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Biology

Illustration of an immune cell that wields weapons on one side of its body and construction tools on the other.
immunology

Immune Cell Assassins Reveal Their Nurturing Side

February 11, 2020

Don’t be misled by the bloodthirsty names of immune cells. Mounting research shows that the cells also fine-tune tissues and help the body heal.

Photo of James P. Allison sitting at his desk at the MD Anderson Cancer Center.
Q&A

The Contrarian Who Cures Cancers

February 3, 2020

James P. Allison believed that unleashing the immune system was a way to beat cancer when almost no one else did. A Nobel Prize and a growing list of cancer survivors vindicate him.

Spindly green star-shaped cells against a black background.
Abstractions blog

Glial Brain Cells, Long in Neurons’ Shadow, Reveal Hidden Powers

January 27, 2020

The glial cells of the nervous system have been eclipsed in importance by neurons for decades. But glia are turning out to be central to many neurological functions, including pain perception.

Micrograph of a section of brain organoid tissue.
neuroscience

An Ethical Future for Brain Organoids Takes Shape

January 23, 2020

Collaborations in progress between ethicists and biologists seek to head off challenges raised by lab-grown “organoids” as they become increasingly similar to human brain tissue.

Photo of Scarlett Howard, a researcher at the University of Toulouse, working with honeybees
Q&A

Secrets of Math From the Bee Whisperer

January 22, 2020

As Scarlett Howard taught honeybees to do arithmetic, they showed her how fundamental numbers might be to all brains.

Steven Strogatz listens to a podcast guest speak about many scientific and mathematical subjects.
Quantized Columns

Why I’m Hosting The Joy of x Podcast

January 15, 2020

The noted mathematician and author Steven Strogatz explains why he wanted to share intimate conversations with leading researchers from diverse fields in his new podcast.

Micrograph of a cortical neuron, showing its many dendrites.
neuroscience

Hidden Computational Power Found in the Arms of Neurons

January 14, 2020

The dendritic arms of some human neurons can perform logic operations that once seemed to require whole neural networks.

Abstractions blog

Biodiversity Alters Strategies of Bacterial Evolution

January 6, 2020

In evolution, context is everything: Bacteria with neighbors evolve to rebuff viruses in a different way.

A nearly homogeneous field of yellow cytoplasm spontaneously compartmentalizes itself into clumps around the dots of nuclei.
Abstractions blog

Unscrambled Eggs: Self-Organization Restores Cells’ Order

January 2, 2020

To scientists’ surprise, blended mixtures of cytoplasm can reorganize themselves into cell-like compartments with working structural components.