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Daily briefing: The puzzle of COVID super-immunity

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Illustration of antibodies (cream) responding to an infection with the new coronavirus SARS-CoV-2 (orange).

Antibodies responding to SARS-CoV-2 particles (illustration). Researchers are investigating heightened immune responses in people who are vaccinated after recovering from COVID-19.Credit: Juan Gaertner/Science Photo Library

The puzzle of COVID super-immunity

People who have previously recovered from COVID-19 have a stronger immune response after being vaccinated than do those who have never been infected. As the world watches out for new coronavirus variants, the basis of such ‘super-immunity’ has become one of the pandemic’s great mysteries. Researchers hope that, by mapping the differences between the immune protection that comes from infection compared with that from vaccination, they can chart a safer path to this higher level of protection.

Nature | 9 min read

WHO reboots outbreak origin investigations

The World Health Organization (WHO) has selected 26 scientists to oversee a fresh investigation into the origins of the COVID-19 pandemic, and into future outbreaks of emerging diseases. The unpaid advisers that make up the Scientific Advisory Group for the Origins of Novel Pathogens (SAGO) all hail from different countries and have expertise ranging from biosafety to wildlife biology. The panel will be confirmed after an open call to disclose any conflicts of interest.

Nature | 5 min read

First mission to the Trojan asteroids

The first spacecraft to journey to the Trojan asteroids, which share Jupiter’s orbit around the Sun, is set to lift off on 16 October. The Trojans are “the last unexplored but relatively accessible population of small bodies” circling the Sun, says planetary scientist Vishnu Reddy. NASA’s Lucy mission — named after the iconic hominid fossil — will spend the next 12 years performing gravitational gymnastics to swoop past six of the asteroids. The Trojans probably formed when the planets were just coalescing, so exploring them can reveal more about the birth of the Solar System.

Nature | 5 min read

An artist's concept of the Lucy Mission.

The Lucy spacecraft, shown here in an artist's rendering, will fly by six Trojan asteroids near Jupiter.Credit: NASA

Features & opinion

Artificial intelligence for every science

Artificial intelligence (AI) is increasingly becoming a tool for researchers in other science and technology fields. Five AI researchers describe the fruits of collaborations across disciplines, beyond journal publications, and talk about how they are helping to break down barriers between fields. One key aspect, they say, is to go beyond the idea that someone who’s ‘good at computers’ can help you to do some data analysis, and consider how AI methods can contribute to answering big questions.

Nature | 10 min read

Futures: science fiction from Nature

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

• A photographer blends into the background — but sees everything — in ‘A thousand words, unspoken’.

• A woman searches for the decision that would have changed her life’s trajectory in ‘Path correction’.

Five best science books this week

Andrew Robinson’s pick of the top five science books to read this week includes climate lessons from COVID-19, an exploration of our sense of self, and a legal scholar’s war on paperwork.

Nature | 3 min read

Podcast: electroacupuncture in mice

Electroacupuncture — which delivers a small electric current into tissue in the body — has been shown to reduce inflammation in mice, but only when applied to specific points. For example, low-intensity stimulation of a location on the leg activates the vagus nerve, which sends signals that release anti-inflammatory molecules. “The question is why,” says neurobiologist Qiufu Ma. “Why can acupuncture do it in one body region, but not in another?” Now Ma and his colleagues have identified the specific sensory neurons that are involved. These results provide, for the first time, a way to identify neurons that might be stimulated to control particular organ functions.

Nature Podcast | 26 min listen

Read the expert view by internist Luis Ulloa in the Nature News & Views article (8 min read, Nature paywall)

Reference: Nature paper

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

Quote of the day

“This is the attitude around space we need to reclaim: the true desire to build a better future.”

The hype around the billionaire space race pales into insignificance compared with the inspiration provided by space exploration, argues space scientist Tanya Harrison. (Personal blog | 4 min read)


Today, Leif Penguinson is enjoying the weathered gypsum towers that make up the Wahweap Hoodoos in Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument, Utah. Thanks again to Briefing reader Walter Lipton, who kindly submitted the photo (and for hosting Leif yet again). 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.

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Flora Graham, senior editor, Nature Briefing

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