A common air pollution is found in brain matter, next steps for the moonshot, and the UN takes up drug-resistant bacteria.

Pollution’s Potential Link to Brain Disease

(The Scientist, 9/6/2016, Ashley P. Taylormagnetit

Magnetite is a ubiquitous air pollutant. Can it also land up in the brain? Scientists suspect so after detecting nanoparticles of magnetite in over three dozen post-mortem brains. The brain produces magnetite particles that are associated with Alzheimer’s disease, but these endogenous particles are angular in shape, whereas the newly discovered compounds are spherical. Their shape and other properties suggest that the nanoparticles were generated during high-temperature processes like combustion. The results were published this week in the Proceedings of the National Academies of Sciences.

Next Steps for Cancer Moonshot

(Science, 9/7/2016, Jocelyn Kaiser)

A National Cancer Institute advisory board listed 10 promising areas this week that it thinks Vice President’s proposed cancer moonshot should invest time and money on, including formation of an immunotherapy clinical trials program to test novel therapies, studying ways to accelerate evidence-based prevention and cataloging the tumor cells, immune cells and other cells that comprise the tumor microenvironment. But it remains to be seen whether Congress will fund any of it. President President Obama requested $755 million for the moonshot in the 2017 fiscal year that begins 1 October, including $680 million for the National Institutes of Health. But lawmakers have so far not included that money in draft spending bills. Another option is that the moonshot funding would become part of other bills that aim to accelerate medical innovation, but their prospects too are uncertain.

UN Takes Up Antibiotic Resistance

(Scientific American, 9/7/2016, Dina Fine Maron)

The threat of antibiotic resistance has become so dire that the United Nations General Assembly is holding a meeting to discuss it this month in New York City. Although WHO has been sounding the alarm on antibiotic resistance for years, this month’s high-level U.N. meeting represents only the fourth time in the international body’s history that its General Assembly—a global deliberative body that primarily grapples with issues like war and economics—has held a meeting to tackle a health topic. (The other three were HIV, noncommunicable diseases and Ebola.) The meeting “is a clear recognition that this is a worldwide threat to everyone and worldwide action is what we need to address it,” says Ezekiel Emanuel, chair of medical ethics and health policy at the University of Pennsylvania.


—Compiled by Senior Scientific Writer Regina McEnery