Astrophysics: Short bursts bolster merger model; Badger culls have positive and negative effects on bovine TB; Fluid dynamics: Unstirring stuff; Neurobiology: A painful finding; Zoology: Squid get broody in the deep;

Summaries of newsworthy papers from Nature Vol.438 No.7070 including Cell biology: How stem cells arrange to shape feathers; Molecular biology: The secrets of ion channels unbound; Insight into angiogenesis; Weird bubbles wearing armour

This press release is copyright Nature.
VOL.438 NO.7070 DATED 15 DECEMBER 2005

This press release contains:
* Summaries of newsworthy papers:
* Astrophysics: Short bursts bolster merger model
* Animal disease: Badger culls have positive and negative effects on bovine TB
* Fluid dynamics: Unstirring stuff
* Neurobiology: A painful finding
* Zoology: Squid get broody in the deep
* Cell biology: How stem cells arrange to shape feathers
* Molecular biology: The secrets of ion channels unbound
* Insight into angiogenesis
* And Finally... Weird bubbles wearing armour
* Mention of papers to be published at the same time with the same embargo
* Advance Online Publication
* Geographical listing of authors

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[1], [2] & [3] Astrophysics: Short bursts bolster merger model (pp 994-996;
pp988-990 & pp991-993)

Further evidence that short gamma-ray bursts are not associated with current
star formation, and therefore more probably arise when a neutron star
collides with a black hole or another neutron star, is published in this
week's Nature. A small fraction of the bursts seem to occur in local
Although long gamma-ray bursts (those lasting more than two seconds) are
produced in the supernova explosions of extremely massive stars, their
shorter counterparts have remained mysterious. However, recent observations
by NASA's Swift and HETE-II satellites, along with follow-up studies using
ground-based and orbiting telescopes, suggested that short gamma-ray bursts
are more likely to be produced in cosmic collisions between extremely dense
objects such as neutron stars.
Scott Barthelmy and colleagues analysed the gamma-ray burst spotted by
NASA's Swift satellite on 24 July, and provided the localization of the
X-ray afterglow of GRB 050724. Using the spectrum from a group based at UC
Berkeley* that established the distance to the galaxy, the Swift team
determined that the energy released was significantly less than one would
expect for a long gamma-ray burst or supernova. They also provide an optical
image showing the association of the X-ray afterglow with an elliptical
Edo Berger and colleagues found the optical and near-infrared afterglow in
the outskirts of an elliptical galaxy where there is no star formation and
therefore a supernova origin is unlikely. They also discovered the first
radio afterglow from a short gamma-ray burst, which, together with the
optical and near-infrared observations, demonstrates that the burst comes
from an eruption of plasma with the same overall shape that the long bursts
have, but with 10-1,000 times less total energy.
In the light of recent observations of the massive gamma-ray and X-ray flare
of 27 December 2004 and the first localization of a short gamma-ray burst by
Swift, Nial Tanvir and colleagues have reanalysed a catalogue of 400 short
gamma-ray bursts seen by the BATSE experiment on NASA's orbiting Compton
Gamma-Ray Observatory. They find that 10-25 per cent of the bursts are
correlated with relatively nearby galaxies. These bursts are probably the
low-energy part of the distribution of short bursts, although they could
possibly arise in events like the flare of 27 December 2004.
Scott Barthelmy (NASA Goddard Space Flight Center, Greenbelt, MD, USA) paper
no: [1]
Tel: +1 301 286 3106, E-mail: [email protected]

Edo Berger (Carnegie Observatories, Pasadena, CA, USA) paper no: [2]
Tel: +1 626 304 0251, E-mail: [email protected]

Nial Tanvir (University of Hertfordshire, Hatfield, UK) paper no: [3]
Tel: +44 1707 286299, E-mail: [email protected]

*Please see citation info on papers [1] and [2] for more information

[4] Animal disease: Badger culls have positive and negative effects on
bovine TB (AOP)

***This paper will be published electronically on Nature's website on 14
December at 1800 London time / 1300 US Eastern time (which is also when the
embargo lifts) as part of our AOP (ahead of print) programme. Although we
have included it on this release to avoid multiple mailings it will not
appear in print on 15 December, but at a later date.***

