Press "Enter" to skip to content

Top stories: When fat ‘speaks,’ seven Earth-sized planets, and a quantum computer faceoff


(Left to right): Steve Gschmeissner/Science Source; S. Debnath and E. Edwards/JQI; NASA

By Lindzi WesselFeb. 24, 2017 , 4:45 PM

Fat tissue can ‘talk’ to other organs, paving way for possible treatments for diabetes, obesity

There’s more to those love handles than meets the eye. Fat tissue can communicate with other organs from afar, sending out tiny molecules that control gene activity in other parts of the body, according to a new study. This novel route of cell-to-cell communication could indicate fat plays a much bigger role in regulating metabolism than previously thought. It could also mean new treatment options for diseases such as obesity and diabetes.

Split decision in first-ever quantum computer faceoff

In a new study, two quantum computers fashioned from dramatically different technologies have competed head-to-head in an algorithm-crunching exercise. One computer was more reliable, and the other was faster. But what’s most important, some scientists say, is that for the first time, two different quantum computers have been compared and tested on the same playing field.

Firing of veteran NIH scientist prompts protests over publication ban

At least two dozen junior and senior researchers are stuck in scientific limbo after being barred from publishing data collected over a 25-year period at a National Institutes of Health lab. The unusual ban follows the firing last summer of veteran neurologist Allen Braun by the National Institute on Deafness and Other Communication Disorders for what many scientists have told Science are relatively minor, if widespread, violations of his lab’s experimental protocol. The fallout from the case highlights a not-uncommon problem across science: the career harm to innocent junior investigators following lab misconduct or accidental violations on the part of senior scientists.

Seven potentially habitable Earth-sized planets spied around tiny nearby star

Astronomers this week announced the discovery of an extraordinary planetary system: seven Earth-sized planets that could all have liquid water on their rocky surfaces. The planets circle a tiny, dim, nearby star in tight orbits all less than 2 weeks long. Although it isn’t possible today to say whether the planets harbor life, astronomers are excited because each planet’s orbit passes in front of—or “transits”—its parent star. What’s more, the system’s proximity to Earth means that answers to questions about whether the system is habitable may come in just a few years’ time with the launch of a powerful new space telescope.

Herpes virus may be a trigger for autism

Herpes simplex virus type 2 (HSV-2), the primary cause of the blistering genital disease that infects roughly one in five U.S. women of childbearing age, may play a role in autism, according to a new study. Active infection with the virus in early pregnancy doubles the chance that a male fetus will develop autism spectrum disorder early in life. The finding does not mean that all pregnant women with an active HSV-2 infection will give birth to autistic children, but that—in a subset of women thought to be genetically predisposed—the infection may be one of an unknown number of triggers for the condition.

Source: Science Mag