New research shows tick bite analysis, accurately predicting the voice pitch of babies, and turning cancer cells into allies.
(Discover Magazine, 7/10/2018, Carl Engelking)
If you talk to any parent, they will tell you they can distinguish their child’s cry. Wouldn’t it be nice to know what their future voice would sound like? According to a team of scientists from the UKand France, babies’ cries may accurately predict their voice pitch later in life. This, researchers say, is an indication that your golden pipes were tuned long before puberty, potentially even in the womb. Researchers pulled out recordings of crying, four-month-old babies they captured years ago for a different study (parents all consented, of course). Then, they reconnected with those babies, now 5 years old, to record their voices today (again, parents were cool). They found that the pitch of babies’ cries at four months of age was a significant predictor of their speech pitch at age five. Layer that previous study about seven-year-olds on top of this one, and it would appear it’s possible to determine a person’s future voice pitch very, very early in life. Researchers say their voice frequency findings were also positively correlated with the 2D:4D digit ratio, but only in the right hand.
(STAT, 7/11/2018, Sharon Begley)
Now for your weekly CRISPR update! In a study four years in the making, scientists reported that “rehoming” cells that had been CRISPR’d to attack cells in the original tumor improved survival in lab mice with brain cancer, as well as in mice with breast cancer that spread to the brain. That cancer cells migrate back to the original tumor after metastasizing to distant sites is still, 12 years after its discovery, one of the most unexpected and perplexing in cancer biology. Called self-seeding or (redundantly) rehoming, the surprising behavior has inspired several treatment ideas, such as putting cancer-cell-killing viruses or suicide genes into the rehoming cells (which would somehow have to be made resistant to those lethal agents) and hoping they transfer their lethal payload to the tumor cells they find when they return home. Most of those approaches have stumbled, and the new study, published in Science Translational Medicine, is very preliminary and comes with the usual caveats, mainly that if experimental cancer therapies worked as well in people as they do in lab mice, the war on cancer would have been won years ago.
(NPR, 7/12/2018, Erin Blakemore)
Public health officials track the number of reported cases of tick-borne diseases, and researchers can study ticks in their local habitats, but when it comes to assessing the risk of potential infection from tick-borne pathogens, figuring out which ticks commonly bite humans, what pathogens they carry, and how many people actually get sick from bites, the picture’s always been blurry. Until now. Nathan Nieto (Northern Arizona University) says scientists collect around 100 ticks at a time for local research using surprisingly low-tech methods (such as dragging a long swath of fabric behind a truck, then counting the number of ticks it catches). Once ticks made their way into the lab, the team identified them and tested them for four tick-born pathogens, including Borrelia burgdorferi, the bacterium that causes Lyme disease. They sent information on the pathogen back to the people who submitted ticks and mapped their geographic distribution.
—Compiled by Social Media Specialist Jillian Scola