Science: Random Genome Mutations, Ancient Peru’s Hallucinogenic Beer

Challenging the dogma of gene evolution, and how chiral nanoparticles could give vaccines a boost.

In this episode:

00:45 Genome mutations may be less random than previously thought

A long-standing doctrine in evolution is that mutations can arise anywhere in a genome with equal probability. However, new research is challenging this idea of randomness, showing that mutations in the genome of the plant Arabidosis thaliana appear to happen less frequently in important regions of the genome.

Research article: Munroe et al.

News and Views: Important genomic regions mutate less often than do other regions

13:45 Research Highlights

How hallucinogenic beer helped cement an ancient superpower’s control, and a surprisingly enormous colony of breeding fish.

Research Highlight: Drug-fuelled parties helped ancient Andean rulers to hold power

Research Highlight: Vast fish breeding colony is more than twice the size of Paris

16:11 How a left-handed nanoparticle could give vaccines a boost

The chirality of a molecule – whether it has a left- or right-handed orientation – can have significant impacts on how it works. This week, a team show that left-handed gold nanoparticles can stimulate the immune system of mice, and boost the activity of a flu vaccine.

Research article: Xu et al.

News and Views: Nanoparticle asymmetry shapes an immune response

23:04 Briefing Chat

We discuss some highlights from the Nature Briefing. This time, Tasmanian devils’ discerning diets break the rules on scavenging, and new techniques uncovering the sex of ancient human remains may rewrite our assumptions.

Cosmos: Tasmanian devils puzzle science with picky eating habits

The Observer: Archaeology’s sexual revolution

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