Slime is all around and inside you – new research on its origins offers insight into genetic evolution

A vast array of species, including people, use slime for a variety of essential bodily functions. Studying the genetic ancestry of slime surprisingly showcases the role of repetitive DNA in evolution.

Omer Gokcumen, Associate Professor of Biological Sciences, University at Buffalo • conversation
Aug. 26, 2022 ~9 min

Assay determines the percentage of Omicron, other variants in Covid wastewater

Developed by the Singapore-MIT Alliance for Research and Technology, the assay can provide new details about the type of SARS-CoV-2 circulating in a community.

Singapore-MIT Alliance for Research and Technology • mit
Aug. 25, 2022 ~11 min

Dolphins use signature whistles to represent other dolphins – similarly to how humans use names

Using urine and signature whistles from other dolphins, a team of scientists has shown that dolphins use signature whistles like names and hold mental representations of other dolphins in their minds.

Jason Bruck, Assistant Professor of Biology, Stephen F. Austin State University • conversation
Aug. 23, 2022 ~9 min

When a task adds more steps, this brain circuit helps you notice

By tracking feedback during tasks, the anterior cingulate cortex notices when a new step has become necessary and signals the motor cortex to adjust.

David Orenstein | Picower Institute for Learning and Memory • mit
Aug. 18, 2022 ~8 min

Why do animals have tails?

An anthropologist explains some of the many ways animals use their tails, from balancing as they walk to attracting a mate.

Michael A. Little, Professor Emeritus of Anthropology, Binghamton University, State University of New York • conversation
Aug. 15, 2022 ~6 min

The Soviet Union once hunted endangered whales to the brink of extinction – but its scientists opposed whaling and secretly tracked its toll

The Soviet Union was a latecomer to industrial whaling, but it slaughtered whales by the thousands once it started and radically under-reported its take to international monitors.

Ryan Jones, Associate Professor of History, University of Oregon • conversation
Aug. 12, 2022 ~10 min

Harvard study shows neurons shape identity of microglia

New study shows that microglia cells “listen in” to neighboring neurons and change to match them.

Juan Siliezar • harvard
Aug. 11, 2022 ~5 min

Scientists identify a plant molecule that sops up iron-rich heme

The peptide is used by legumes to control nitrogen-fixing bacteria; it may also offer leads for treating patients with too much heme in their blood.

Anne Trafton | MIT News Office • mit
Aug. 11, 2022 ~8 min

Do chemicals in sunscreens threaten aquatic life? A new report says a thorough assessment is 'urgently needed,' while also calling sunscreens essential protection against skin cancer

Rising concern about possible environmental damage from the active ingredients in sunscreens could have ripple effects on public health if it causes people to use less of them.

Karen Glanz, George A. Weiss University Professor and Director, UPenn Prevention Research Center, University of Pennsylvania • conversation
Aug. 9, 2022 ~10 min

Helping cells become better protein factories could improve gene therapies and other treatments – a new technique shows how

Gene therapies and vaccines are often injected into muscle cells that are inefficient at producing desired proteins. Making them work more like liver cells could lead to better treatment outcomes.

Lila Gierasch, Distinguished Professor of Biochemistry and Molecular Biology, UMass Amherst • conversation
Aug. 1, 2022 ~6 min