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Amyloid plaque, TEM.

Plaques of amyloid-β in the brain are one target of Alzheimer’s disease treatments.Credit: Thomas Deerinck, NCMIR/SPL

Alzheimer’s drug controversially approved

The US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has approved the first new drug for Alzheimer’s disease in 18 years: aducanumab, developed by US biotechnology company Biogen. It is also the first approved drug that attempts to treat a possible cause of the neurodegenerative disease — plaques of amyloid-β protein in the brain — rather than just the symptoms. But many researchers do not welcome the FDA’s decision. Evidence that links reductions in plaque levels to improvements in cognition is “thin, at best”, says geriatrician Jason Karlawish. Approval of a drug that focuses on amyloid might dampen efforts to find other treatments. “This is going to set the research community back 10–20 years,” says neurobiologist George Perry.

Nature | 7 min read

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Features & opinion

It takes a wood to raise a tree

In 1997, ecologist Suzanne Simard made the cover of Nature with the discovery of a subterranean lace of tree roots and fungal filaments, or hyphae, in British Columbia, Canada. It was “a network as brilliant as a Persian rug”, she recalls in her book Finding the Mother Tree — a network through which many tree species were cooperating. In this scientific memoir, Simard weaves the threads of her life and career into a meditation on the power and beauty of connectedness.

Nature | 5 min read

How COVID changed schools outreach

Since lockdowns closed classrooms and laboratories, scientists have devised online activities to inspire the next generation of researchers. Outreach organizers have been under particular pressure to adopt creative solutions because many programmes are targeted at groups that are under-represented in science, or at schools in deprived neighbourhoods. But they have learnt that virtual outreach schemes can engage participants just as much as in-person activities can, can offer more flexibility and can also draw larger audiences.

Nature | 8 min read

Read more: Research scientist David Hiller finds that the joy of exploring maths and science with kids rivals his best days in the lab (Nature | 7 min read)

Hotter world leave lakes gasping for life

Lakes are getting hotter and their concentration of dissolved oxygen is dropping, writes physical geographer Antonia Law. Researchers analysed 393 temperate lakes between 1981 and 2017 and found their temperatures rose by 0.39 ℃ every decade, and while dissolved oxygen fell by 5% at the surface and 19% in the depths. We can expect more harmful algae blooms, a rise in fish pathogens and the loss of cold water habitats that shelter fish such as trout and salmon, writes Law. “Without immediate action to curb emissions and slow climate change, many of the world’s lakes are on course for a sweltering, breathless and lifeless future,” she argues.

The Conversation | 5 min read

Reference: Nature paper

Where I work

Project leader Loredana Bessone facilitates the collection of lessons learned from the execution of a geological traverse.

Loredana Bessone heads the analogue field-testing and exploration-training unit at the European Space Agency in Cologne, Germany.Credits: A. Romeo/ESA

The volcanic sands of Lanzarote, one of Spain’s Canary Islands, stand in for the Moon in this training session for European Space Agency (ESA) astronauts. “We are debriefing here after a lunar simulation in which the astronauts learnt to identify and collect the most interesting rock samples for studying geological history,” says ESA instructor Loredana Bessone, centre. “We have only 300 kilograms of rocks from the Moon, which are still being analysed. It’s like gold to have these rocks for studying the origin of our Solar System.” (Nature | 3 min read)