The destruction of jungle and forest habitats is a serious issue threatening species across the globe. Dr LaRoy Brandt and Maggie Singleton of Lincoln Memorial University studied one such threatened species, Baird’s tapir, in Costa Rica. By identifying the tapir’s tracks and deploying remote trail cameras, the team caught rare glimpses of this threatened species, indicating a return of the native population and an increase in their numbers. The question is, however, is this increase a sign of improving habitats or a result of less favourable forces at play?
Cellular senescence [suh-NEH-Sns] is the process by which cells age and permanently stop dividing but do not die. While the process of senescence creates a barrier to tumour formation, it can still be overcome by cancer cells. Sebastian Igelmann, a PhD student supervised by group leader Dr Gerardo Ferbeyre at the University of Montreal, has identified a group of enzymes that work together to reprogramme cellular metabolism. This work provides important insight into how tumour cells may initiate proliferation and circumvent senescence. Critically, this specialist group of enzymes provides a potential therapeutic target for human cancer treatment.
Despite their numerous side effects, opioid drugs and morphine-like agents have remained a pillar in the medical management of pain. Most clinically used opioid drugs act through mu opioid receptors. Dr Ying-Xian Pan and his team from the Rutgers New Jersey Medical School, USA, studies the molecular and cellular mechanisms of mu opioid receptors and aim to develop novel strategies and opioid analgesics for better treating pain without side effects associated with traditional opiates. Efforts to find substitutes for traditional opioid drugs are helping address the opiate abuse crisis that affects many countries around the globe.
Identifying the cause of an illness in a sick baby or child is not always easy, particularly if the disease is rare. Throughout his career, Dr Michael Wangler, at the Baylor College of Medicine and Jan and Dan Duncan Neurological Research Institute, has investigated rare childhood diseases. Combining his expertise in paediatrics and genetics, Dr Wangler utilises genomics, metabolomics and the humble fruit fly to identify the genes responsible for rare and undiagnosed diseases to improve both diagnosis and treatment.
Amid the global COVID-19 pandemic, we face challenges that require innovative and strategic responding. Dr Aldo Bonasera at Texas A&M University in the USA and Laboratori Nazionali del Sud, Istituto Nazionale di Fisica Nucleare in Italy, and Dr Hua Zheng at the School of Physics and Information Technology, Shaanxi Normal University in China, have taken a mathematical approach to compare the current COVID-19 pandemic with the Spanish Flu. Their findings have led to important recommendations for managing the current pandemic through vaccination programmes.
To study the climate of the ancient past, researchers look for its fingerprints in deep marine and lake sediments. Within these geological records are large and active microbial communities that may hold other clues about past environmental conditions and transitions. Tor Einar Møller [Tore Ee-naar Moe-lerr], a doctoral candidate at the University of Bergen, Norway, examined the link between contemporary microbe composition and the ancient climate. In a recent paper, he demonstrates that current microbe communities found within sediment cores capture elements of past environments.