Sofie Gelskov; h080/Flickr; L. Scott Mills et al., PNAS Early Edition (2013)

Top Stories: Eating Wood, Testing Babies' Memories, and Patenting Human Genes

Could Wood Feed the World?

Cellulose, the world's most abundant organic compound, has long interested researchers as a source of renewable fuel. Now, they think that they might be able to use it to solve food security issues as well. Scientists have discovered a way to turn cellulose from inedible plants into edible starch. Although the process is expensive now, researchers are confident that they can cut costs over time and turn it into a viable method for feeding the hungry.

When Does Your Baby Become Conscious?

What exactly is going on inside your baby's brain? Quite a bit, say researchers in France, who (adorably) fitted babies with electrode caps to look for signs of consciousness. They found that babies as young as 5 months showed signs of conscious thought and even memory.

Color-Changing Hare Can't Keep Up With Climate Change

Snowshoe hares' main form of defense against predators is camouflage, and they change their coat each season to better blend in—white for snowy winters and brown for summer. But climate change is doing a number on the fluffy creatures, as they can't keep up with the fluctuating weather. As the timing of our seasons continues to change, the hares are likely to be caught out in the wrong color coats for longer and longer, making them easy to spot—and easy prey.

Parasite Inspires Surgical Patch

Pomphorhynchus laevis is a parasitic worm that burrows deep into the intestines of fish. It's also the inspiration for a new medical patch that promises to work three times better than surgical staples at holding skin together. The flexible patch is covered with tiny needles coated with a hydrogel that expands once it embeds into soft tissue, just like its parasitic inspiration.

Can Human Genes Be Patented?

Cookies, leaves, and baseball bats—just some of the metaphors that Supreme Court justices suggested this week as they struggled to understand the complex science behind the Myriad gene patent case. The case seeks to invalidate the biotechnology company Myriad's patents of two genes, BRCA1 and BRCA2, which are involved in the estimation of breast cancer. Ultimately, the case will decide whether human genes can indeed be patented in the United States. A decision is expected by 30 June.

Chinese H7N9 Virus Making Its Way to Labs Around the World

Researchers in labs around the world have received samples of the new Chinese bird flu strain H7N9 and are busy trying to develop a vaccine. At the time of publication, the virus had infected 63 people and killed 14 so far, and many scientists are hopeful that ferrets infected with H7N9 will help them find the antibodies needed to fight it.

Posted in Scientific Community