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An ayurvedic doctor performs a traditional therapy for treatment of knee pain, at a hospital on the outskirts of Ahmedabad.

Traditional medicines such as Ayurvedic therapy are being considered at the WHO summit in Gandhinagar, India.Credit: Sam Panthaky/AFP via Getty

Yesterday kicked off the first-ever World Health Organization (WHO) summit dedicated to traditional medicine, including disciplines as wide-ranging as Ayurveda, yoga, homeopathy and complementary therapies. Billions of people use traditional healing systems, so some researchers have called for more rigorous science, such as randomized control trials or systematic reviews, to understand these practices and to ensure the safety of products such as herbal medicines. But some scientists worry that the summit will be insufficiently critical, resulting in “the often-before voiced platitudes and wishful thinking”, according to complementary-medicine researcher Edzard Ernst.

Nature | 5 min read

A protein involved in wound healing can improve learning and memory in ageing mice. Platelet factor 4 (PF4) shifts immune-cell ratios in old mice to become more similar to those typically seen in younger mice, who have more PF4. The protein also decreases damaging inflammation in the brain and increases the amount of plasticity-promoting compounds — and it helps old mice to do better in cognitive tests.

Nature | 4 min read

Reference: Nature paper

Features & opinion

Table of Contents

Decades of work has failed to produce a vaccine against leishmaniasis, a sometimes deadly parasitic disease that is cruelly affecting people fleeing from war and conflict in the border regions of Ethiopia and Sudan. Now, researchers are pursuing two very different strategies. Some teams are using engineered viruses, similar to those in the Oxford–AstraZeneca COVID-19 vaccine, to generate an immune-system memory. Others are working to emulate the process of leishmanization, a centuries-old practice among Bedouin people in which children are infected with a milder form of the disease to protect them against the much more severe version.

Nature | 12 min read

This article is part of Nature Outlook: Neglected tropical diseases, an editorially independent supplement produced with financial support from MSD and Moderna.

If, like me, you archive every trivial snapshot to the cloud, you might experience a similar frisson of self-recognition when reading the latest short story for Nature’s Futures series.

Nature | 7 min read

Andrew Robinson’s pick of the top five science books to read this week includes a history of medieval anatomy (with vivid illustrations), an infectiously enthusiastic analysis of viruses and a thought-provoking graphic novel about animal rights.

Nature | 3 min read

A study has failed to replicate two key papers on fruit flies’ ability to detect magnetic fields, casting doubt on whether they can actually do so. Drosophila melanogaster flies have some of the same receptors that seem to help birds and other animals to navigate using Earth’s magnetic field. But researchers couldn’t find any evidence that the flies respond to magnetic fields. This means that the insects might no longer be a useful model organism in this context, explains zoologist Eric Warrant on the Nature Podcast. “That is, to some extent, very disappointing because it means that we’re further away now from probably dissecting the mechanism of how magnetic information is sensed,” he says.

Nature Podcast | 32 min listen

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Quote of the day

Paediatrics researcher Caitlin Aamodt, who was diagnosed with an autoimmune disease as a graduate student, says that celebrating the ability to persevere through hardship can perpetuate inequalities. (Nature | 5 min read)

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