Alzheimer’s impact on the brain is broader than we thought and 4 other fascinating Frontiers articles you don’t want to miss

By Colm Gorey, Frontiers science communications manager


At Frontiers, we bring some of the world’s best research to a global audience. But with tens of thousands of articles published each year, many often fly under the radar. Here are just five amazing papers you may have missed.

Impact of Alzheimer’s on the brain may be greater than previously thought

A significant review of more than 200,000 scientific publications has shown that the effects of Alzheimer’s disease on the brain are far broader than initially thought. Writing in their review article in Frontiers in Aging Neuroscience, the international team of researchers said that they wanted to understand the breadth and diversity of biological pathways – key molecular chain reactions that drive changes in cells – that contribute to Alzheimer’s disease by research over the last 30 years.

They found that while nearly all known pathways have been linked to the disease, the most frequently associated biological mechanisms have not significantly changed in the last three decades, despite major technological advances.

These include those related to the immune system, metabolism, and long-term depression. They also found that the top-ranked 30 pathways most frequently referred to in literature remained relatively consistent over the last 30 years suggesting that most studies of the disease have focused on a small subset of all the known disease-associated pathways.

This has led the researchers to conclude that a wide range of disease processes are not being successfully targeted in clinical trials and that future trials could focus more on the underlying mechanisms of Alzheimer’s disease.

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Mass extinction event forced Triassic predators to adapt fast, or risk going extinct too

Evolution among ancient predators was kicked into overdrive as a result of a mass extinction event that occurred at the end of the Permian period 252m years ago, according to a new review article published to Frontiers in Earth Science.

A team of paleontologists from China and the UK showed that predators during the Triassic period – between 252m and 201m years ago – bounced back to become deadlier, smarter, and faster as they found ways to survive.

In Earth’s oceans, fishes, lobsters, gastropods, and starfishes developed new hunting styles described as “nasty” by Dr Feixiang Wu of the Institute of Vertebrate Paleontology, Beijing, and were significantly more powerful than their ancestors. This included the development of a great number of teeth for crushing usually-hard-to-reach shells.

The team also believe that Early and Middle Triassic bird and mammal ancestors had some form of insulation, hairs in the mammal line, feathers in the bird line. If this is true, and new fossil discoveries appear to confirm it, all the evidence is pointing to major changes in these reptiles as the world rebuilt itself after the end-Permian mass extinction.

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Photos reveal the largest deep-sea fish of its kind, 2,000 meters down in Japanese waters

Researchers based in Japan have revealed new photos of the Yokuzuna slickhead from 2,000 metres below the surface of Suruga Bay. By combining environmental DNA (eDNA) analyses and baited camera observations, the team discovered novel habitats for the fish and that this species is the largest teleost fish (ray-finned fish) endemic to the deep sea in oceans worldwide. They reported their findings in Frontiers in Marine Science.

Yokozuna Slickhead recorded with a baited camera (individual on the right). Image: JAMSTEC

The Yokozuna slickhead is a rare species and since it was first described in 2021, only six individuals have been collected. The successful detection of such an enigmatic species in the deep-sea regions of the open ocean, where the density of organisms is expected to be very low, indicates that eDNA analysis may be effective for monitoring marine protected areas in the future.

Only seven species of teleost fish that exceed 200 cm in total length are known to live in the deep sea at depths of  more than 2,000 meters , of which the Yokozuna Slickhead and giant grenadier are the only ones that are endemic to the deep sea. Since the slickhead reported in this study exceeded the maximum recorded length of giant genadiers, the Yokozuna Slickhead is currently the largest known deep-sea endemic teleost fish from depths of more than 2,000 meters.

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Giant waterlily discovered right under botanists’ noses in historic Kew Gardens

A recent discovery has revealed there to be three known species of giant waterlily, not two. In a paper published to Frontiers in Plant Science, the team at Kew Garden’s herbarium described specimens of this latest discovery that has been at the historic London site for 177 years and the National Herbarium of Bolivia for 34 years.

The new species was named Victoria boliviana, in honor of Bolivian partners and the South American home of the waterlily where it grows in the aquatic ecosystems of Llanos de Moxos. With flowers that turn from white to pink and bearing spiny petioles, V. boliviana is now the largest waterlily in the world, with leaves growing as wide as three meters in the wild. The current record for the largest species is held by La Rinconada Gardens in Bolivia where leaves reached 3.2 meters.

Kew’s scientific and botanical research horticulturist, Carlos Magdalena, said he was convinced the plant was a new species as far back as 2006 when he saw a picture of it online and believed it didn’t fit the description of either of the known Victoria species.

Another fascinating discovery was made when DNA analysis revealed this newly discovered species is most closely related to V. cruziana and that these two sister species diverged around 1m years ago.

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Study reveals how jetlag impacts NBA players travelling eastward

Jet lag is a state familiar to many long-distance travelers, but researchers in Australia and the US have found just how much it impacts some of the world’s best paid sports stars. The article published in Frontiers in Physiology looked at data from 10 regular seasons of NBA – the US’s top basketball league – encompassing almost 11,500 games.

It found that eastward jet lag resulted in a worse performance for the home team when they returned home from a match nearer the west of the US. So, for example, the Boston Celtics returning from a match against the LA Lakers. However, no disadvantage was seen in westward teams returning home.

When playing with one hour eastward jet lag ( eg travel from San Francisco to Boston covering time zones with only two recovery days), home teams point differential dropped 0.72 points. When playing with two hour eastward jet lag, home teams point differential dropped 4.53 points.

The research data showed that when eastward travel was followed by an adequate recovery window, home teams performed similarly to when they did not travel at all.

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