The cover shows an artistic representation of various cancer cells. The large-scale gains, losses and rearrangements of DNA seen in chromosomal instability are a typical feature of cancer — but there is no comprehensive framework to decode the causes of this genomic variability and their possible links to disease. In this week’s issue, Florian Markowetz, Geoff Macintyre and their colleagues present such a framework with a compendium of 17 signatures of chromosomal instability that can be used to predict how tumours might respond to drugs and that help to identify future therapeutic targets. The team created the compendium by examining 7,880 tumours representing 33 types of cancer. In a separate paper, Nischalan Pillay and colleagues examined 9,873 cancers to generate
For decades there have been hints of the existence of tetraneutrons, strange systems composed of four neutrons, and now researchers may have created one in the lab. This breakthrough could tell us more about the strong nuclear force that holds matter together.
Last Friday the US supreme court struck down the constitutional right to abortion. In the wake of this ruling, Nature has been turning to research to ask what we can expect in the coming weeks and months.
To study inequality is to confront a world of contrasts: excessive wealth next to palpable poverty; sickness abutting health. The COVID pandemic has exposed and worsened many such disparities. This week, Nature presents a special collection of articles focusing on the researchers trying to quantify and reduce inequality. Whether they are measuring the effects of the pandemic or testing interventions to lift people out of poverty, the message is simple: gathering the right information will help to mitigate the harm caused by inequality.
The cover image shows plants growing at altitude on Altar Volcano in Chimborazo, Ecuador. Extreme altitudes pose challenges for most forms of life, and flowering plants are no exception. But flowering plants have been found growing as high as 6,400 metres above sea level. In this week’s issue, Michael Holdsworth and his colleagues reveal a molecular mechanism that helps plants to adapt to the extremes of altitude. The researchers studied a range of plants, representing four diverse clades of flowering plants — thale cress (Arabidopsis thaliana), tomato, poppy and the grass
Brachypodium distachyon. They found that plants use genetic adaptations to adjust their sensitivity to atmospheric oxygen, whose partial pressure decreases with altitude. By decoding the ambient oxygen level, the plants are able to sense the altitude at which they grow and optimize internal biochemical processes.
A headbashing relative gives insights into giraffe evolution – How the giraffe got its long neck is a longstanding question in science. One possibility is that giraffes evolved longer necks for sexual competition, with males engaging in violent neck-swinging fights.
Now, a team have described fossils of an ancient giraffoid species with a thick headpiece adapted for fighting, which could add weight to this hypothesis.
05:18 A wave of resignations signals discontent in academia
Around the world, the ‘great resignation’ has seen huge numbers of workers re-evaluating their careers and lifestyles and choosing to leave their jobs following the pandemic. Academia is no exception, with many scientists deciding to leave the sector in the face of increased workloads, systemic biases and pressure to publish.
Earlier this year, NASA’s MAVEN spacecraft, which has been orbiting Mars since 2014, developed some serious equipment issues that prevented it from keeping its correct orientation in space. In a race against time, a team on Earth fixed the problem by developing a system that allowed the spacecraft to navigate by the stars.
14:28 The Perseverance rovers continues its rock collection
NASA’s Perseverance rover has arrived at an ancient Martian river delta where it will spend the next few months exploring, while scientists assess where to drill and extract rock samples. It’s thought that rocks from this region have the best chance of containing evidence of Martian life, and plans are being developed to return them to Earth in the future.
With six sets of chromosomes, the hexaploid cultivated oat (Avena sativa L.) has a complex evolutionary history. In this week’s issue, Nick Sirijovski and his colleagues present a high-quality reference genome for A. sativa alongside those for its close relatives the diploid Avena longiglumis and the tetraploid Avena insularis. By examining the three genomes, the researchers were able to trace genomic reorganizations in the crop’s evolution. They were also able to map the genes for important agronomic traits, highlighting gene families linked to human health and nutrition. With health and sustainability high on global agendas, the team hopes this new resource will bolster genomics-assisted breeding and trait studies to address these challenges and more.
Cilia are characterized by slender, threadlike projections, which are used by biological organisms to control fluid flows at the microscale. Attempts to mimic these structures and engineer cilia-like systems to have broad applications have proved problematic. In this week’s issue, Wei Wang and colleagues present electronically controlled artificial cilia that can be used to create flow patterns in near-surface liquids. The researchers use surface-mounted platinum strips, each about 50 micrometres long, 5 micrometres wide and 10 nanometres thick, and capped on one side with titanium. Applying an oscillating potential with an amplitude of around 1 volt to the cilia drives ions on to and off of the exposed platinum surface. These ions create asymmetric forces that generate a beating pattern that can be used to pump surface liquids in various flow geometries. The cover shows an artist’s impression of the artificial cilia in action.