treat diseases. The research group discovered that the mutation, termed the U1-snRNA mutation, could disrupt normal RNA splicing and thereby alter the transcription of cancer-driving genes. Learn More

In a recently published study, the laboratory of Dario C. Altieri, M.D., Wistar president and CEO, director of the Institute's Cancer Center and the Robert & Penny Fox Distinguished Professor, showed that MFF is highly expressed in cancer and interacts with VDAC1, a key regulator of mitochondrial cell death, to keep tumor cells alive. Altieri and collaborators analyzed the structure of the MFF-VDAC1 interface to determine what portions of the MFF protein are required for its interaction with VDAC1. As a result, this induced acute mitochondrial dysfunction and consequently cell death. These results appeared online in the journal Cancer Research. Learn More

MIT chemical engineers have now developed a new series of lipid nanoparticles to deliver such vaccines. They showed that the particles trigger efficient production of the protein encoded by the RNA, and they also behave like an "adjuvant," further boosting the vaccine effectiveness. In a study of mice, they used this RNA vaccine to successfully inhibit the growth of melanoma tumors. The study appears in the September 30th issue of Nature Biotechnology. "One of the key discoveries of this paper is that you can build RNA delivery lipids that can also activate the immune system in important ways," says Daniel Anderson, an associate professor in MIT's Department of Chemical Engineering. Learn More

Within six months of the U.S. FDA's move to restrict the label of two immunotherapies, usage of those therapies among oncologists dropped by about 50 percent, according to a new study from researchers in the Abramson Cancer Center at the University of Pennsylvania. The findings come as the world of cancer medicine grapples with the rapid pace of approval for new therapies, particularly as it relates to the FDA's accelerated approval (AA) program. Researchers say these findings offer reassurance that oncologists can be nimble enough to quickly incorporate the latest guidelines into their practices when new safety data comes to light. JAMA published the results this week. Learn More

Bioinorganic chemist Osami Shoji of Nagoya University and collaborators have found a way to hijack this 'haem acquisition system' for drug delivery. They developed a powder formed of HasA and the pigment gallium phthalocyanine (GaPc), which, when applied to a culture of P. aeruginosa, was consumed by the bacteria. The technique killed 99.9% of Pseudomonas aeruginosa, a potentially deadly, antibiotic-resistant bacterium present in hospitals. The strategy should also work for other dangerous bacteria. The strategy also worked on other bacteria with the HasR receptor on their membranes, but not on ones without it. Learn More

The complexity of molecular structures in the cell is amazing. Having achieved great success in elucidating these structures in recent years, biologists are now taking on the next challenge: to find out more about how they are constructed. A new research project now provides insight into a very unusual construction process in the unicellular parasite Trypanosoma brucei. The parasite Trypanosoma brucei was used as a model system since its mitoribosomes are particularly complex and, therefore, likely to require many assembly steps. The researchers could follow all these steps in detail. Learn More

Scientists at Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory (CSHL) have identified 10 cancer drugs currently in clinical trials that do not work how clinicians thought they would. In identifying what went wrong, experts can now work to improve drug discovery and personalized medicine. The discovery started out with an entirely different goal. Over the past few years, CSHL Fellow Jason Sheltzer's lab has been working to identify genes tied to low survival rates among cancer patients. During this work, the researchers discovered that MELK, a protein often found in high levels in tumors, has absolutely no influence on cancer growth. Learn More

A small clinical study in California has suggested for the first time that it might be possible to reverse the body's epigenetic clock, which measures a person's biological age. For one year, nine healthy volunteers took a cocktail of three common drugs - growth hormone and two diabetes medications - and on average shed 2.5 years of their biological ages, measured by analyzing marks on a person's genomes. The participants' immune systems also showed signs of rejuvenation. The results were a surprise even to the trial organizers - but researchers caution that the findings are preliminary because the trial was small and did not include a control arm. Learn More

Researchers at Oregon State University have made an important advance toward understanding why certain cells in the nervous system are prone to breaking down and dying, which is what happens in patients with ALS and other neurodegenerative disorders. The study into the role a protein known as heat shock protein 90 plays in intracellular signaling is a key step on the way to figuring out the reason some motor neurons in the spinal cord die and some do not. Findings, which could eventually lead to therapies to counter motor neuron death, were published in Experimental Biology and Medicine. Learn More

Genentech has announced that the Phase III BLOCKSTONE study showed preventive treatment with Xofluza™ (baloxavir marboxil) after exposure to an infected household member significantly reduced the risk of people developing the flu by 86 percent versus placebo. The results show just 1.9 percent of Xofluza-treated household members had the flu compared with 13.6 percent in the placebo-treated group. This benefit with Xofluza remained statistically significant versus placebo regardless of influenza A subtype. No serious adverse events were reported for Xofluza. Learn More

The ability to edit genes in living organisms offers the opportunity to treat a plethora of inherited diseases. However, many types of gene-editing tools are unable to target critical areas of DNA. and creating such a technology has been difficult as living tissue contains diverse types of cells. Now, Salk Institute researchers have developed a new tool -- dubbed SATI -- to edit the mouse genome, enabling the team to target a broad range of mutations and cell types. The new genome-editing technology, described in Cell Research on August 23rd, 2019, could be expanded for use in a broad range of gene mutation conditions. Learn More

