If only!

Ah, abstracts. Because the world has no attention span, and there isn’t enough time in the universe to read every new paper relevant to your research anyway, we need abstracts in front of scientific articles. Heck, if you are anything like me – and I’m told this is a general scientist thing, not just my laziness – it’ll be an especially important paper indeed that you actually read in full. (Well, that or especially bloggable.)

So you write abstracts to sell your stuff, because abstracts are all most people will ever see of your work. And in your effort to sell your stuff, you sometimes end up writing total fucking nonsense. Probably without even noticing it. (I like to assume the best about people.)

Like, for example, where Mu et al. (2013) write in the abstract of their recent study about regenerating fingers in mice that…

The differences between amphibian regeneration and mammalian wound healing can be attributed to the greater ratio of MMPs to TIMPs in amphibian tissue.

To make the above sound less like a foreign language: MMPs [= matrix metalloproteinases] are protein-chomping enzymes that modify the extracellular matrix that surrounds and connects cells in a tissue. TIMPs [= tissue inhibitors of MMPs] are proteins that interfere with their function. And yes, MMPs are important for regeneration… but if the difference between the amazing leg-regrowing abilities of newts and mammals’ almost complete failure to regenerate even one puny finger were that simple, we would have eradicated one-armed bandits long ago.

If only it were that simple!

(Remind me to make fun of my own papers if/when I ever get something published. I kinda feel bad for nitpicking other people’s language as if I never wrote anything stupid… >.>)



Mu X, Bellayr I, Pan H, Choi Y, Li Y (2013) Regeneration of soft tissues is promoted by MMP1 treatment after digit amputation in mice. PLoS ONE 8:e59105

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