First terrestrial four-legged animal moved like an inchworm, Helping a flying qubit to land safely, How genes interact during inflammation, Tumour cells can weaken immune response, Potentially soothing powers of extra-virgin olive oil

Newsworthy articles from Nature Vol.437 No.7055 Dated 1 September 2005

This press release contains:

* Palaeontology: The two cultures
* Astronomy: Super-size me - massive stars bulk up
* Palaeontology: First terrestrial four-legged animal moved like an inchworm
* Quantum physics: Helping a flying qubit to land safely
* Science fiction: Rewarding the future
* Immunology: How genes interact during inflammation
* Immune biology: Tumour cells can weaken immune response
* And finally: Potentially soothing powers of extra-virgin olive oil

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[1] Palaeontology: The two cultures (AOP)
DOI: 10.1038/nature04006

***This paper will be published electronically on Nature's website on 31
August 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 1 September, but at a later date.***

Neanderthals coexisted with anatomically modern humans in Europe for several
thousand years before the former died out, but the nature and timing of
Neanderthal extinction have caused much speculation and debate. New
radiocarbon dates at an archaeological site long associated with
Neanderthals add spice to the argument - artefacts associated with modern
humans are present in a thin layer sandwiched between sediments that reflect
Neanderthal occupation.
Paul Mellars and colleagues have been re-examining the archaeology of the
Grotte des Fées at Châtelperron in France, the type-site of the distinctive
Chatelperronian culture from France and Spain, long associated with the last
days of the Neanderthals but also coincident with the widespread Aurignacian
culture typical of modern humans. Although the two cultures overlapped in
time and space, the presence of artefacts from both cultures in distinct
layers at single sites has always been controversial. However, radiocarbon
dates from the Grotte des Fées at Châtelperron show that Aurignacian tools
were present during a brief cold snap about 38,000 years ago - sandwiched
between older and younger Chatelperronian deposits laid down in less chilly
Paul Mellars (University of Cambridge, United Kingdom)
Tel: +44 1223 338006, or +44 1223 338000; E-mail: [email protected]
<mailto:[email protected]>

[2] & [3] Astronomy: Super-size me - massive stars bulk up (pp 109-111 &
112-115; N&V)

High-mass stars can form by gobbling up dust and gas, two groups of
astronomers report in this week's Nature. Their observations add to an
increasing body of evidence that the largest stars do not have to rely on
mergers between smaller stars to become more than ten times as massive as
the Sun.
Astronomers agree that smaller stars grow by feeding off a dense disk of
surrounding dust and gas - known as accretion - but the intense pressure of
radiation coming from larger stars should stop the influx of further
material, imposing an upper limit on the stellar mass gained in this way.
Nimesh Patel and colleagues looked at infrared light coming from the
vicinity of Cephus A, a star fifteen times the mass of the Sun, and found a
large disk of dust rotating around it, with jets of material coming from the
star's poles. The same features are seen when smaller stars form.
Zhibo Jiang and colleagues made similar observations of the
Becklin-Neugebauer object, a star at least seven times larger than the Sun.
"These are just the ingredients that would, according to recent theories of
accretion, allow the formation of massive stars;" comments Barbara Whitney
in a related News and Views article.

Nimesh A. Patel (Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics, Cambridge, MA, USA)
Tel: +1 617 496 7649; E-mail: [email protected]
<mailto:[email protected]>

Zhibo Jiang (Purple Mountain Observatory, Chinese Academic of Sciences, Nanjing, China)
Tel: +86 25 83332215; E-mail: [email protected] <mailto:[email protected]>

Barbara Whitney (Space Science Institute, Madison, WI, USA)
Tel: +1 608 221 3913; E-mail: [email protected]
<mailto:[email protected]>

[4] Palaeontology: First terrestrial four-legged animal moved like an inchworm (pp 137-140; N&V)

