Discover the most talked about and latest scientific content & concepts.


On September 6, 2019, this report was posted as an MMWR Early Release on the MMWR website ( Electronic cigarettes (e-cigarettes) produce an aerosol by heating a liquid that usually contains nicotine, flavorings, and other chemicals that users inhale, a behavior commonly referred to as “vaping.” E-cigarettes can also be used to deliver marijuana and other drugs. In recent months, more than 200 possible cases of acute lung injury potentially associated with vaping were reported from 25 states (1). During July and August 2019, five patients were identified at two hospitals in North Carolina with acute lung injury potentially associated with e-cigarette use. Patients were adults aged 18-35 years and all experienced several days of worsening dyspnea, nausea, vomiting, abdominal discomfort and fever. All patients demonstrated tachypnea with increased work of breathing on examination, hypoxemia (pulse oximetry <90% on room air), and bilateral lung infiltrates on chest x-ray. All five patients shared a history of recent use of marijuana oils or concentrates in e-cigarettes. All of the products used were electronic vaping pens/e-cigarettes that had refillable chambers or interchangeable cartridges with tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) vaping concentrates or oils, which were all purchased on the street. Three of the patients also used nicotine-containing e-cigarettes, and two of the patients smoked marijuana or conventional cigarettes, although none used other illicit drugs. All five patients were hospitalized for hypoxemic respiratory failure; three required intensive care for acute respiratory distress syndrome, one of whom required intubation and mechanical ventilation. All of the patients survived.


The Sthenurinae were a diverse subfamily of short-faced kangaroos that arose in the Miocene and diversified during the Pliocene and Pleistocene. Many species possessed skull morphologies that were relatively structurally reinforced with bone, suggesting that they were adapted to incorporate particularly resistant foods into their diets. However, the functional roles of many unique, robust features of the sthenurine cranium are not yet clearly defined. Here, the finite element method is applied to conduct a comprehensive analysis of unilateral biting along the cheek tooth battery of a well-represented sthenurine, Simosthenurus occidentalis. The results are compared with those of an extant species considered to be of most similar ecology and cranial proportions to this species, the koala (Phascolarctos cinereus). The simulations reveal that the cranium of S. occidentalis could produce and withstand comparatively high forces during unilateral biting. Its greatly expanded zygomatic arches potentially housed enlarged zygomaticomandibularis muscles, shown here to reduce the risk of dislocation of the temporomandibular joint during biting with the rear of a broad, extensive cheek tooth row. This may also be a function of the zygomaticomandibularis in the giant panda (Ailuropoda melanoleuca), another species known to exhibit an enlarged zygomatic arch and hypertrophy of this muscle. Furthermore, the expanded frontal plates of the S. occidentalis cranium form broad arches of bone with the braincase and deepened maxillae that each extend from the anterior tooth rows to their opposing jaw joints. These arches are demonstrated here to be a key feature in resisting high torsional forces during unilateral premolar biting on large, resistant food items. This supports the notion that S. occidentalis fed thick, lignified vegetation directly to the cheek teeth in a similar manner to that described for the giant panda when crushing mature bamboo culms.


The objective of this study was to assess the levels of persistent organic pollutants (POPs) and mercury (T-Hg) in the blubber and skin, respectively, of the free-ranging bottlenose dolphins, Tursiops truncatus, from the Normanno-Breton Gulf, one of the largest identified coastal population in Europe. Among all the POPs analysed in this study, the ∑NDL-PCBs were the most abundant compounds found in the blubber (mean: 1.33 × 105-0.65 × 105 ng.g-1 lipid weight (lw) for males and females respectively), followed by ∑DDX (1.11 × 104-4.67 × 103 ng.g-1 lw) > ∑DL-PCBs (8.06 × 103-2.62 × 103ng.g-1 lw) > ∑PBDEs (1.95 × 103-0.64 × 103ng.g-1 lw) > dieldrin (1.86 × 103-0.18 × 103 ng.g-1 lw) > ∑endosulfan (405-62 ng.g-1 lw) > HCB (86-52 ng.g-1 lw) > ∑HCHs (47-60 ng.g-1 lw) > ∑chlordane (24-0.97 ng.g-1 lw) > ∑PCDFs (0.3-0.1 ng.g-1 lw) > ∑PCDDs (0.06-0.05 ng.g-1 lw). The T-Hg concentrations were highly variable between individuals (2.45 × 103 ng.g-1 to 21.3 × 103 ng.g-1 dry weight, dw). The reported concentrations are among the highest reported for cetaceans. We strongly recommend that the Normanno-Breton Gulf be a special area of conservation (cSAC) candidate because it contains the last large European population of bottlenose dolphins (rare or threatened within a European context) designated under the EC Habitats Directive.


