Top stories: Stem cell factories, an octopus supermom, and what ‘healthy’ really means


Top stories: Stem cell factories, an octopus supermom, and what 'healthy' really means

Smoking mothers may alter the DNA of their children

Pregnant women who smoke don’t just harm the health of their baby—they may actually impair their child’s DNA, according to new research. The finding may explain why the children of smokers continue to suffer health complications later in life.

Colombian grad student faces jail for sharing a thesis online

A 26-year-old Colombian biologist faces up to 8 years in prison for posting a copy of another scientist’s thesis online. Colombia, like many other countries, grants strong protections to authors. The trial was scheduled to begin last month, but has been delayed. 

Preventing a cellular identity crisis

If you want to declare your identity to the world, you might buy a Prius or get a tattoo of Justin Bieber. Cells, of course, rely on different ways to establish who they are. Now, researchers say they’ve discovered a novel mechanism that marks the identities of different kinds of cells in the human body—and prevents them from transforming into another type altogether.

Octopus supermom sets egg-brooding record

Talk about a protective mom! An octopus has been spotted guarding her eggs for 4.5 years, smashing the previous record for egg brooding. In 53 months, she was never seen eating, and instead pushed away crab and shrimp that wandered too close. Like most female octopuses, she likely died after her watch ended, but her eggs hatched successfully.

Unexpected stem cell factories found inside teeth

Development is thought to go just one way: Stem cells differentiate into specific types of cells, but the reverse isn't supposed to happen. Now, researchers have discovered nervous system cells transforming back into stem cells inside our teeth. This means that scientists may have a new starting point from which to grow human tissues—without using embryos.

Google X sets out to define a healthy human

Google X, the secretive research arm of Google Inc., is making a major foray into clinical research with the goal of pinning down what it means to be healthy. Google revealed last week that it will launch a project, the Baseline Study, to follow thousands of people and identify patterns of biochemicals, proteins, genetic mutations, and other measurements that correlate with who remains well and who gets sick.