Our microbes’ dirty secret, the next X-ray technology wave, our cellular powerhouses and a win for childhood vaccinations. This week in Abstract Science.
(Science, 8/25/2015, Sid Perkins)
We’ve been exposed! A new study appearing in the Proceedings of the Royal Society B, find that bacteria on your door frames can provide clues about how many males and females live in your house and what types of pets you have. Eventually, the findings could help forensic scientists develop new crime-solving techniques. To conduct the study, scientists asked residents of about 1200 homes scattered across the continental United States to swab dust that had accumulated in two places: their main external doorframe and an internal door frame in their home’s main living space from hard-to-reach and rarely disturbed upper surface of the trim above the door.
(Nature, 8/26/2015, Davide Castelvecchi)
X-rays, a form of electromagnetic radiation discovered in the 19th century, are ubiquitous in hospitals and clinics. They are also widely used in research and industry, and useful in imaging materials, identifying chemical-reaction products and determining crystal structures. And the field continues to advance. The latest wave in X-ray technology, tested at Swedish-based Lund University’s synchrotron radiation facility MAX IV, promises to lower the costs of X-ray-light sources around the world, while improving their performance and enabling experiments that were not possible before. By squeezing electrons into tighter bunches, leading to X-ray pulses that concentrate more photons into a tighter, brighter beam, researchers will be able to do experiments that could take days on a third-generation machine in mere minutes, according to the Swedish team pioneering the technology.
(The Scientist, 8/26/2015, Amanda Keener)
A decade and dozens of studies after scientists figured out how and why human mitochondria were ending up in co-cultured rat cells researchers are still examining intercellular mitochondrial transfer, with an eye toward how best to exploit the process to rescue tissues damaged by stress-related events like ischemia and inflammation. Scientists are also working to answer a litany of questions about what makes the transfer possible and the role this phenomenon plays in MSC-mediated tissue repair.
(NEJM, 8/27/2015, Michelle Mello, David Studdert, Wendy Parmet)
California recently became the third state—the others being Mississippi and West Virginia—to disallow vaccination exemptions for school-entry based upon religious and philosophical beliefs. Only medical exemptions remain. The move represents a “stunning victory for public health that affects not only California schoolchildren but also the prospects for strengthening vaccination requirements nationwide,” notes this perspective piece published in this week’s NEJM. California, as we know, suffered the brunt of a widespread measles vaccination that erupted in January at an amusement park and quickly spread to other, with the majority of cases traced to unvaccinated individuals. The US experienced a record number of measles cases in 2014, according to the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
—Compiled by Senior Scientific Writer Regina McEnery