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Volume 478 Issue 7367, 6 October 2011

Underweight and obese phenotypes can both pose health risks. But whereas obesity has been associated with a number of genetic variants, little is known about the genetic basis of underweight. A large-scale screen of data from 28 cytogenetic centres in Europe and North America now shows that being underweight is frequently associated with duplication of a short region on chromosome 16. Deletion of this same chromosomal region has previously been associated with obesity. The observed associated phenotypes are opposites, or mirrors, of those reported in carriers of deletions at this locus, and correlate with changes in transcript levels for genes within the duplication but not within the adjacent regions. The suggestion is that severe obesity and being underweight could have mirror etiologies, possibly through contrasting effects on energy balance.


  • Editorial |

    Research into cloned human cells has left the spectre of past scientific fraud behind. But reaction to the earlier work still holds worthwhile lessons.

  • Editorial |

    Frustrations of the newest European member states will shape debate over research funding.

  • Editorial |

    As Nature's science-fiction column reaches a milestone, we recall some of the highlights.

World View

Research Highlights

Seven Days


News Feature


  • Comment |

    Excess phosphorus is polluting our environment while, ironically, mineable resources of this essential nutrient are limited. James Elser and Elena Bennett argue that recycling programmes are urgently needed.

    • James Elser
    • Elena Bennett

Books & Arts

  • Books & Arts |

    Andrew Robinson applauds a chronicle of metrication that balances physics with philosophy.

    • Andrew Robinson
  • Books & Arts |

    Novelist Margaret Atwood's essay collection In Other Worlds: SF and the Human Imagination, published this month, is a companion piece to her dystopian fictional world of global warming and engineered plagues. The Canadian author discusses where she gets her science, and her concerns for the future.

    • Jascha Hoffman


News & Views Forum

  • News & Views Forum |

    A technique called somatic-cell nuclear transfer has been applied to human oocytes, resulting in the generation of personalized stem cells, albeit genetically abnormal ones. Two experts discuss the biomedical significance of this work and the ethical issues surrounding the use of human oocytes in research. See Article p.70

    • George Q. Daley
    • Jan Helge Solbakk

News & Views

  • News & Views |

    The identification of the closest analogue of Earth so far, orbiting another star, suggests that small planets are common, and that the discovery of a candidate habitable planet in an alien star system could be just around the corner.

    • Jacob Bean
  • News & Views |

    Macular degeneration is a leading cause of blindness in the elderly in the developed world. Hope for prevention and treatment comes from the discovery of a protective mechanism against oxidative damage to the eye. See Letter p.76

    • Fernando Cruz-Guilloty
    • Victor L. Perez
  • News & Views |

    Two remarkably well-preserved skeletons of the hominin species Australopithecus sediba, found at Malapa, South Africa, show an intriguing combination of features, and open up a debate about the origins of the genus Homo

    • Fred Spoor
  • News & Views |

    The signature of the self-interactions that a colloid in solution undergoes has been observed. The observation has implications for single-particle studies of soft matter and biological systems. See Letter p.85

    • Ulrich F. Keyser
  • News & Views |

    A previously unsuspected genetic mechanism underlies a type of muscular dystrophy common in Japan. A therapeutic approach based on this finding and tested in mice has come up with encouraging results. See Letter p.127

    • Masayuki Nakamori
    • Charles Thornton
  • News & Views |

    Laser light has been used to cool a nanomechanical resonator to its lowest energy state. The result opens the door to testing the principles of quantum mechanics and to applications in quantum information processing. See Letter p.89

    • Florian Marquardt





Technology Feature

  • Technology Feature |

    The tiniest structures in cells can be seen only using sophisticated instrumentation and informatics, but what biologists really need are improved fluorescent probes.

    • Monya Baker



  • Column |

    A little empathy goes a long way in the competitive confines of a laboratory, argues Lydia Soraya Murray.

    • Lydia Soraya Murray


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