A recently published study detailed a technique to encourage the liver to generate new tissue, which could be crucial for people with severe liver disease. The researchers found that “activating a particular protein with a new medication can help accelerate regeneration and repair after severe liver injury or partial surgical removal in mice,” writes co-author and the founding director of the Pittsburgh Liver Research Center Satdarshan (Paul) Singh Monga at University of Pittsburgh Health Sciences. His research team hopes this technique could one day address the shortage of livers available for transplantation.

Another recent paper, which called into question the efficacy of colonoscopies, has ignited controversy and spurred a lot of media coverage. To dig into the details of this study, editors here called on University of South Carolina colorectal cancer researcher Franklin Berger, who writes that the procedure is “one of the most critical and effective tools to screen for, detect and prevent this prevalent and lethal form of cancer.” He unpacks the crucial nuances of the study and explains alternatives to colonoscopies – some of which are available now and others, such as liquid biopsy cancer tests, which are still in development.

The holidays are coming up and there are worries of more COVID-19 cases as the seasons change and more people spend time indoors. A team of researchers who have been closely following testing throughout the pandemic offer sound advice on using rapid tests effectively. They provide answers to common questions and explain how and when to use these COVID-19 tests to know if you’re infected and how long you may be infectious.

Also in this week’s science news:

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Martin La Monica

Director of Editorial Projects and Newsletters

Tylenol overdose is one of the leading causes of liver injury requiring liver transplantation. Elena Merkulova/iStock via Getty Images

Helping the liver regenerate itself could give patients with end-stage liver disease a treatment option besides waiting for a transplant

Satdarshan (Paul) Singh Monga, University of Pittsburgh Health Sciences

Liver transplant waitlists can range from 30 days to over five years. Developing treatments that spur liver regeneration could help reduce demand for scarce organs.

Colonoscopy is still the most recommended screening for colorectal cancer, despite conflicting headlines and flawed interpretations of a new study

Franklin G. Berger, University of South Carolina

Don’t be confused by recent media reports – colonoscopies are still the best way to detect and prevent colon cancer.

A new type of material called a mechanical neural network can learn and change its physical properties to create adaptable, strong structures

Ryan Hansen Lee, University of California, Los Angeles

Computer-based neural networks can learn to do tasks. A new type of material, called a mechanical neural network, applies similar ideas to a physical structure.

Wildfires reshape forests and change the behavior of animals that live there

Taylor Ganz, University of Washington

Wildfires are remaking western US forests. Decisions about managing forests that have burned should factor in how fires change animal behavior and interactions between predators and prey.

COVID-19 rapid tests can breed confusion – here’s how to make sense of the results and what to do, according to 3 testing experts

Nathaniel Hafer, UMass Chan Medical School; Apurv Soni, UMass Chan Medical School; Yukari Manabe, Johns Hopkins University

Rapid tests can be an incredibly useful tool for early detection of COVID-19. Unfortunately, they sometimes leave people with more questions than answers.