Tracking DNA that may lead to disease and retrieving memories in Alzheimer’s-like mice. This week in Abstract Science.

DNA Sleuthing

(Science, 3/16/2016, Jocelyn Kaiser)

Scientists from Hebrew University in Jerusalem may have found a way to track diseases at the earliest stages of development. The tool is based on the realization that cells throughout a person die naturally all the time, shedding fragments of DNA into the blood. When injuries or illness damage specific parts of a body, cell death generates even more of this circulating DNA. So several research teams are now developing ways to trace it to the tissue from which it originated, hoping to detect early stages of a disease or monitor its progression.

Memories Retrieved in AD Mice

(Nature, 3/16/2016, Sara Reardon)

Could the memory loss suffered by Alzheimer’s patients come down to errant cataloguing? A study in mice suggests that people with AD may forget faces or where they left familiar objects because their brains cannot find where they put those memories. The study, which was conducted by scientists at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and published this week in Nature contradict the notion that Alzheimer’s prevents the brain from making new memories. It also suggests that brain stimulation might temporarily improve the memories of patients in the early stages of the disease.

—Compiled by Senior Scientific Writer Regina McEnery