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The forces between electrons and nuclei in solids are difficult to image directly. A study shows that these forces can instead be indirectly imaged using the light emitted when the electrons are subjected to a strong laser field.
Fibroblast, epithelial and endothelial cells are more than just the scaffold of an organ — it emerges that they communicate with immune cells and are primed to launch organ-specific gene-expression programs for antiviral defence.
The discovery that larger quantities of blood-borne proteins enter the brains of young, healthy mice than enter those of aged animals will alter our understanding of the blood–brain barrier, and how it changes with age.
A method has been reported that improves the precision of measurements made by gravitational-wave detectors beyond an intrinsic limit — and shows that quantum fluctuations can alter the position of macroscopic objects.
Efforts are ongoing to find which human or viral factors underpin whether a person with COVID-19 will develop severe symptoms. Clinical evidence linked to two viral lineages now provides key insights into this enigma.
Astrocytes are non-neuronal brain cells that express a protein called PTB. It emerges that PTB depletion unlocks the potential of astrocytes to convert to neurons in a mouse model of Parkinson’s disease.
DNA damage can cause mutations due to failure of DNA repair and errors during DNA replication. Tracking the strand of the DNA double helix on which damage occurs has shed light on processes that affect tumour evolution.
Efforts are intensifying to try to harness antibodies as a therapy for COVID-19. A study reveals the insights that can be gained from antibodies made by a person who had a coronavirus infection that caused the disease SARS.
Quantum key distribution is a cryptographic method that can guarantee secure communication. A satellite-based experiment has shown that this technique can be applied over long distances without the need for trusted relays.
Global warming is threatening the survival of coral reefs. A laboratory model system has now been developed that should aid efforts to understand reef biology and the processes that underlie harmful bleaching events.
It is thought that dinosaurs laid hard-shelled eggs, whereas ancient marine reptiles gave birth to live young. However, new discoveries of fossilized soft-shelled eggs challenge these long-held tenets of reproductive evolution.
The huge, elaborate, 5,000-year-old tomb at Newgrange, Ireland, is thought to have been built for a powerful elite. DNA of a man buried there reveals a case of incest. Was this a strategy to maintain a dynastic bloodline?
Immune cells called neutrophils can support the spread of cancer. How neutrophils aid this process now comes into focus through insights into the function of structures called neutrophil extracellular traps.
A population of excitatory neurons has been found to have a key role in controlling body temperature in rodents. The discovery adds to a body of work that is raising questions about long-standing models of thermoregulation.
What controls the height of mountain ranges? An analysis of the forces acting on mountains near tectonic-plate boundaries suggests that tectonic forces are the main controller, rather than climate-driven erosion.
Exotic ultracold gases called Bose–Einstein condensates have been created on board the International Space Station. This feat is not only a technological landmark, but could also improve our understanding of fundamental physics.
Altered metabolism and genome instability are hallmarks of cancer. A mechanism now explains how three small molecules that accumulate in tumours connect abnormal metabolism to genomic problems by hindering DNA repair.
A Laughlin state is a phase of matter that has remarkable features, such as excitations that behave as a fraction of a particle. The long-sought creation of a photonic Laughlin state is a milestone for the field of quantum simulation.
Undifferentiated human stem cells have been coaxed to develop into skin-like structures in vitro. When engrafted onto mice, the structures produce hair — highlighting the potential of the approach for regenerative therapies.
Archaeology is transforming our view of how ancient Maya societies developed. Use of lidar technology has now led to the discovery that large, monumental structures that aid naked-eye astronomy were built unexpectedly early.
Understanding the prebiotic origins of the nucleic acids is a long-standing challenge. The latest experiments support the idea that the first nucleic acid encoded information using a mixed ‘alphabet’ of RNA and DNA subunits.
A massive genome-sequencing and analysis effort has produced the most comprehensive sets of data and tools for understanding human genetic variation so far. The resource will be invaluable to biologists of every stripe.
Sex chromosomes must exchange genetic information at a short region during meiotic cell division. Molecular factors have now been found that alter sex-chromosome structure and enhance this exchange process.
Efforts to make hydrogen from water directly using sunlight have been hampered by the inefficiency of the catalysts that promote the process. A model system demonstrates that almost perfectly efficient catalysts can be made.
