3D Cell Cultures, Nano-sized lasers and a Dwarf Galaxy

Latest news from Nature 8 February 2012

This press release contains:

---Summaries of newsworthy papers:

Geoscience: Recalculating the impact of ice mass on sea level

Physics: Bringing lasers down to size

Geophysics: Predicting where the next supercontinent will form

Oncology: Mimicking tumour production

Applied physics: A new waveband of transparency

And finally… Close encounters with a dwarf galaxy

---Mention of papers to be published at the same time with the same embargo

---Geographical listing of authors

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[1] Geoscience: Recalculating the impact of ice mass on sea level (AOP; N&V)
DOI: 10.1038/nature10847

Mass loss from ice-covered land areas contributed around 1.5 mm per year to sea-level rise between 2003 and 2010, according to a study in Nature. The new estimates, based on satellite observations of gravity change, place a tighter constraint of the contribution of global ice loss to sea level rise and reveal surprising regional patterns.

Previously, the overall influence of glaciers, ice caps and ice sheets on sea-level changes had been unclear owing to methodological limitations and non-global geographical coverage. John Wahr and colleagues now assess ice mass loss by applying a consistent methodology to all ice-covered regions greater than 100 km2. From these data, the authors calculate that the total contribution to sea level rise was 1.48 ± 0.26 mm per year over the assessed period. They note that mass loss from Asian glaciers was notably smaller than previous estimates, and conclude that Asian glaciers have a minimal impact on sea-level rise.


John Wahr (University of Colorado, Boulder, CO, USA)
Tel: +1 303 492 8349; E-mail: [email protected]

Jonathan Bamber (University of Bristol, UK) N&V author
Tel: +44 117 3314129; E-mail: [email protected]


[2] Physics: Bringing lasers down to size (pp 204-207)

Devices that may represent a step towards developing the ‘ultimate’ nanolaser are described in Nature this week. The devices produce the smallest continuous-wave, telecommunications-frequency laser demonstrated at room temperature to date.

Developing a scalable, efficient source of radiation that operates at room temperature and occupies a small volume on a chip is an appealing goal in the field of cavity quantum electrodynamics. However, advances have been hindered by the lack of a systematic approach to scale down the size of the laser cavity without significantly increasing the threshold power required for lasing. Mercedeh Khajavikhan and colleagues describe a new family of resonators called nanoscale coaxial cavities, which overcome this obstacle. Their resonator design can even be engineered to remove the threshold altogether.

Nanoscale coaxial cavities offer a number of advantages over existing approaches towards the realisation of thresholdless lasing, such as smaller size, straightforward fabrication procedure and better thermal properties.


Mercedeh Khajavikhan (University of California San Diego, La Jolla, CA, USA)
Tel: +1 310 425 9000; E-mail: [email protected]


[3] Geophysics: Predicting where the next supercontinent will form (pp 208-211)

‘Amasia’, merging the Americas with Asia, is considered to be the next supercontinent. A new model of supercontinent cycles reported in this week’s Nature predicts that Amasia will form 90 degrees away from where Pangaea was situated. According to this model, the Americas will remain in the Pacific ‘ring of fire’, closing the Arctic Ocean and Caribbean Sea.

Traditional hypotheses of supercontinent evolution suggest they either form on top of the previous supercontinent (introversion) or on the opposite side of the world (extroversion). Ross Mitchell and colleagues develop an alternative model in which new supercontinents form at a 90-degree angle away from the previous one (orthoversion). This model suggests that Amasia will form within the great circle of subduction encircling its relict predecessor. Moreover, the authors show that their model is consistent with palaeomagnetic data used to determine distances between the locations of successive supercontinents of the past: Nuna, Rodinia and Pangaea.


Ross Mitchell (Yale University, New Haven, CT, USA)
Tel: +1 203 788 4149; E-mail: [email protected]


[4] Oncology: Mimicking tumour production (AOP)
DOI: 10.1038/nature10826

How sporadic mutant cells evolve within the tightly regulated environment of otherwise normal tissues has remained elusive. A model to help understand how cancer develops from a single oncogene-expressing cell is presented in Nature this week. The results show that initial tumour cell outgrowth is a highly regulated process.

Three-dimensional (3D) cell cultures provide a means for examining single-cell evolution, which is not always easy to study within native tissues. Cheuk Leung and Joan Brugge induce oncogene expression in single cells in a 3D model of human-derived mammary epithelial cells to mimic the very first stages of tumorigenesis. The authors elucidate the mechanisms involved in tumour cell outgrowth and identify pathways that regulate this process. Furthermore, they show that translocation of cells out of the epithelial layer allows them to escape the suppressive influences of the epithelial environment. This event leads to outgrowths outside their native niches which resemble early in situ tumour lesions.

