When the mRNA COVID-19 vaccines, which deliver the infamous spike protein, were still under development, I found myself trying to learn about the role of proteins in medical treatments. (It led to some basic explainer stories such as this one: What is a protein?)

This week I learned a bit more. Two UMass Amherst cell biologists recently published a study demonstrating a way to make muscle cells better at producing desired proteins, which could make new classes of drugs more effective, including gene therapies and biologics. In a story describing their work, they say this basic science could have widespread application in genetic diseases, including many neurodegenerative diseases like Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s linked to abnormal protein regulation.

In response to the devastating floods in the Southeast over the past several days, we commissioned an article from Vanderbilt University civil engineer Janey Camp, who explains what flash floods are as well as some of the challenges communities face in improving resilience against extreme precipitation events.

Also on the weather beat, University of South Carolina’s Susan Yeargin, who is an expert on athletic training, writes about the very real concerns about student athletes practicing in very high summer temperatures. She gets into the physiology of heat illness and provides a useful checklist of the many conditions people should watch for.

Also in this week’s science news:

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Martin La Monica

Director of Editorial Projects and Newsletters

Your genetic material instructs your cells to produce the proteins encoded in it. Juan Gaertner/Science Photo Library via Getty Images

Helping cells become better protein factories could improve gene therapies and other treatments – a new technique shows how

Daniel N. Hebert, UMass Amherst; Lila Gierasch, UMass Amherst

Gene therapies and vaccines are often injected into muscle cells that are inefficient at producing desired proteins. Making them work more like liver cells could lead to better treatment outcomes.

A bridge and road submerged by floodwaters from the North Fork of the Kentucky River in Jackson, Kentucky, July 28, 2022. Leandro Lozada/AFP via Getty Images

What is a flash flood? A civil engineer explains

Janey Camp, Vanderbilt University

As recent deluges in St. Louis and Kentucky show, flash flooding can happen in urban and rural areas, with deadly results in either setting.

Staying hydrated is part of staying safe during summer workouts. Shawn Patrick Ouellette/Portland Portland Press Herald via Getty Images

How to keep athletes safe from heat illness as high school sports practice begins amid a brutally hot summer

Susan Yeargin, University of South Carolina

The first two weeks of preseason training are the toughest as players’ bodies acclimatize to running hard in the heat. An exercise scientist explains the risks.