Analysis of predicted loss-of-function variants from 125,748 human exomes and 15,708 whole genomes in the Genome Aggregation Database (gnomAD) provides a roadmap for human ‘knockout’ studies and a guide for future research into disease biology and drug-target selection.
Six-hour weather forecasts have been used to validate estimates of climate change hundreds of years from now. Such tests have great potential — but only if our weather-forecasting and climate-prediction systems are unified.
Grafts of stem-cell-derived precursors of dopamine neurons could be used to treat Parkinson’s disease, but this approach has limitations. Injecting a growth factor three weeks after transplantation can overcome some of these limits.
A powerful radio telescope has peered back through time to observe a galaxy that contained a cold, rotating disk of gas not long after the Big Bang — fuelling the debate about when and how disks first formed in galaxies.
An artificial eye has been reported that incorporates densely packed, nanometre-scale light sensors into a hemispherical retina-like component. Some of its sensory capabilities are comparable to that of its biological counterpart.
Seventy laboratories that analysed the same neuroimaging data each produced different results. This finding highlights the potential consequences of a lack of standardized pipelines for processing complex data.
The multi-subunit protein haemoglobin relies on complex interactions between its components to function properly. Analysis of ancient precursors suggests that its evolution from a simple monomer involved only a few steps.
It emerges that strings of nucleotides are added to messenger RNAs that are undergoing silencing in nematode worms. The composition of these nucleotide tails promotes the formation of small RNAs that drive heritable gene regulation.
Rapid, reliable identification of an unknown viral infection is challenging. Use of CRISPR technology can simultaneously detect nucleic acids of many viruses and pinpoint specific ones, such as the virus that causes COVID-19.
Toll-like receptors can initiate an immune response when they detect signs of a viral or microbial threat. New insight into how such receptor activation drives defence programs should aid our efforts to understand autoimmune diseases.
Patterns in the vibrations of stars produce a sort of natural music that offers clues to the stars’ internal structure. Astronomers have identified such patterns for some δ Scuti stars, a group for which this music had been elusive.
Nanoscale particles have been observed to form and grow in the atmospheres of many cities, contradicting our understanding of particle-formation processes. Experiments now reveal a possible explanation for this mystery.
There is growing evidence that gut microbes can influence disease. Analysis of a mouse model of the neurodegenerative condition amyotrophic lateral sclerosis offers insight into how gut bacteria might contribute to this illness.
An analysis of faecal samples reveals that obese people who take cholesterol-lowering statin drugs have a ‘healthier’ community of gut microorganisms than would be expected. What are the implications of this surprising finding?
Highly charged ions could form the basis of the next generation of ultra-precise clocks, using electronic transitions in the ions as the ‘pendulum’. An ingenious method for characterizing such transitions has been reported.
Liquid-like organelles in cells form when key constituents reach a certain concentration and then condense. Evidence now indicates that the concentration at which condensation occurs can vary, contrary to previous assumptions.
People who carry the gene variant APOE4 are at higher-than-average risk of developing Alzheimer’s disease. It emerges that this variant is linked to defects in the blood–brain barrier and subsequent cognitive decline.
The addition of a methyl group to a drug molecule can greatly alter the drug’s pharmacological properties. A catalyst has been developed that enables this ‘magic methyl effect’ to be rapidly explored for drug discovery.
Elucidating how the brain controls peripheral organs in the fight against infection is crucial for our understanding of brain–body interactions. A study in mice reveals one such pathway worthy of further investigation.
A study of cancer-associated mutations in normal endometrial glands of the uterus has now been performed using whole-genome sequencing. The analysis sheds light on the early changes that lead to invasive disease.
Early 2018 saw unusually heavy rainfall in Hawaii. Modelling now suggests that groundwater pressure increased owing to rainfall: this might have triggered changes in the eruption of the island’s Kīlauea volcano.
Pancreatic cancer does not respond to certain anticancer treatments that boost immune responses. A mechanism active in tumour cells that contributes to this evasion of immune targeting has been uncovered.
The development of low-power methods for controlling a property of electrons known as spin could help to maintain the historic rates of progress that are occurring in computational power. Just such a method has now been reported.