Editors' Choice

Science  01 Jul 2016:
Vol. 353, Issue 6294, pp. 40
  1. Political Science

    Inducing potential voters to go the polls

    1. Gilbert Chin

    “Naming” not as effective as “shaming” in getting voters to the polls.


    A key challenge for any political campaign is to get its voters to actually vote. Field experiments have demonstrated that canvassing and phone calls are more effective than direct mail; all of these interventions increase voter participation by 0.5 to as much as 3 percentage points. With this in mind, Gerber et al. have reexamined an intervention based on the theory that nouns describe more stable attributes than verbs; for instance, “I am a Republican” versus “I vote for Republicans.” They find, using 11,000 voters across three U.S. states, no difference between “noun” and “verb” phone calls and that neither message is as effective as referring to social norms in getting voters to the polls.

    Proc. Natl. Acad. Sci. U.S.A. 113, 10.1073/pnas.1513727113 (2016).

  2. Drug Delivery

    Drinking straws for the stomach

    1. Marc S. Lavine

    Nanostraw membranes can provide prolonged and proximal drug release.


    Systemic drug delivery to the gut by oral ingestion is simpler and more direct than routes such as an intravenous feed or an injection. However, barriers that line the stomach, high pH, enzymatic degradation, and limited residence time limit delivery. Fox et al. designed planar devices that are sealed with a membrane containing an array of stiff hollow tubes. Drugs are loaded by immersing the straws into a solution and allowing it to diffuse into the reservoir of the device. In vitro and ex vivo testing show that the straws enhance adhesion of the devices to the intestinal epithelium, while limiting the uptake of foreign molecules into the reservoir, and allow for tunable drug delivery when exposed to fluid flow.

    ACS Nano 10.1021/acsnano.6b00809 (2016).

  3. Mathematical Brains

    A special brain network for mathematics

    1. Peter Stern

    Is language involved in mathematical thinking? Amalric and Dehaene scanned the brains of professional mathematicians and naïve study participants while they were performing a true-false reasoning task, either with advanced mathematical statements or with general knowledge statements. There were clear behavioral and brain-imaging differences between the two groups. Expert mathematical reasoning was underpinned by a brain network that is also used in basic quantity and number processing. This math-specific network was clearly distinct from the canonical language network.

    Proc. Natl. Acad. Sci. U.S.A. 113, 4909 (2016).

  4. Cell Biology

    Activating Inflammation

    1. Stella M. Hurtley

    Calcium recruitment contributes to cell swelling and inflammation in wound healing.

    PHOTO: ENYEDI ET AL.; CELL (19 MAY 2016) © 2016 CELL PRESS

    Nuclear swelling recruits leukocytes, and cell swelling directly induces inflammation, but how cells convert changes in volume into inflammatory signals is unclear. Enyedi et al. combined quantitative imaging in live zebrafish and in cell culture and identified a mechanism by which both cell swelling and cell lysis stimulate the production of highly inflammatory lipid mediators. Swollen nuclei of permeabilized or swollen cells attracted leukocytes in vivo. Cell swelling induced nuclear swelling, which caused an enzyme in the inner nuclear membrane to release proinflammatory lipids. Restriction of nuclear swelling by actin filaments could limit this response. Thus, the nucleus plays an unexpected mechanosensory function to sense cell swelling and lysis and activate inflammatory signaling.

    Cell 165, 1160 (2016).

  5. Education

    On the origin of the achievement gap

    1. Melissa McCartney

    Implicit bias is well documented in education, although specific examples and underlying causes are less understood. To learn more about teacher biases, Gershenson et al. used a student fixed-effects strategy to examine the formation of public school teachers' expectations of student educational attainment. Using representative U.S. survey data that contain two teachers' expectations for each student, the effect of student-teacher demographic mismatch was examined. Analysis showed that nonblack teachers have significantly lower educational expectations for black students than do black teachers. These results are the starting point for many additional, and necessary, research projects on this type of bias: How does it form, how can it be eliminated, and what are the long-term effects of its persistence?

    Econ. Edu. Rev. 10.1016/j.econedurev.2016.03.002 (2016).

  6. Biofuels

    Induction is the key to production

    1. Nicholas S. Wigginton

    The enzymatic conversion of lignocellulose to glucose is a bottleneck in the biological production of ethanol. Inducing the synthesis of active cellulytic enzymes is critical for enhancing the conversion efficiency of a bioreactor. Li et al. developed a method to stimulate the production of high amounts of cellulase in the fungus Trichoderma reesei. The most effective inducer was a sugar mixture synthesized from glucose, which contains sophorose. Batch feeding of the mixture resulted in high cellulase production at levels three to five times higher than previously measured. Adding pretreated corn stover to the reactor resulted in high yields of glucose and of conversion to ethanol.

    Bioresour. Technol. 216, 503 (2016).

  7. Neurodevelopment

    Neural tube on a chip

    1. Pamela J. Hines

    The information that converts an unruly mob of stem cells into an organized, structured tissue, such as the neural tube, includes diffusible factors and three-dimensional constraints. Demers et al. have now constructed a microfluidics device to deliver morphogens at the right time, right place, and in the right sequence for a simplified, experimentally accessible recapitulation of the normal developmental milieu. In this device, mouse stem cells differentiate into motor neurons, not by reading a gradient but rather by reading a specific concentration of the morphogen SHH, which in normal development is present as a gradient. Nascent neurites may, however, be reading a gradient to orient.

    Development 143, 10.1242/dev.126847 (2016).

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