Reimagining the scientific paper, doubling the life-expectancy of lab-grown embryos, Zika vaccine efficacy trials by 2017, and new regs for e-cigarettes. This week in Abstract Science.
(The Scientist, 5/2/2016, Ahmed Alkhateeb)
For three-and-a-half centuries, scientific papers have been impacting the dissemination of information and engaging researchers. But what originally functioned as an observation of a single experiment or procedure, usually described orally, has morphed into a much more complicated, peer-reviewed process that has made it difficult to discern empirical data. Which begs the question: is it time to introduce a new medium to discuss single empirical observations that could sidestep many of the shortcomings of the current publications model?
(Science, 5/3/2016, Jon Cohen)
The US National Institute for Allergy and Infectious Diseases is hoping to begin efficacy trials of a Zika vaccine candidate by 2017, the agency’s director, Anthony Fauci, said this week at a conference in Washington, D.C. Whether the vaccine is ultimately found suitable for licensure will come down to a number of factors, including how well vaccinated individuals are protected compared to unvaccinated individuals, and how widespread the virus is when the vaccine trial begins. One of the challenges Ebola vaccine developers have faced is the steep drop-off in infections, which makes it much more difficult to run effective trials.
(Nature, 5/4/2016, Sara Reardon)
A research project led by developmental biologists at the University of Cambridge in the UK and Rockefeller University in New York, have grown human embryos in the lab for up to 13 days after fertilization, shattering the previous record of nine days. The achievement is enabling researchers to discover new aspects of early human development and could help to determine why some pregnancies fail. The work was reported this week in the journals Nature and Nature Cell Biology.
(The Washington Post, 5/5/2016, Laurie McGinley & Brady Dennis)
The Obama administration announced controversial new rules for e-cigarettes, cigars, hookahs and pipe tobacco that includes barring the sale of such products to those under age 18. The US Food and Drug Administration, which wrote the rules, is also generally requiring manufacturers whose products went on sale after Feb. 15, 2007, to get approval from the agency to continue selling their products. This marks the first time that the FDA is regulating any of these items. The requirements, which have been the focus of intense lobbying from the industry on one side and tobacco-control advocates on the other, are likely to only intensify the debate over whether the devices are a dangerous gateway to traditional tar-laden, chemical-filled cigarettes or a helpful smoking-cessation tool.
—Compiled by Senior Scientific Writer Regina McEnery