Reviews & Analysis

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  • Computational simulation of interactions of each of 75 million molecules with a model structure of the 5-HT2A receptor, which mediates the actions of psychedelic drugs, identified molecules that selectively activate the receptor. When tested in mice, two of these compounds had antidepressant-like actions without the side effects of psychedelic drugs.

    Research Briefing
  • When plants recognize disease-causing organisms, they activate immune responses through mechanisms that are poorly understood. Resolving the structure of a plant receptor-protein complex in wheat that detects fungus-derived molecules reveals that the corresponding receptor family is structurally conserved during evolution.

    Research Briefing
  • After the Roman Empire collapsed, Europe underwent substantial cultural changes and saw large-scale migrations. A genome-wide ancient-DNA analysis of hundreds of individuals from early medieval England shows that they derived an average of 76% of their ancestry from people from Europe. Burial practices varied slightly between the different heritage groups, especially for women.

    Research Briefing
  • A soft sheet has been constructed that can be driven by electromagnetic forces to continuously change its shape, mimicking the behaviour of soft tissues in living organisms. The control system uses imaging data and an optimization algorithm to enhance the material’s morphing ability.

    Research Briefing
  • After around 780 years without volcanic activity, Iceland’s Reykjanes peninsula sprang to life in 2021, when magma breached the surface at the Fagradalsfjall volcano. Observed changes in the lava composition have provided an unprecedented record of the supply and mixing mechanics of deep magma at the base of the crust.

    Research Briefing
  • A diverse range of marine predators — including tunas, billfishes and sharks — in the North Pacific Ocean cluster together in clockwise-rotating eddies, seemingly to hunt deep-ocean prey, which are unusually abundant there. This suggests that there is a relationship between the foraging opportunities of predators and the energetics of this marine biome.

    Research Briefing
  • We genetically reprogrammed yeast to produce the alkaloids vindoline and catharanthine — the longest biosynthetic pathway to be transferred from a plant to a microorganism. In principle, similarly engineered yeast strains could produce more than 3,000 other monoterpene indole alkaloids and unnatural analogues.

    Research Briefing
  • Investigation of sensory neuronal cells in structures called dorsal root ganglia reveals that these cells project into fat tissue, and act as brakes on the effects of the sympathetic nervous system. Thus, the sympathetic nervous system and sensory neurons work together to control the function of fat.

    Research Briefing
  • Myocardial infarction, or heart attack, is one of the world’s biggest killers. An analysis of spatial and single-cell changes to human tissue after a heart attack provides insights into disease mechanisms and builds a resource for the discovery of therapeutics.

    Research Briefing
  • Microglia are immune cells that regulate the function and activity of the nervous system. Detailed molecular and spatial studies in mice reveal that different types of neuron govern the density and states of nearby microglia, interactions that can shape local neural circuits.

    Research Briefing
  • A newly discovered population of white-spruce trees is advancing northwards in Arctic Alaska, driven by ecological factors that are associated with climate change at this latitude — including stronger winter winds, deeper snow and greater nutrient availability in the soil.

    Research Briefing
  • Microscopic light-emitting diodes (LEDs) have applications ranging from augmented-reality displays to large-screen products, but their brightness typically decreases as their size is reduced. A solution to this problem has now been found and used to manufacture bright blue nanoscale LEDs.

    Research Briefing
  • Cooling molecular gases to nanokelvin temperatures is challenging because the molecules start to stick together when they reach the microkelvin range. Using a strong, rotating microwave field, a gas of sodium–potassium polar molecules has been stabilized and cooled to 21 nanokelvins — opening up many possibilities to explore exotic states of quantum matter.

    Research Briefing
  • We determined the whole-genome sequences of 150,119 individuals from the UK Biobank and identified more than 600 million sequence variants. The comprehensive data identify novel associations with human traits and show the functional importance of sequence variants inside and outside protein-coding regions.

    Research Briefing
  • Tuning the resonances of an object is crucial in many settings, from musical instruments to ultrasensitive detectors for electromagnetic and gravitational waves. This task might seem straightforward but its mathematical description has been shown to involve rich topological structures known as knots and braids.

    Research Briefing
  • State-of-the-art computer simulations show that the first supermassive black holes were born in rare, turbulent reservoirs of gas in the primordial Universe without the need for finely tuned, exotic environments — contrary to what has been thought for almost two decades.

    Research Briefing
  • Quantum entanglement has been generated between two single-atom quantum memories over a 33-kilometre optical-fibre link. The wavelength of the photons emitted by these quantum memories was converted to one that works in telecommunications without altering the polarization of the photons, paving the way for the long-distance links of future quantum networks.

    Research Briefing
  • Swirling vortices have been directly observed in a flow of electric current for the first time. Unlike conventional viscous fluids, collective fluid-like behaviour in this case is not caused by particle–particle collisions, but results from a previously unidentified mechanism involving single electrons scattering from material surfaces at small angles.

    Research Briefing
  • Adolescence is an intensely stressful life stage. We developed a brief online training module to help young people to understand stress and to respond to it constructively. The module improved their psychological and physiological responses to stress and boosted academic performance.

    Research Briefing
  • We charted the genetic history of the grey wolf over the past 100,000 years by analysing 72 ancient genomes. Placing dogs into this history, we found that they derive ancestry from at least two separate wolf populations.

    Research Briefing