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Coloured scanning electron micrograph of a 17-day-old mouse foetus

A developing mouse can adjust the growth rate of individual limbs to achieve the proper proportions at birth. Credit: Steve Gschmeissner/SPL

Developmental biology

Mouse embryos’ balancing act revealed

Developing mice control organs’ pace of growth to ensure symmetry.

A mouse embryo can slow the growth of some body parts and accelerate that of others, helping to sculpt an animal with the proper proportions.

When a developing fly larva is injured, its uninjured sections grow more sluggishly, allowing the damaged section to catch up. To learn whether more-complex animals rely on the same strategy, Alberto Roselló-Díez and Alexandra Joyner at the Sloan Kettering Institute in New York City and their colleagues used genetic techniques to halt the proliferation of some of the bone-forming cells in the left hind leg of mouse embryos.

After this intervention, normal bone-forming cells in this leg multiplied at a higher rate than normal. As a result, the mouse pups were born with right and left limbs of roughly the same length. The rest of the embryos’ bodies also grew more slowly after the intervention, perhaps as a result of stress signals sent out by bone-forming cells.

More Research Highlights...

Selected materials found in the gut contents of Tollund Man

The intestinal contents of a man killed in a prehistoric ritual (clockwise from upper left): barley, charred food that had been encrusted in a clay pot, flax seeds and sand. Credit: Peter Steen Henriksen, the Danish National Museum


The guts of a ‘bog body’ reveal sacrificed man’s final meal

Tollund Man, who lived more than 2,000 years ago, ate well before he was hanged.
Illustration of Earth with white lines showing the magnetic field.

Earth’s magnetic field (depicted as white lines in this artist’s impression) can be studied with observations from a constellation of commercial satellites. Credit: Mikkel Juul Jensen/Science Photo Library


Telecoms satellites’ new purpose: spying on Earth’s magnetic field

Clues to the forces generated by the planet’s core emerge from observations intended for satellite navigation.
Ageing of an artwork with graphene

After 130 hours of artificial ageing by visible light, the painting Triton and Nereid has lost some of the purple tint to the figures’ right, but a graphene film kept the bright pink at upper left undimmed. Credit: M. Kotsidi et al./Nature Nanotechnol.

Materials science

A graphene cloak keeps artworks’ colours ageless

A layer of carbon atoms preserves a painting’s vibrant hues — and can be applied and removed without damage.
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