Muscles, monkeys, and insanely fast stars

Take a look back at a few of this year’s most read and most shared research stories.

1. Muscles in old mice made young again
KING’S COLLEGE LONDON (UK) — Researchers have identified for the first time a key factor responsible for declining muscle repair during aging, and discovered that a common drug halts the process in mice.

2. Drug made from toxic weed kills cancer
JOHNS HOPKINS (US) — An experimental drug derived from a poisonous weed can travel harmlessly through the bloodstream until it detects cancer cells and kills them.

3. New monkey species has bright blue bottom
YALE (US) — Scientists have found a new monkey species in remote central Congo, where bush meat hunting and habitat loss threaten their survival.

The researchers describe the Lesula and its sister species as “shy, quiet, and generally occur[ing] in small groups.” View larger. (Credit: Terese Hart/Flickr)

4. How much vitamin D is too much?
JOHNS HOPKINS (US) — Although vitamin D is essential to good health, researchers say too much may damage blood vessels.

5. Forget T. rex: ancient piranha had nasty bite
U. WASHINGTON (US) — An extinct relative of piranhas that weighed only 20 pounds delivered a bite 30 times its body weight—considering its size, that’s a nastier chomp than that of T. rex.

6. Insanely fast star puts Einstein’s theory to the test
U. TORONTO (CAN) — A star orbits the massive black hole at the Milky Way’s center in 11.5 years—less time than Jupiter takes to orbit the Sun.

7. Inflammation chemical linked to suicide
MICHIGAN STATE (US) — Scientists report the first proof that a chemical in the brain called glutamate is linked to suicidal behavior—findings that offer new hope for prevention.

8. Despite advances, humans still evolving
U. SHEFFIELD (UK) — Humans continue to evolve and significant natural and sexual selection is still taking place in our species in the modern world, new research shows.

“We have shown advances have not challenged the fact that our species is still evolving, just like all the other species ‘in the wild’,” says project leader Virpi Lummaa. (Credit: Jonathan Marks/Flickr)

9. Big brain lets larva ‘see’ without seeing
U. VIRGINIA (US) — The very simple eyes of a fruit fly larva can see just enough light to allow the animal’s relatively large brain to assemble that input into images.

10. Modern math solves Ramanujan’s ‘vision’
EMORY / YALE / STANFORD (US) — Indian mathematician Srinivasa Ramanujan’s death-bed letter from 1920 has yielded a formula that could help physicists studying black holes.