Editors' Choice

Science  20 Jan 2017:
Vol. 355, Issue 6322, pp. 258
  1. Drug Discovery

    Brain cancer therapy

    1. Lisa D. Chong

    Targeted drug therapy may help improve radiation treatment of deadly brain cancer.


    Glioblastoma multiforme (GBM) is a deadly brain cancer, and a major challenge to its treatment with radiation is that the approach often leads to an even more aggressive form of the cancer. Kegelman et al. report that targeting a scaffolding protein called MDA-9 or syntenin (encoded by melanoma differentiation-associated gene 9) with a small-molecule inhibitor may prevent this outcome. The drug targets a protein interaction domain (PDZ1) in MDA-9, blocking key signaling pathways that promote invasiveness and proliferation in cultured glioblastoma cells. The drug also boosted tumor sensitivity to radiation and improved survival in a mouse model of GBM. The results suggest a possible path to targeted brain cancer therapy.

    Prod. Natl. Acad. Sci. U.S.A. 10.1073/pnas.1616100114 (2016).

  2. Hematopoiesis

    DNA methylation in hematopoietic cascade

    1. Beverly A. Purnell

    DNA methylation is well known for its role in repressing gene expression. However, analyzing patterns of this modification across the genome of pools of cells now reveals features of cell heterogeneity, cell differentiation, and cell lineage relationship. Farlik et al. examined DNA methylation dynamics of 17 hematopoietic cell types. They found that hematopoietic stem cells from different sources (fetal liver, cord blood, bone marrow, and peripheral blood), as well as lineage-specific progenitors, have different methylation characteristics. Using the DNA methylation profiling data, a computational model of human hematopoietic differentiation was derived, so that sorted cell populations could be placed in a developmental context. In addition to elucidating the hematopoietic cascade, this work has potential for understanding diseases of the blood.

    Cell Stem Cell 19, 808 (2016).

  3. Disease Detection

    An intelligent little sniffer

    1. Marc S. Lavine

    From ancient medical tests to roadside sobriety tests to cancer-sniffing dogs, the analysis of compounds in a puff of breath has long been used for clinical diagnoses. When equipped with a targeted sensor, devices using nanosized materials can detect specific volatile organic compounds (VOCs) and thus be targeted to a single disease condition. Nakhleh et al. follow a different approach, in which sensors based on modified gold nanoparticles and carbon nanotubes are used to identify 17 different disease conditions. Rather than searching for a single VOC, their sensors could identify a range of VOCs, albeit with less sensitivity, and were able to identify patterns of detection that correlated with each of the different diseases.

    ACS Nano 10.1021/acsnano.6b04930 (2016).

  4. Photochemistry

    A different kind of chemical plant

    1. Jake Yeston

    Leaves are beautifully compact photochemical reactors, especially in comparison with the glass flask and lamp combinations prevalent in chemistry laboratories. Cambié et al. now report an artificial leaf that takes the architecture of the natural version closely to heart. Specifically, red-emitting dye is embedded in a polydimethylsiloxane light-guiding matrix fitted with microchannels. Those channels host a flowing reaction medium wherein methylene blue absorbs the red light to sensitize formation of singlet oxygen, which proceeds to react with diphenylanthracene. Outdoor testing confirmed the device's capacity to drive productive photochemistry with diffuse sunlight.

    Angew. Chem. Int. Ed. Engl. 10.1002/anie.201611101 (2016).

  5. Sensory Biology

    Blind climber

    1. Sacha Vignieri

    Vietnamese dormice rely on echolocation to navigate complex arboreal environments.


    It is well known that bats and toothed whales use echolocation for foraging, but the use of reflected echoes for orientation has not previously been confirmed in other mammals, though many have advanced nonvisual sensory abilities. Panyutina et al. examined the rare Vietnamese dormouse (Typhlomys chapensis), an arboreal rodent with vestigial eyes, and found evidence that they not only use echolocation for orientation, but do so to navigate complex arboreal environments with no visual assistance, because their retinae are nonfunctional. The rarity of the species makes it difficult to study, but these results could lead to the finding of echolocation across more species within the family and may help to solve ongoing debates about the evolution of echolocation.

    Integr. Zool. 10.1111/1749-4877.12249 (2016).

  6. Behavior

    Know who you are asking for money

    1. Gilbert Chin

    Tailoring your message to your audience is useful advice, not only for job-seeking seminar speakers but also for referee-seeking editors. Whillans et al. provide field evidence for how this advice might increase the willingness to donate to charitable organizations, as well as the amounts donated. They found that appeals based on togetherness and community worked better at eliciting donations from those of moderate income (roughly $50,000 or less), whereas solicitations describing achievement and agency were more effective when pitched to individuals with incomes greater than $100,000.

    J. Exp. Soc. Psychol. 10.1016/j.jesp.2016.11.009 (2016).

  7. Ceramics

    Making garnets the hard way

    1. Brent Grocholski

    Chemically distinct synthetic nanopolycrystalline garnets


    Several techniques can alter ceramics to enhance properties such as hardness or tune optical properties for specific applications. Irifune et al. used high pressures and temperatures to synthesize extremely hard yet optically transparent garnets. They produced several colors of garnets by changing the chemical composition. The high-quality garnet samples owe their exceptional properties to being nanopolycrystalline, with the high-pressure synthesis avoiding pitfalls such as the introduction of pore space that plague other techniques. This technique may provide a new route for the development of nanograined ceramics for use in optical devices.

    Nat. Commun. 10.1038/ncomms13753 (2016).

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