DOI: 10.1038/nature04454

In Britain, the culling of wild badgers to curb the spread of tuberculosis
among livestock cattle is controversial, not least because efforts to
confirm the effectiveness of this strategy have produced conflicting
results. A new, more detailed analysis now accounts for these results,
showing that, although culling does reduce rates of tuberculosis among
cattle in the culling areas, cows in neighbouring areas face a greater risk
of disease as a result. The findings are reported in a paper published
online by Nature.
In an analysis spanning 30 sites in western England*, areas in which badgers
were culled saw a 19% drop in rates of cattle tuberculosis, report
researchers led by Christl Donnelly. But farms up to 2 kilometres outside
these areas witnessed a 29% rise in cases. The authors speculate that this
may be because culling prompts surviving badgers to roam more widely.
This analysis helps to explain why some previous studies have shown culling
to be effective at reducing livestock disease, whereas others have shown
disease risk to increase. The positive and negative effects will have to be
weighed up when it comes to policy decisions over whether to continue
culling, a practice that many animal welfare advocates have denounced as

Tony Stephenson - Press Officer (Imperial College London, UK)
Tel: +44 20 7 594 6712; E-mail: [email protected]

PLEASE NOTE: this paper is being published in tandem with a complementary
paper in the Journal of Applied Ecology, which will be available from the
Nature press site alongside a press release from the Journal of Applied
Ecology. The embargo for this paper will be lifting the same time as the
Nature paper. For more info please contact:
Becky Allen, Press Officer (British Ecological Society, London, UK)
Tel: +44 1223 570016; E-mail: [email protected]

*See supplementary information for a map of these statistics. This will be
available from the press site.

[5] Fluid dynamics: Unstirring stuff (pp997-1000; N&V)

Although stirring cream into your coffee is irreversible, some fluid mixing
processes can be rewound by stirring in the opposite direction. In this
week's Nature, scientists report the key factors that control this
reversible behaviour.
David Pine and colleagues studied the movement of tiny polymer beads
suspended in a viscous fluid trapped between two concentric cylinders. The
cylinders were held just 2.5 millimetres apart, and could rotate relative to
each other. Based on their experiments, the researchers calculate that for
low concentrations of beads stirred a short distance, the mixing can be
reversed so that the beads return to their starting positions. At higher
concentrations, or with more stirring, mixing became irreversible.
The appearance of this irreversible behaviour is caused by collisions
between individual beads, the scientists say. If the particles do not
collide with each other during stirring then the mixture can be rewound, but
more than one collision each renders the mixing irreversible.
"These results shed light on many practical problems," comments Troy
Shinbrot in a related News and Views article, "including the formulation of
pharmaceutical suspensions." Mixing processes are difficult to scale up from
laboratory bench to production plant, he explains, because the change in
their mixing behaviour can be unpredictable. Understanding the influence of
collisions between suspended particles may shed new light on the problem.
David D J Pine (New York University, New York, NY, USA)
Tel: +1 212 998 7744; E-mail: [email protected]

Troy Shinbrot (Rutgers University, Piscataway, NJ, USA)
Tel: +1 732 445 6710; E-mail: [email protected]

[6] Neurobiology: A painful finding (pp1017-1021; N&V)

Damage to peripheral nerves can result in neuropathic pain, one of the most
debilitating of all pain states. Previous work has shown that a first step
in neuropathic pain depends on the activation of microglial cells, but
scientists have long sought to understand how microglia communicate with
pain neurons that relay information from the spine.
In this week's Nature, Yves De Koninck and colleagues report that upon
stimulation, microglia release a protein (called brain-derived neurotrophic
factor) that alters the properties of pain neurons in the spinal cord in
such a way that they become activated - rather than inhibited (as would
normally be the case) - by the signalling molecule GABA. The authors suggest
that blocking this microglia-neuron signalling pathway may represent a
therapeutic strategy for treating neuropathic pain. A related News & Views
article by Carole Torsney and Amy B. MacDermott accompanies this research.

Yves De Koninck (Centre Université Laval Robert-Giffard, Québec, Canada)
Tel: +1 418 663 5747 ext. 6885; E-mail: [email protected]

Amy MacDermott (Columbia University, New York, NY, USA)
Tel: +1 212 305 3889; E-mail: [email protected]

[7] Zoology: Squid get broody in the deep (p929)

Travelling with the family in tow can be cumbersome - especially for the
squid Gonatus onyx. Zoologists have photographed this creature carrying
around a brood of several thousand eggs under its arms in a Brief
Communication in this week's Nature.
The images, captured by Brad Seibel and his colleagues using a
remote-controlled submarine, show the squid transporting a pouch of some
2,000-3,000 eggs attached to hooks under its arms. After several months,
mature eggs break away from the pouch and hatch before setting out on their
This parental care is surprising in a squid - other squid species simply
leave their eggs unattended on the sea floor. Also, it was thought that
muscle deterioration after sexual maturation would render adult squid unable
to look after their eggs. Indeed, the authors add, it seems that broody
squid cannot swim as efficiently as unencumbered ones - so the proud
parents, although giving their young a good start in life, may be more
likely to end up as food for whales and seals.

