The vivid pigmentation of zebras, the massive jaws of sharks, the fight or flight instinct and the diverse beaks of Darwin's finches. These and other remarkable features of the world's vertebrates stem from a small group of powerful cells, called neural crest cells, but little is known about their origin.

Scientists have proposes a new model for how neural crest cells, and thus vertebrates, arose more than 500 million years ago. 

The researchers postulate that, unlike other early embryonic cells that have their potential progressively restricted as an embryo develops, neural crest cells retain the molecular underpinnings that control pluripotency -- the ability to give rise to all the cell types that make up the body. 

One of developmental biology's biggest mysteries is ontogeny and the signals that transform masses of undifferentiated cells into tremendously complex organisms. 

A new paper suggests that it all begins with a single "master" growth factor receptor,  nuclear Fibroblast Growth Factor Receptor 1 (nFGFR1), that regulates the entire genome.  The research using mouse embryonic stem cells hopes to challenge the supposition that specific types of growth factors only functioned at a cell's surface and that growth factors function from within the nucleus.

There is always interest in exploring new therapeutic uses for existing drugs, because existing medications are probably generic, and therefore less expensive because generic companies don't have to do any creative science or fund clinical trials, and popular drugs already have known side effect profiles.

Alzheimer's disease may affect as many as 5.5 million Americans and treatment costs are high with inconsistent benefits so one goal of science it to help stave off the disease or prevent it completely. 

A research paper has correlated a compound found in green tea and exercise with slowing the progression of the disease in mice. More speculative is that it may reverse its effects. 

When the chemotherapy drugs like cisplatin or oxaliplatin hit cancer cells, they damage DNA so that the cells can't replicate but those cells have ways to repair the DNA and so the cancer drugs aren't as effective as they could be.

When DNA is damaged, cells use many enzymes to cut the strand of DNA and excise the damaged fragment. Then, other enzymes repair the original DNA so that the cells can function properly. Previously, Sancar's lab used purified enzymes to discover how this process happens in DNA damaged by UV irradiation and by chemotherapeutic drugs such as cisplatin and oxaliplatin.

New research has brought us closer to understanding the health benefits of coffee.

Monash researchers, in collaboration with Italian coffee roasting company Illycaffè, have conducted the most comprehensive study to date on how free radicals and antioxidants behave during every stage of the coffee brewing process, from intact bean to coffee brew.

A new epidemiology paper correlates a 5 percent increase of a person's total energy intake provided by sweet drinks each day with an 18 percent greater risk of developing type 2 diabetes may increase by 18%.

The authors estimate that replacing the daily consumption of one serving of a sugary drink with either water or unsweetened tea or coffee can lower the risk of developing diabetes by between 14% and 25%.

"Organoids", a futuristic-sounding term for three-dimensional cultures derived from tumors of cancer patients, closely replicate key properties of the original tumors - so close that these "organoid" cultures could be used for large-scale drug screens for the detection of genetic changes associated with drug sensitivity and pave the way for personalized treatment approaches. 

Since the Great Recession ended in 2009, the recovery in jobs has lagged behind that of Corporate America.

Corporate profits and business purchases of equipment and software returned to or near records within a year, yet unemployment remained stubbornly high – even though hiring usually tracks spending.

Even today, with joblessness at 5.7%, the labor force participation rate has declined to 63% from 67% before the recession, signaling many adults have simply quit looking for work. And in many parts of the US, unemployment remains elevated.

I was recently asked to give a talk in Toronto addressing this question: “Does science belong on my plate?” The quick answer is:

“No, because Science isn’t a “thing” you can serve or eat. Science is really a verb - a process, a method, a conversation.”

A longer, better answer is:

“There is a rich history of innovation and change in the human food supply extending over millennia. More recent innovation examples that have been achieved using sound science are a continuation of that tradition. They certainly belong on our plates.”