Daily briefing: Triple-therapy drug shows dramatic effect on cystic fibrosis

Dramatically effective drug could transform life for 90% of people with cystic fibrosis, primate embryos grown in the lab for longer than ever before and measles erases immune ‘memory’ for other diseases.

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Long-tailed macaques at Monkey Temple, Thailand

Two groups have grown cynomolgus monkey embryos for 20 days in the lab.Credit: Mark MacEwen/Nature Picture Library

Longest-lived primate embryos in a lab

Two groups working in China have grown monkey embryos in a dish for 20 days, more than double the previous record. Researchers grow monkey embryos to understand the earliest stages of development without the ethical restrictions of growing human embryos. Yet the latest studies show there are subtle but crucial differences between how we develop compared to other primates. The results will therefore probably reignite a push to extend the time human embryos should be permitted to develop in the lab.

Nature | 5 min read

References: Science paper 1 & paper 2.

Measles erases immune ‘memory’

Measles infections in children can wipe out the immune system’s memory of other illnesses such as influenza. This can leave children who recover from measles vulnerable to other pathogens that they might have been protected from before their bout with the virus. The findings come at a time when measles cases are spiking around the world, and highlights the importance of vaccination.

Nature | 4 min read

Drug shows dramatic effect on cystic fibrosis

A new treatment for cystic fibrosis (CF) could see the illness transformed from one that cuts lives short to one that can be managed with medication for 90% of patients. The therapy consists of three drugs that restore the function of the protein affected by CF: one that corrects the misfolding of the protein and two that activate the protein when it reaches the cell membrane.

The Washington Post | 8 min read

Reference: The New England Journal of Medicine paper & The Lancet paper

Faked figures lead to funding ban for life

The US Office of Research Integrity (ORI) has issued a rare lifetime federal funding ban to a researcher whose work led to a swath of retractions and a pricey lawsuit for Duke University. ORI investigators found that former lab leader Erin Potts-Kant faked figures used in 39 published papers. Earlier this year, Duke paid US$112.5 million to the US government to settle accusations that it used bogus data to collect government grants, with $33.75 million of the settlement going to a whistleblowing lab-mate.

Retraction Watch | 5 min read

Features & opinion

From prison to a PhD

“Re-entering society is incredibly difficult, even more so when you bring the stigma of prison into academia,” says psychology postdoc Noel Vest, who knows the struggles first-hand. Vest and two other academics who spent time incarcerated talk about the barriers they overcame, how they are working to help others make the transition, and why their lived experience can be helpful in their research.

Nature | 9 min read

Insect declines show we must think bigger

A long-term research project now provides the strongest evidence so far of widespread losses among insects and spiders. Ecologist Sebastian Seibold, who led the research, talks to the Nature Podcast about what he uncovered in 10 years of data from more than 1 million individual arthropods of about 2,700 species. “We have some sites that are protected areas, that are managed mainly for conservation purposes, but still we see declines,” says Seibold. “It’s obviously not enough to just protect a small area or change farming practices within a small area.”

Nature Podcast | 25 min listen

Reference: Nature paper

Read the expert view in the Nature News & Views article. (6 min read)

Subscribe to the Nature Podcast on iTunes, Google Podcasts or Spotify.

Books & culture

Shilluk tribes people gather in a circle under a large tree for traditional storytelling

Shilluk people in Sudan gather in the shade for traditional storytelling.Credit: Eye Ubiquitous/Alamy

The rise of the greedy-brained ape

Our species is a marvel of evolution: a weak-jawed, bipedal omnivore with a greedy brain, in which 100 billion neurons consume 20% of the body’s energy intake. Science journalist Gaia Vince’s new book traces the journey of Homo sapiens through genes, environment and culture to what might be, she surmises, a new state of being.

Nature | 5 min read

Five best science books this week

Barbara Kiser’s pick of the top five science books to read this week includes how H. G. Wells straddled the border between science and literature, Disney’s pioneering women and an oncologist’s memoir.

Nature | 2 min read

Infographic of the week

Figure 1 | Cellular cannibalism. Chemotherapy drugs can cause cancer cells to enter a state of senescence, which is usually associated with an irreversible halt to cell division. However, these cells can promote tumour survival by secreting growth factors and signalling molecules called cytokines in a process termed the senescence-associated secretory phenotype (SASP) response2. Tonnessen-Murray et al.4 report studies of breast cancer in mice which reveal that this type of senescent cell takes up (engulfs) and digests neighbouring living cells. The cells are engulfed by a process that has molecular characteristics of phagocytosis, an engulfment process that immune cells use. Once ingested, the cells are enveloped in membrane from an organelle called the lysosome and digested. This might account for a portion of the numerous lysosomes that are a hallmark of senescent cells. This degradation provides metabolic building blocks for the cell. Senescent cells that have ingested their neighbours survive for longer than senescent cells that have not.


“We hoped that the gene discovery would someday lead to effective treatments for children and adults with cystic fibrosis, but we knew that would be a long road. Now, 30 years later, that time has come.”

Francis Collins, director of the US National Institutes of Health and a co-discoverer of the genetic cause of cystic fibrosis, welcomes a new treatment for the illness in a technical, yet moving editorial accompanying the research in The New England Journal of Medicine.

Your feedback, as always, is very welcome at

Flora Graham, senior editor, Nature Briefing

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