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Light micrograph of white adipose tissue, or fat, stained with haematoxylin and eosin.

Long-term use of antiretroviral drugs can cause abnormal fat accumulation in people with HIV.Credit: Jose Calvo/SPL

People with HIV could benefit from semaglutide, the blockbuster drug marketed as Wegovy for obesity and Ozempic for diabetes. If early data about the treatment’s effects are confirmed, semaglutide and other drugs like it could become key to controlling the metabolic problems associated with anti-HIV medications. Studies presented last week at a conference suggest it helps people with HIV to lose weight and reduces certain conditions associated with fat accumulation that are especially common in people infected with the virus.

Nature | 3 min read

Researchers have launched an initiative calling for the safe and ethical use of protein design. The voluntary effort comes on the heels of reports from lawmakers, think tanks and other organizations exploring the possibility that AI tools — ranging from protein-structure prediction networks such as AlphaFold to large language models such as the one that powers ChatGPT — could make it easier to develop biological weapons, including new toxins or highly transmissible viruses. The new initiative calls for the biodesign community to police itself and for improved screening of DNA synthesis, a key step in making AI-designed proteins, for potentially harmful molecules.

Nature | 3 min read

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Science in the cinema

The movie Oppenheimer scooped seven awards at last night’s Oscars. Its portrayal of physicist J. Robert Oppenheimer owes a lot to the science advisers working alongside director Christopher Nolan. Physicist Kip Thorne remembers Oppenheimer as a superb mentor: “He had this amazing ability to grasp things very quickly and see connections, which was a major factor in his success as the leader of the atomic bomb project.” For Robbert Dijkgraaf, a theoretical physicist and the Dutch education minister, the movie got the science just right: “For me, the biggest surprise was that this difficult movie about a difficult topic and a difficult man, shot in a difficult way, became a hit around the world.”

Nature | 6 min read

The monster sandworms living on the planet Arrakis in the blockbuster movie Dune and its just-released sequel are pure fiction, but they share traits with the worms that live on our planet, says worm palaeontologist Luke Parry. Some giant worms grow 2-3 metres long and can ambush their prey, feeding off octopus and squid. Other worms have teeth for dragging themselves through burrows, or for catching prey. And worms played a key role in the Cambrian explosion, notes Parry: “Worms on Earth were responsible for burrowing into sediments over half a billion years ago and changing marine ecosystems forever.”

Nature | 4 min read

A worm with iridescent pale body, lots of appendages and wide jaws emerges from sediment.

The ambush predator called the bobbit worm (Eunice aphroditois) can reach 3 metres long.Credit: Constantinos Petrinos/Nature Picture Library

Features & opinion

In 2020, physicist Ranga Dias claimed to have discovered the first room-temperature superconductor — a material that would not require any cooling to conduct electricity with zero resistance — in a landmark paper published in Nature. It was retracted. Then came a fresh claim in another Nature paper, in 2023 — also later retracted. Now, an investigation by Nature’s news team (which is editorially independent of its journal teams) reveals how Dias distorted the evidence for room-temperature superconductivity — and indicates that he concealed information from his students, manipulated them and shut them out of key steps in the research and review process. The scandal raises questions about how universities, journals and funders deal with research misconduct.

Nature | 22 min read

Reference: Nature paper 1 (retracted) & paper 2 (retracted)

Events such as the resignation of Harvard president Claudine Gay and the suicide of university administrator Antoinette Candia-Bailey came as no surprise to Nicola Rollock, who studies social policy and race. “Black female scholars and staff members continue to face exclusion and challenges in academia that often remain ignored,” writes Rollock. She outlines concrete actions that individual academics and institutions can take to demonstrate solidarity with Black women, including paying fairly, “citing our work and championing us”.

Nature | 4 min read

Researchers who set up a confusing puzzle box with a sweet reward revealed that bumblebees (Bombus terrestris) can learn skills from others that they could not acquire alone — a behaviour thought to be unique to people. After showing that no lone bee could work out how to solve the puzzle, the scientists painstakingly trained nine bees how to do it. The trained bees became demonstrators for other bees, who watched, learnt and won their reward.

Nature | 8 min video

Reference: Nature paper

Click to watch

(Queen Mary University of London)

Quote of the day

Pathologist Anthony Epstein was working on chicken viruses when he learnt of a mysterious childhood cancer during a talk he almost skipped. It led to the discovery, with his doctoral student Yvonne Barr, of the Epstein–Barr virus: the first virus able to cause cancer in people. Epstein died in February, aged 102. (BBC | 5 min listen, from 2014)

Read more: The quest to prevent MS — and understand other post-viral diseases (Nature | 12 min read, from 2022, Nature paywall)

On Friday, our penguin puzzle took us to the gleaming Ziquejie Rice Terraces in Hunan, China, where Leif Penguinson was hiding. Did you find the penguin? When you’re ready, here’s the answer.

Thanks for reading,

Flora Graham, senior editor, Nature Briefing

With contributions by Smriti Mallapaty and Sarah Tomlin

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