Journal Club

Highlighting recent, timely papers selected by Academy member labs

Author Archives: Amy McDermott

Well-connected members of tight-knit groups spread controversial ideas much more readily than “influencers”

The people who spread new and controversial ideas—changes in diet, exercise routine, political leaning, or even attitudes about vaccination—may not be the Kim Kardashians and Paris Hiltons. According to a recent study in Nature Communications, those with the most actual … Continue reading

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Study suggests mask-wearing reduces the odds of self-infection with SARS-CoV-2

COVID-19 typically turns deadly when the virus infects the lungs. Hence, how exactly SARS-CoV-2 gets deep into the respiratory tract has been a pressing question since the pandemic started early last year. One pathway is well known: Most people catch … Continue reading

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Degradable plastic polymer breaks down in sunlight and air

Plastic trash chokes shorelines and oceans, in part because plastic polymers do not easily decompose. But a new kind of environmentally degradable plastic could help change that: It breaks down in about a week in sunlight and air, according to … Continue reading

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Harmful social behaviors are the toughest to shift

Social norms changed dramatically during the pandemic. Six-foot distancing and mask wearing became de facto rules in some communities, while elsewhere, wearing a mask was seen as an invitation for harassment. A new study in Proceedings of the Royal Society … Continue reading

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A popular household fern may be the first known eusocial plant

Staghorn ferns are popular houseplants, sporting long, antler-like fronds that poke out from a brown, tissue-papery base. They may also be the first known example of a plant that exhibits a type of social organization—that is, the first plant thought … Continue reading

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Atlas identifies genome regions that regulate plant cell identity

Zoom in on the leaf of a corn plant, and you’ll find a patchwork of about 20 different cell types. A recent study, published in Cell, provides an atlas of critical genomic regions that control cell identity in six different … Continue reading

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Several brain regions help us anticipate what’s going to happen next

If you watch a movie clip on repeat, many areas of your brain begin to anticipate upcoming events onscreen, according to a recent study published in eLife. The first time you see the clip, your brain forms a distinctive neural … Continue reading

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Small, sharp blades mark the change from Middle to Later Stone Age in coastal Kenya

The transition between the Middle and Later Stone Age is a controversial topic among archeologists. Recent findings offer a possible answer, suggesting that the shift occurred between 67,000 and 71,000 years ago, and has as its hallmark a sudden abundance … Continue reading

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Lab-cultured mouse embryos, grown for an extended period, offer a new window on fetal development

In a potential methods breakthrough, stem cell biologists grew mouse embryos for five-and-a-half days in vitro, longer than ever before. Appearing recently in Nature, the study unveils new protocols and equipment, including a temperature-and-pressure-controlled incubator that enabled the coauthors to … Continue reading

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Mutations in metabolic genes can cause antibiotic resistance

A recent study in Science reveals a novel avenue by which genetic changes make bacteria resistant to drugs: mutations in genes involved in cellular metabolism, including some that convert food into energy. “The genes were known; their involvement in metabolism … Continue reading

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In Mesopotamia, early cities may have faltered before climate-driven collapse

Some of the earliest cities, now buried in the soil of Syria, Iraq, Turkey, and Lebanon, are thought to have collapsed because of rapid climatic change. Drought along with lower temperatures descended on these settlements some 4,200 years ago, forcing … Continue reading

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