Brad A. Seibel (University of Rhode Island, Kingston, RI, USA)
Tel: +1 401 874 7997; E-mail: [email protected]

[8] Cell biology: How stem cells arrange to shape feathers (pp1026-1029)

Researchers have identified where the stem cells are localized that renew
the feathers of birds. The study, which appears in this week's Nature, finds
that the way these cells are arranged at the feather base determines feather
Stem cells maintain the ability to multiply and form different cell types.
They are required to regenerate feathers after birds moult. Working with
chickens and quails, Cheng-Ming Chuong and colleagues used certain dyes to
label such cells, and found that they are arranged as a ring at the base of
the feather. In radially symmetrical feathers such as downy feathers, this
stem cell ring is oriented horizontally relative to the base of the feather
follicle. But in bilaterally symmetrical flight feathers, the ring is
The tilt might create a gradient that sets up the bilateral symmetry of
flight feathers when they form, the researchers speculate. Bilaterally
symmetrical flight feathers are believed to have evolved later in evolution
than radially symmetrical feathers.

Cheng Ming Chuong (University of Southern California, Los Angeles, CA, USA)
Tel: +1 323 4421 296; E-mail: [email protected]

[9] Molecular biology: The secrets of ion channels unbound (pp975-980)

Electrostatic interactions can strongly influence protein structure and
function: for ion channels, these interactions control a variety of
important processes, including ion selectivity and voltage sensing. In this
issue of Nature, Claudio Grosman and his co-workers report a new
experimental approach that enabled them to better understand how muscle
nicotinic acetylcholine receptors work.
The approach involved extensive amino acid mutagenesis experiments and
single-channel patch-clamp measurements, and the authors were able to detect
individual proton binding and unbinding events with microsecond
time-resolution. In addition, they determined that the rotation of key amino
acid residues, which was believed to underlie the closed-to-open transition
of these channels, is minimal.

Claudio Grosman (University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, Urbana, IL,
Tel: +1 217 244 1736; E-mail: [email protected]

Insight into angiogenesis

The formation and development of blood vessels - or angiogenesis - is a
vital natural process occurring in the body, both in health and in disease.
More than US$4 billion has been invested in the research and development of
medicines to promote or reduce angiogenesis, making it one of the most
heavily funded areas of medical research today.
An Insight in this week's Nature describes many of the physiological and
pathophysiological processes of both angiogenesis and lymphogenesis - the
growth of new lymph vessels. Looking at vessel development, through to
immune response and nervous system function, the Insight also highlights
some exciting new therapeutic applications that have recently been made
Angiogenesis is a fundamental process during development, but it also occurs
in adulthood during wound healing or restoring blood flow to injured
tissues. Regulated by a very sensitive interplay of growth factors and
inhibitors, an imbalance in this process can lead to disease. In cancer, too
much angiogenesis can feed the diseased tissue and aid the destruction of
normal tissue. Conversely, too little angiogenesis can also cause its own
set of problems. In conditions such as coronary heart disease, inadequate
blood-vessel growth can cause poor circulation and tissue death.

The full contents of this Insight and contact details are listed below:

Angiogenesis in life, disease and medicine (pp932-936)
Peter Carmeliet (University of Leuven, Belgium)
E-mail: [email protected]

Endothelial cells and VEGF in vascular development (pp937-945)
Janet Rossant (The Hospital for Sick Children, Toronto, Canada)
E-mail: [email protected]

Lymphangiogenesis in development and human disease (pp946-953)
Kari Alitalo (University of Helsinki, Finland)
E-mail: [email protected]

From angiogenesis to neuropathology (pp954-959)
David Greenburg (Buck Institute for Age Research, Novato, CA, USA)
E-mail: [email protected]

Retinal angiogenesis in development and disease (pp960-966)
Ray Gariano (Stanford University, CA, USA)
E-mail: [email protected]

