A Nobel for cryo-EM, Predicting PTSD (Abstract Science: Oct. 2 – 6)
Three European scientists awarded the Nobel Prize in Chemistry, 10 rising stars in science, and can we prevent posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD) in soldiers?
(CNN Health, 10/4/2017, Judith Vonberg)
The Nobel Prize in Chemistry 2017 was awarded this week to Jacques Dubochet, Joachim Frank and Richard Henderson for the development of cryo-electron microscopy, which both simplifies and improves the imaging of biomolecules. This method has moved biochemistry into a new era. Scientific breakthroughs often build upon the successful visualization of objects invisible to the human eye. However, biochemical maps have long been filled with blank spaces because the available technology has had difficulty generating images of much of life’s molecular machinery. Cryo-electron microscopy changes all of this. Researchers can now freeze biomolecules mid-movement and visualize processes they have never previously seen, which is decisive for both the basic understanding of life’s chemistry and for the development of pharmaceuticals.
(Science News, 10/4/2017, Science News Staff)
For the third year, Science News has been spotlighting the work of 10 early- and mid-career scientists, age 40 and under, who stand out to mentors and peers as people who will make a difference. Some of the researchers are motivated by the desire to ease the human condition. They want to feed the growing world population, boost our reliance on renewable energy or reduce the burden of global disease. One molecular anthropologist is revisiting the past, while an astronomer has his eyes pointed skyward, to find habitable worlds outside the solar system. These scientists have been called creative, curious and fearless. They share a willingness to question existing knowledge and forge new paths that is reminiscent of MIT Professor Mildred Dresselhaus, who helped unlock the mysteries of carbon. Sounds like a winning strategy!
(Science, 10/4/2017, Emma Yasinski)
Scientists and physicians have tried countless methods to treat the nightmares, anxiety, and flashbacks of posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD) in soldiers, from talk therapy to drugs designed to press the “delete” button on specific memories. Now, one group of researchers proposes another solution: Prevent the condition in the first place by predicting who is most likely to get it. In a new study, they say a 105-question survey already given to all U.S. soldiers may be able to do just that. U.S. Army soldiers have taken the Global Assessment Tool (GAT), a survey about their mental health, every year since 2009. They looked at 63,186 recruits who enlisted in the Army between 2009 and 2012 and had not yet been exposed to combat. The team then compared the scores with how the same soldiers fared on a postduty comprehensive health assessment that also looked for signs of PTSD and depression. They found that soldiers who had scored in the bottom 5% of mental health attributes on the GAT prior to deployment were more likely to suffer from PTSD upon their return.
—Compiled by Social Media Specialist Jillian Scola