Editors' Choice

Science  21 Jun 2019:
Vol. 364, Issue 6446, pp. 1147
  1. Immunology

    BeATing back obesity

    1. Seth Thomas Scanlon

    Lipids in breast milk delay the transition from beige to white adipose tissue and protect against obesity.


    Children who are breastfed appear to be at a lower risk for obesity later in life. One explanation is that breast milk may somehow prevent the premature transition from beige adipose tissue (BeAT) to white adipose tissue during childhood and adolescence. Yu et al. report that alkylglycerol ether lipids found in breast milk maintain the BeAT of infant mice. Adipose tissue macrophages metabolize these lipids into platelet-activating factor, which then induces macrophage release of interleukin-6, signal transducer and activator of transcription 3 (STAT3) signaling in adipocytes, and the development of BeAT. Although usually inactivated in adulthood, this pathway resurrects in obese adipose tissue, indicating a degree of metabolic flexibility that could be exploited for therapeutic applications.

    J. Clin. Invest. 129, 2485 (2019).

  2. Information Storage

    Storing information in molbytes

    1. Yury Suleymanov

    Present technologies for storing information have been developed over many decades, and each has its own weaknesses and strengths. In this work, Cafferty et al. present a possible alternative storage approach that uses mixtures of small organic molecules (“molbytes,” oligopeptides in the present study), distinguishable by mass spectrometry, to encode, write, store, and read any information in a binary manner. Each new message depends entirely on simple physical manipulations with the molecules, so no additional synthesis is required. The proposed strategy is in its early development stage but demonstrates that the chemistry of small molecules can potentially offer alternative approaches for secure long-term, zero-energy storage of information.

    ACS Cent. Sci. 5, 911 (2019).

  3. Psychology

    Social media use and mental health

    1. Tage S. Rai

    Adolescents using social media on their smartphones


    There has been public concern that increasing social media use among adolescents may cause reduced well-being. Orben et al. analyzed social media use among more than 12,000 teenagers in the United Kingdom over the course of 8 years to determine whether increased social media use predicted reduced life satisfaction over time. They found virtually no effect of social media use on life satisfaction either between individuals or in the same individual across time. These results suggest that concern over the use of social media and its relationship to mental health may be unwarranted.

    Proc. Natl. Acad. Sci. U.S.A. 116, 10226 (2019).

  4. Aging

    Senescent beta cells

    1. L. Bryan Ray

    Removal of senescent cells, which accumulate during aging, may have clinical utility in managing chronic diseases. One chronic disease commonly associated with aging is type 2 diabetes. Diabetes develops when pancreatic beta cells age and senesce, which then contributes to failure of glucose homeostasis. Aguayo-Mazzucato et al. investigated senescence of the insulin-producing beta cells in mouse models of diabetes. Removal of senescent cells with drug treatment or by specific depletion of cells expressing the marker p16Ink4a in transgenic mice helped restore beta-cell function. Similar properties were observed in cultured human beta cells—results that hint of translational possibilities.

    Cell Metab. 10.1016/j.cmet.2019.05.006 (2019).

  5. Neuroscience

    Imagination as a dialogue

    1. Peter Stern

    The hippocampus constructs scene imagery to facilitate recollected or imagined mental representations. However, input from the ventromedial prefrontal cortex (vmPFC) is also needed for scene construction. How do these regions interact when we imagine a scene? Barry et al. addressed this question using magnetoencephalography. Participants imagined novel scenes or single objects after being given a cue. The direction of information flow during scene imagination mirrored that observed during episodic memory retrieval, in which vmPFC drives hippocampal activity. These results indicate that the vmPFC selects the elements for a scene, whereas the hippocampus is necessary to construct the scene imagery. The vmPFC strongly modulates the construction of spatially coherent, contextually appropriate scene imagery. Episodic memory and imagination thus use similar regional dialogue in the brain.

    J. Neurosci. 39, 4375 (2019).

  6. Cell Biology

    QC keeps on keeping on

    1. Stella M. Hurtley

    Several protein quality control processes have been identified that monitor and remove misfolded or damaged proteins in the endoplasmic reticulum. Schmidt et al. asked whether additional pathways monitor proteins further along the secretory pathway in the Golgi complex and the endosome. They identified a degradation pathway in budding yeast cells associated with endosome and Golgi, which they named EGAD. EGAD extracts membrane proteins from the Golgi and endosomes, allowing them to become substrates for cytosolic proteasomal degradation. An important cellular substrate of this pathway is a protein called Orm2, which is involved in down-regulating sphingolipid biosynthesis. The selective degradation of Orm2 facilitates the homeostatic regulation of sphingolipid biosynthesis.

    EMBO J. 10.15252/embj.2018101433 (2019).

  7. Nanomaterials

    Enhancing nanodiamond sensors

    1. Phil Szuromi

    The fluorescence and spin properties of nitrogen vacancy (NV) centers in nanodiamonds could make them useful sensors when linked to biomolecules. Although nanodiamonds with diameters of about 5 nanometers can be extracted from the products of closed-chamber detonation of explosives like trinitrotoluene, the number of spin-triplet (negatively charged) NV centers can be too low to ensure that each nanodiamond is active. Terada et al. show that irradiation of detonation nanodiamonds with a sufficient fluence of 2 mega–electron volt electrons can increase the number of negatively charged NV centers by a factor of 4. The irradiation process aggregated the nanodiamonds, but they were redispersed with boiling oxidizing acid.

    ACS Nano 10.1021/acsnano.8b09383 (2019).