Angiogenesis as a therapeutic target (pp967-974)
Napoleone Ferrara (Genentech, South San Francisco, CA, USA)
E-mail: [email protected]

[10] And finally... Weird bubbles wearing armour (p930)

If you blew bubbles as a child, you will know that sausage-shaped bubbles
turn into spheres. This is because surface tension pulls them into the shape
with the smallest surface area. Now scientists have discovered how to make
funny-shaped bubbles stay that way, by using bubble armour.
Covering bubbles with a layer of tiny particles supports the unequal
stresses that occur in non-spherical bubbles, explain Howard Stone and
colleagues in a Brief Communication in this week's Nature. The particles jam
together, enabling the bubbles to maintain a sausage or a doughnut shape.
The jamming effect occurs for a wide range of particle and bubble sizes. It
also allows armoured liquid droplets to have stable, non-spherical shapes.
Howard A. Stone (Harvard University, Cambridge, MA, USA)
Tel: +1 617 495 3599; E-mail: [email protected]


[11] Hypomethylation-linked activation of PAX2 mediates
tamoxifen-stimulated endometrial carcinogenesis (pp981-987)

[12] Efficacy of the post-perovskite phase as an explanation for
lowermost-mantle seismic
properties (pp1004-1007)

[13] A RhoGDP dissociation inhibitor spatially regulates growth in root
hair cells (pp1013-1016)

[14] Heat activation of TRPM5 underlies thermal sensitivity of sweet
taste (pp1022-1025)

[15] The zebrafish dorsal axis is apparent at the four-cell stage
(pp1030-1035; N&V)

[16] The Rae1-Nup98 complex prevents aneuploidy by inhibiting securin
degradation (pp1036-1039)

[17] Towards complete cofactor arrangement in the 3.0A° resolution
structure of photosystem II (pp1040-1044)


***These papers will be published electronically on Nature's website on 14
December at 1800 London time / 1300 US Eastern time (which is also when the
embargo lifts) as part of our AOP (ahead of print) programme. Although we
have included them on this release to avoid multiple mailings they will not
appear in print on 15 December, but at a later date.***

[18] Lgl, Pins and aPKC regulate neuroblast self-renewal versus
DOI: 10.1038/nature04299

[19] The Polycomb group protein EZH2 directly controls DNA methylation
DOI: 10.1038/nature04431


The following list of places refers to the whereabouts of authors on the
papers numbered in this release. For example, London: 4 - this means that
on paper number four, there will be at least one author affiliated to an
institute or company in London. The listing may be for an author's main
affiliation, or for a place where they are working temporarily. Please see
the PDF of the paper for full details.

Weston Creek: 2

Brussels: 20
Leuven: 15, 20

Québec: 6
Toronto: 2, 6

La Serena: 2

Beijing: 12

Prague: 14

Lille: 20

Berlin: 18

Haifa: 5
Jerusalem: 2

Como: 1
Frascati: 1
Merate: 1
Milan: 1
Monte Porzio Catone: 1

Fukuoka: 6, 15

Singapore City: 16

Barcelona: 20
Madrid: 20

Lund: 1

Amsterdam: 1

Aberdeen: 9
Bristol: 13
Hertfordshire: 3
Leeds: 13
Leicester: 1
London: 13
Norwich: 14

Huntsville: 1
Claremont: 2
Los Angeles: 8
Moss Landing: 7
Pasadena: 2, 5
Santa Barbara: 5
District of Columbia
Washington: 1
Hilo: 2
Honolulu: 2
Urbana: 10
Greenbelt: 1
Cambridge: 11
Woods Hole: 9
Rochester: 17
Las Vegas: 1
New Mexico
Socorro: 2
New York
New York: 5, 15
Eugene: 19
Haverford: 5
Philadelphia: 16
University Park: 1
Charlottesville: 1

For North America and Canada
Katie McGoldrick, Nature Washington
Tel: +1 202 737 2355; E-mail: [email protected]

For Japan, Korea, China, Singapore and Taiwan
Rinoko Asami, Nature Tokyo
Tel: +81 3 3267 8751; E-mail: [email protected]

For the UK/Europe/other countries not listed above
Katharine Mansell, Nature London
Tel: +44 20 7843 4658; E-mail: [email protected]

Sophie Hebden, Nature London
Tel: +44 20 7843 4502; E-mail: [email protected]

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Published: 14 Dec 2005

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