top ten research highlights

The following highlights are the top ten most viewed research highlights on the English website of during the past month.


Planetary science: Mineral dust may increase habitability of exoplanets

Nature Communications, June 10, 2020

Atmospheric mineral dust may increase the potential habitability of exoplanets suggests a study this week in Nature Communications. The findings highlight the need to consider the potential effects of dust when studying terrestrial exoplanets.

The so-called ‘habitable zone’ is the region around a star where an Earth-like planet may host liquid water at its surface. As such...

doi: 10.1038/s41467-020-16543-8

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Archaeology: Earliest Mayan ceremonial structure revealed

Nature, June 4, 2020

The discovery of the earliest and largest known monumental structure built by the Maya civilization to date is reported in a Nature paper this week.

Archaeologists thought that the Maya civilization developed gradually, with small villages emerging during the Middle Preclassic period (1,000–350 BC). However, the recent discovery of early ceremonial centres, such as an artific...

doi: 10.1038/s41586-020-2343-4

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Biotechnology: Engineering human cells to become transparent

Nature Communications, June 3, 2020

Human cells that are capable of becoming transparent in laboratory experiments are reported this week in Nature Communications.

Many cephalopods are capable of changing how their skin transmits, absorbs and reflects light, which can be used for the purposes of camouflage. The female Doryteuthis opalescens squid also uses this mechanism in attempts to avoid acts of aggression by...

doi: 10.1038/s41467-020-16151-6

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Neuroscience: Identifying a mammalian ‘snooze button’

Nature, June 11, 2020

Neuronal circuits that can trigger a state similar to hibernation in rodents are identified in two studies published in Nature this week. Artificial induction of a hibernation-like state could eventually have potential medical applications for humans, although this effect has not been tested in people.

Hibernating animals can lower their body temperature to reduce energy expen...

doi: 10.1038/s41586-020-2163-6

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Palaeontology: Ancient footprints may belong to two-legged crocodile, not giant pterosaur

Scientific Reports, June 12, 2020

The discovery of large well-preserved footprints belonging to an ancestor of modern-day crocodiles from the Lower Cretaceous Jinju Formation of South Korea is reported this week in Scientific Reports. The study suggests that footprints found previously, thought to have been made by giant pterosaurs walking on two legs, may have instead been made by ancient crocodile relatives.

doi: 10.1038/s41598-020-66008-7

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Stem cells: Making human skin in a dish

Nature, June 4, 2020

Skin organoids generated in a dish from human pluripotent stem cells can form multi-layered skin tissue with hair follicles, sebaceous glands and neural circuitry when cultured for 4–5 months. The findings, reported in Nature this week, could provide a tool for studying human skin development, with insights for disease modelling and reconstructive surgery.

Culture systems ha...

doi: 10.1038/s41586-020-2352-3

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Technology: A pocket-sized device that can help prevent methanol poisoning

Nature Food, June 16, 2020

A palm-sized portable testing device paired with a smartphone app that can test methanol levels in alcoholic drinks is reported in a paper published in Nature Food. This system can allow consumers, distillers, law enforcement and healthcare workers to easily check alcoholic beverages for poisonous amounts of methanol, and potentially avoid lethal methanol poisoning.

Alcoholic b...

doi: 10.1038/s43016-020-0095-9

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Health: Changes in the global distribution of high cholesterol

Nature, June 4, 2020

High blood cholesterol has increased in human populations in lower- and middle-income countries and declined in high-income countries since 1980, according to a paper published in Nature this week. The study, which examines data from more than 100 million individuals worldwide, reveals that changes in diet, behaviour and use of medication are driving one of the most important causes of heart di...

doi: 10.1038/s41586-020-2338-1

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Quantum physics: Exotic matter on the International Space Station

Nature, June 11, 2020

The generation of the fifth state of matter, Bose–Einstein condensates, onboard the International Space Station is reported in Nature this week. Exploiting the microgravity environment of space will allow scientists to explore fundamental physics in this exotic form of matter.

A Bose–Einstein condensate is a state of matter formed when a gas of bosons (such as rubidium atoms)...

doi: 10.1038/s41586-020-2346-1

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Palaeontology: Hard evidence for the evolution of soft eggs

Nature, June 18, 2020

Two studies that shed light on the evolution of amniote eggs are published in Nature this week. One study suggests that the first dinosaurs may have laid soft-shelled eggs, a finding at odds with the prevailing view that dinosaurs laid hard-shelled eggs. The second study describes a large, soft-shelled egg from Antarctica, the first known fossil egg ever to have been found in the contin...

doi: 10.1038/s41586-020-2412-8

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