NATURE BRIEFING

Daily briefing: The first drug designed for a single patient

Ultra-personalized medicine, the coral that can revive after bleaching and ten common statistical mistakes to watch out for.

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Cladocora caespitosa, commonly known as cushion coral, off the Turkish coast

Coral reefs are feeling the effects of warming seas. Images & Stories/Alamy

Some corals can revive after bleaching

One type of coral reef can unexpectedly recover after a bleaching event that makes it appear dead. Over 16 years of observations, researchers realized that a small number of the polyps of endangered Cladocora caespitosa corals were not killed by a 2006 heatwave in the Mediterranean during that time, but went into a kind of hibernation. Evidence of such coral rejuvenation had only been seen in fossil corals before. The finding is hopeful for corals fighting their way back from isolated warming events. But this hibernation behaviour won’t be enough to protect ecosystems such as the Great Barrier Reef, which will need to survive ever-hotter seas brought on by climate change.

New Scientist | 3 min read

Reference: ScienceAdvances paper

The first drug designed for a single patient

Milasen is a new drug for just one person: an 8-year-old girl named Mila. She has a rare genetic neurodegenerative condition called Batten’s disease. Doctors used an antisense oligonucleotide (ASO), a sequence of 20 nucleotides designed to alter how the body makes certain proteins. In the space of a year, the ASO was customized to target the specific mutation Mila carries in her DNA. The drug seems to have eased Mila’s symptoms, but it raises questions about who can access such treatments. Mila’s mother raised US$3 million for research into her daughter’s condition.

The New York Times | 5 min read

Read more: Nature Medicine explores the regulatory maze posed by personalized ASOs, featuring Mila’s story. (from June)

Reference: New England Journal of Medicine paper

Is this the big one?

A new method might be able to predict whether an earthquake will be followed by smaller aftershocks — or whether worse is to come. Researchers found that they could statistically predict whether a series of shocks represents a decaying sequence of aftershocks, or foreshocks to an upcoming large event — maybe even in real time. But there are lots of caveats: researchers looked at only two series of quakes (in Italy and Japan), it’s not certain that the observed pattern is deterministic rather than statistical, and it’s hard to actually measure a quake series as it happens.

New Zealand Herald | 3 min

Go deeper with the expert analysis in the Nature News & Views article.

Reference: Nature paper

FEATURES & OPINION

Banish hunger on university campuses

Agricultural researcher Esther Ngumbi knows first-hand how it feels to go hungry at university, and how it affects your ability to learn. The experience even inspired her to found a primary school in Kenya that feeds, as well as educates, more than 100 students. She outlines practical advice for educational institutions to address food insecurity on their campuses.

Nature | 5 min read

Ten statistical mistakes to watch out for

Neuroscientists Tamar Makin and Jean-Jacques Orban de Xivry outline ten of the statistical mistakes they spot most often in papers, and offer advice for authors, reviewers and readers on how to spot them. They also give readers (with ORCID accounts) the option to chime in on the best way to avoid these mistakes, using eLIFE’s live annotation feature.

eLife | 27 min read

INFOGRAPHIC OF THE WEEK

Simulation shows stellar merger between two massive stars

A simulation of stellar mergers sheds light on how two massive stars combine to create a new star with a strong magnetic field. In this image, the first row shows how the material mixes and the second row reveals how the magnetic field develops over time. Reference: Nature paper

QUOTE OF THE DAY

Congratulations to Holly (also known as bear #435), who has been named the winner of Fat Bear Week at Katmai National Park in Alaska. Holly’s glorious girth will help her survive her winter hibernation — a lesson for all of us, I think. Send your favourite healthy, spherical animals — plus any other feedback on this newsletter — to briefing@nature.com.

Flora Graham, senior editor, Nature Briefing

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