Journal Club

Highlighting recently published papers selected by Academy members

Journal Club: Scientists culture human placenta cells in hopes of understanding pregnancy complications

A collection of human placental cells known as trophoblasts are responsible for much of what goes right in a healthy pregnancy. But growing and studying these cells in the lab has been a major challenge. Now, a team of Japanese … Continue reading

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Journal Club: New clues in the mystery of the mechanism of general anesthetics

Anesthetics have been used in surgery since the mid-1800s, but their exact mechanisms of action continue to be the subject of intense investigation. Past studies have suggested they block neurotransmitter receptors postsynaptically. Now a new study, published January 9 in … Continue reading

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Journal Club: Enzyme helps to speedily create a key chemical bond in the lab, suggesting synthetic chemistry applications 

With just a few chemical tweaks, cellular enzymes can turn some of the most common amino acids into unique compounds that possess antimicrobial or medicinal properties. But in the lab, it’s much harder to derive these molecules when using conventional … Continue reading

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Journal Club: How to measure the global potential for biomass vegetation

Plants play a big role in removing carbon from the atmosphere. Almost a quarter of carbon from car exhaust and industry gets absorbed by vegetation. That’s a significant amount. But a recent study suggests that amount has the potential to … Continue reading

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Journal Club: New technique lights up the connectome, tracking signals across neuronal populations

Neuroscientists still possess an incomplete understanding of how different neurons interface and communicate throughout the brain’s wiring diagram, called the connectome. In a recent eLife article, Caltech molecular neurobiologist Carlos Lois and colleagues introduce a new tool to screen for such … Continue reading

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Journal Club: Cells use waves to regulate mitosis, suggesting similar wave dynamics as myriad natural phenomena

  Over the past decade, biologists have discovered an ever-increasing number of phenomena that exhibit wave-like behavior. Everything from the firing of neurons to the spread of a virus through a population can show a similar pattern: they emanate from … Continue reading

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Journal Club: In the mouse gut, a bacteria-killing virus evolves to attack a new strain

In scientists’ quest to understand how gut microbes affect human health, bacteria take center stage. But bacteriophages, the viruses that attack the bacteria, are often overlooked, says microbiologist Luisa De Sordi of the Institut Pasteur in France. “We keep an … Continue reading

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Journal Club: Cellular context determines whether factor promotes or tamps down cancer

Some cellular factors have an impressive multitude of roles. One prime example is LKB1 (Liver Kinase B1). It controls both cell metabolism and cell polarity, telling cells which end is which. It also appears to act as both a tumor … Continue reading

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Journal Club: Cooler temperatures might make some mosquitoes better dengue spreaders

Migrating mosquitoes that carry diseases from the tropics to cooler climes might be better at spreading disease in their new, cooler home, according to a recent study in the Proceedings of the Royal Society B. Researchers from Yale University in … Continue reading

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Journal Club: New tool predicts which compounds taste bitter

Humans have 25 different taste receptors that register a range of bitter chemical compounds in everything from coffee and beer to dark chocolate and medicine. And yet, while humans can easily recognize bitterness, predicting whether a chemical compound will taste … Continue reading

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