SciCombinator

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

132

Non-caloric artificial sweeteners (NAS) are among the most widely used food additives worldwide, regularly consumed by lean and obese individuals alike. NAS consumption is considered safe and beneficial owing to their low caloric content, yet supporting scientific data remain sparse and controversial. Here we demonstrate that consumption of commonly used NAS formulations drives the development of glucose intolerance through induction of compositional and functional alterations to the intestinal microbiota. These NAS-mediated deleterious metabolic effects are abrogated by antibiotic treatment, and are fully transferrable to germ-free mice upon faecal transplantation of microbiota configurations from NAS-consuming mice, or of microbiota anaerobically incubated in the presence of NAS. We identify NAS-altered microbial metabolic pathways that are linked to host susceptibility to metabolic disease, and demonstrate similar NAS-induced dysbiosis and glucose intolerance in healthy human subjects. Collectively, our results link NAS consumption, dysbiosis and metabolic abnormalities, thereby calling for a reassessment of massive NAS usage.

Concepts: Organism, Feces, Sugar substitute, Metabolism, Food additive, Gut flora, Nutrition, Bacteria

116

In its largest outbreak, Ebola virus disease is spreading through Guinea, Liberia, Sierra Leone, and Nigeria. We sequenced 99 Ebola virus genomes from 78 patients in Sierra Leone to ~2000× coverage. We observed a rapid accumulation of interhost and intrahost genetic variation, allowing us to characterize patterns of viral transmission over the initial weeks of the epidemic. This West African variant likely diverged from central African lineages around 2004, crossed from Guinea to Sierra Leone in May 2014, and has exhibited sustained human-to-human transmission subsequently, with no evidence of additional zoonotic sources. Because many of the mutations alter protein sequences and other biologically meaningful targets, they should be monitored for impact on diagnostics, vaccines, and therapies critical to outbreak response.

Concepts: Economic Community of West African States, Guinea, West Africa, Genetics, Nigeria, DNA, Liberia, Sierra Leone

74

The development field needs to be more serious about gender inequities and women’s empowerment. By ignoring gender inequities, many development projects fail to achieve their objective. And when development organizations do not focus on women’s empowerment, they neglect the fact that empowered women have the potential to transform their societies. I also review the Gates Foundation’s record on gender and propose some approaches to improve it.

Concepts: Female, Sociology, Management, Woman

45

The science of morality has drawn heavily on well-controlled but artificial laboratory settings. To study everyday morality, we repeatedly assessed moral or immoral acts and experiences in a large (N = 1252) sample using ecological momentary assessment. Moral experiences were surprisingly frequent and manifold. Liberals and conservatives emphasized somewhat different moral dimensions. Religious and nonreligious participants did not differ in the likelihood or quality of committed moral and immoral acts. Being the target of moral or immoral deeds had the strongest impact on happiness, whereas committing moral or immoral deeds had the strongest impact on sense of purpose. Analyses of daily dynamics revealed evidence for both moral contagion and moral licensing. In sum, morality science may benefit from a closer look at the antecedents, dynamics, and consequences of everyday moral experience.

Concepts: The Target, Aesthetics, Human, Moral, Personal life, Ethics, Morality, Religion

39

We describe adaptations for a semiaquatic lifestyle in the dinosaur Spinosaurus aegyptiacus. These adaptations include retraction of the fleshy nostrils to a position near the mid-region of the skull and an elongate neck and trunk that shift the center of body mass anterior to the knee joint. Unlike terrestrial theropods, the pelvic girdle is downsized, the hind limbs are short, and all of the limb bones are solid without an open medullary cavity, for buoyancy control in water. The short, robust femur with hypertrophied flexor attachment and the low, flat-bottomed pedal claws are consistent with aquatic foot-propelled locomotion. Surface striations and bone microstructure suggest that the dorsal “sail” may have been enveloped in skin that functioned primarily for display on land and in water.

