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Science: Current Issue
The best in science news, commentary, and research

  • [Errata] Erratum for the Report ?Genomic correlates of response to CTLA-4 blockade in metastatic melanoma? by E. M. Van Allen, D. Miao, B. Schilling, S. A. Shukla, C. Blank, L. Zimmer, A. Sucker, U. Hillen, M. H. Geukes Foppen, S. M. Goldinger, J. Utikal, J. C. Hassel, B. Weide, K. C. Kaehler, C. Loquai, P. Mohr, R. Gutzmer, R. Dummer, S. Gabriel, C. J. Wu, D. Schadendorf, L. A. Garraway


  • [Editorial] The UK: Thinking big or small?
    No member state has ever left the European Union (EU), and so the idea that the United Kingdom (UK) might leave has stirred fierce debate ever since Prime Minister David Cameron promised a referendum on membership nearly a year ago. On 23 June 2016, British citizens have a choice to make. Public opinion in the UK is split on a British exit from the EU, or a ?Brexit.? A recent survey indicates that the majority of researchers favor the UK remaining in the EU.* As a British scientist and former Chief Scientific Adviser to the President of the European Commission, I believe that it benefits the UK, the EU, and global science for the UK to remain a strong committed member of the EU. Author: Anne Glover

  • [In Brief] News at a glance
    In science news around the world, a severe drought in the Mekong delta sparks concerns about food security in Vietnam, the National Institutes of Health seeks more funds to combat both Zika and Ebola, a Swedish research team begins a clinical trial to assess whether a prostate cancer drug can help prevent pedophilic behavior, scientists worry about the impact of plans for logging in one of Europe's last remaining old-growth forests, the embattled head of Australia's premier research agency defends plans to shift the agency's priorities, and internet billionaire Yuri Miller teams up with physicist Stephen Hawking to announce Breakthrough Starshot, a project to send miniaturized spacecraft to the nearest stars. Also, Science talks with Hugh Possingham, a mathematical ecologist who is set to be the next chief scientist at The Nature Conservancy. And NASA announces that it has regained control of its planet-hunting spacecraft Kepler, after discovering last week that it had placed itself into "emergency mode."

  • [In Depth] International brain projects proposed
    Neuroscience is becoming big science, with the 2013 launches of the European Union's Human Brain Project and the United States's Brain Research through Advancing Innovative Neurotechnology (BRAIN) initiative leading the way. Last week, leaders of these massive, multi-institution projects and others around the world met at Johns Hopkins University in Baltimore, Maryland, to discuss an even loftier goal: a global neuroscience collaboration that would link their efforts and rival big science investments in astronomy and physics. More than 60 neuroscientists from 12 countries pitched diverse visions for such a project at the meeting, sponsored by the Kavli Foundation and the National Science Foundation. Author: Emily Underwood

  • [In Depth] Arctic nations eye fishing ban
    Delegates from nine countries and the European Union are meeting next week in Washington, D.C., to discuss a U.S. proposal to bar fishing in the central Arctic Ocean (CAO) until sufficient science is in place to inform regulation there. No commercial fishing now occurs in the CAO, but vanishing sea ice there is exposing shallow waters to vast amounts of new light, increasing primary production by 30% since 1998. That's raised the possibility that commercial fishing could move there, but regulators fear a repeat of the experience in the northern Bering Sea in the 1990s. There, unregulated factory trawlers operating in international waters basically extirpated walleye pollock before regulators had a chance to set international limits. Stocks of that fish have never recovered. Author: Eli Kintisch

  • [In Depth] Dutch push for a quantum leap in open access
    The Netherlands is using the European Union's rotating presidency, which it currently holds, to promote open-access (OA) to the scientific literature. A 2-day meeting held last week produced an Amsterdam Call to Action that included the ambition to make all new papers published in the European Union freely available by 2020. Carlos Moedas, the European commissioner for research and innovation, favors an ambitious approach as well, and a meeting of Europe's ministers of research, innovation, and industry may adopt ambitious targets next month. The Netherlands is an OA front-runner itself, although some are critical of the country's emphatic choice for Gold OA, in which authors pay publishers to make their papers freely available. Author: Martin Enserink

  • [In Depth] Megaproject asks: What drove the Vikings?
    How did the Vikings become Vikings? A $6 million Swedish grant just awarded to Neil Price at Uppsala University in Sweden will attempt to answer that question. Price and his colleagues intend to study burials, landscapes, and artifacts to see whether the need for a captive labor force and women helped propel Vikings out of Scandinavia and as far west as Canada and as far east as Baghdad. Author: Andrew Lawler

