Top Stories: Quantum Links, Whooping Cough, and the Science of Itching
A new paper in the journal Cell claiming to have achieved breakthrough stem cell work—using cloning to create personalized human embryonic stem cells—is coming under serious scrutiny. Both Cell and the paper's author say that errors with the images don't invalidate the paper's results. But the scientific community seems to be holding its breath and waiting for others to replicate the results before it will accept the work.
Quantum physics just got a bit stranger. Researchers already knew that two photons can form long-distance connections across vast stretches of space, whereby measuring the state of one causes changes in the state of the other—a phenomenon known as entanglement. Now, physicists have shown that entanglement can occur across time as well, so that two photons don't have to exist at the same time to form what Albert Einstein called "spooky action at a distance."
Can you read this without scratching? Itchiness is rather mysterious, and although lots of people suffer from miserable, chronic itchiness, we're still not very good at treating it. Now, researchers have managed to identify a key molecule associated with our desire to scratch. They hope that the discovery will eventually bring relief to those plagued by relentless itching.
We all know about good bacteria—they're in our tummies, on our skin, and in our yogurt. But did you know that viruses can be quite friendly, too? It turns out that our bodies harbor "good" viruses in our mucus that protect us from bacteria. Researchers say the finding may help crack diseases like Crohn's and ulcerative colitis.
Whooping cough has exploded in the United States in recent years, and scientists say that it's not the antivaccination crowd that's to blame. The newer formulation of the vaccine, introduced 20 years ago, is simply less effective than its older counterpart at conferring prolonged immunity. Although the older vaccine was more effective, it sometimes caused powerful side effects like seizures and fainting fits, so there's no going back, researchers say. Instead, they must create a new generation of vaccines that's just as safe as the current formulation, but offers better long-term protection against the illness.