Are mothers too easy to blame? – Nature book review

Sanja Vrzic/Shutterstock

Rachel Yehuda’s 2016 study claimed that the children of Holocaust survivors have epigenetic changes at a particular site in the genome, and those changes make them more susceptible to stress. Yehuda’s study has been criticized often for its small sample size, tiny control group and outsize claims of causality. Sarah Richardson’s book The Maternal Imprint broadens this criticism to the field of human transgenerational epigenetics more generally. She argues that social assumptions about maternal responsibility lend ideas in this field more credibility than they deserve on the basis of the data. 

The children of sickle cell disease are growing up – Nature

Taj Francis

Sickle-cell disease was once a childhood ailment, simply because many children with the condition died before reaching adulthood. Since 1972, the United States has managed to drastically reduce childhood deaths from the disease, but the outlook has worsened for adults. 

“Adult sickle-cell programmes should be funded like the paediatric ones are,” says Sophie Lanzkron, a haematologist specializing in adults at the Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine in Baltimore, Maryland. It’s not about education: specialists generally know what to do, the health-care system just isn’t doing it, she says.

What will it take to 3-D print organs? – NeoLife

Sebastian Kaulitzki/Shutterstock; Scientific Reports

Every day in the U.S., about 22 people die waiting for an organ transplant. If scientists could 3-D print organs like kidneys, livers and hearts, all those lives could be saved. For years, people have been touting personalized organ printing as the future.

But despite decades of promising work in bioengineered bladders and other kinds of human tissue, we’re not close to having more complicated organs made from scratch. Harvard professor Jennifer Lewis, a leader in advanced 3-D printing of biological tissue, has only recently developed the ability to print part of a nephron, an individual unit of a kidney.

I asked Lewis what it will take to someday print a full kidney or a similarly complex organ.

Read the full story in NeoLife.

Take two placebos and call me in the morning – NeoLife

Illustration by Gabriel Alcala

When a new drug is being tested in a controlled clinical trial, half the patients get the real drug and half get a placebo, something harmless like a sugar pill or a saline injection. But patients on the placebo often improve anyway, and that’s because they expect that they’re getting the real drug, right? Well, no. Harvard professor Ted Kaptchuk’s research has exploded that explanation. Read the full story in NeoLife.

Power of positive thinking skews mindfulness studies – Nature

Lucy Nicholson/REUTERS

There’s a little too much wishful thinking about mindfulness, and it is skewing how researchers report their studies of the technique.

Researchers at McGill University analysed 124 published trials of mindfulness as a mental-health treatment, and found that scientists reported positive findings 60% more often than is statistically likely. The team also examined another 21 trials that were registered with databases such as ClinicalTrials.gov; of these, 62% were unpublished 30 months after they finished. The findings hint that negative results are going unpublished.

Read the full story in Nature.

Artificial Intelligence Offers a Better Way to Diagnose Malaria

Image credit: Intellectual Ventures Laboratory

An algorithm for spotting malaria under the microscope could bring accurate, rapid diagnosis to understaffed areas.

For all our efforts to control malaria, diagnosing it in many parts of the world still requires counting malaria parasites under the microscope on a glass slide smeared with blood. Now an artificial intelligence program can do it more reliably than most humans.

Read the full article in MIT Technology Review.

Gel scaffold paves way for 3D printing of biological organs

3D printing needle creates intricate objects in soft gels

To improve 3D printing, simply add gel. A fresh technique uses one to support complex shapes that would fall apart under their own weight in normal 3D printing.

This new-found combination of strength and delicacy will be crucial if we’re ever to print the biological structures that make up organs, blood vessels and other tissue.

Read the full article in New Scientist.