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NatureTech

Welcome to Nature Research Tech, our home for life-science technology coverage from across Nature Research. 

Here, we spotlight the technology behind the science, allowing the materials, methods, and instrumentation that make science possible to take center stage. Our goal: to provide current and need-to-know information that scientists can implement in their own labs.

Nature technology editor Jeffrey Perkel also blogs regularly about new scientific tools at Naturejobs; you can access his posts here. Nature Methods' technology editor Vivien Marx and the Nature Methods team blog at Methagora.

Tech Features

As metagenomics advances, virus hunters are finding novel infections in colonies of laboratory mice across the world. What that means for scientific research and the animals themselves can depend on the mouse.

Technology Feature | | Lab Animal

As COVID-19 continues to spread, the urgency of the hunt for effective therapeutics and vaccines has likewise grown. As with past outbreaks, animal models will be an important component of efforts to understand how the SARS-CoV-2 virus causes disease, and how best to defeat it.

Technology Feature | | Lab Animal

To bridge brains and make the most of their nonhuman primate models, neuroscientists are setting standards, building tools, and starting to share their neuroimaging data.

Technology Feature | | Lab Animal

Researchers are finally uncovering the truth about glycans — the sugar-based chains that coat cells and decorate many proteins.

Technology Feature | | Nature

A powerful set of molecular tools helps synthetic biologists to assemble DNA of different sizes, from the gene to the chromosome scale.

Technology Feature | | Nature

Whether the animal has a few hundred neurons or a few billion, mapping the ‘brain’ is a complex endeavor for which there are several different tacks one might take. Data collection continues on.

Technology Feature | | Lab Animal

Genetically encoded voltage indicators change colour in real time when neurons transmit electrical information, offering unprecedented insight into neural activity.

Technology Feature | | Nature

Caring for lab animals is always a priority. But some, depending on the research they are being used for, can require extra attention. As the animals in question get bigger, the task of keeping them in contained facilities can just get a bit more challenging.

Technology Feature | | Lab Animal

Nanopore sequencing’s early adopters are pushing the limits of what can be achieved with ultra-long DNA reads, and they are also finding innovative ways to apply this technology to other biological questions.

Technology Feature | | Nature Methods

There are animals out there with unique phenotypes that could yield insight into human health and disease. Meet three such fishes from waters around the world: Antarctic icefish, Mexican cavefish, and Atlantic killfish.

Technology Feature | | Lab Animal

These 3D structures derived from human cells can be an improvement over simple cell lines, but organoids can still lack important physiological cues for development. Finding the right in vivo environment can take things a step further.

Technology Feature | | Lab Animal

Do-it-yourself projects give researchers the equipment they need at bargain prices. But making your own technology requires commitment and time, and it is rarely easy.

Technology Feature | | Nature

Researchers can’t sit their laboratory mice or fruit flies down and ask them how they’re feeling or why they’re behaving in a particular way. Instead, humans are left to observe and interpret the various clues their animals provide. Can machines help?

Technology Feature | | Lab Animal

In the age of immunotherapy, cancer biologists are relying on a new generation of tools to learn how the interplay between tumours and immune cells shapes the course of disease.

Technology Feature | | Nature

Genome sequencing technologies are improving, and researchers have their eyes on a lot more animals.

Technology Feature | | Lab Animal

The extracellular matrix governs a surprising number of cellular functions. New techniques are revealing how cells and matrix communicate — and why this cross-talk matters.

Technology Feature | | Nature

From higher-resolution imaging to genome-sized DNA molecules built from scratch, the year ahead looks exciting for life-science technology.

Technology Feature | | Nature

Can the computer eliminate the lab animal? As computational methods become more advanced and data more freely available, in silico modeling approaches have growing potential to help reduce the number of animals needed to test chemical toxicity.

Technology Feature | | Lab Animal

Octopuses, squids, and cuttlefishes all have potential as lab animals. As models emerge, what goes in to keeping them happy and healthy in the lab?

Technology Feature | | Lab Animal

No longer just ‘brain glue’, astrocytes are coming to the fore as a broadening toolset reveals the cells’ complexity and diversity.

Technology Feature | | Nature

In vivo bioluminescence imaging offers a non-invasive look inside the body. Its future looks bright.

Technology Feature | | Lab Animal

As the imaging technique produces ever-sharper protein structures, researchers are racing to develop tools to assess how accurate they are.

Technology Feature | | Nature

Why handle a mouse if your experiment can be done from the comfort of its home cage?

