News and Views Q&A

  • News and Views Q&A |

    Interest in the abnormal metabolism exhibited by cancer cells has been reawakened by the discovery of oncogenic mutations in metabolic enzymes, and by tools that monitor metabolism in living cells. Existing and emerging therapies aim to target this abnormal metabolism in various ways.

    • William G. Kaelin Jr
    •  & Craig B. Thompson
  • News and Views Q&A |

    The ability to perceive Earth's magnetic field, which at one time was dismissed as a physical impossibility, is now known to exist in diverse animals. The receptors for the magnetic sense remain elusive. But it seems that at least two underlying mechanisms exist — sometimes in the same organism.

    • Kenneth J. Lohmann
  • News and Views Q&A |

    The race is on to build a computer that exploits quantum mechanics. Such a machine could solve problems in physics, mathematics and cryptography that were once thought intractable, revolutionizing information technology and illuminating the foundations of physics. But when?

    • Emanuel Knill
  • News and Views Q&A |

    The advent of sophisticated analytical tools enables the collective behaviour of networks of interacting molecules to be studied. The emerging field of systems chemistry promises to allow such networks to be designed to perform complex functions, and might even shed light on the origins of life.

    • Jonathan R. Nitschke
  • News and Views Q&A |

    Each week some 20,000 people die from malaria. There will be no magic ways of reducing this dreadful toll, not least because the mosquito vector and the parasite itself have formidable abilities to resist control measures. Angles of attack that rest on evolutionary principles are being explored.

    • Yannis Michalakis
    •  & François Renaud
  • News and Views Q&A |

    The neurodegenerative disorder Alzheimer's disease is becoming more prevalent in ageing populations worldwide. The identification of effective treatments will require a better understanding of the physiological mechanisms involved, and innovative approaches to drug development and evaluation.

    • Lennart Mucke
  • News and Views Q&A |

    Hydrogen is hailed as a non-polluting synthetic fuel that could replace oil, especially for transport applications. The technology to make this a reality — particularly hydrogen-storage materials — has been a long time coming, but the first commercial vehicles might now be only a few years away.

    • Louis Schlapbach
  • News and Views Q&A |

    Obesity is a major health problem in developed countries and a growing one in the developing world. It increases the risk of diabetes, heart disease, fatty liver and some forms of cancer. A better understanding of the biological basis of obesity should aid its prevention and treatment.

    • Jeffrey M. Friedman
  • News and Views Q&A |

    Observations continue to indicate that the Universe is dominated by invisible components — dark matter and dark energy. Shedding light on this cosmic darkness is a priority for astronomers and physicists.

    • Robert Caldwell
    •  & Marc Kamionkowski
  • News and Views Q&A |

    On the Origin of Species ... the title of Charles Darwin's great work of 1859 seemed to promise a solution to this “mystery of mysteries”. Although we now know vastly more about speciation than we did 150 years ago, the one mystery has become many — and the possible solutions have multiplied.

    • Andrew P. Hendry
  • News and Views Q&A |

    Glia make up most of the cells in the brain, yet until recently they were believed to have only a passive, supporting role. It is now becoming increasingly clear that these cells have other functions: they make crucial contributions to the formation, operation and adaptation of neural circuitry.

    • Nicola J. Allen
    •  & Ben A. Barres
  • News and Views Q&A |

    Organisms often respond in complex and unpredictable ways to stimuli that cause disease or injury. By measuring and mathematically modelling changes in the levels of products of metabolism found in biological fluids and tissues, metabonomics offers fresh insight into the effects of diet, drugs and disease.

    • Jeremy K. Nicholson
    •  & John C. Lindon
  • News and Views Q&A |

    Ten years after the term metagenomics was coined, the approach continues to gather momentum. This culture-independent, molecular way of analysing environmental samples of cohabiting microbial populations has opened up fresh perspectives on microbiology.

