An oncology rematch, DNA-encoded chemical libraries and demystifying MRI data. This week in Abstract Science.

An Oncology Rematch

(Nature, 2/17/2016, Heidi Ledford)

The US National Cancer Institute (NCI) has decided to retire its 25-year-old panel of 60 human cancer cell lines grown in culture, and replace them with patient-derived xenografts that better mimic the patient’s tumor environment. The NCI will distribute cells from those PDXs, as well as data regarding each tumor’s genetic make-up and gene expression patterns, and the donor’s treatment history. In addition, the institute will make cell lines from the samples for use in more detailed biochemical studies and drug screening. For some cell lines, the repository will also contain cultures of associated, non-cancerous cells called fibroblasts, to allow researchers to learn more about how these cells can influence a tumor’s response to treatment.

DNA-Encoded Chemical Libraries

(Nature, 2/17/2016, Asher Mullard)

The robotic equipment used in high-through put screening (HTS) tests millions of chemicals, but it’s still labor-intensive, expensive and not always successful. Enter DNA-encoded chemical libraries. The bar-coding is helping pharmaceutical companies and biotechnology firms to quickly identify candidate drugs that can latch onto the proteins involved in disease, especially those proteins that have proved difficult to target. At least one compound discovered this way has entered clinical trials. Meanwhile, some biotech firms are using the DNA tags to make compounds. It’s not surprising that Eureka listed this as one of the hot trends to watch in 2016.

Functional MRI Data Demystified

(The Scientist, 2/17/2016, Tim Vernimmen)

What does blood oxygen level–dependent functional magnetic resonance imaging (BOLDfMRI) actually tell us about brain activity? For years scientists have debated the relevance and reliability of the data, but studies in animals and humans are finally started to see more clearly how neurons are influencing blood flow. For instance, some studies suggest that astrocytes and pericytes, which wrap around the vasculature, or the endothelial cells lining the brain’s blood cells, are affecting responses to local neural activity.

—Compiled by Senior Scientific Writer Regina McEnery