Editors' Choice

Science  10 Nov 2017:
Vol. 358, Issue 6364, pp. 759
  1. Neuroscience

    Controlling cellular calcium concentration

    1. Peter Stern

    Immunostaining of basigin (red), a key regulator of Ca2+ transport, in the cerebellum

    CREDIT: N. SCHMIDT ET AL., NEURON 10.1016/J.NEURON.2017.09.038 (2017)

    Calcium-based signaling is used in many cellular and neuronal processes to initiate rapid responses to extracellular signals. Cells therefore maintain tight control over intracellular Ca2+ levels, using a variety of channels and pumps. Plasma membrane Ca2+-ATPases (PMCAs) are present in virtually all types of cells and transport Ca2+ to the extracellular space. Schmidt et al. used high-resolution proteomics, electrophysiology, biochemistry, and immunocytochemistry on wild-type and knockout cells and animals to study PMCA-interacting proteins. They identified two proteins, neuroplastin and basigin, as previously unrecognized auxiliary subunits of PMCAs. Both neuroplastin and basigin are essential for the stability of the heterotetrameric PMCA complexes and for efficient control of PMCA-mediated Ca2+ removal under resting conditions and after activity-initiated Ca2+ influx.

    Neuron 10.1016/j.neuron.2017.09.038 (2017).

  2. Clinical Trials

    A drug that fights both heart attack and cancer

    1. Priscilla N. Kelly

    Most drugs for heart disease work by lowering cholesterol. Yet even people with normal cholesterol levels can have heart attacks, suggesting that cholesterol is only one contributing factor. A new study reveals a key role for the pro-inflammatory molecule interleukin-1β (IL-1β) in cardiovascular disease. Ridker et al. report a clinical trial of more than 10,000 people who had previously suffered a heart attack. They find that the drug canakinumab lowered the incidence of stroke, recurrent heart attack, or cardiovascular death by around 15%. Canakinumab works by specifically targeting IL-1β–driven inflammation without affecting cholesterol. In the same trial, the drug was also associated with improved survival of patients with lung cancer. However, the trial was not without a downside, and individuals taking canakinumab had significantly higher risk of death from infections.

    N. Engl. J. Med. 10.1056/NEJMoa1707914 (2017); Lancet 10.1016/S01406736(17)32247-X (2017).

  3. Machine Learnings

    Jail or bail? Machines versus judges

    1. Brad Wible

    Decisions about whether to grant bail could be better made by a machine than by a human.


    Predictions based on machine learning could outperform judges when deciding which defendants to jail before trial and which to release on bail. Kleinberg et al. exploited data on more than 758,000 defendants who were arrested in New York City between 2008 and 2013. Compared with carefully devised counterfactual scenarios based on actual judges' decisions, the machine predictions based on defendants' histories could reduce crime by up to 25% with no increase in jailing, or reduce jailing up to 42% with no increase in crime. All categories of crime, including violent crimes, could be reduced, and, critically, so could racial disparities in jailing rates.

    Quart. J. Econ. 10.1093/qje/qjx032 (2017).

  4. Cancer

    Modeling human tumors—an imperfect art

    1. Paula A. Kiberstis

    Thousands of mice are cured of cancer each year by rationally designed drugs. Only a small percentage of these drugs prove to be effective in cancer patients, largely because mouse tumors do not accurately mimic human tumors. To circumvent this problem, many researchers now use patient-derived xenograft (PDX) models, where human tumor fragments are implanted into mice and propagated by serial transplantation. A genomics study by Ben-David et al. raises concerns about the predictive power of PDX models. They examined copy number alterations in 1110 PDXs from 24 cancer types and found that the PDXs display a different pattern of genomic evolution from that of in-patient tumors. Preliminary analyses revealed that these genomic differences translate into differences in therapeutic response.

    Nat. Genet. 10.1038/ng.3967 (2017).

  5. Workforce

    Not all STEM teachers work in a classroom

    1. Melissa McCartney

    There are many ways to develop the STEM (science, technology, engineering, and mathematics) workforce. The CalTeach program integrates evidence, best practices of pedagogy, internship, and reflection to provide opportunities for students to explore STEM teaching. Whang-Sayson et al. investigated the impact of the CalTeach program on students who ultimately chose not to become teachers. This “nonteaching” population was surveyed regarding their attitudes and beliefs about education, including their appreciation of teachers, being informed about education issues in their community, and likelihood of participating in STEM outreach programs. Results were positive, indicating that, when structured as service-learning experiences with classroom exposure, teacher recruitment programs can positively affect the attitudes of those students who do not choose teaching careers, ultimately positioning them to become advocates for STEM education.

    J. Coll. Sci. Teach. 47, 24 (2017).

  6. Neurodevelopment

    Astrocytes regulating synaptogenesis

    1. Pamela J. Hines

    Brain circuitry develops as neurons connect at synapses. Farhy-Tselnicker et al., studying retinal ganglion cells, explored the signaling pathways that ensure that such synapses are timely and meaningful. In the developing mouse visual system, astrocytes are in place and expressing glypican as the synapses begin to form. Glypican, tethered by RPTP receptors on a presynaptic neuronal surface, causes that neuron to release pentraxin, which stabilizes clusters of neurotransmitter receptors on the postsynaptic surface. Mice with disruptions in this pathway were deficient in synapse formation. Thus, astrocytes tell the presynaptic neuron just when to reach out to its postsynaptic partner.

    Neuron 96, 428–445 (2017).

  7. Biomaterials

    Healing powers of dressing well

    1. Marc S. Lavine

    Simple dressings, such as bandages, are used to protect against wound infection but can also be enhanced to actively promote wound healing. Critical factors are the permeation of oxygen and maintaining the right level of moisture. On the flip side, high concentrations of hydrogen peroxide can delay healing by preventing the formation of connective tissue. Hu et al. show that hematite nanoparticles, which have shown enzymatic-like activity for the conversion of peroxide into water and oxygen, can be added to poly(vinyl alcohol) membranes made from electrospun fibers. The membranes, cross-linked to retain the particles, were particularly effective at reducing toxic levels of peroxide, allowing fibroblasts to grow unhindered.

    ACS Appl. Mater. Interfaces 10.1021/acsami.7b12212 (2017).