Top stories: An Ebola emergency, Earth’s tiny saviors, and Rosetta makes history


Top stories: An Ebola emergency, Earth's tiny saviors, and Rosetta makes history

How two U.S. patients changed the debate about using untested Ebola drugs

Ebola has already sickened 1779 people and killed 961 in four West African countries, and the World Health Organization has declared the escalating outbreak an international emergency. But until last week, there appeared to be little hope that any experimental drugs or vaccines might be used to control the infection. Now, the cases of two U.S. Ebola patients who were treated with an experimental antibody cocktail have suddenly upset that international consensus.

Ancient worms may have saved Earth

You can credit your existence to tiny wormlike creatures that lived 500 million years ago, a new study suggests. By tunneling through the sea floor, these creatures altered our planet's chemistry and kept oxygen concentrations at just the right level to allow animals and other complex life to evolve. The finding may help answer an enduring mystery of Earth’s past.

After 10-year chase, Rosetta spacecraft catches its comet

On 6 August, the Rosetta spacecraft made history. After a 10-year chase through the solar system, the probe finally arrived at the comet 67P/Churyumov-Gerasimenko, making it the first spacecraft ever to rendezvous with a comet. The mission, perhaps the most ambitious one ever undertaken by the European Space Agency, will now join the comet as it begins a lap around the sun, heats up, and releases stores of ice in a cloud of dust and gas.

Nose swab detects fatal brain disease

The early signs of Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease—a rare, incurable brain disorder best known for its connection to mad cow disease—are difficult to interpret. By the time memory failure, blindness, and coma set in, death is usually imminent. Now, researchers report that a simple nasal swab may help doctors detect the disease much sooner—and more accurately.

How fat grizzly bears stay diabetes-free

Every fall, grizzly bears pack on the pounds in preparation for their winter hibernation. In humans, such extreme weight gain would likely lead to diabetes or other metabolic diseases, but the bears manage to stay healthy year after year. Their ability to remain diabetes-free, researchers have now discovered, can be chalked up to the shutting down of a protein found in fat cells. The discovery could lead to new diabetes drugs that turn off the same pathway in humans.

Senior RIKEN scientist involved in stem cell scandal commits suicide

Yoshiki Sasai, a noted stem cell scientist at the RIKEN Center for Developmental Biology who co-authored two controversial and later retracted papers that reported a simple way of reprogramming mature cells, was confirmed dead on 5 August, an apparent suicide. Sasai was facing disciplinary measures and a damaged reputation in the wake of the scandal surrounding the papers.