Strange IndiaStrange India

Hello Nature readers, would you like to get this Briefing in your inbox free every day? Sign up here.

A somatic cell-cloned rhesus monkey named 'ReTro'.

The cloned rhesus monkey, named ReTro, is the first to survive to adulthood.Credit: Qiang Sun

For the first time, a rhesus monkey cloned in the laboratory has lived into adulthood — surviving for more than two years so far. The feat was achieved using a slightly different approach to the conventional cloning technique used to clone Dolly the sheep and other mammals, including long-tailed macaques, the first primates to ever be cloned. The new technique could unlock possibilities for using cloned primates in drug testing and behavioural research. “We could produce a large number of genetically uniform monkeys that can be used for drug-efficacy tests,” says neuroscientist Mu-ming Poo.

Nature | 5 min read

Reference: Nature Communications paper

A trove of around 315 million gene groups from ocean bacteria, fungi and viruses has been made freely available online. The database includes more genomic data from the deep sea and sea floor than previous catalogues. More than half of the gene groups from the ‘twilight zone’, at depths of 200 to 1,000 metres, came from fungi, which suggests that they play a greater part in processing organic matter than previously thought. The database could help researchers to discover new antibiotics, or to monitor the impacts of burning fossil fuels or deep-sea mining on microbial diversity.

Nature | 4 min read

Reference: Frontiers in Science paper

Glaciologists have proposed a drastic idea to slow the melting of polar ice: erecting giant underwater ‘curtains’ near glaciers to protect them from warm ocean water. Critics say that the proposal would be expensive and difficult to construct, and might interfere with local ecosystems or distract us from the essential work of slashing greenhouse-gas emissions. The concept builds on a 2018 proposal in which glaciologist John Moore and three colleagues made a heartfelt plea to consider such bold ideas, given the toll that rising sea levels will take on humanity. “We understand the hesitancy to interfere with glaciers — as glaciologists, we know the pristine beauty of these places. But we have also stood on ice shelves that are now open ocean,” they wrote. “Is allowing a ‘pristine’ glacier to waste away worth forcing one million people from their homes? Ten million? One hundred million?”

Nature | 6 min read

Curtain call: Diagram showing proposed placement of a sea-bed-anchored curtain to keep warm seawater from glaciers.

Features & opinion

Table of Contents

US company Astrobotic’s Peregrine lander is failing because of a propellant leak, but it was due to deposit at least 70 people’s ashes on the Moon. That controversial plan was made without consulting Indigenous Peoples, despite NASA having promised such consultation in 1998. Many Indigenous Nations view the Moon as an ancient relative. It’s “not about ownership of the Moon or to enforce Diné religious beliefs,” says Alvin Harvey, Diné of the Navajo Nation and an aerospace engineer. “But rather about the right to be consulted, to uphold Native American legal rights, to hold government agencies accountable and to safeguard the Moon for future generations.”

Nature | 5 min read

Five collaborations have been funded to empirically test competing theories of consciousness against each other. These projects, and others, are raising hopes that we’re making progress on one of science’s most intractable questions. But the field is hard to pin down: consciousness means different things to different people. And it’s combative: an open letter last year raised hackles with claims that a prominent theory about consciousness — integrated information theory (IIT) — is “pseudoscience”. A fresh generation of researchers is leading efforts to heal the divisions and push research forward.

Nature | 11 min read

Theories of consciousness: The four most popular categories of explanations for how the brain produces an individual's subjective experience.

Source: A. K. Seth & T. Bayne Nature Rev. Neurosci. 23, 439–452 (2022)

Quote of the day

Exercise scientist Philip Jakeman invited 92-year-old rower Richard Morgan into the laboratory to investigate what the four-time indoor world champion — who only took up regular exercise in his 70s — can teach us about healthy ageing. (The Washington Post | 7 min read)

Reference: Journal of Applied Physiology paper

When we heard that NASA scientists were struggling to open the container that holds most of the asteroid sample returned by the OSIRIS-REx mission, Briefing readers stepped in with their jar-opening tips and tricks.

Many mentioned the wonders of a bit of WD-40 lubricant to get stuck lids off, and several voted for my go-to technique of warming the lid in hot water. Grip is key, readers agree — and a damp dishcloth or rubber gloves can do the job as well as a specialized grippy implement. Striking the lid around the edge with the flat side of a big knife is a popular option, as is levering it open slightly with a spoon to crack an obstinate seal. “It’s probably just stuck on some dried saliva from an alien creature,” jokes reader Stewart Holmes. “My dog does that to the peanut butter jar.”

NASA has the unique challenge of keeping the sample pristine. The container is kept in a specialized glovebox under a flow of nitrogen to keep it from being exposed to Earth’s atmosphere. And they can use only carefully prepared tools that fit inside and won’t contaminate the material.

In this situation, reader Mark Knight suggests harnessing a common bugbear for engineers: vibrational loosening. “Applying a vibration with the right amplitude and frequency can induce a loosening action on a threaded fastener that’s under tension,” he notes.

To finally solve their problem, NASA designed two new tools with components “made from a specific grade of surgical, non-magnetic stainless steel; the hardest metal approved for use in the pristine curation gloveboxes”. Along with the material that was stuck outside the container, they now have plenty to keep researchers busy for the foreseeable.

Thanks to everyone who shared their wisdom. Why not let us know what you think of this newsletter — e-mail us at

Thanks for reading,

Flora Graham, senior editor, Nature Briefing

With contributions by Katrina Krämer

Want more? Sign up to our other free Nature Briefing newsletters:

Nature Briefing: Anthropocene — climate change, biodiversity, sustainability and geoengineering

Nature Briefing: AI & Robotics — 100% written by humans, of course

Nature Briefing: Cancer — a weekly newsletter written with cancer researchers in mind

Nature Briefing: Translational Research covers biotechnology, drug discovery and pharma

Source link


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *