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Volume 591 Issue 7851, 25 March 2021

Human blastoids

Our understanding of early human embryonic development is hampered by the lack of suitable models. In this week’s issue, two papers seek to address this problem in the form of lab-grown cellular models of the human blastocyst — the ball of cells that forms within the first few days of embryo development. The two teams used different starting points: in one article, Jun Wu and his co-workers used human pluripotent cells, in the other, Jose Polo and his colleagues used adult fibroblasts undergoing reprogramming. Both groups were able to induce their respective cells to self-organize in a dish to form three-dimensional structures that resemble blastocysts. Both types of structure — named blastoids by Wu et al. and iBlastoids by Polo et al. — represent an integrated model of the early human embryo, although the teams note that their structures are not equivalent to human blastocysts. Nevertheless, the researchers believe that blastoids and iBlastoids will prove valuable in studies of infertility and pregnancy loss.

Cover image: Ella Maru Studio

This Week

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News in Focus

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Books & Arts

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  • News & Views

    • Early in development, human embryos form a structure called the blastocyst. Two research groups have now generated human blastocyst-like structures from cells in a dish, providing a valuable model for advancing human embryology.

      • Yi Zheng
      • Jianping Fu
      News & Views
    • Three atomic clocks based on different atoms have been compared with record accuracy. The findings bring a redefinition of the second a step closer and aid the search for dark matter — an elusive component of the Universe.

      • Rachel M. Godun
      News & Views
    • Organelles called mitochondria have essential roles in the cell and must be inherited successfully as it divides. It turns out that three types of interaction with filaments of actin protein mix and partition mitochondria during cell division.

      • Till Klecker
      • Benedikt Westermann
      News & Views
    • Having more than two sets of chromosomes can help plants to adapt and evolve, but generating new crops with this type of genome is challenging. A road map for doing just that has now been developed using wild rice.

      • Diane R. Wang
      News & Views
  • Reviews

    • This Review proposes an interdisciplinary framework for researching climate–society interactions that focuses on the mechanisms through which climate change has influenced societies, and the uncertainties of discerning this influence across different spatiotemporal scales.

      • Dagomar Degroot
      • Kevin Anchukaitis
      • Natale Zappia
      Review Article
    • The volume of global aquaculture production has tripled since 2000 with positive trends in environmental performance, but the sector faces mounting challenges including pathogen management, pollution, climate change, and increasing dependence on land-based resource systems.

      • Rosamond L. Naylor
      • Ronald W. Hardy
      • Max Troell
      Review Article
  • Articles

    • A nondestructive detector of photonic qubits, comprising a single 87Rb atom trapped in the centre point of two crossed fibre-based optical resonators, is demonstrated.

      • Dominik Niemietz
      • Pau Farrera
      • Gerhard Rempe
      Article Open Access
    • Using germanium quantum dots, a four-qubit processor capable of single-, two-, three-, and four-qubit gates, demonstrated by the creation of four-qubit Greenberger−Horne−Zeilinger states, is the largest yet realized with solid-state electron spins.

      • Nico W. Hendrickx
      • William I. L. Lawrie
      • Menno Veldhorst
    • Polymer-covered inorganic nanoparticles are designed to self-assemble into micrometre-sized superlattice crystallites that can subsequently be built into freestanding centimetre-scale solids with hierarchical order across seven orders of magnitude.

      • Peter J. Santos
      • Paul A. Gabrys
      • Robert J. Macfarlane
    • A synthesis of elevated carbon dioxide experiments reveals that when plant biomass is strongly stimulated by elevated carbon dioxide levels, soil carbon storage declines, and where biomass is weakly stimulated, soil carbon accumulates.

      • C. Terrer
      • R. P. Phillips
      • R. B. Jackson
    • In macaque motor cortex, moment-to-moment fluctuations in neurally derived decision variables are tightly linked to decision state and predict behavioural choices with better accuracy than condition-averaged decision variables or the visual stimulus alone, and can be used to distinguish between different models of decision making.

      • Diogo Peixoto
      • Jessica R. Verhein
      • William T. Newsome
    • Recordings of cells in the human dorsomedial prefrontal cortex identify a population of neurons that encode information about others’ beliefs and distinguish them from self-belief-related representations, providing insight into cellular-level processing underlying human theory of mind.

      • Mohsen Jamali
      • Benjamin L. Grannan
      • Ziv M. Williams
    • Exposure to a novel experience can ‘reset’ connections between the hippocampus and prefrontal cortex in mice, allowing them to overcome an existing learned behaviour and to replace it with a new one.

      • Alan J. Park
      • Alexander Z. Harris
      • Joshua A. Gordon
    • Absolute microbial abundances delineate longitudinal dynamics of bacteria, fungi and archaea in the infant gut microbiome, uncovering drivers of microbiome development masked by relative abundances and revealing notable parallels to macroscopic ecosystem assemblies.

      • Chitong Rao
      • Katharine Z. Coyte
      • Seth Rakoff-Nahoum
    • In a cohort of 87 individuals with COVID-19, the memory B cell response at 6.2 months after the onset of disease evolves in a manner that is consistent with the persistence of SARS-CoV-2 antigen.

      • Christian Gaebler
      • Zijun Wang
      • Michel C. Nussenzweig
    • Single-stranded, DNA-damage-associated small RNAs generated by a BRCA1–RNA-interference complex promote PALB2–RAD52-mediated DNA repair at transcriptional termination pause sites that contain R-loops and are rich in single-stranded DNA breaks in both quiescent and proliferating cells.

      • Elodie Hatchi
      • Liana Goehring
      • David M. Livingston
    • The meiotic proteins Spo11 and Rec8, which ensure meiotic recombination and reductional chromosome segregation, have additional activities that challenge centromere stability by promoting centromeric nucleosome remodelling in both fission yeast and human cells.

      • Haitong Hou
      • Eftychia Kyriacou
      • Julia Promisel Cooper
    • Serial synchrotron crystallography reveals the structure of the human glycine transporter GlyT1, showing how a state-specific inhibitor exerts its effects, and potentially informing the design of new GlyT1 inhibitors to treat a range of disorders of the central nervous system.

      • Azadeh Shahsavar
      • Peter Stohler
      • Poul Nissen
  • Matters Arising

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  • Originally treasured as a beautiful, symbolic and expensive gemstone, and later developed as an industrial work-horse, diamond is now entering a new realm of sensing applications that depend on its unique quantum characteristics.

    Nature Outline
  • Conferences remain an essential part of any scientist's life.

    Career Guide
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