Relics: A very early supper

Summaries of newsworthy papers include: Biology: Knockout rats

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· Summaries of newsworthy papers:

Relics: A very early supper

Biology: Knockout rats

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Relics: A very early supper (pp 857-860; N&V)

Two ungulate bones discovered by a research team lead by Zeresenay Alemseged in Dikika, Ethiopia represent the earliest known evidence of stone tool use by hominins. The findings, reported in this week’s Nature, pre-date the previous oldest example by some 800,000 years.

The earliest direct evidence for stone tool use is between 2.6 and 2.5 million years (Myr) old and comes from Gona, Ethiopia. However, it is likely that hominins used tools even earlier. Shannon McPherron and colleagues report the finding of two ungulate bones: the rib of a cow-sized animal and the thigh bone of a goat-sized antelope. The bones are marked with cuts that suggest stone tools were used to remove the flesh from the bones and extract the bone marrow.

The bones are thought to date from at least 3.4 Myr ago and the cut marks may well have been made by Australopithecus afarensis, the extinct hominin species to which the fossils ‘Lucy’ and ‘Selam’ belong.

Author contact
Zeresenay Alemseged (California Academy of Sciences, San Francisco, CA, USA)
Tel: +251 911 862386 (Addis Ababa); or +1 415 828 5941 (San Francisco)
E-mail: [email protected]

Shannon McPherron (Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary Anthropology, Leipzig, Germany)
Tel: +49 341 3550 363 or tel: +49 176 233 46 343 (cell)
E-mail: [email protected]

David Braun (University of Cape Town, Rondebosch, South Africa) – N&V author
Tel: +27 21 650 2350
E-mail: [email protected]

Biology: Knockout rats (AOP)
DOI: 10.1038/nature09368

***This paper will be published electronically on Nature's website on 11 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 12 August, but at a later date. ***

Researchers have generated p53 knockout rats for the first time. Their results are published online this week in Nature and are promising for future rat models, which could be used in physiological and pharmacological studies.

The rat is commonly used in behavioural studies but functional genomics and genetic research has been stifled by the limited availability of gene targeting tools. Several technologies have been used to genetically alter rats, but the ability to manipulate the rat genome and create rat disease models has been limited. Qi-Long Ying and colleagues target genes by homologous recombination — a technique in which nucleotide sequences are exchanged — in rat embryonic stem (ES) cells. They first established rat ES cells and then went on to disrupt the tumour suppressor gene p53. These cells can transmit their mutation through the germ line to create p53 gene knockout rats. The technique could be used to target any gene and create models for various diseases.

The rat is the most widely used animal model in biological research so this provides a powerful new platform for the study of human disease.

Author contact:
Qi-Long Ying (University of Southern California, Los Angeles, CA, USA)
Tel: +1 323 442 3308
E-mail: [email protected]


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Published: 11 Aug 2010

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