Concepts: Skull, Patella, Theropoda, Femur, Spinosaurus, Joint, Knee, Bone

26

The development of peptide fusion inhibitors based on short synthetic peptides represents a promising option in the fight against HIV-1 infection, especially in individuals infected with multiresistant HIV-1 strains. GBV-C has the beneficial effect of retarding the progression of AIDS in people who are co-infected with both the GBV-C and HIV viruses. In previous works, the E1(22-39) GBV-C sequence (E1P8lin) was found to be capable of inhibiting the interaction of HIV-1 FP with bilayers and its cyclic analogue (E1P8cyc) showed a higher anti-HIV-1 activity. In the present work, in an attempt to gain a better understanding of the interaction of E1P8 peptides with HIV-1 FP, we analyzed direct interactions between peptides at the molecular level. Our results support that E1P8cyc might be more potent at blocking HIV-1 entry than E1P8lin as a consequence of the structure induced in the complex formed with HIV-1 FP, which is able to modify the conformation adopted by this functional domain of the HIV-1 gp41 protein in target cell membranes.

Concepts: Infection, Gene, Bacteria, Virus, Peptide, Cell membrane, Protein, HIV

26

Firefly luciferase adenylates and oxidizes d-luciferin to chemically generate visible light and is widely used for biological assays and imaging. Here we show that both luciferase and luciferin can be reengineered to extend the scope of this light-emitting reaction. d-Luciferin can be replaced by synthetic luciferin analogues that increase near-infrared photon flux >10-fold over that of d-luciferin in live luciferase-expressing cells. Firefly luciferase can be mutated to accept and utilize rigid aminoluciferins with high activity in both live and lysed cells yet exhibit 10 000-fold selectivity over the natural luciferase substrate. These new luciferin analogues thus pave the way to an extended family of bioluminescent reporters.

Concepts: Omphalotus olearius, Quorum sensing, Electromagnetic radiation, Luciferase, Light, Enzyme, Firefly, Bioluminescence

26

The influence of advertising on children’s food preferences is well documented in the research literature. In this study we aim to examine the ways in which food advertising propels children’s consumer behaviour and to investigate how food advertising affects the frequency of unhealthy food consumption.

Concepts: Food, Consumer theory, Nutrition

18

Observations of chimpanzees (Pan troglodytes) and bonobos (Pan paniscus) provide valuable comparative data for understanding the significance of conspecific killing. Two kinds of hypothesis have been proposed. Lethal violence is sometimes concluded to be the result of adaptive strategies, such that killers ultimately gain fitness benefits by increasing their access to resources such as food or mates. Alternatively, it could be a non-adaptive result of human impacts, such as habitat change or food provisioning. To discriminate between these hypotheses we compiled information from 18 chimpanzee communities and 4 bonobo communities studied over five decades. Our data include 152 killings (n = 58 observed, 41 inferred, and 53 suspected killings) by chimpanzees in 15 communities and one suspected killing by bonobos. We found that males were the most frequent attackers (92% of participants) and victims (73%); most killings (66%) involved intercommunity attacks; and attackers greatly outnumbered their victims (median 8:1 ratio). Variation in killing rates was unrelated to measures of human impacts. Our results are compatible with previously proposed adaptive explanations for killing by chimpanzees, whereas the human impact hypothesis is not supported.

Concepts: Chimpanzees, Observation, Scientific method, Chimpanzee, Common Chimpanzee, Hominidae, Human, Bonobo

17

We sequenced the genomes of a ∼7,000-year-old farmer from Germany and eight ∼8,000-year-old hunter-gatherers from Luxembourg and Sweden. We analysed these and other ancient genomes with 2,345 contemporary humans to show that most present-day Europeans derive from at least three highly differentiated populations: west European hunter-gatherers, who contributed ancestry to all Europeans but not to Near Easterners; ancient north Eurasians related to Upper Palaeolithic Siberians, who contributed to both Europeans and Near Easterners; and early European farmers, who were mainly of Near Eastern origin but also harboured west European hunter-gatherer related ancestry. We model these populations' deep relationships and show that early European farmers had ∼44% ancestry from a ‘basal Eurasian’ population that split before the diversification of other non-African lineages.

Concepts: Ancient Rome, Stone Age, Netherlands, Germany, Western Europe, Europe, European Union, Eastern Europe