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Volume 553 Issue 7686, 4 January 2018

The ability to monitor microbial populations within the gut and other body organs poses significant challenges. In this issue, Mikhail Shapiro and his colleagues tackle this problem and reveal a technique that allows bacteria to be imaged deep inside the body using ultrasound. To achieve this, the team created genetically modified bacteria that express acoustic reporter genes. These genes encode components of gas vesicles — gas-filled nanostructures normally used by water-dwelling photosynthetic organisms to control their buoyancy. These gas vesicles scatter sound waves and so can be detected by ultrasound. The researchers show that populations of modified Escherichia coli and Salmonella typhimurium can be imaged non-invasively within the gastrointestinal tract and in tumours, offering a potential route for studying the microbiome and monitoring cancer progression and therapy. Image: Barth van Rossum for Caltech


  • Noble gases trapped in ice cores are used to show that the mean global ocean temperature increased by 2.6 degrees Celsius over the last glacial transition and is closely correlated with Antarctic temperature.

    • Bernhard Bereiter
    • Sarah Shackleton
    • Jeff Severinghaus


  • In bilaterian animals, the final configurations of central nervous systems seem unrelated to neuroectodermal patterning systems, so it is likely that the various architectures of the ventral nerve cords evolved convergently, many times.

    • José M. Martín-Durán
    • Kevin Pang
    • Andreas Hejnol
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