Researchers have used genes to make adult cells pluripotent, that is, capable of giving rise to any cell type. But whether the reprogrammed cells could then generate specific cells needed to treat a disease was uncertain. Scientists at Harvard University and their colleagues have succeeded in making pluripotent the skin cells from an elderly patient with Lou Gehrig's disease (amyotrophic lateral sclerosis). Exposed to the right molecules, the induced pluripotent stem cells turned into motor neurons, which the ailment normally destroys. Science published the finding online July 31.

Charles Q. Choi


A new study confirms that coral reefs will face tough conditions from rising greenhouse gas levels. The reason: marine cements that bind together and anchor reefs cannot form in water full of dissolved carbon dioxide (CO2). Researchers report in the July 29 Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences USA that naturally acidic water in the Pacific Ocean off Central America keeps local reefs soft—a preview of how coral reefs may fare worldwide as atmospheric CO2 levels rise.

David Biello


A drug might someday turn you into a long-running machine without a day of exercise. It might work, in essence, by reprogramming sugar-burning, fast-twitch muscle into fat-burning, slow-twitch muscle that does not tire as easily. The key to this transformation is a protein called PPAR-delta, which had been shown to create so-called high-endurance marathon mice if the animals were genetically engineered to make a lot of it. Besides supercharging stamina, the drug, called AICAR, might also treat muscular dystrophy as well as metabolic diseases such as diabetes, because it appears to help the body use and remove glucose from the blood more effectively.

Nikhil Swaminathan