Technology Feature | | Lab Animal

Small but dedicated communities are bringing the earliest lineages of the animal kingdom into the lab. Take a look at the ctenophores, the sponges, and the placozoans.

Technology Feature | | Lab Animal

A human can’t easily infiltrate another species’ social group to examine and influence what makes the animals tick. But the right robot can open up a clever way in.

Technology Feature | | Lab Animal

Adhering to mouse nomenclature guidelines ensures that research is discoverable, replicable, and less wasteful. So why don’t researchers do it?

Technology Feature | | Lab Animal

When existing systems don’t get the job done, a growing community of researchers are customizing—and sharing—their own solutions.

Technology Feature | | Lab Animal

Warmer living conditions could make lab mice better models of human disease.

Technology Feature | | Lab Animal

A popular artificial-intelligence method provides a powerful tool for surveying and classifying biological data. But for the uninitiated, the technology poses significant difficulties.

Technology Feature | | Nature

Thought leaders reveal the technologies and topics likely to transform life-science research in the year ahead.

Technology Feature | | Nature

A small community of scientists has taken a do-it-yourself approach to microscopy: when the right tool for the job doesn’t exist, make it.

Technology Feature | | Nature

Ultrasonic energy can be harnessed to alter brain activity and treat disease — but first, scientists need to learn how it works.

Technology Feature | | Nature

Offering long reads and rapidly improving accuracy, nanopore sequencing has the potential to upend the DNA sequencing market.

Technology Feature | | Nature

Chemical probes and screening libraries can easily get mixed up or messed up, causing misleading results for unwary biologists.

Technology Feature | | Nature

After tackling the genomes of bacteria and yeast, synthetic biologists are setting their sights on rewriting those of more complex organisms, including humans.

Technology Feature | | Nature

Researchers are exploiting the structural properties of DNA to build nanoscale models for use in medicine and materials science.

Technology Feature | | Nature

Microfluidic devices filled with intricate channels that exploit fluid behaviour promise to make it easier to diagnose genetic disease.

Technology Feature | | Nature

Mobile phones are helping to take conventional laboratory-based science into the field, the classroom and the clinic.

Technology Feature | | Nature

PCR duplicates—sequencing reads from the same original genomic fragment—can cause headaches. But there are remedies.

Technology Feature | | Nature Methods

Innovative tools are revealing the forces that guide cellular processes such as embryonic development and tumour growth.

Technology Feature | | Nature

Innovative techniques are giving researchers unprecedented access to the inner workings of the immune system.

Technology Feature | | Nature

As researchers open up to the reality of RNA modification, an expanded epitranscriptomics toolbox takes shape.

Technology Feature | | Nature

Efforts to pare away cellular genomes are yielding streamlined biosynthetic factories and deeper insights into the core processes of biology.

Technology Feature | | Nature Methods

Sensitive mass spectrometry and innovative cell-sampling techniques allow researchers to profile metabolites in single cells, but the field is still in its infancy.

Technology Feature | | Nature

DNA folding shapes gene expression. Emerging techniques promise to reveal the intricacies of this architectural language of chromosomes.

Technology Feature | | Nature Methods

Numerous variables can torpedo attempts to replicate cell experiments, from the batch of serum to the shape of growth plates. But there are ways to ensure reliability.

Technology Feature | | Nature

Scientists are uncovering the hidden switches in our genome that dial gene expression up and down, but much work lies ahead to peel back the many layers of regulation.

Technology Feature | | Nature

Structural biologists are at last living the dream of visualizing macromolecules to uncover their function. But it means integrating different technologies, and that's no easy feat.

Technology Feature | | Nature

Labs can generate neurons from pluripotent stem cells to study basic biology and to model disease. Protocols are getting more robust, and labs add personal preferences.

Technology Feature | | Nature Methods

Research into ageing requires patience, but a small cadre of scientists is angling to speed up answers by developing the flamboyant, short-lived turquoise killifish as a new model.

Technology Feature | | Nature

Ways to directly convert one mature cell type into another may eventually offer a safer, faster strategy for regenerative medicine.

Technology Feature | | Nature

Infidelity is painful in life and in the lab. The former is better left to other publications; the latter is best not ignored, especially in the context of PCR-based DNA amplification.

Technology Feature | | Nature Methods

Liquid biopsies can detect cancer signs from a blood sample, without the need for invasive procedures. But further work is needed before they can become reliable diagnostic tools.

