Reviews & Analysis

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  • A compound made by plants used in traditional medicine has been prepared by chemical synthesis, providing enough for biological testing. The unexpected finding that it acts at opioid receptors raises prospects for drug discovery.

    • Nicholas P. R. Onuska
    • Joshua G. Pierce
    News & Views
  • How a bacterium coordinates the assembly of its outer layers, and couples the formation of this envelope to cell growth and division, is not fully understood. Assessing the role of peptidoglycan molecules provides some answers.

    • Michaël Deghelt
    • Jean-François Collet
    News & Views
  • An experiment firing helium-8 nuclei at a proton target has generated evidence that four neutrons can exist transiently without any other matter. But doubts remain, because the existence of such systems is at odds with theory.

    • Lee G. Sobotka
    • Maria Piarulli
    News & Views
  • The deadly spread of cancer occurs predominantly during sleep, as revealed by an analysis of migrating human tumour cells in the bloodstream. What are the implications of this finding for the treatment of cancer?

    • Harrison Ball
    • Sunitha Nagrath
    News & Views
  • DNA from more than 1,000 marine microbial communities around the world was used to reconstruct around 26,000 genomes. The analyses identified a highly biosynthetically diverse family of bacteria in the open ocean, as well as new enzymes and biochemical compounds.

    Research Briefing
  • The sensation of touch-evoked itch is common in people who have chronic itch conditions. Evidence in mice now suggests that the mechanoreceptor protein Piezo1 underlies this sensation.

    • Taylor Follansbee
    • Xinzhong Dong
    News & Views
  • Membranes made from metal–organic frameworks contain modular pores that can separate mixtures of gas. By changing the shape of these pores to improve molecular separation, we produced a membrane that could remove nitrogen and carbon dioxide from natural gas in an energy-efficient and cost-effective way.

    Research Briefing
  • Two-dimensional materials made of carbon have been limited to monolayers of atoms, such as graphene. Sheets composed of connected buckyballs — spherical clusters of atoms — have now been made by peeling layers from a crystal.

    • J. Michael Gottfried
    News & Views
  • A high-precision comparison of the magnetic moments of two isotopically different neon ions opens a path to the search for elusive particles that could explain the unexpectedly low observed mass of the Higgs boson.

    • Gerald Gwinner
    • Roshani Silwal
    News & Views
  • A metabolite called Lac-Phe is associated with exercise-induced ‘muscle burn’. This molecule has now been shown to reduce food intake after exercise in mice, racehorses and humans, and to trigger weight loss in obese mice.

    • Tahnbee Kim
    • Scott M. Sternson
    News & Views
  • Systematic editing of yeast genes to generate thousands of mutations indicates that, overall, the mutations have similar effects on yeast fitness regardless of whether they change the protein sequences encoded by the mutated genes.

    • Nathaniel Sharp
    News & Views
  • Continuous amplification of coherent matter waves has been demonstrated, allowing an exotic state of matter called a Bose–Einstein condensate to be maintained indefinitely. This set-up is the matter-wave analogue of an optical laser enclosed by fully reflective mirrors, and it could have uses in both applied and fundamental physics.

    Research Briefing
  • Analysis of data from astrophysical and terrestrial sources offers a promising way of narrowing the range of parameters that describe the extreme properties of neutron stars.

    • Jorge Noronha
    News & Views
  • The performance of lithium-ion batteries fades over time, but the underlying causes are not fully understood. Analysis of lithium- and manganese-rich cathodes now reveals how the lattice of atoms in these materials becomes strained, which releases oxygen and leads to battery failure. Resolving these lattice-strain problems should provide strategies to improve the performance of cathode materials.

    Research Briefing
  • Cancer-promoting mutations tend to result in tumours arising only in certain organs, but the reasons for this specificity are not fully understood. The analysis of human kidney cancer provides clues to solving this mystery.

    • Emily N. Arner
    • W. Kimryn Rathmell
    News & Views