  • [In Depth] Obsolescence looms for balloon data
    The United States has fallen behind Europe in adopting a modern weather balloon system. Twice a day, hundreds of hydrogen- or helium-filled balloons lift off from stations around the world, carrying temperature, pressure, and humidity sensors that provide crucial information for weather forecast models. But for more than three-quarters of the world's 800 balloon stations, the information is streamed in an antiquated alphanumeric format; these stations have failed to meet a 2014 deadline to upgrade to a new, more powerful binary format. Moreover, many forecasters who use balloon data have also failed to switch over, and are now facing data gaps as nations turn off the old, alphanumeric streams. The U.S. Global Forecast System, for example, does not incorporate the new, binary data. Author: Eric Hand

  • [In Depth] Rural China is no country for old people
    Worldwide, suicide rates are highest among people over 70. But in rural China, experts call the rising suicide rate among elderly people?now about 47 per 100,000 people?a public health crisis. The epidemic's roots lie in the unraveling of traditional family life in China. As economic development and urbanization lure able-bodied young people out of villages and into China's massive migrant workforce, many elderly people are left behind to fend for themselves. Beginning next year, the central government will gradually hike the official retirement age?a move that could help many seniors feel less isolated and more valuable to society. But those who study China's elderly say much more must be done. Author: Kathleen McLaughlin

  • [Feature] The savior cells?
    Researchers are designing the first clinical trials of stem cell treatments for fetuses afflicted with rare bone and blood diseases. The trials, still being planned, involve arguably the trickiest patient population there is: pregnant women and their fetuses. And although researchers once thought that the fetal immune system would readily accept foreign cells, they now know that it is not that simple. But some fetuses have already been treated on an ad hoc basis, with encouraging results. After decades of hopes raised and dashed, pediatricians, immunologists, and others are cautiously hopeful that new biological insights and a push for treatment from parents-to-be could turn the tide for prenatal stem cell therapy. Author: Jennifer Couzin-Frankel

  • [Feature] Gene therapy gets a high-stakes test
    A U.K. team is designing a clinical trial even more radical than prenatal stem cell therapy: the first ever test of gene therapy in pregnancy. The treatment aims to correct fetal growth restriction, in which blood flow to the placenta falters. Gene therapy has had a checkered history in children and adults, with side effects including cancer and at least one death. So rather than introduce new genes to the fetus itself, the team is targeting a blood flow?promoting gene to the uterine arteries. Author: Jennifer Couzin-Frankel

  • [Perspective] Tackling mine wastes
    On 5 November 2015, the Fundão and Santarém mine tailings dams in Minas Gerais, Brazil, failed, releasing 62 million m3 of sediment and water that destroyed homes, killed at least 17 people, cut of potable water supplies, blanketed more than 650 km of rivers, and flowed into the Atlantic Ocean (see the photo). The tailings dam failure, the largest ever recorded (1), demonstrates many of the diverse impacts of mine wastes. How can the potentially severe impacts of mine wastes and the risk of such disasters be reduced? Author: Karen Hudson-Edwards

  • [Perspective] Underground networking
    Almost all land plants, including most trees, shrubs, and herbs, form symbiotic associations with mycorrhizal fungi (1). These soil fungi acquire nutrients that they transfer to their plant hosts in exchange for carbon (see the photo). Plants in natural vegetation can acquire up to 80% of nitrogen and phosphorus from their mycorrhizal associates (2). Individual mycorrhizal fungi can simultaneously colonize many plant hosts of the same species or different species. As a result, plants in natural communities are interconnected by mycorrhizal networks. Earlier studies with small tree seedlings revealed that carbon is transferred from one plant to another through these underground mycorrhizal pipelines (3). On page 342 of this issue, Klein et al. (4) show that interplant carbon transfer is not confined to tree seedlings. Author: Marcel G. A. van der Heijden

  • [Policy Forum] Opportunities for advances in climate change economics
    There have been dramatic advances in understanding the physical science of climate change, facilitated by substantial and reliable research support. The social value of these advances depends on understanding their implications for society, an arena where research support has been more modest and research progress slower. Some advances have been made in understanding and formalizing climate-economy linkages, but knowledge gaps remain [e.g., as discussed in (1, 2)]. We outline three areas where we believe research progress on climate economics is both sorely needed, in light of policy relevance, and possible within the next few years given appropriate funding: (i) refining the social cost of carbon (SCC), (ii) improving understanding of the consequences of particular policies, and (iii) better understanding of the economic impacts and policy choices in developing economies. Authors: M. Burke, M. Craxton, C. D. Kolstad, C. Onda, H. Allcott, E. Baker, L. Barrage, R. Carson, K. Gillingham, J. Graff-Zivin, M. Greenstone, S. Hallegatte, W. M. Hanemann, G. Heal, S. Hsiang, B. Jones, D. L. Kelly, R. Kopp, M. Kotchen, R. Mendelsohn, K. Meng, G. Metcalf, J. Moreno-Cruz, R. Pindyck, S. Rose, I. Rudik, J. Stock, R. S. J. Tol

