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Volume 563 Issue 7730, 8 November 2018

Bottom-up biology

In trying to unpick the mysteries of how cells work, the standard approach has been to work from the top down, dissecting the way various cellular components interact in their natural environment. But technical advances now allow researchers to use engineering principles to reconstruct biological processes from the bottom up. This special issue explores the potential and possible limits of bottom-up cell biology. From developing membranes and metabolic pathways to designing cell-like systems for medical applications, and creating cell layers that stretch and deform, researchers are piecing together the complex world of the cell.

Cover image: Nik Spencer/Nature

This Week

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News in Focus

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  • Saving time.

    • Melanie Rees
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  • News & Views

    • Engineering approaches allow biological structures and behaviours to be reconstituted in vitro. A biologist and a physicist discuss the potential and limitations of this bottom-up philosophy in providing insights into complex biological processes.

      • Matthew Good
      • Xavier Trepat
      News & Views Forum
    • Efforts to find early traces of life on Earth often focus on structures in ancient rocks, called stromatolites, that formed by microbial activity. One of the oldest proposed stromatolite discoveries has now been questioned.

      • Mark A. van Zuilen
      News & Views
    • Understanding the dynamics of quantum systems far from equilibrium is one of the most pressing issues in physics. Three experiments based on ultracold atomic systems provide a major step forward.

      • Michael Kolodrubetz
      News & Views
    • External forces can make cells undergo large, irreversible deformations. It emerges that stretched mammalian cells grown in vitro can enter a state called superelasticity, in which large, reversible deformations occur.

      • Manuel Théry
      • Atef Asnacios
      News & Views
    • Interactions between the B and T cells of the human immune system are implicated in the brain disease multiple sclerosis. It emerges that B cells make a protein that is also made in the brain, and that T cells recognize this protein.

      • Richard M. Ransohoff
      News & Views
  • Articles

  • Letters

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Amendments & Corrections

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  • Ulcerative colitis is a debilitating and incurable condition. But researchers have found fresh angles of attack, and a host of upcoming treatments raise the prospect of a durable victory against this common form of inflammatory bowel disease.

    Nature Outline
  • Asia is shaping up to be a vaccine powerhouse. The signs are there in funding levels, and combined with Asian governments’ interest in biotechnology, and a highly skilled, highly educated workforce, pharma giants are looking east.

    Focal Point
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