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Nature Podcast

Science in 2023: what to expect this year

In this episode, reporter Miryam Naddaf joins us to talk about the big science events to look out for in 2023. We'll hear about vaccines, multiple Moon missions and new therapeutics, to name but a few.


News: the science events to look out for in 2023


Subscribe to Nature Briefing, an unmissable daily round-up of science news, opinion and analysis free in your inbox every weekday.

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  • Could this one-time ‘epigenetic’ treatment control cholesterol?

    26:23
    In this episode:00:49 What caused the Universe to become fully transparent?Around 13 billion years ago, the Universe was filled with a dense ‘fog’ of neutral hydrogen that blocked certain wavelengths of light. This fog was lifted when the hydrogen was hit by radiation in a process known as reionisation, but the source of this radiation has been debated. Now, researchers have used the JWST to peer deep into the Universe’s past and found that charged particles pouring out from dwarf galaxies appear to be the the main driver for reionization. This finding could help researchers understand how some of the structures we now see in the Universe were formed.Research article: Atek et al.08:46 Research HighlightsAncient inscriptions could be the earliest example of the language that became Basque, and how researchers etched a groove… onto soap film.Research Highlight: Ancient bronze hand’s inscription points to origins of Basque languageResearch Highlight: Laser pulses engrave an unlikely surface: soap films11:05 Controlling cholesterol with epigeneticsTo combat high cholesterol, many people take statins, but because these drugs have to be taken every day researchers have been searching for alternatives. Controlling cholesterol by editing the epigenome has shown promise in lab-grown cells, but its efficacy in animals was unclear. Now, researchers have shown the approach can work in mice, and have used it to silence a gene linked to high cholesterol for a year. The mice show markedly lowered cholesterol, a result the team hope could pave the way for epigenetic therapeutics for humans.Research Article: Cappelluti et al.18:52 The gene mutation explaining why humans don’t have tailsWhy don’t humans and other apes have a tail? It was assumed that a change must have happened in our genomes around 25 million years ago that resulted in the loss of this flexible appendage. Now researchers believe they have pinned down a good candidate for what caused this: an insertion into a particular gene known as TBXT. The team showed the key role this gene plays by engineering mice genomes to contain a similar change, leading to animals that were tail-less. This finding could help paint a picture of the important genetic mutations that led to the evolution of humans and other apes.Nature News: How humans lost their tails — and why the discovery took 2.5 years to publishResearch Article: Xia et al.News and Views: A mobile DNA sequence could explain tail loss in humans and apesSubscribe to Nature Briefing, an unmissable daily round-up of science news, opinion and analysis free in your inbox every weekday.
  • Audio long read: Chimpanzees are dying from our colds — these scientists are trying to save them

    24:39
    The phenomenon of animals catching diseases from humans, called reverse zoonoses, has had a severe impact on great ape populations, often representing a bigger threat than habitat loss or poaching.However, while many scientists and conservationists agree that human diseases pose one of the greatest risks to great apes today there are a few efforts under way to use a research-based approach to mitigate this problem.This is an audio version of our Feature Chimpanzees are dying from our colds — these scientists are trying to save them
  • How whales sing without drowning, an anatomical mystery solved

    14:28
    The deep haunting tones of the world's largest animals, baleen whales, are iconic - but how the songs are produced has long been a mystery. Whales evolved from land dwelling mammals which vocalize by passing air through a structure called the larynx - a structure which also helps keep food from entering the respiratory system. However toothed whales like dolphins do not use their larynx to make sound, instead they have evolved a specialized organ in their nose. Now a team of researchers have discovered the structure used by baleen whales - a modified version of the larynx. Whales like Humpbacks and Blue whales are able to create powerful vocalizations but their anatomy also limits the frequency of the sounds they can make and depth at which they can sing. This leaves them unable to escape anthropogenic noise pollution which occur in the same range.Article: Evolutionary novelties underlie sound production in baleen whalesSubscribe to Nature Briefing, an unmissable daily round-up of science news, opinion and analysis free in your inbox every weekday.
  • Why are we nice? Altruism's origins are put to the test

    30:41
    In this episode:00:45 Why are humans so helpful?Humans are notable for their cooperation and display far more altruistic behaviour than other animals, but exactly why this behaviour evolved has been a puzzle. But in a new paper, the two leading theories have been put the test with a model and a real-life experiment. They find that actually neither theory on its own leads to cooperation but a combination is required for humans to help one another.Research article: Efferson et al.News and Views: Why reciprocity is common in humans but rare in other animals10:55 Research HighlightsThe discovery of an ancient stone wall hidden underwater, and the fun that apes have teasing one another.Research Highlight: Great ‘Stone Age’ wall discovered in Baltic SeaResearch Highlight: What a tease! Great apes pull hair and poke each other for fun13:14 The DVD makes a comebackOptical discs, like CDs and DVDs, are an attractive option for long-term data storage, but these discs are limited by their small capacity. Now though, a team has overcome a limitation of conventional disc writing to produce optical discs capable of storing petabits of data, significantly more than the largest available hard disk. The researchers behind the work think their new discs could one day replace the energy-hungry hard disks used in giant data centres, making long-term storage more sustainable.Research Article: Zhao et al.20:10 Briefing ChatThe famous fossil that turned out to be a fraud, and why researchers are making hybrid ‘meat-rice’.Ars Technica: It’s a fake: Mysterious 280 million-year-old fossil is mostly just black paintNature News: Introducing meat–rice: grain with added muscles beefs up proteinSubscribe to Nature Briefing, an unmissable daily round-up of science news, opinion and analysis free in your inbox every weekday.
  • Smoking changes your immune system, even years after quitting