The findings raise the possibility that mechanisms, such as cell translocation or compromising tissue integrity, may initiate abnormal proliferation from dormant mutant cells.


Joan Brugge (Harvard Medical School, Boston, MA, USA)
Tel: +1 617 432 3974; E-mail: [email protected]


[5] Applied physics: A new waveband of transparency (pp 199-203; N&V)

A technique that makes opaque materials see-through to light at certain wavelengths is extended to the X-ray regime in a study published in Nature this week. This achievement may have important implications in the field of lasing and quantum information processing.

Electromagnetically induced transparency is a quantum optical effect in which the interaction of light with matter can render an otherwise opaque medium transparent for light of a particular wavelength. The technique enables the control of light speed and transmission, and involves quantum interference of three atomic energy levels. Ralf Röhlsberger and co-workers extend this technique to the hard (highly energetic) X-ray regime by using nuclear ensembles embedded in a cavity. Although the nuclei are two-level systems, the effect of the cavity on their emission causes them to behave effectively as three-level systems. The authors conclude that electromagnetically induced transparency and its applications could be transferred to the nuclear regime, opening up the field of nuclear quantum optics.

Ralf Röhlsberger (Deutsches Elektronen-Synchrotron, Hamburg, Germany)
Tel: +49 40 8998 4503; E-mail: [email protected]

Bernhard Adams (Argonne National Laboratory, Lemont, IL, USA) N&V author
Tel: +1 630 252 6454; E-mail: [email protected]


[6] And finally… Close encounters with a dwarf galaxy (pp 192-194)

The discovery of a nearby distorted dwarf galaxy is reported in Nature this week. This dwarf galaxy is proposed to be a companion of the irregular starburst galaxy NCG 4449. Evidence suggests that the two galaxies may have interacted.

NGC 4449 is a relatively isolated irregular starburst galaxy located about 12.4 million light years away and is wreathed in a neutral hydrogen complex. An interaction with its nearest known companion, DDO 125, is the proposed cause of the complexity of its environment. Michael Rich and colleagues present observations of NGC 4449 and its environment that show a nearby tidally distorted dwarf galaxy, named NGC 4449B. Properties of NGC 4449B, such as its S-shaped morphology (similar to the Sagittarius dwarf galaxy near the Milky Way) indicate that this dwarf galaxy had a close encounter with NGC 4449.


Michael Rich (University of California, Los Angeles, CA, USA)
Tel: +1 310 794 5337; E-mail: [email protected]



[7] The Drosophila melanogaster Genetic Reference Panel (pp 173-178)

[8] Functional dissection of lysine deacetylases reveals that HDAC1 and p300 regulate AMPK (pp 251-255)


***These papers will be published electronically on Nature's website on 08 February 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 09 February, but at a later date. ***

[9] Cancer exome analysis reveals a T-cell-dependent mechanism of cancer immunoediting

DOI: 10.1038/nature10755

[10] Expression of tumour-specific antigens underlies cancer immunoediting

DOI: 10.1038/nature10803

[11] Single-molecule imaging of DNA pairing by RecA reveals a three-dimensional homology search

DOI: 10.1038/nature10782

[12] Extrathymically generated regulatory T cells control mucosal TH2 inflammation

DOI: 10.1038/nature10772



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.

East Melbourne: 9
Parkville: 9

Orléans: 1

Hamburg: 5
Heidelberg: 6

Tokyo: 9, 12

Barcelona: 7
Bellaterra: 7

Taipei: 8

Manchester: 7

Davis: 11
Frazier Park: 6
Irvine: 7
La Jolla: 2, 12
Los Angeles: 6
Pasadena: 6
San Diego: 2
Boulder: 1
New Haven: 3
Baltimore: 8
Boston: 4, 12
Cambridge: 7, 10
St Louis: 9
New York
New York: 9, 12
North Carolina
Raleigh: 7
Cincinnati: 7
Houston: 7
Blacksburg: 7
Charlottesville: 7
Seattle: 12



From North America and Canada

Neda Afsarmanesh, Nature New York
Tel: +1 212 726 9231; E-mail: [email protected]

From Japan, Korea, China, Singapore and Taiwan

Mika Nakano, Nature Tokyo
Tel: +81 3 3267 8751; E-mail: [email protected]

From the UK

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


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Published: 08 Feb 2012

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