The first four-legged animals that moved on land may have moved like
inchworms, shuffling the back legs forward and stretching the front legs out
to move the body along, a study has found. Per Ahlberg and colleagues have
reanalysed all fossils of Ichthyostega, an extinct four-legged fish species
that lived in Greenland in the Devonian period, around 360 million years
Writing in this week's Nature, the researchers conclude that the vertebral
column of the animal wouldn't have allowed fish-like body movements to the
side but only limited vertical movements. The reason is that certain
protrusions of the vertebral column called neural arches are too long for
such movements to take place. This analysis is the first that shows
differences between different sections of the vertebral column in this
animal, as we see in higher vertebrates and humans living today. The results
of this work differ from those of previous analyses, and shows that
Ichthyostega was the earliest animal with such features.

Per Erik Ahlberg (Uppsala University, Uppsala, Sweden)
Tel: +46 18 47 12 641; E-mail: [email protected]
<mailto:[email protected]>

Robert L Carroll (Redpath Museum, McGill University, Montreal, Canada)
Tel: +1 514 398 4086; E-mail: [email protected]
<mailto:[email protected]>

[5] Quantum physics: Helping a flying qubit to land safely (pp 115-120)

Quantum information can be transferred between photons of light of different
wavelengths, according to research published in this week's Nature. The
research overcomes a practical barrier to transmitting stored information
between different quantum computers, and is an important step on the way to
machines that promise to process data at incredible speeds using the quantum
states of particles.
Storing data on the quantum scale uses metal atoms - typically alkaline ones
- that require light wavelengths of about 800 nanometres (billionths of a
metre). But the light best suited to travelling long distances down fibre
optic cables has wavelengths of 1,310 and 1,550 nanometres.
Sébastien Tanzilli and colleagues have now shown that information in the
form of quantum bits ('qubits') can be transferred from longer-wavelength
photons to shorter-wavelength ones. This means that a telecommunication
qubit flying down an optical fibre can safely deliver its information to a
stationary quantum memory upon arrival at its destination. The scientists
say that conversion between other wavelengths should also be possible.

Sébastien Tanzilli (University of Geneva, Geneva, Switzerland)
Tel: +41 22 379 68 44; E-mail: [email protected]
<mailto:[email protected]>

Science fiction: Rewarding the future

Readers who get as far as the back page of Nature will know that we've been
publishing a weekly series of short science fiction stories under the
'Futures' banner. This initiative has now been recognized by the European
Science Fiction Society, who bestowed the 'Best Publisher 2005' award on
Nature at the World Science Fiction Convention (WorldCon).
The current series of Futures, running since 3 February 2005, is the second
of its kind. The first ran between November 1999 and the end of 2000, to
commemorate the millennium, and started with a mini-blockbuster from Sir
Arthur C. Clarke. The current series concentrates on developments that might
be expected to occur within the next fifty years, but roams widely within
that brief - from the effects of climate change and genetic engineering to
how the dead might be recruited as spam filters.
Authors range from first-time writers to some of the biggest names in the
field, and include Peter F. Hamilton, Stephen Baxter, Gregory Benford, Ken
MacLeod, Ian Stewart, Jack Cohen, Vonda McIntyre, David Langford, Joe
Haldeman, Norman Spinrad, Ted Chiang, Kim Stanley Robinson and recent
Hugo-award-winner Charles Stross. "When we heard about this award we broke
out that ol' Janx Spirit", says Nature manuscript editor Henry Gee, who runs
the series.