    • Philip Hugenholtz
    •  & Gene W. Tyson
  • News and Views Q&A |

    Optical lattices have rapidly become a favoured tool of atomic and condensed-matter physicists. These crystals made of light can be used to trap atoms at very low temperatures, creating a workshop in which to pore over and tinker with fundamental properties of matter.

    • Markus Greiner
    •  & Simon Fölling
  • News and Views Q&A |

    Most polymers consist of long molecular chains made up of many units connected by covalent bonds — but supramolecular polymers are different. The strikingly dynamic properties of these materials arise from the reversible bonds that hold their chains together, and open up the prospect of many new applications.

    • Tom F. A. de Greef
    •  & E. W. Meijer
  • News and Views Q&A |

    A protein called small ubiquitin-related modifier (SUMO) can be coupled to other proteins to control their function. This SUMOylation has been implicated in the regulation of a host of cellular processes, and is essential for the health, and even the survival, of most organisms.

    • Erik Meulmeester
    •  & Frauke Melchior
  • News and Views Q&A |

    Earth's magnetic field is unstable. Not only does it vary in intensity, but from time to time it flips, with the poles reversing sign. Much of this behaviour remains a mystery, but a combination of geomagnetic observations with theoretical studies has been providing enlightenment.

    • David Gubbins
  • News and Views Q&A |

    Molecular cell biology has long been dominated by a protein-centric view. But the emergence of small, non-coding RNAs challenges this perception. These plentiful RNAs regulate gene expression at different levels, and have essential roles in health and disease.

    • Helge Großhans
    •  & Witold Filipowicz
  • News and Views Q&A |

    Hundreds of planets are known to orbit stars other than the Sun, and unprecedented observations of their atmospheres and structures are being made. It's an invaluable opening for understanding the planets' diverse natures, the formation of our Solar System, and the possibility of habitable planets beyond our home.

    • Dimitar D. Sasselov
  • News and Views Q&A |

    Modern life depends on the petrochemical industry — most drugs, paints and plastics derive from oil. But current processes for making chemical products are not sustainable in terms of resources and environmental impact. Green chemistry aims to tackle this problem, and real progress is being made.

    • Martyn Poliakoff
    •  & Pete Licence
  • News and Views Q&A |

    Whether in passports, credit cards, laptops or mobile phones, automated methods of identifying people through their anatomical features or behavioural traits are an increasing feature of modern life.

    • Anil K. Jain
  • News and Views Q&A |

    The evidence for rapid climate change now seems overwhelming. Global temperatures are predicted to rise by up to 4 °C by 2100, with associated alterations in precipitation patterns. Assessing the consequences for biodiversity, and how they might be mitigated, is a Grand Challenge in ecology.

    • Wilfried Thuiller
  • News and Views Q&A |

    A carbon revolution has occurred — carbon atoms can be coaxed into several topologies to make materials with unique properties. Nanotubes are the vanguard of this innovation, and are on the cusp of commercial exploitation as the multifunctional components of the next generation of composite materials.

    • Pulickel M. Ajayan
    •  & James M. Tour
  • News and Views Q&A |

    Autophagy is the degradation of redundant or faulty cell components. It occurs as part of a cell's everyday activities and as a response to stressful stimuli, such as starvation. Connections with cellular life-and-death decisions and with cancer are now emerging.

    • Beth Levine
  • News and Views Q&A |

    The stability of the chemical bonds in saturated hydrocarbons makes them generally unreactive. But the invention of processes in which carbon–hydrogen (C–H) bonds in hydrocarbons can be activated is allowing chemists to exploit organic compounds in previously unimaginable ways.

    • Robert G. Bergman
  • News and Views Q&A |

    The natural habitat of eukaryotic genomes is the cell nucleus, where each chromosome is confined to a discrete region, referred to as a chromosome territory. This spatial organization is emerging as a crucial aspect of gene regulation and genome stability in health and disease.

    • Karen J. Meaburn
    •  & Tom Misteli