Antlers and cancer are connected—and other breakthroughs

From bottle-free shampoo to bloodless dissections, these discoveries introduce new ways of doing things.

Red deer antlers can grow more than nine inches in a fortnight, reaching a final weight that may surpass 60 pounds. The cells that give rise to these formidable appendages are among the fastest growing in the animal kingdom—and according to a study published recently in the journal Science, they engage a variety of genes found in another type of quickly dividing cells: cancer cells. In fact, the genes that these antlers express, or use, are more similar to genes used by osteosarcoma (a type of bone cancer) cells than they are to genes of healthy bone tissue. Yet deer have one-fifth the cancer rate of other mammals, perhaps because deer antler cells also strongly express several cancer-suppressing genes. Understanding how deer put cancer’s genetics to good use could help researchers discover oncological treatments in other animal species, including humans. —Douglas Main

Crush them, add water, and suds up with them in the shower. That’s the idea behind the shampoo, conditioner, and body wash that come in tiny cubes, an eco-friendly replacement for travel toiletries in the single-use plastic mini-bottles set to be banned in California hotels starting in 2023. The cube maker, EarthSuds, says that a hotel offering the products for a year could keep 30,000 pounds of plastic out of landfills. —Sarah Gibbens

There’s a new, humane solution to frog dissection. SynFrog is made with synthetic wet tissues that mimic the look, feel, internal organs—and even eggs—of the real thing. It’s reusable and it’s safe too: Real frogs can be soaked in toxic chemicals such as formaldehyde. —Natasha Daly

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