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The outside of the Osiris-Rex sample collector with material from asteroid Bennu at middle right.

The sample-collection device from NASA’s OSIRIS-REx spacecraft includes material from asteroid Bennu (black grains, middle right).Credit: Erika Blumenfeld, Joseph Aebersold/NASA via AP/Alamy

Samples of asteroid Bennu that were returned to Earth by the OSIRIS-REx mission contain some of the building blocks of life — carbon and water, trapped inside the crystal structure of clay minerals. “The pristine sample material from Bennu represents a valuable resource providing a window into the early Solar System,” says astromaterials researcher Eileen Stansbery. And this is just what’s on the surface of the sample container — it hasn’t even been opened yet.

Nature | 5 min read

A macaque lived for more than two years with a kidney from a gene-edited miniature pig — one of the longest-lasting interspecies organ transplants. It raises hopes that human organ shortages could one day be alleviated by using organs from donor animals. The donor pigs received 69 gene edits to prevent immune reactions after transplantation and to keep the organ healthy. Of the 15 monkeys that received a transplant, five survived for more than one year and one of those lived for 758 days.

Nature | 6 min read

Reference: Nature paper

Researchers are using machine-learning programs to get ahead of COVID-19 and stave off future pandemics. In one case, researchers used artificial-intelligence (AI) tools — including Google Deepmind’s AlphaFold — to better understand the newly discovered Langya virus, and how it might be targeted with vaccines and treatments. Others are predicting mutations in SARS-CoV-2, with the hope of anticipating the virus’s evolution so that we can keep pace with updated vaccines.

Nature | 7 min read

Reference: bioRxiv preprint 1 & bioRxiv preprint 2 (both not peer reviewed), Nature paper

Features & opinion

Table of Contents

For decades, the body mass index (BMI) has reigned as the dominant diagnostic tool for obesity. But as a measure that accounts only for height and weight, it tells us little about someone’s health, says obesity physician Fatima Cody Stanford. A growing movement is pushing to go beyond BMI and take into account factors such as cholesterol, blood sugar, family history and genetics. “You’re starting to see this seep into guidelines,” says Stanford. “Translation into clinical practice will be a larger hurdle to overcome.”

Nature | 9 min read

Organizational-behaviour researcher Dritjon Gruda has seen papers languish in editorial limbo, delaying the dissemination of important research and hobbling his career advancement. The prohibition against simultaneously submitting a paper to several journals must end, he argues. In the meantime, he shares his suggestions for how authors can avoid blockages in the publication pipeline.

Nature | 5 min read

Last week, a second malaria vaccine won global approval after decades of development. “But vaccine approval must be accompanied by a comprehensive funding and eradication plan,” argues a Nature editorial. To make more than just glacially slow progress towards reducing the disease’s toll, the world must pull together to plug gaping funding holes and radically ramp up local vaccine manufacturing.

Nature | 5 min read

Quote of the day

Immunologist Dequina Nicholas doesn’t have the fondest memories of her chemistry honours project, but recalls it as one of the first steps on a challenging path to running her own lab. (Nature | 6 min read)

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