In the Ebola and Zika outbreaks of the past several years, evolutionary trees revealed the virus’s patterns of spread around the world, but sometimes not until months or years after the outbreaks began. The new coronavirus has spread far faster—but the pace of science has sped up as well. Between January and early April, more than twenty-five hundred covid-19 genomes were published, making it possible to track how the virus has spread and evolved in almost real time.These advances raise the tantalizing possibility that knowledge of viral evolution can alter the course of this pandemic.
A new research tool (Bellymount) allowed biologists to watch in real time the cell renewal process that keeps gut tissue healthy, as well as the interactions between bacterial species that make up the microbiome.
Bellymount allows researchers to peer into the live tissue of the fruit fly gut and other visceral organs in real time. It provides researchers with massive amounts of time-series imaging data, which is revolutionary in the biological sciences. Image is courtesy of Leslie Koyama and Lucy O’Brien.
Fluorescent markers reveal which genes are turned on as hydras’ stem cells develop into specific cell types. For instance, nerve cells light up magenta in one hydra (second from left). Another (second from right) shows gene activity behind two of the stages of development (early, green; late, red) of the animal’s stinging cells.
Caption: Classical representations of cell division. A – Walther Flemming’s 1888 drawings of eukaryotic mitosis (Image credit: adapted from Walther Flemming, CC0). B – Confocal fluorescent microscopy images of newt lung cells during mitosis in culture (Image credit: Alexey Khodjakov, CC BY 4.0). C – A diagram of the stages of cell division (Image credit: Ali Zifan, CC BY-SA 4.0).
“[…] Moreover, advances in imaging have resulted in a change in the role of the researcher: whereas cell biologists once used drawing to synthesise what they had seen in thousands of microscope images of cells, the power of imaging technology means that they now focus on measuring what they see. While this has had many advantages, we would argue that one downside of the decline of drawing is that it has eliminated a degree of exploratory imagination – and, therefore, a source of new ideas and hypotheses – from the scientific process.“
Structure of a new synthetic DNA molecule, dubbed hachimoji DNA, which uses the four informational ingredients of regular DNA (green, red, blue, yellow) in addition to four new ones (cyan, pink, purple, orange). Credits: Indiana University School of Medicine
The stages of regrowth for a salamander leg. The intact limb is at the left; the series to the right shows the gradual regeneration of the limb over a couple of months. (Credit: James Monaghan laboratory/Northeastern University)