Tackling Zika with insects, Dylan’s impact on scientists and using CRISPR to correct sickle cell mutation.

Using CRISPR to Combat Sickle Cell Anemia

(Nature, 10/12/16, Heidi Ledford)

Researchers at University of California-Berkeley report some success using CRISPR technology to correct the mutation that causes sickle cell anemia. The mouse experiments, detailed in a study this week in Science Translational Medicine, aren’t a home run; the efficiency of the process is slightly too low for practical use, cautions author Jacob Corn, a biochemist at UC-Berkeley. But the advance — and other recent efforts — has given Corn hope that the first treatment to address the cause of sickle-cell anemia could be only a few years away. “We now finally may have some paths to address the cause of the disease rather than the symptoms,” he says.

Mosquitoes as Disease Busters

(Science, 10/13/16, Kelly Servick)

A strain of transgenic Aedes aegypti mosquitoes designed to reduce the population by passing a lethal gene to their offspring is being used as a weapon against Zika in Brazil, Ground Zero for the virus. Oxitec, the company behind the insects, has been releasing little clouds of the altered mosquitoes in CECAP/Eldorado, a district of about 5000 people, and there are now plans for a massive scale-up later this year. Nor is this the only transgenic strain on the loose in Brazil. About 600 kilometers to the east, in the coastal cities of Niterói and Rio de Janeiro, another lab strain of mosquitoes is on the wing. Bred by a nonprofit organization called Eliminate Dengue, this one is infected with a bacterium called Wolbachia pipientis that protects it from infection with dengue, Zika, and a third virus named chikungunya.

The Dylan Effect

(Science, 10/13/16, David Malakoff)

A 2015 analysis published in BMJ found 727 potential references to Dylan songs in a search of the Medline biomedical journals database; the authors ultimately concluded that 213 of the references could be “classified as unequivocally citing Dylan.” The earliest article the authors identified appeared in 1970 in TheJournal of Practical Nursing. The title? “The times they are a’changin'”—a line the study found to be the single most commonly used Dylan lyric, appearing in dozens of article titles.

—Compiled by Senior Scientific Writer Regina McEnery