Science  19 Aug 2011:
Vol. 333, Issue 6045, pp. 923

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  1. Volcano Erupts on Schedule

    Hot stuff.

    New lava at Axial Seamount.


    Bill Chadwick, a geophysicist at Oregon State University, Corvallis, has got one volcano's number. Five years ago, Chadwick and colleagues predicted that the Axial Seamount, an undersea volcano 400 kilometers off the coast of Oregon, would erupt close to 2014. And in late July, they discovered that the submerged smoker had done just that in April—just a little ahead of schedule. “What should've been a routine trip turned out to be a very exciting one,” Chadwick says.

    During Axial's last eruption in 1998, the seamount deflated, sinking by more than 3 meters. But the volcano began to reinflate as more magma piped into its magma chamber from below. Precise depth sensors showed that the seamount was rising by about 13 to 15 centimeters each year. In a 2006 paper in the Journal of Volcanology and Geothermal Research, the team predicted that the volcano would erupt again when it regained its lost height. That would happen sometime around 2014, the team estimated.

    Volcanoes are notoriously fickle, Chadwick says—but it may not take another 13 years to see how dependable Axial is. During its April eruption, the seamount collapsed by only 2 meters, suggesting it may not take as long to fill it to bursting again.

  2. 'Serial Killer' Immune Cells Put Cancer in Remission

    Scientists studying cancer have long grappled with how to make T cells, frontline defenders of the immune system, kill tumor cells. Now, scientists have designed a new therapy, described 10 August in two papers in Science Translational Medicine and The New England Journal of Medicine, that can turn these T cells into cancer killers. Immunologist Bruce Levine of the University of Pennsylvania School of Medicine, one of the scientists who created the new treatment, and his colleagues designed a new gene that can be inserted into T cells to trick them into attacking cancerous B cells, the cause of chronic lymphocytic leukemia (CLL).

    In the initial clinical trial, the researchers tested their method in three patients with CLL. They took a sample of each patient's T cells, added the new gene to the cells, and then infused the T cells back into the blood of each patient.

    All three patients are now in remission. On average, for every modified T cell infused into the patients' blood, at least 1000 tumor cells were killed, leading the researchers to dub the T cells “serial killers.” Moreover, after 12 months, blood tests revealed that the patients still had copies of the modified T cells circulating in their bloodstreams able to kill cancer cells.

  3. Worms Enter the Synthetic Age


    Cells making C. elegans's (top) synthetic amino acid shine red.


    Designer proteins aren't just for bacteria anymore. For the first time, scientists have engineered a whole animal to build its proteins with a synthetic amino acid.

    The early adopter is a microscopic worm known as Caenorhabditis elegans. Researchers had previously tweaked the genome of the Escherichia coli bacterium to code for 21 amino acids instead of the typical 20, and now another group has done the same with C. elegans. To track which of the worm's cells made proteins that utilized this extra, artificial building block, the team tagged it with a glowing cherry-red dye. And sure enough, cells that used synthetic amino acids glowed red, the researchers reported online 8 August in the Journal of the American Chemical Society.

    They now hope to create worms with artificial amino acids that can be controlled by light or specific chemicals: a toolkit that would allow researchers to switch specific cells or molecules on and off.