In April, Henrik Clausen, a professor at the University of Denmark, published research in Nature describing a way to convert any kind of blood into Type O -- the type that almost anyone can tolerate. He discovered enzymes that shear the problem-causing sugars from the surfaces of A, B and AB type red blood cells. Produced by bacteria, the molecular machines could theoretically turn any kind of blood into Type O. Clausen and his colleagues described their search for the pacifying proteins in the April 1 issue of Nature Biotechnology.
ZymeQuest, a startup company from Massachusetts, is now developing a device that hospitals can use during blood shortages.
3. Mummified Dinosaur Excavated and Scanned
Paleontologists from England's University of Manchester have excavated the mummy of a nearly intact plant-eating dinosaur. Preserved by minerals for over 65 million years, the petrified body is in such pristine condition that the researchers could see a striped pattern on what remains of its scales. The scientists transported the fossilized hadrosaur this fall to a giant CT scanner in Canoga Park, California, where technicians captured terabytes of 3-D images that have already revealed surprises about the creature's muscle mass and the spacing of its bones. Tyler Lyson, now a graduate student in geology at Yale University, made the initial find seven years ago while fossil hunting in the Hell Creek formation of North Dakota.
2. Chimpanzees Make Spears for Hunting
Two anthropologists watched in mixed amazement and horror as several female chimpanzees crafted spears and used them to somewhat brutally hunt smaller mammals. Following a troop of the primates in a Senegalese savanna, Jill Pruetz of Iowa State University and Paco Bertolani of Cambridge observed them breaking the branches off of trees, picking leaves from the sides, and sharpening the tips to deadly points. In the March edition of Current Biology, the scientists explained that such sophisticated animal behavior could reveal a great deal about how early humans used primitive tools.
1. Researchers Turn Skin Cells to Stem Cells
Using a virus to reprogram skin cells, two teams of scientists managed to skirt the greatest ethical issue facing regenerative medicine -- the destruction of human embryos. Groups led by Shinya Yamanaka of Kyoto University and Junying Yu of the University of Wisconsin coaxed a type of skin cell called fibroblasts into forming muscle, heart, fat and nerve tissues without using any eggs. Unfortunately, the hijacked cells often became tumors. Following up on his initial discovery this November, Yamanaka told Nature Biotechnology that by inserting three growth genes instead of four, the lab-grown flesh can be controlled without becoming cancerous.