We report an ancient genome from the Indus Valley Civilization (IVC). The individual we sequenced fits as a mixture of people related to ancient Iranians (the largest component) and Southeast Asian hunter-gatherers, a unique profile that matches ancient DNA from 11 genetic outliers from sites in Iran and Turkmenistan in cultural communication with the IVC. These individuals had little if any Steppe pastoralist-derived ancestry, showing that it was not ubiquitous in northwest South Asia during the IVC as it is today. The Iranian-related ancestry in the IVC derives from a lineage leading to early Iranian farmers, herders, and hunter-gatherers before their ancestors separated, contradicting the hypothesis that the shared ancestry between early Iranians and South Asians reflects a large-scale spread of western Iranian farmers east. Instead, sampled ancient genomes from the Iranian plateau and IVC descend from different groups of hunter-gatherers who began farming without being connected by substantial movement of people.


Evolutionary, cognitive, and neural underpinnings of mammalian play are not yet fully elucidated. We played hide-and-seek, an elaborate role-play game, with rats. We did not offer food rewards but engaged in playful interactions after finding or being found. Rats quickly learned the game and learned to alternate between hiding versus seeking roles. They guided seeking by vision and memories of past hiding locations and emitted game event-specific vocalizations. When hiding, rats vocalized infrequently and they preferred opaque over transparent hiding enclosures, a preference not observed during seeking. Neuronal recordings revealed intense prefrontal cortex activity that varied with game events and trial types (“hide” versus “seek”) and might instruct role play. The elaborate cognitive capacities for hide-and-seek in rats suggest that this game might be evolutionarily old.


The introduction of insertion-deletions (INDELs) by non-homologous end-joining (NHEJ) pathway underlies the mechanistic basis of CRISPR-Cas9-directed genome editing. Selective gene ablation using CRISPR-Cas9 is achieved by installation of a premature termination codon (PTC) from a frameshift-inducing INDEL that elicits nonsense-mediated decay (NMD) of the mutant mRNA. Here, by examining the mRNA and protein products of CRISPR targeted genes in a cell line panel with presumed gene knockouts, we detect the production of foreign mRNAs or proteins in ~50% of the cell lines. We demonstrate that these aberrant protein products stem from the introduction of INDELs that promote internal ribosomal entry, convert pseudo-mRNAs (alternatively spliced mRNAs with a PTC) into protein encoding molecules, or induce exon skipping by disruption of exon splicing enhancers (ESEs). Our results reveal challenges to manipulating gene expression outcomes using INDEL-based mutagenesis and strategies useful in mitigating their impact on intended genome-editing outcomes.


The term Blue Carbon (BC) was first coined a decade ago to describe the disproportionately large contribution of coastal vegetated ecosystems to global carbon sequestration. The role of BC in climate change mitigation and adaptation has now reached international prominence. To help prioritise future research, we assembled leading experts in the field to agree upon the top-ten pending questions in BC science. Understanding how climate change affects carbon accumulation in mature BC ecosystems and during their restoration was a high priority. Controversial questions included the role of carbonate and macroalgae in BC cycling, and the degree to which greenhouse gases are released following disturbance of BC ecosystems. Scientists seek improved precision of the extent of BC ecosystems; techniques to determine BC provenance; understanding of the factors that influence sequestration in BC ecosystems, with the corresponding value of BC; and the management actions that are effective in enhancing this value. Overall this overview provides a comprehensive road map for the coming decades on future research in BC science.


The origin of Homo sapiens remains a matter of debate. The extent and geographic patterning of morphological diversity among Late Middle Pleistocene (LMP) African hominins is largely unknown, thus precluding the definition of boundaries of variability in early H. sapiens and the interpretation of individual fossils. Here we use a phylogenetic modelling method to predict possible morphologies of a last common ancestor of all modern humans, which we compare to LMP African fossils (KNM-ES 11693, Florisbad, Irhoud 1, Omo II, and LH18). Our results support a complex process for the evolution of H. sapiens, with the recognition of different, geographically localised, populations and lineages in Africa - not all of which contributed to our species' origin. Based on the available fossils, H. sapiens appears to have originated from the coalescence of South and, possibly, East-African source populations, while North-African fossils may represent a population which introgressed into Neandertals during the LMP.


Ninety-seven percent of drug-indication pairs that are tested in clinical trials in oncology never advance to receive U.S. Food and Drug Administration approval. While lack of efficacy and dose-limiting toxicities are the most common causes of trial failure, the reason(s) why so many new drugs encounter these problems is not well understood. Using CRISPR-Cas9 mutagenesis, we investigated a set of cancer drugs and drug targets in various stages of clinical testing. We show that-contrary to previous reports obtained predominantly with RNA interference and small-molecule inhibitors-the proteins ostensibly targeted by these drugs are nonessential for cancer cell proliferation. Moreover, the efficacy of each drug that we tested was unaffected by the loss of its putative target, indicating that these compounds kill cells via off-target effects. By applying a genetic target-deconvolution strategy, we found that the mischaracterized anticancer agent OTS964 is actually a potent inhibitor of the cyclin-dependent kinase CDK11 and that multiple cancer types are addicted to CDK11 expression. We suggest that stringent genetic validation of the mechanism of action of cancer drugs in the preclinical setting may decrease the number of therapies tested in human patients that fail to provide any clinical benefit.


To assess what proportions of studies reported increasing, stable, or declining trends in the incidence of diagnosed diabetes.