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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.
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.
The mammalian gut must defend against a variety of infectious agents. Neurons, cells not usually thought of as first-responders during infection, are now found to aid the gut’s barrier function and stop bacteria from spreading elsewhere.
Tools have been developed to project inequalities in education around the world to 2030. They reveal that overall inequality will decline, but that all world regions will fall short of achieving universal secondary education.
A method for identifying atmospheric contamination of volcanic-gas samples reveals variations in the isotopic composition of nitrogen in the mantle, and provides a clearer view of the origins of this element in Earth’s interior.
Evolutionary-tree diagrams, which show the branching relationships between species, are widely used to estimate the rates at which new species arise and existing ones become extinct. New work casts doubt on this approach.
Silicon used for electronics has a cubic crystal lattice, which makes the material unsuitable for photonics applications. A method for producing germanium and silicon–germanium alloys that have hexagonal lattices offers a solution.
Visualization of the rhythmic oscillations of the mouse and human segmentation clocks, which are crucial to spine development, is now possible thanks to the development of sophisticated cell-culture systems.
In many neurodegenerative disorders, the spread of protein aggregates underlies disease progression in the brain. A receptor molecule has now been found that mediates the neuronal uptake of one such harmful protein.
The principle of mirror symmetry, which states that nuclear structure remains the same when protons are swapped for neutrons and vice versa, has been found to be broken in the lowest-energy forms of a mirror pair of nuclei.
An electrically neutral radical has been found to be a potent chemical reducing agent when excited by light. Remarkably, it is produced from a positively charged precursor that has long been used as a strong excited-state oxidizing agent.
Clinicians use ultrasound videos of heartbeats to assess subtle changes in the heart’s pumping function. A method that uses artificial intelligence might simplify these complex assessments when heartbeats are out of rhythm.
The Antarctic ozone hole shifted the jet stream in the Southern Hemisphere poleward, leading to hemisphere-wide climatic changes. But the Montreal Protocol, which banned ozone-depleting substances, has halted the shift.
Studies have pointed to a link between colon cancer and a gut bacterium that produces DNA-damaging molecules. The discovery of a mutational signature linked to these bacteria in human colon cancer supports this association.
In 1980, a method was found to determine the amount of carbon dioxide in ancient air trapped in polar ice — providing direct evidence that CO2 is coupled to climate, and affects global temperatures in the past, present and future.
Interfaces between the tiny crystal grains that make up solid copper have been shown to change from one ordered phase to another, independently of the phase adopted by the crystals, opening up prospects for materials development.
Satellite tracking of marine predators in the Southern Ocean has revealed key ecological areas under disproportionate pressure from human activities. These results show the value of tracking data for informing conservation efforts.
A newly discovered 66.7-million-year-old fossil bird excavated in Belgium provides us with the best evidence so far for understanding when the living groups of birds first evolved and began to diverge.
Cell death by a process called apoptosis inhibits inflammation in surrounding tissue. The finding that dying apoptotic cells release a tailored cocktail of metabolite molecules reveals a way in which they influence their living neighbours.
Organic compounds can be synthesized in a continuous flow of solutions, but the need to balance mass flow across multiple reactors complicates the development of such systems. A new platform for flow chemistry addresses this issue.