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Coloured CT scan of a coronal section through the brain of a patient with Alzheimer's disease.

A computed-tomography scan of a brain affected by Alzheimer’s disease, the most common cause of dementia.Credit: Vsevolod Zviryk/Science Photo Library

Researchers have identified biomarkers that can be used to predict the risk of developing dementia several years before diagnosis. An analysis of around 1,500 proteins in blood samples from more than 50,000 adults found that high levels of four proteins were associated with dementia and Alzheimer’s disease. For some people who developed dementia, blood levels of these proteins were outside normal ranges more than ten years before the onset of symptoms.

Nature | 4 min read

Reference: Nature Aging paper

By 15 February, China’s universities must tell the government all of their retractions from the past three years and clarify why the papers have been retracted. According to a Nature analysis of English-language journals, more than 17,000 retraction notices for papers published by co-authors in China have been issued in that period. This is “the first time we’ve seen such a national operation on retraction investigations”, says library and information scientist Xiaotian Chen. It’s not clear what the government will do with the retraction reports. Proponents suggest that the reporting process in itself, as well as regular reviews, could help to curb misconduct.

Nature | 5 min read

Apple’s recently released Vision Pro headset could open up possibilities in accessibility and medical research. The US$3,499 headset can create virtual overlays on the real world that users can navigate to with their eyes and interact with using hand gestures. Its incredibly realistic, near-real-time display makes it unique, say scientists. The headset could allow new ways for people with disabilities to use computers and help surgeons to perform operations. The device’s eye-tracking technology might even be capable of picking up early signs of a stroke or dementia.

Nature | 5 min read

Features & opinion

Academics in the United States worry that growing political pressure on universities could limit research and teaching. In the past few years, laws in some right-leaning states have put restrictions on diversity initiatives, in what conservatives say is an effort to protect academic freedom. But many in academia view inclusion as pragmatically good for science, as well as a moral imperative. “What we’re seeing is an attempt by the right to convince the public that higher education is broken,” says Irene Mulvey, president of the American Association of University Professors. “And they need to fix it by squashing academic freedom.”

Nature | 11 min read

In January, more than 50 papers published by scientists at the Dana-Farber Cancer Institute were flagged for possible image manipulation. To stop questionable figures from being published in the first place, some journals are asking authors to submit raw images. Many publishers are using AI tools that could make it faster and easier to detect, for example, spliced or duplicated images. But they are less adept at spotting more complex manipulations or AI-generated fakery. “The existing tools are at best showing the tip of an iceberg that may grow dramatically, and current approaches will soon be largely obsolete,” says Bernd Pulverer, chief editor of EMBO Reports.

Nature | 6 min read

In 2013, biochemist Katalin Karikó was abruptly ousted from her tiny lab for not bringing in enough research money. “That lab is going to be a museum one day,” she hissed at her manager — oddly prophetic words. In her memoir Breaking Through, Karikó recounts her obsession with messenger RNA (mRNA), which she firmly believed could play a major role in medicine. Few colleagues agreed, and Karikó faced decades of hostility before her research helped to create a vaccine that saved millions during the COVID-19 pandemic. “This is a vividly written, absorbing memoir of a life filled with triumphs over near-constant adversity,” says reviewer Robin McKie.

The Guardian | 4 min read

Where I work

Peter Chatanga uses a song meter to determine which sound-making animals live at the Bokong Nature Reserve’s wetlands in Lesotho.

Peter Chatanga is an ecologist at the National University of Lesotho.Credit: Barry Christianson for Nature

Ecologist Peter Chatanga records the soundscapes of Lesotho’s high-altitude wetlands. “We want to compare our recordings between seasons, between dawn and dusk and between day and night, to understand the rhythms of the ecosystem,” he explains. Although Chatanga mostly uses software to comb through the mounds of data, “listening to the recordings makes me happy because I enjoy hearing a variety of sounds, especially the singing of different birds”. (Nature | 3 min read)

Quote of the day

Physicist Jenny Hoffman, who last year smashed the women’s world record of running across the United States, says that her sport is not only a personal challenge but also a necessary escape. (Nature | 8 min read)

Today, I’m saying hello to Zoozve, the new official name of Venus’ quasi-moon. The moniker is a misreading of the provisional name, 2002VE, on a children’s poster of the solar system. As for how you say it, “all pronunciations are welcome”, says Latif Nasser, who suggested the name to the International Astronomical Union. “This is a made-up thing. Everyone’s welcome to the party.”

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Thanks for reading,

Katrina Krämer, associate editor, Nature Briefing

With contributions by Gemma Conroy and Sarah Tomlin

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