NATURE BRIEFING

Daily briefing: 11 steps to organizing the perfect meeting

A scientist’s guide to short, effective and fruitful meetings. Plus: meet the protein engineers building molecules from scratch and Japan has approved its first human–animal embryo experiments.

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Close-up of a rat embryo at 15.5 days gestation

A Japanese scientist plans to insert human cells into rat embryos (pictured). Credit: Science Pictures ltd/SPL

Japan okays first human–animal embryo project

Stem-cell scientist Hiromitsu Nakauchi is the first to receive Japanese government support to create animal embryos that contain human cells and transplant the embryos into surrogate animals. The practice was previously banned in Japan until the guidelines were changed in March. Human–animal hybrid embryos have been made in the United States, but never brought to term. Nakauchi says he will proceed slowly and with caution, but his ultimate goal is to produce animals with organs made of human cells that can, eventually, be transplanted into people.

Nature | 4 min read

Unprecedented Arctic wildfires spew carbon

Wildfires above the Arctic Circle in North America and Europe are “unprecedented in the 16-year satellite record” and are releasing huge amounts of carbon into the atmosphere. Most concerning are the enormous peat fires — some larger than 100,000 hectares — that burn deep into the soil and last much longer than normal forest fires. Last month, Arctic fires emitted more carbon dioxide than in all the Junes in the past nine years put together, says environmental geographer Thomas Smith.

USA Today | 3 min read

Amazon destruction ramps up under Bolsonaro

Seven months since the election of controversial Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro, the fears of many scientists and conservationists are coming true. Spurred by loosened regulations and reduced enforcement of those that remain, deforestation in Brazil’s part of the Amazon rainforest has increased by almost 40%, compared with the same period last year. Bolsonaro dismissed the deforestation data from his own government’s agencies as “lies”, reports The New York Times.

The New York Times | 5 min read

Read more: ‘Tropical Trump’ victory in Brazil stuns scientists (Nature, from October)

FEATURES & OPINION

The computational protein designers

A new breed of protein engineers is finding that the best way to create a molecule is to build it from scratch. Natural proteins are difficult to modify without disrupting their overall structure. But de novo protein designers can create proteins that are more forgiving. They can build enzymes with activities that are unknown to nature, enabling them to test their understanding of protein biology and ensure that they truly grasp the fundamentals.

Nature | 11 min read

How scientists work and succeed in Africa

“Africa has a lot of challenges, but most of them can be solved by Africans,” says analytical chemist Veronica Okello, who chose to work in her home country of Kenya after studying in the United States. She and six other researchers from African nations discuss the decision to stay at home institutions or go abroad, the best approaches to finding funding and the challenges of nurturing science on the continent.

Nature | 10 min read

How to do meetings right

Nature’s 11-step guide will get you out of meeting purgatory and on your way to the paradise of short, effective and fruitful gatherings.

Nature | 5 min read

QUOTE OF THE DAY

“We cannot continue to ignore Pan’s suite of hominin traits shared to a level of sister-species with humans, with the genetic evidence supporting their reclassification as early Homo.”

Chimpanzees (Pan troglodytes) and bonobos (Pan paniscus) should be added to the Homo genus and given the right to freedom and independence, argue evolutionary anthropologist Itai Roffman and his colleagues. (Human Evolution)

Rest in peace Chaser, a dog who learned to understand simple sentences and more than 1,000 nouns. The late psychologist John Pilley trained his beloved Border collie up to 5 hours a day for 3 years, teaching it the proper and common names of “800 cloth animal toys, 116 balls, 26 Frisbees and an assortment of plastic items”. Tell me what you’re studying for — or any other feedback on this Briefing — at briefing@nature.com.

Flora Graham, senior editor, Nature Briefing

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