[6] Immunology: How genes interact during inflammation (AOP)
DOI: 10.1038/nature03985

***This paper will be published electronically on Nature's website on 31
August 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 1 September, but at a later date.***

With rapid gene sequencing, scientists can extract heaps of information
about DNA from a single cell. But processing the data to provide meaningful
answers about biology can present a trickier challenge. Ronald Davis and his
colleagues have used a computational approach to accomplish just this. The
research team examined the inner workings of white blood cells, also known
as leukocytes. Specifically, they wanted to know how the genes in these
cells responded to acute systematic inflammation.
A web-based computer application allowed them to enter in data from over
200,000 full-text scientific articles - which included details about more
than 9,000 human, 7,900 mouse and 5,000 rat genes. This allowed them to
calculate and represent a network of almost 1,600 genes within a leukocyte
that interact in response to a bacterial toxin. The findings, which are
published online this week by Nature, reveal that white blood cells suppress
the production of protein synthesis machinery during an inflammatory

Ronald W. Davis (Stanford Genome Technology Center, Palo Alto, CA, USA)
Tel: +1 650 812 2021; E-mail: [email protected] <mailto:[email protected]>

[7] Immune biology: Tumour cells can weaken immune response (pp 141-146;

Tumours can spread to many places in the body, and many researchers have
tried to discover why. Now, Gerald Willimsky and Thomas Blankenstein argue
that although tumours are recognized by the immune system they make certain
immune cells, known as T cells, more tolerant, thereby weakening the immune

In this week's Nature, the authors describe how, using transgenic mice, they
could check the immune response to newly developing sporadic tumours. By
analysing the spontaneous response they found that the immune system still
recognized the tumours, but that the same tumours also made the immune
system tolerant, through the expansion of non-functional T cells. Previous
suggestions that only tumour cells that cause less of an immune reaction
survive, or escape detection by the immune system, are challenged by this

Thomas Blankenstein (Max Delbrück Center for Molecular Medicine, Berlin, Germany)
Tel: +49 30 8445 3873; E-mail: [email protected]
<mailto:[email protected]>

Cornelis J M Melief (University Hospital Leiden, The Netherlands)
Tel: +31 71 5 263800; E-mail: [email protected] <mailto:[email protected]>

[8] And finally: Potentially soothing powers of extra-virgin olive oil (pp

Ask any foodie and they'll tell you: you'll never regret splashing out on
the best olive oil you can find. Well, here's another reason to treat
yourself - newly pressed extra-virgin olive oil also contains a compound
that mimics the pain-relieving activity of ibuprofen, a member of the class
of non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs.

The compound, called oleocanthal, suppresses the same pain pathway as
ibuprofen, although the two chemicals are structurally different, report
Paul Breslin and his colleagues in a Brief Communication in this week's
Nature. Oleocanthal in olive oil and ibuprofen are also both associated with
a dose-dependent throat-stinging sensation.

The researchers calculate that a 50 g daily dose of olive oil is equivalent
to about 10% of the ibuprofen dose recommended for adult pain relief. So
although it won't cure a headache, regular olive-oil consumption might
confer some of the long-term benefits of ibuprofen, such as reduced cancer
risk. This, the authors add, might help to explain some of the often-quoted
benefits of a Mediterranean diet.

Paul A. S. Breslin (Monell Chemical Senses Center, Philadelphia, PA, USA)
Tel: +1 215 898 5021; E-mail: [email protected] <mailto:[email protected]>


[9] A general strategy for nanocrystal synthesis (pp 121-124)

[10] Modelled atmospheric temperatures and global sea levels over the
past million years (pp 125-128)

[11] Increase in tropospheric nitrogen dioxide over China observed from
space (pp 129-132)

[12] Fracture surface energy of the Punchbowl fault, San Andreas system
(pp 133-136)

[13] Structural mechanism for sterol sensing and transport by
OSBP-related proteins (pp 154-158)

[14] Observation of a dewetting transition in the collapse of the
melittin tetramer (pp 159-162)

[15] A moving fluid pulse in a fault zone (p 46)


***This paper will be published electronically on Nature's website on 31
August 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 1 September, but at a later date.***

[16] Vertebrate Smoothened functions at the primary cilium
DOI: 10.1038/nature04117


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Mexico City: 2

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Uppsala: 4

Geneva: 5

Cambridge: 1, 4
Hatfield: 3
Oxford: 1

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Gainesville: 6
Chicago: 6
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Cambridge: 2
Ann Arbor: 6
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Published: 31 Aug 2005

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