Editors' Choice

Science  13 Nov 2015:
Vol. 350, Issue 6262, pp. 784
  1. Immunology

    Worming your way out of allergies

    1. Kristen L. Mueller

    Intestinal worms, aided by a microbiome-rich gut, reduce allergies


    Accumulating evidence suggests that infection with intestinal parasitic worms can protect against allergy. Zaiss et al. investigated how worms reduce allergic reactions, using mice chronically infected with the parasitic worm Heligmosomoides polygyrus. They found that worms could reduce the incidence of allergy in mice harboring an intestinal microbiota but not in mice treated with oral antibiotics. The intestinal microbiota of mice infected with H. polygyrus produced larger amounts of short-chain fatty acids (SCFAs) than did uninfected mice. Moreover, mice had to express the protein receptor for SCFA in order for worms to protect them from developing allergies. Worm-infected pigs and people also had elevated amounts of SCFAs, suggesting that these metabolites may play a similar role in other organisms.

    Immunity 10.1016/j.immuni.2015.09.012 (2015).

  2. Neuroscience

    Birds who can't carry a tune

    1. Laura Schuhmacher

    Huntington's disease (HD) presents with a progressive decline of cognitive and motor functions, including speech impairments such as stuttering. Liu et al. have created the first transgenic songbirds by injecting zebra finch embryos with a lentivirus carrying human wild-type (WT) or mutant huntingtin. Young transgenic birds had difficulties in copying song elements from WT tutors when compared to WT youngsters, and their song was highly repetitive (stuttering). They also lost song complexity over time as adults. In these birds, the brain regions associated with song showed neuronal loss and accumulation of huntingtin protein similar to that observed in HD. Transgenic songbirds will be useful models for vocal disorders, because their vocal learning process is similar to that of humans.

    Nat. Neurosci. 10.1038/nn.4133 (2015).

  3. Neuroscience

    Cannabinoids provide the runner's reward

    1. L. Bryan Ray

    The “runner's high”—beneficial effects of prolonged exercise that reduce anxiety and pain perception—in mice appears to depend on the production of endogenous cannabinoids rather than endorphins. Mice allowed to do their normal running on a wheel (about 5 km per day) had increased circulating concentrations of β-endorphin (an opioid) and anandamide (an endocannabinoid). Fuss et al. found that the depletion of cannabinoid receptor 1 in neurons of the forebrain reduced the beneficial effects of running on anxiety-like behavior and tolerance to a painful stimulus.

    Proc. Natl. Acad. Sci. U.S.A. 10.1073/pnas.1514996112 (2015).

  4. Cancer Biology

    The perils of stress reduction

    1. Paula A. Kiberstis

    In today's health-conscious world, it is not unusual for a food item to achieve “superfood” status simply because it contains high levels of “cancer-fighting” antioxidants. This view may be simplistic, because cancer develops and progresses in multiple steps that potentially respond differently to antioxidants. Two new studies converge on the theme that, in the setting of metastasis, antioxidants help the cancer cell and hurt the host. Piskounova et al. show that melanoma cells that successfully metastasized in mice were those that had undergone certain metabolic changes that allowed them to withstand oxidative stress. Le Gal et al. show that the administration of antioxidants to mice that were predisposed to melanoma had no effect on primary tumor development, but enhanced lymph node metastases.

    Nature 10.1038/nature15726 (2015); Science Transl. Med. 7, 308re8 (2015).

  5. Solar Cells

    Getting around solar cell loss

    1. Ian S. Osborne

    The overall performance of a solar cell depends on many parameters, but harnessing as much light as possible and converting it into electricity are fundamental. Losses in that conversion process, however, are inevitable, either from electrical losses in the material or the connecting circuitry, or “shadow loss” from the contact circuitry itself as it blocks out the sun. Schumann et al. show that the principle of optical cloaking could be used to reduce shadow loss. They designed a cloak that is placed over the shadowing contact circuits, effectively rendering the contacts invisible. With more light reaching the cell, it should be able to squeeze out a little more performance.

    Optica 2, 850 (2015).

  6. Induced Seismicity

    Loading up concern for a triggered quake

    1. Brent Grocholski

    Earthquakes of magnitude 4.0, 4.3, and 4.5 have hit the oil and gas hub of Cushing, Oklahoma, over the past 2 years. By considering the two smaller earthquakes, McNamara et al. suggest that a much larger earthquake could occur directly below the Cushing oil facility. Earthquakes can redistribute stress, and in this case it appears that this has occurred on the Wilzetta-Whitetail fault just south of Cushing. The most recent, larger earthquake adds to the concern that a more damaging quake is in the region's future.

    Geophys. Res. Lett. 10.1002/2015GL064669 (2015).

  7. Nanomaterials

    From nanoparticle to supercage

    1. Phil Szuromi

    Copper (II) hydroxide [Cu(OH)2] can serve as mimic for peroxidase enzymes, provided that internal spaces can be created for substrate molecules. Cai et al. show that hollow nanoribbon cages form by adding a copper-ammonia complex to a mixture of amorphous Cu(OH)2 nanoparticles and polyvinylpyrrolidone. Copper ions from the nanoparticle surface reform into arrays of nanoribbons held together by hydrogen bonding to create a box-shaped cage with edge lengths of ~200 nm. These cages showed high activity for the reaction of peroxide with organic substrates such as 3,3′,5,5′-tetramethylbenzidine.

    J. Am. Chem. Soc. 10.1021/jacs.5b09337 (2015).