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Volume 603 Issue 7903, 31 March 2022

Telephone connections

The cover shows Yournina Akinyi using her mobile phone at her produce stand in Matasia village, Kenya. In this week’s issue, Joshua Blumenstock and his colleagues show how big data derived from mobile phone networks can improve the targeting of humanitarian aid. Rapid identification of those in greatest need is a significant challenge during a crisis. Blumenstock and his team used conventional survey data to train machine-learning algorithms to recognize patterns of poverty in mobile phone data. Their method was then used in Togo to distribute millions of dollars in COVID-19 relief. The researchers found that compared with more conventional targeting methods, their machine-learning approach reduced the proportion of individuals in need who missed out on aid by 4–21%, suggesting that data sources such as phones could enhance aid distribution in times of crisis.

Cover image: GiveDirectly

This Week

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News in Focus

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  • News & Views

    • Adding particles or polymers to a fluid can make bacteria swim straighter — and therefore faster — than they do through water, by inducing a torque that changes their body alignment.

      • Raphaël Jeanneret
      • Marco Polin
      News & Views
    • Ancient records of Earth’s magnetic field seem to contradict a conceptual picture of how regions of volcanic activity form. Statistical modelling now reconciles these data with our understanding of mantle fluid dynamics.

      • Allen K. McNamara
      News & Views
    • Higher than normal secretion of mucin, a molecular component of mucus, is a feature of many lung diseases. The development of a peptide that blocks mucin secretion in airway epithelial cells might lead to therapies.

      • Irina Gitlin
      • John V. Fahy
      News & Views
    • A higher number of damaging variations in certain genes is associated with an increased likelihood that a man will be childless. A geneticist and an anthropologist discuss what can — and can’t — be learnt from this finding.

      • Loic Yengo
      • Heidi Colleran
      News & Views Forum
  • Perspective

  • Articles

    • A massive star at a redshift of 6.2, corresponding to 900 million years after the Big Bang, is magnified greatly by lensing of the foreground galaxy cluster WH0137–08.

      • Brian Welch
      • Dan Coe
      • Tom Broadhurst
    • A catalogue of the naturally occurring three-dimensional stoichiometric materials with flat bands around the Fermi level provides a powerful search engine for future theoretical and experimental studies.

      • Nicolas Regnault
      • Yuanfeng Xu
      • B. Andrei Bernevig
    • In situ scanning tunnelling microscopy reveals the dynamic nature of the early stages of two-dimensional (2D) polymer formation and crystallization at the solid–liquid interface.

      • Gaolei Zhan
      • Zhen-Feng Cai
      • Steven De Feyter
    • Analysis of tide gauge observations shows that, in contrast to the current assumption of stationary storm surge extremes in Europe, the surge contribution to changes in extreme sea levels since 1960 is similar to that of sea-level rise, influencing future coastal planning.

      • Francisco M. Calafat
      • Thomas Wahl
      • Sarah N. Sparrow
    • Reconstruction of one billion years of mantle flow shows that mobile basal mantle structures are just as consistent with the Earth’s volcanic history as are fixed mantle structures.

      • Nicolas Flament
      • Ömer F. Bodur
      • Andrew S. Merdith
    • In extinct species including non-avian dinosaurs, bone density is shown to be a reliable indicator of aquatic behavioural adaptations, which emerged in spinosaurids during the Early Cretaceous.

      • Matteo Fabbri
      • Guillermo Navalón
      • Nizar Ibrahim
    • Evolutionary modelling shows that an initial set of inhibitory neurons serving olfactory bulbs may have been repurposed to diversify the taxonomy of interneurons found in the expanded striata and cortices in primates.

      • Matthew T. Schmitz
      • Kadellyn Sandoval
      • Alex A. Pollen
      Article Open Access
    • Single-cell profiling of vagal sensory neurons from seven organs in mice and calcium-imaging-guided spatial transcriptomics reveal that interoceptive signals are coded through three distinct dimensions, allowing efficient processing of multiple signals in parallel using a combinatorial strategy.

      • Qiancheng Zhao
      • Chuyue D. Yu
      • Rui B. Chang
      Article Open Access
    • A study describes single-cell characterization of the human cerebrovasculature, revealing human-specific transcriptomic signatures and providing insights into transcriptional changes associated with Huntington’s disease.

      • Francisco J. Garcia
      • Na Sun
      • Myriam Heiman
    • A phase I dose-escalation trial of GD2-CAR T cells in children and young adults with diffuse midline gliomas to assess the feasibility of manufacturing, safety and tolerability, and to preliminarily assess efficacy.

      • Robbie G. Majzner
      • Sneha Ramakrishna
      • Michelle Monje
      Article Open Access
    • Results in the CheckMate 649 phase 3 trial for first-line combined nivolumab and chemotherapy treatment continue to show clinically meaningful efficacy in gastric, gastro-oesophageal junction or oesophageal adenocarcinoma after 24 months, with no new safety signals.

      • Kohei Shitara
      • Jaffer A. Ajani
      • Yelena Y. Janjigian
      Article Open Access
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Amendments & Corrections

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Nature Outlook

  • Every year, more than 800,000 people worldwide die from hepatitis-B-related liver disease — a greater toll than from malaria. But efforts to curb transmission and discover a cure are picking up steam.

    Nature Outlook
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