Journal Club

Highlighting recent, timely papers selected by Academy member labs

Author Archives: Amy McDermott

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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Host defenses signal Salmonella to hijack immune cells, spur disease

Immune cells attack dangerous bacteria by engulfing them and then releasing a cascade of defense molecules. But some bacteria, known as intracellular pathogens, have evolved to survive this onslaught and replicate inside immune cells. The result can be Salmonella poisoning … Continue reading

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To predict the success of tree-planting schemes, look to villagers’ involvement

Tree-planting projects are sprouting up worldwide in an effort to sequester carbon. Acres of saplings are quick to plant but don’t necessarily have staying power: many die or are cut down before the trees grow to maturity. A recent study … Continue reading

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Study reveals evolutionary origins of fold-switching protein

Most proteins are thought to fold into a single active shape. But the human immune protein XCL1 is a rare breed that can switch back and forth between two different structures, each with its own function. A recent study in … Continue reading

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A cellular and genetic atlas of the lung offers insights into disease and development

Explorers need maps. That’s as true for hikers blazing trails as it is for molecular biologists striving to cure disease. A new atlas of the lungs, recently published in Nature, is the most comprehensive map ever of that vital organ. … Continue reading

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New technique builds animal brain–like spontaneity into AI

A woman walking to a bus stop realizes that she forgot her keys; she suddenly turns around and runs home. Such spontaneous activities are hallmarks of animal behavior. Eager to capture the essence of the human brain, roboticists have tried … Continue reading

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Insights into heat shock protein machinery could point to interventions for neurodegenerative disease

Heat shock proteins perform a range of functions related to protein quality control. Among them: breaking down dangerous protein aggregates called amyloid fibers. The buildup of certain amyloids has been linked to neurodegenerative disease. But the exact mechanism by which … Continue reading

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Interdisciplinary study brings a humanist perspective to research on land use change

Decades ago, Brazil’s northeastern State of Bahia produced much of the world’s cocoa for chocolate. Most farms grew their cacao trees interspersed with other native trees, in dense agricultural forests. Children played at the forest edges. Today those children are … Continue reading

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