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Astrobiology - the study of life in the Universe - encompasses fields as diverse as geology, astronomy, evolutionary and developmental biology, human physiology and palaeontology. Although many ventures labelled as astrobiology are perhaps some way from the usual stuff of science, this eclectic selection of articles shows how invigorating it can be to consider life in its broadest sense.
Science's unpredictability has not prevented a group of invited scientists from being farsighted about future possibilities in fundamental research and its applications. Anticipation is one thing, vision quite another. Geneticists and others are relishing the prospect of the maps and inventories that are to come, and the inevitable Insights into organismal development and function, relationships between species and between kingdoms, and the evolutionary past. But where's the new vision? And what sorts of visions are driving other parts of biology and other sciences towards new discoveries and technologies?
Enzyme biocatalysts carry out the chemistry of life with almost unerring specificity and high catalytic efficiency. This Insight surveys the vast diversity of enzymes at the chemist's disposal, how enzymes can become practical tools for the organic chemist, the development of new functions in nonaqueous solvents, techniques for 'breeding' new enzymes, and the successes and challenges of using biocatalysts on a commercial scale.
Much of human culture has been shaped by the inevitability of our ageing and death. But why do we age, when fairly similar creatures apparently do not? Individual reviewers discuss ageing from an evolutionary standpoint, the role played by oxidative damage, development of age-related cancers and ageing syndromes, and future prospects for research on ageing.
Programmed cell death, or apoptosis, is an essential part of life for any multicellular organism. But it must be tightly regulated as too little or too much cell death may lead to pathology. The hunt is on to understand which cells die when, why and how, and leading researchers here review the latest developments in this rapidly moving field.
By tapping a reservoir of ethnic Chinese scientists in the United States, the tiny island of Taiwan has achieved a global presence in the electronics industry. Substantial investment funds are now available to support new industries such as genomics and biochips. Although lacking the infrastructure to develop these industries, interaction between Chinese scientists in Taiwan, the United States and mainland China could bring Taiwan onto the map in biotechnology.
Cardiovascular diseases are on the increase in both developed and developing countries and are a major cause of mortality worldwide. This Collection of reviews reveals the current research developments that are relevant to understanding the complex nature of vascular biology, highlighting the recent advances in the treatment not only of pulmonary vascular diseases but also diabetes and tumour development.
Since the invention of the integrated circuit in 1959, the semiconductor industry has improved the productivity of such circuits by 25-30% annually. This Insight focuses on some of the most pressing technological and fundamental problems that are - or will be - faced by the semiconductor industry if it is to continue to satisfy consumer demand for speed and computational power.
Despite the extensive use of antibiotics and vaccination programmes, infectious diseases remain a leading cause of illness worldwide, resulting in more than 13 million deaths each year. These reviews examine how bacteria attack and survive in the host, the mechanisms that the host uses to defend itself, and the therapeutic strategies that can be used to buttress these defences.
The past decade has witnessed astounding technological advances in genome sequencing. The next step in this biological revolution - 'functional genomics' - is the subject of this Nature Insight. Functional genomics is not simply the assignation of function to identified genes, but the organization and control of genetic pathways that make up cells and organisms. Leading figures in genomics assess here the challenges arising from the avalanche of sequence data.
The Earth's biodiversity - the sum total of all biotic variation from the level of genes to ecosystems - is being lost at an unprecedented rate. This broad-ranging Collection of reviews focuses on the science of biodiversity, covering the underlying concepts, pure and applied research, and biodiversity loss from the human perspective.
Today, there are as many people in the world who are affected by obesity and its related health problems as there are suffering from hunger. This Collection of reviews investigates this complex disease from its basic epidemiology through to the molecular mechanisms for regulation and possible treatment strategies that are being developed.