A cancer therapy invented at Rice University has crossed a milestone in clinical trials, a major development in a decades long quest to develop a treatment that destroys tumors without the debilitating side effects of chemotherapy, invasive surgery and radiation. Thirteen of the first 15 prostate cancer patients treated in a clinical trial of the nanoparticle-based, focal therapy showed no detectable signs of cancer a year after treatment, according to a study published this week in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (PNAS). Learn More

Reproductive biologists at Weill Cornell Medicine in New York City are attempting to use the powerful gene-editing technique called CRISPR to alter genes in human sperm. The research is aimed at finding new ways to prevent disorders caused by genetic mutations that are passed down from men - including some forms of male infertility. The team is starting with a gene that can increase the risk for breast, ovarian, prostate and other cancers. The experiments are just starting and have not yet been successful. But the research raises many of the same hopes - and fears - as editing the DNA of human embryos. Nevertheless, the researchers defend the work. Learn More

The lab of Cheryl Kerfeld at Michigan State University has created a synthetic nano-sized factory, based on natural ones found in bacteria. To accomplish this researchers shuffled segments of the amino acid sequence and glued the original ends together. They then introduced new termini on the inner face of the protein. The result is a new, synthetic shell protein that looks almost identical to its natural counterpart. The team tested the concept by fusing a fluorescent cargo protein to the new BMC-H protein. Microscopy and biochemical testing show the cargo on the inside of the shell. The new study is published in Metabolic Engineering. Learn More

Scientists have discovered that the building blocks of proteins can stabilize cell membranes. This finding may explain how the first cells emerged from the primordial soup billions of years ago: The protein building blocks could have stabilized cell membranes against salt and ions that were present in ancient oceans. In addition, membranes may have been a site for these precursor molecules to co-localize, a potential mechanism to explain what brought together the ingredients for life. The findings, published this week in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, go beyond explaining how amino acids could have stabilized membranes in unfavorable environments. Learn More

A team of biologists has discovered how cells become different from each other during embryogenesis, a finding that offers new insights into genetic activity and has implications for better understanding the onset of disease and birth defects. Specifically, previous research had identified promoters -- or "on/off" switches" -- for thousands of genes. However, these studies had not delineated how these promoters are activated, leaving unclear fundamental aspects of how cells become different from each other during embryogenesis. The Molecular Cell study focused on a gene called hunchback (hb), which makes cells in the head region of the fly embryo that are different from cells in the abdomen. Learn More

Researchers for the first time have combined a powerful microscopy technique with automated image analysis algorithms to distinguish between healthy and metastatic cancerous tissue without relying on invasive biopsies or the use of a contrast dye. This new approach could one day help doctors detect cancer metastasis that is otherwise difficult to see via standard imaging technologies during operations. "The method utilized in this work identifies in a completely label-free manner cellular and tissue features at the microscopic level, essentially acting like a biopsy without a knife," added Dimitra Pouli from Tufts University, Medford, Mass., U.S.A., lead author of the study. Learn More

In this week's issue of Science Translational Medicine, researchers at Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center used CRISPR-Cas9 to edit long-lived blood stem cells to reverse the clinical symptoms observed with several blood disorders, including sickle cell disease and beta-thalassemia. It's the first time that scientists have specifically edited the genetic makeup of a specialized subset of adult blood stem cells that are the source of all cells in the blood and immune system. The proof-of-principle study suggests that efficient modification of targeted stem cells could reduce the costs of gene-editing treatments for blood disorders and other diseases while decreasing the risks of unwanted effects that can occur with a less discriminating approach. Learn More

New research from the USC Viterbi School of Engineering could be key to our understanding of how the aging process works. The findings potentially pave the way for better cancer treatments and revolutionary new drugs that could vastly improve human health in the twilight years. The work, from Assistant Professor of Chemical Engineering and Materials Science Nick Graham and his team in collaboration with Scott Fraser, Provost Professor of Biological Sciences and Biomedical Engineering, and Pin Wang, Zohrab A. Kaprielian Fellow in Engineering, was recently published in the Journal of Biological Chemistry. Learn More

A new molecular mechanism discovered by UT Southwestern researchers indicates that drugs currently used to treat less than 10 percent of breast cancer patients could have broader effectiveness in treating all cancers where the drugs are used, including ovarian and prostate cancers. The new study also revealed a potential biomarker indicating when these drugs, called PARP inhibitors, can be unleashed in the fight against cancer. This research helps explain why breast cancer patients can be responsive to PARP inhibitors even if they don't have BRCA gene mutations. The research team's findings were published in the journal Molecular Cell this week. Learn More

University of Calgary researchers are the first to discover a previously unidentified cell population in the pericardial fluid found inside the sac around the heart. The discovery could lead to new treatments for patients with injured hearts. The study led by Drs. Paul Kubes, PhD, Justin Deniset, PhD and Paul Fedak, MD, PhD is published in the journal Immunity. The Kubes lab, in collaboration with the Fedak lab, found that a specific cell, a Gata6+ pericardial cavity macrophage, helps heal an injured heart in mice. The cell was discovered in the pericardial fluid of a mouse with a heart injury. Learn More

Peptides, one of the fundamental building blocks of life, can be formed from the primitive precursors of amino acids under conditions similar to those expected on the primordial Earth, finds a new UCL study. The findings, published in Nature, could be a missing piece of the puzzle of how life first formed. "This is the first time that peptides have been convincingly shown to form without using amino acids in water, using relatively gentle conditions likely to be available on the primitive Earth," said co-author Dr Saidul Islam (UCL Chemistry). Learn More