  • [Perspective] The straight dope on the scope of chemical reactions
    More than 100 million molecular compounds have been reported, and the many synthetic methods that have been developed are the source of this diversity. Reports of new synthetic reactions often include substrate scope?that is, how reactivity varied for molecules with the same main reaction center and a variety of different substituents at secondary positions (see the figure, panel A). However, chemists often pursue very complex target molecules (e.g., natural products), and most steps involve reactants bearing many substituents whose presence can adversely affect the outcome. We highlight different tools that are emerging to help chemists determine, ?Will this reaction work for my molecule?? Authors: T. Gensch, F. Glorius

  • [Perspective] When cells push the envelope
    By enclosing chromosomes within a nuclear envelope (NE), eukaryotic cells are able to segregate transcription and translation, key activities involved in gene expression (1). The implication is that maintenance of the NE as a selective barrier represents an essential aspect of normal cellular physiology. However, it also presents the cell with the predicament of how to accommodate a membrane-limited organelle that might occupy a substantial portion of the cell volume. On pages 353 and 359 of this issue, Denais et al. (2) and Raab et al. (3), respectively, report that the physical size and mechanical properties of the nucleus may have dramatic effects on the behavior of motile cells. Author: Brian Burke

  • [Perspective] Toward single-atom memory
    Storing information in an ensemble of single-atom magnets represents the ultimate miniaturization of data storage technology, in which two specific orientations of each atomic magnetic moment represent a bit (a 0 or 1) of information (see the figure, panel A). The inherent dilemma in using a single-atom magnet is keeping it magnetized?or, in other words, being able to hold the information in one of the bit states without an external magnetic field for a useful amount of time and at practical temperatures (1, 2). This phenomenon of magnetic remanence is dif cult to realize from a single atom, in part because diminished robustness against fluctuations from the environment can unintentionally flip the magnetic state, thus wiping out the magnetic memory. A recent attempt to observe remanence in a single atom (3) proved premature, as the results were incompatible with the magnetic ground state of that system (4) and could not be reproduced (4, 5). Hence, the question of whether this defining property of a single-atom magnet can actually be achieved has remained an open question until now. On page 318 of this issue, Donati et al. (6) demonstrate that single holmium atoms exhibit magnetic remanence up to temperatures of 40 K, much higher than previous records of atomic-scale magnets composed of 3 to 12 atoms (1, 2, 5)?a record in both size and stability for any magnet. Authors: Alexander Ako Khajetoorians, Andreas J. Heinrich

  • [Perspective] A scaffold immune microenvironment
    The immune system plays a critical role in wound healing, in both host defense and tissue repair. Strategies that use biologic scaffolds to support tissue reconstruction emphasize this essential contribution of representative immune cells. The findings by Sadtler et al. (1) on page 366 in this issue highlight how the plasticity and diversity of macrophages and lymphocytes support this approach to tissue repair. Author: Stephen F. Badylak

  • [Book Review] Banking on balance
    New employment practices, such as just-in-time scheduling and round-the-clock emailing, compounded by changing family demography (especially the rise of single parenting and the increased longevity of elderly family members) have left millions of working Americans perpetually stressed, conflicted, economically insecure, and time poor. Yet, on the whole, our social and labor market policies, while changing, remain dangerously inadequate and blatantly irrational. In this ambitious, fast-paced, fact-filled, and accessible book, Heather Boushey offers a thorough, systematic, evidence-based case for a comprehensive package of institutional reforms. Author: Janet Gornick

  • [Book Review] Fear and loathing in the hunt for gravitational waves
    On 14 September 2015, at 9:50:45 universal time, humans detected for the first time a gravitational wave?a rippling, infinitesimal stretching of spacetime itself set off when two black holes spiraled into each other. That mind-boggling discovery was made by the 1000 physicists working with the Laser Interferometer Gravitational-Wave Observatory (LIGO), a duo of enormous optical instruments in Livingston, Louisiana, and Hanford, Washington. Black Hole Blues provides a lively, if not wholly satisfying, account of the 40-year quest to build LIGO. Author: Adrian Cho

