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Daily briefing: Adults with sickle-cell disease are being left behind

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Power-line poles fallen across a street.

Hurricane Ida destroyed almost 30,000 utility poles. Some Louisiana residents could be without power for up to a month.Credit: Nick Wagner/Xinhua/eyevine

After Ida, researchers rethink their future

Hurricane Ida was the sixth tropical cyclone to make landfall in Louisiana since the start of 2020, and scientists are worried that the frequency of the storms, combined with a failure by state and local officials to adapt infrastructure to climate change, will imperil the millions of people who live along the Louisiana coast. Researchers are also contemplating how much more disruption the practice of science in the region can weather. “I would not be surprised if some students don’t come back, and faculty that might be nearing retirement may be deciding this is the straw that broke the camel’s back,” says microbial ecologist Keith Clay.

Nature | 6 min read

CRISPR-like enzymes found in microbes

The search for a CRISPR enzyme’s ancestors has revealed more than one million potential genome-editing tools. Researchers found the RNA-targeted enzymes capable of cutting DNA among a family of proteins called IscB. These proteins are thought to be the ancestors of the enzyme Cas9 — known as CRISPR’s molecular scissors.

Nature | 4 min read

Reference: Science paper

Fossil predator was a giant ‘swimming head’

A half-metre-long arthropod that prowled the Cambrian seas half a billion years ago was mostly head. Titanokorys gainesi, whose head takes up nearly half the length of its body, was covered in a domed, spiked carapace. Its eyes were on its back and faced straight up — for spotting other predators, not prey. “Predation was a big evolutionary innovation that happened during the Cambrian,” says paleontologist Jean-Bernard Caron. “Here, we are illustrating the complexity of that.”

Science | 4 min read

Reference: Royal Society Open Science paper

Podcast series

Hope lies in dreams

Nature Biotechnology has launched a ten-part podcast series that looks at the astonishing life and work of pioneering biotech researcher Stan Crooke. After decades of struggle and years of public doubt, his company eventually developed the first drug to treat a devastating childhood degenerative disease called spinal muscular atrophy. The first episode looks at “an ugly place” — Crooke’s impoverished and difficult childhood, and when it began to take a turn for the better.

Nature Biotechnology | 32 min listen

BACKSTORY: FROM THE REPORTER’S PERSPECTIVE

I first learnt of Stan’s background while interviewing him at a biotech conference in 2015. He told me he’d begun his life squatting in a tar-paper shack in Indianapolis, and to this day he’s not fully sure of his real birthday. From these humble beginnings, he became a ground-breaking scientist and a champion for a brand new drug modality — antisense. It’s an amazing life, and an incredible story. The podcast is the result of more than two years of reporting, and we hope you enjoy it. It can be found here, and wherever you get your podcasts.

Brady Huggett, Senior editor

Features & opinion

Adults with sickle-cell disease left behind

Medical advances to treat sickle-cell disease have slashed the death rate for children in the United States — but mortality for adults has grown steadily worse since 1979. The difference cannot be fully explained by biology. Many of the interventions that save children’s lives can save adult lives, too, but they are rarely used. And most people in the US with the disease are Black, and Black adults encounter racism in the medical system in a way that children mostly do not.

Nature | 11 min read

This feature is part of Nature Outlook: Sickle-cell disease, an editorially independent supplement produced with the financial support of CSL Behring.

Futures: science fiction from Nature

In this week’s helping of short stories for Nature’s Futures series:

• Dive into some fascinating literary selections in ‘Five books from the Alnif Crater travelling library’.

• Guilt, friendship and technology combine in ‘The world in a bottle

Podcast: Earth’s missing billion years

This week, the Nature Podcast features three fascinating stories that were recently highlighted in the Briefing. A period of one billion years is missing from the geological record — and researchers are trying to work out where it went. Leaded petrol has been banned in Algeria, meaning that the toxic fuel is no longer legally available for cars anywhere in the world. And ancient artefacts from Saudi Arabia, which correspond to five periods of occupation during brief ‘green’ windows of reduced aridity, reveal more about this key migratory crossroads for ancient humans.

Nature Podcast | 13 min listen

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

doi: https://doi.org/10.1038/d41586-021-02498-3

Today Leif Penguinson is scaling a limestone gorge abutting Dents de Lanfon mountain in France. Can you find the penguin?

The answer will be in Monday’s e-mail, all thanks to Briefing photo editor and penguin wrangler Tom Houghton.

This newsletter is always evolving — tell us what you think! Please send your feedback to briefing@nature.com.

Flora Graham, senior editor, Nature Briefing

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