    21:35
    00:45 Smoking's long-term effects on immunityIt's well-known that smoking is bad for health and it has been linked to several autoimmune disorders, but the mechanisms are not fully understood. Now, researchers have investigated the immune responses of 1,000 people. Whilst some effects disappear after quitting, impacts on the T cell response lingers long after. The team hopes that this evidence could help better understand smoking's association with autoimmune diseases.Research article: Saint-André et al.News and Views: Smoking’s lasting effect on the immune system07:03 Research HighlightsWhy explosive fulminating gold produces purple smoke, and a curious act of altruism in a male northern elephant seal.Research Highlight: Why an ancient gold-based explosive makes purple smokeResearch Highlight: ‘Altruistic’ bull elephant seal lends a helping flipper09:28 Briefing ChatAn author-based method to track down fake papers, and the new ocean lurking under the surface of one of Saturn's moons.Nature News: Fake research papers flagged by analysing authorship trendsNature News: The Solar System has a new ocean — it’s buried in a small Saturn moonSubscribe to Nature Briefing, an unmissable daily round-up of science news, opinion and analysis free in your inbox every weekday.
  • Why we need to rethink how we talk about cancer

    14:53
    For over a century, cancer has been classified by areas of the body - lung cancer, breast cancer, skin cancer etc. And yet modern medical research is telling us that the molecular and genetic mechanisms behind cancers are not necessarily tied to parts of the body. Many drugs developed to treat metastatic cancers have the capacity to work across many different cancers, and that presents an opportunity for more tailored and efficient treatments. Oncologists are calling for a change in the way patients, clinicians and regulators think about naming cancers.In this podcast, senior comment editor Lucy Odling-Smee speaks with Fabrice André from Institute Gustave Roussy, to ask what he thinks needs to change.Comment: Forget lung, breast or prostate cancer: why tumour naming needs to changeSubscribe to Nature Briefing, an unmissable daily round-up of science news, opinion and analysis free in your inbox every weekday.
  • Cancer's power harnessed — lymphoma mutations supercharge T cells

    35:23
    In this episode:0:46 Borrowing tricks from cancer could help improve immunotherapyT cell based immunotherapies have revolutionised the treatment of certain types of cancer. However these therapies — which involved taking someone’s own T cells and reprogramming them to kill cancer cells — have struggled to treat solid tumours, which put up multiple defences. To overcome these, a team has taken mutations found in cancer cells that help them thrive and put them into therapeutic T cells. Their results show these powered-up cells are more efficient at targeting solid tumours, but don’t turn cancerous themselves.Research article: Garcia et al.11:39 Research HighlightsHow researchers solved a submerged-sprinkler problem named after Richard Feynman, and what climate change is doing to high-altitude environmental records in Switzerland.Research Highlight: The mystery of Feynman’s sprinkler is solved at lastResearch Highlight: A glacier’s ‘memory’ is fading because of climate change14:28 What might the car batteries of the future look like?As electric cars become ever more popular around the world, manufacturers are looking to improve the batteries that power them. While conventional lithium-ion batteries have dominated the electric vehicle market for decades, researchers are developing alternatives that have better performance and safety — we run though some of these options and discuss their pros and cons.News Feature: The new car batteries that could power the electric vehicle revolution25:32 Briefing ChatHow a baby’s-eye view of the world helps an AI learn language, and how the recovery of sea otter populations in California slowed rates of coastal erosion.Nature News:This AI learnt language by seeing the world through a baby’s eyesNews: How do otters protect salt marshes from erosion? ShellfishlySubscribe to Nature Briefing, an unmissable daily round-up of science news, opinion and analysis free in your inbox every weekday.
  • Cervical cancer could be eliminated: here's how

    17:21
    Cervical cancer is both treatable and preventable, and the WHO has called for countries to come together to to eliminate the disease in the next century.However the disease still kills over 300,000 people each year, and levels of screening, treatment and vaccination need to be stepped up in order to achieve this goal.These challenges are particularly stark in low- and middle-income countries, where a lack of funding, staffing and infrastructure are obstacles. Vaccine hesitancy, especially in light of the COVID-19 pandemic, is also a key problem.In this Podcast Extra, two experts share their thoughts on how best to overcome these obstacles, and make elimination of cervical cancer a reality.Comment: Cervical cancer kills 300,000 people a year — here’s how to speed up its eliminationSubscribe to Nature Briefing, an unmissable daily round-up of science news, opinion and analysis free in your inbox every weekday.
  • Ancient DNA solves the mystery of who made a set of stone tools

    28:45
    In this episode:0:48 How hominins spread through EuropeAncient stone tools are often uncovered in Europe, but it can be difficult to identify who crafted them, as Neanderthals and Homo sapiens coexisted in the region for several thousand years. The makers of one type of tool found in northern Europe has long puzzled researchers, but now through genetic analysis of nearby skeletal fragments, it has been revealed that they were made by Homo sapiens. The age of these tools suggests that modern humans were more widespread and adaptable to living in colder climates than previously thought.Research article: Mylopotamitaki et al.News and Views: Stone tools in northern Europe made by Homo sapiens 45,000 years ago09:36 Research HighlightsHow a Colombian mountain range lost its root, and what Roman wine may have looked, smelled and tasted like.Research Highlight: A mysterious mountain range lacks roots but still stands tallResearch Highlight: The clever system that gave Roman wines an amber colour and nutty aroma15:21 Briefing ChatAnalysis of lab-grown neurons reveals why brain cells grow so slowly in humans, and a genetic therapy for a certain type of deafness shows promise.Video: Why human brain cells grow so slowly Science: Gene therapies that let deaf children hear bring hope—and many questionsSubscribe to Nature Briefing, an unmissable daily round-up of science news, opinion and analysis free in your inbox every weekday.