  • [Letter] Financial complexity: Regulating regulation
    Author: J. B. Ruhl

  • [Letter] Financial complexity: Accounting for fraud
    Author: David Witzling

  • [Letter] Financial complexity: Accounting for fraud?Response
    Authors: Stefano Battiston, Doyne Farmer, Andreas Flache, Diego Garlaschelli, Andy Haldane, Hans Heesterbeek, Cars Hommes, Carlo Jaeger, Robert May, Marten Scheffer

  • [This Week in Science] Bleaching of the Great Barrier Reef
    Author: Caroline Ash

  • [This Week in Science] Repairing tears in the nuclear envelope
    Author: Stella M. Hurtley

  • [This Week in Science] Zika virus genomes from Brazil
    Author: Caroline Ash

  • [This Week in Science] Cassini detects interstellar dust grains
    Author: Keith T. Smith

  • [This Week in Science] Engineering a healing immune response
    Author: Kristen L. Mueller

  • [This Week in Science] Blueprint for a macromolecular machine
    Author: Valda Vinson

  • [This Week in Science] Making a teeny tiny engine
    Author: Jelena Stajic

  • [This Week in Science] Adding fuel to the fire
    Author: Yevgeniya Nusinovich

  • [This Week in Science] Where Pd and B meet in Suzuki coupling
    Author: Jake Yeston

  • [This Week in Science] Where do all the mine wastes go?
    Author: Julia Fahrenkamp-Uppenbrink

  • [This Week in Science] Surveying the solar cell landscape
    Author: Ian S. Osborne

  • [This Week in Science] An RNA methylase caught in the act
    Author: Valda Vinson

  • [This Week in Science] Stable magnets from single atoms
    Author: Phil Szuromi

  • [This Week in Science] Quantum effects in single hydrogen bonds
    Author: Phil Szuromi

  • [This Week in Science] Modulating metal oxides
    Author: Phil Szuromi

  • [This Week in Science] Carbon trading between adult trees
    Author: Andrew M. Sugden

  • [This Week in Science] Transmission blocked by drug resistance
    Author: Caroline Ash

  • [This Week in Science] A disease-causing G protein switch
    Author: Leslie K. Ferrarelli

  • [Editors' Choice] Shaping cells to mature together
    Author: Marc S. Lavine

  • [Editors' Choice] A pathway for forgetting
    Author: Peter Stern

  • [Editors' Choice] Herpes virus opens up
    Author: Valda Vinson

  • [Editors' Choice] Viewing a killer in action
    Author: Stella M. Hurtley

  • [Editors' Choice] The evolution of teaching evolution
    Author: Melissa McCartney

  • [Editors' Choice] Liquid fuel flows from gas streams
    Author: Nicholas S. Wigginton

  • [Editors' Choice] Know when to hold 'em?
    Author: Pamela J. Hines

  • [Review] Photovoltaic materials: Present efficiencies and future challenges
    Recent developments in photovoltaic materials have led to continual improvements in their efficiency. We review the electrical characteristics of 16 widely studied geometries of photovoltaic materials with efficiencies of 10 to 29%. Comparison of these characteristics to the fundamental limits based on the Shockley-Queisser detailed-balance model provides a basis for identifying the key limiting factors, related to efficient light management and charge carrier collection, for these materials. Prospects for practical application and large-area fabrication are discussed for each material. Authors: Albert Polman, Mark Knight, Erik C. Garnett, Bruno Ehrler, Wim C. Sinke

  • [Research Article] Architecture of the symmetric core of the nuclear pore
    The nuclear pore complex (NPC) controls the transport of macromolecules between the nucleus and cytoplasm, but its molecular architecture has thus far remained poorly defined. We biochemically reconstituted NPC core protomers and elucidated the underlying protein-protein interaction network. Flexible linker sequences, rather than interactions between the structured core scaffold nucleoporins, mediate the assembly of the inner ring complex and its attachment to the NPC coat. X-ray crystallographic analysis of these scaffold nucleoporins revealed the molecular details of their interactions with the flexible linker sequences and enabled construction of full-length atomic structures. By docking these structures into the cryoelectron tomographic reconstruction of the intact human NPC and validating their placement with our nucleoporin interactome, we built a composite structure of the NPC symmetric core that contains ~320,000 residues and accounts for ~56 megadaltons of the NPC?s structured mass. Our approach provides a paradigm for the structure determination of similarly complex macromolecular assemblies. Authors: Daniel H. Lin, Tobias Stuwe, Sandra Schilbach, Emily J. Rundlet, Thibaud Perriches, George Mobbs, Yanbin Fan, Karsten Thierbach, Ferdinand M. Huber, Leslie N. Collins, Andrew M. Davenport, Young E. Jeon, André Hoelz


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