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Volume 551 Issue 7680, 16 November 2017

The cover image depicts colonies derived from human epidermal stem cells (holoclones). Transgenic holoclones from a 7-year-old boy were used to reconstruct his damaged skin. A severe case of junctional epidermolysis bullosa, a genetic disorder in which the integrity of the skin is compromised, meant that much of the boy’s skin developed chronic blisters and wounds. In this week’s issue, Michele De Luca and his colleagues describe how they approached the boy’s treatment. A viral vector was used to transduce stem cells derived from the patient’s skin with a functional version of the affected gene, in this case a mutated î3 chain of laminin-332. These stem cells were then used to grow large sheets of functional epidermis that could be used as surgical grafts to replace 80% of the boy’s skin. The research also provided insight into the generation of the epidermis and revealed that it is sustained by defined, long-lived stem cells. An accompanying News & Views piece explores the limitations and wider implications of the technique, including the potential of translational research to guide combinatorial stem-cell and gene therapies to treat otherwise incurable diseases. Cover image: Sergio Bondanza & Francesca La Mantia/Centre for Regenerative Medicine ‘Stefano Ferrari’ & Holostem Terapie Avanzate

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News & Views

  • News & Views |

    Modelling suggests that Pluto's atmospheric temperature is regulated by haze, unlike the other planetary bodies in the Solar System. The finding has implications for our understanding of exoplanetary atmospheres. See Letter p.352

    • Robert A. West
  • News & Views |

    Infection with Shigella flexneri bacteria is a major cause of infant death. It emerges that S. flexneri evades intracellular defences by releasing a protein that triggers the destruction of members of a key family of host enzymes. See Letter p.378

    • John D. MacMicking
  • News & Views |

    Microbial activity in the sea results in a loss of bioavailable nitrogen. It emerges that the climate phenomenon called the El Niño–Southern Oscillation has a surprisingly large effect on the size of this loss.

    • Katja Fennel
  • News & Views |

    The treatment of a patient affected by an incurable genetic skin disease demonstrates the efficacy, feasibility and safety of replacing almost the whole skin using genetically corrected stem cells. See Letter p.327

    • Mariaceleste Aragona
    • Cédric Blanpain
  • News & Views |

    The physical nature of two regions called large low-shear-velocity provinces at the base of Earth's mantle is uncertain. A measurement of their density has implications for our understanding of mantle dynamics. See Article p.321

    • Barbara Romanowicz
  • News & Views |

    Statistical analysis of data on threatened species provides a model that can predict how rates of investment in conservation affect biodiversity under changing human population levels and agricultural and economic conditions. See Letter p.364

    • Hugh P. Possingham
    • Leah R. Gerber
  • News & Views |

    A single antibody uses multiple antiviral mechanisms to block the replication of influenza B viruses in mice and ferrets. The development could inform research into improved flu vaccines.

    • Peter Palese

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  • Feature |

    Scientists hit hard by powerful hurricanes in 2017 share tips for weathering future disasters.

    • Virginia Gewin

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