Technology Feature | | Nature

Scientists are designing cells that can manufacture drugs, food and materials — and even act as diagnostic biosensors. But first they must agree on a set of engineering tools.

Technology Feature | | Nature

Drug discovery is a daunting process that requires chemists to sift through millions of chemicals to find a single hit. DNA technology can dramatically speed up the search.

Technology Feature | | Nature

The optogenetics techniques that have long been used in neuroscience are now giving biologists the power to probe cellular structures with unprecedented precision.

Technology Feature | | Nature

It's been a long wait for nanopore sequencing technology. Over 1,000 labs are testing the first commercial device and publishing results. Researchers tell Nature Methods about their experiences putting these early instruments through their paces. And more technology is in the works.

Technology Feature | | Nature Methods

Nanoscopes capable of super-resolution offer scientists intricate views of a world beyond the limits of conventional microscopes — but not every technique fits all imaging needs.

Technology Feature | | Nature

Working at a variety of scales and with disparate organisms and technologies, researchers are mapping how parts of the brain connect.

Technology Feature | | Nature

The United Kingdom aims to sequence 100,000 human genomes by 2017. But screening them for disease-causing variants will require innovative software.

Technology Feature | | Nature

The body's organs are more complex than any factory. Attempts to mirror their physiology in the laboratory are getting closer to capturing their intricacies.

Technology Feature | | Nature

Sometimes a drug causes a tumour to completely recede, but only in a tiny percentage of people. Scientists want to decipher such outlier responses for the benefit of all patients.

Technology Feature | | Nature

Blinking and photobleaching of fluorophores cause challenges in a whole range of imaging experiments. Here are some ways researchers are approaching fluorophore photostability.

Technology Feature | | Nature Methods

Cutting-edge tools that can identify the characteristics of cells are helping researchers to develop more-effective vaccines.

Technology Feature | | Nature

The processes behind neuronal communication have not yet been resolved in detail, but dyes, microscopy and protein analysis are beginning to fill in the gaps.

Technology Feature | | Nature

When healthy parents have a child with a genetic disorder, the cause is sometimes a new mutation. Tools are emerging to meet the challenge of finding such changes.

Technology Feature | | Nature

Bacteria can coat everything from thermal springs to teeth. Researchers are looking for antibiotics that can subvert the signalling that the microbes use to carve their niche.

Technology Feature | | Nature

The first draft of the complete human proteome has been more than a decade in the making. In the process, the effort has also delivered lessons about technology and biology.

Technology Feature | | Nature

Beams of charged particles can treat cancer more safely and effectively than X-rays. Physicists and biomedical researchers are working to refine the technology for wider use.

Technology Feature | | Nature

Instruments for studying microbes under biological containment cannot be readily removed from labs for servicing. A US facility is finding ways around that problem.

Technology Feature | | Nature

Toolbox

For visually impaired researchers, learning to program can be challenging. A tool called CuriO offers a multisensory route.

Technology Feature | | Nature

Researchers often find themselves coding algorithms in one programming language, only to have to rewrite them in a faster one. An up-and-coming language could be the answer.

Toolbox | | Nature

Faced with mountains of image and audio data, researchers are turning to artificial intelligence to answer pressing ecological questions.

Toolbox | | Nature

Automated ‘smart mazes’ free behavioural researchers from the tedium of monitoring animals. They also boost data quality and reproducibility.

Toolbox | | Nature

Containerization technology takes the hassle out of setting up software and can boost the reproducibility of data-driven research.

Toolbox | | Nature News

Getting data off an ancient floppy disk or computer tape isn't easy, but it can be done with the help of clever software and hardware.

Toolbox | | Nature News

The system of connecting machines and sensors is finally making its way into the laboratory, giving researchers peace of mind and restoring their work–life balance.

Toolbox | | Nature News

Experiments that generate millions of images have forced scientists to find new ways to store and share terabytes of experimental data.

Toolbox | | Nature News

Scientific publishers are forging links with an organization that wants scientists to scribble comments over online research papers.

Toolbox | | Nature News

Software tools that track how animals move are helping researchers to do everything from diagnosing neurological conditions to illuminating evolution.

Toolbox | | Nature News

Why cloud computing is attracting scientists — and advice from experienced researchers on how to get started.

Toolbox | | Nature News

Consumer-oriented websites allow researchers to compare the merits of scientific journals and review their publishing experiences.

Toolbox | | Nature News

Start-up firms say robotics and software that autonomously record every detail of an experiment can transform the efficiency and reliability of research.

Toolbox | | Nature News