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A collaboration between underwater photographers and marine biologists is revealing the secret lives of our oceans’ tiniest animals. Every night, larval fish travel from the deep sea’s inky void towards the surface, where photographers snap stunning images of the delicate creatures. Normally, marine biologists see these animals only after they’ve been funneled through collection devices that often squash their fragile bodies into goo. Some scientists say the images, paired with DNA from collected larvae, have the potential to revolutionize the study of larval fishes’ behavior and anatomy. “The photographs can open up an entirely new research area to understand why they have these features and what they use them for,” says marine biologist Luiz Rocha.
Features & opinion
A class of drugs that silence the effects of faulty genes could help to tackle brain diseases — but a halted clinical trial has hindered progress. Antisense oligonucleotides (ASOs) are short strings of DNA or RNA that are designed to cling to particular sequences of RNA made by faulty genes, and to rebalance the levels of proteins they produce — boosting missing proteins or quashing faulty ones. At the end of last month, a large phase III trial using an ASO treat Huntington’s disease was abruptly halted because the benefit of the drug to participants did not outweigh the risks. But researchers and people with Huntington’s, as well as more-common neurodegenerative conditions such as Parkinson’s and Alzheimer’s, remain hopeful about the promise that ASOs have shown in other diseases.
Italian-speaker Lia Paola Zambetti recommends total immersion to fellow scientists taking on the challenge of learning English. She advises re-reading your favourite books (in English this time), going to the theatre, listening to news reports and seeking out fellow language-learners to share frustrations. “And when everything seems terrible and you can’t get your message across and frustration mounts like a wave, remember you are not the only one,” she writes. “Generations of students went in with broken English and came out at the other end with a thesis and a degree. It does get better.”
Researchers have found a stress hormone in mice that signals through skin cells to repress the activation of hair-follicle stem cells. When this signalling was blocked, the mice grew hair again. Molecular biologist Rui Yi digs deeply into what this research reveals about the mechanism of stress-based hair loss.
If you’re hungry for more penguin puzzles, don’t miss our one-year-Lief-iversary complete set of Leif’s adventures.
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With contributions by Ariana Remmel