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Article Released Sun-20th-January-2008 19:25 GMT
Contact: Ruth Institution: Nature Publishing Group
 Population studies: Ageing accelerates

Summaries of newsworthy papers include Animals: Turn up the heat on sex determination, Volcanoes under ice, From little seeds do laser beams grow, The dark side of X-ray imaging, A stem cell-based therapy to treat muscular dystrophy, Genetic variants associated with susceptibility to lupus


For papers that will be published online on 20 January 2008

This press release is copyrighted to the Nature journals mentioned below.

This press release contains:

· Summaries of newsworthy papers:

Population studies: Ageing accelerates – Nature

Animals: Turn up the heat on sex determination – Nature

Volcanoes under ice – Nature Geoscience

From little seeds do laser beams grow – Nature Photonics

The dark side of X-ray imaging – Nature Materials

A stem cell-based therapy to treat muscular dystrophy – Nature Medicine

Genetic variants associated with susceptibility to lupus – Nature Genetics

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

· Geographical listing of authors

PDFs of all the papers mentioned on this release can be found in the relevant journal’s section of Press contacts for the Nature journals are listed at the end of this release.

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[1] Population studies: Ageing accelerates

DOI: 10.1038/nature06516

However you look at it, the world’s population is ageing with increasing speed, according to research published online by Nature this week. This speed of ageing will continue to increase over the coming decades but is likely to slow by mid-century.

Wolfgang Lutz and colleagues use both traditional measures and new concepts that include changes in longevity to investigate how fast the population is ageing in thirteen major regions. Conventional concepts of ageing rely on a fixed age boundary — for example, everyone of sixty years or over — and assume that a sixty-year-old in 1900 was just as old as a sixty-year-old in 2000. The team introduce and quantify three new indicators of age that explicitly take changes in the remaining life expectancy into account. Both sets of measures show that we will face the challenge of an acceleration of global population ageing over the coming decades, with the prospect of a slower speed of ageing towards the second half of the century.

Author contact:

Wolfgang Lutz (International Institute for Applied Systems Analysis, Laxenburg, Austria)

Tel: +43 2236 807 294; E-mail:

[2] Animals: Turn up the heat on sex determination

DOI: 10.1038/nature06519

A thirty-year-old model of sex determination is finally proven in the Jacky dragon (Amphibolurus muricatus), a short-lived species of lizard found in Australia. The results, published online this week in Nature, provide the first unequivocal demonstration that incubation temperature affects male or female fitness and optimises reproductive success.

In mammals and birds, sex is determined by genotype at fertilization. Many reptiles, however, hedge their bets, determining the sex of an individual by interaction with the environment, typically temperature. A model, published by Charnov and Bull in 1977, speculates that environmental sex determination will be favoured by selection, if it could be shown that different temperature regimes maximized reproductive fitness for each sex. However, until now it has been difficult to set up the ‘control’ experiment and produce the ‘wrong’ sex at a given temperature.

Using hormone treatments, Daniel Warner and Richard Shine have overcome previous difficulties and, using the short-lived Jacky dragon, they show that the Charnov–Bull model is correct.

Author contact:

Daniel Warner (Iowa State University, Ames, IA, USA)

Tel: +1 515 294 1968; E-mail:

****************************************NATURE GEOSCIENCE******************************************


[3] Volcanoes under ice

DOI: 10.1038/ngeo106

A newly identified volcano underneath the West Antarctic ice sheet has been described in a study published online in Nature Geoscience this week. The Hudson Mountains Subglacial Volcano last erupted 2,300 years ago, and probably affected regional ice flow at the time. This discovery has important consequences for our understanding of past, present and future stability of the West Antarctic ice sheet.

Hugh Corr and David Vaughan used radar data collected from flights over Antarctica to identify a large layer of volcanic ash buried in the ice. The increased heat from this eruption is thought to have led to local and regional melting of the surrounding and overlying ice, which would have increased the flow rate of other nearby glaciers as well.

Author contact:

Hugh Corr (British Antarctic Survey, Cambridge, UK)

Tel: +44 1223 221496; E-mail:

Other papers from Nature Geoscience to be published online at the same time and with the same embargo:

[4] Towards forecasting volcanic eruptions using seismic noise

DOI: 10.1038/ngeo104

[5] Biophysical controls on dissolved organic carbon in fluvial networks

DOI: 10.1038/ngeo101

[6] Nitrogen transfer from sea to land via commercial fisheries

DOI: 10.1038/ngeo108

******************************************NATURE PHOTONICS******************************************


[7] >From little seeds do laser beams grow

DOI: 10.1038/nphoton.2007.280

Compact lasers producing high-quality beams of light could open a plethora of applications in imaging, microscopy and the probing of matter. Research published this week in Nature Photonics makes this dream a reality.

For over 20 years scientists have been producing laser light in the extreme UV part of the spectrum — that is, at wavelengths from about 1 nm to 30 nm — using plasma (or ionized gases).

With the goal of making these lasers as compact as possible, Jorge Rocca and colleagues use a technique known as injection seeding to create beams of light with waves that are in step (vibrate together) in both space and time. They take a low-power beam of light, pass it through a dense plasma and use it to produce a more powerful, amplified beam of light at the right wavelength. The resulting pulses of light are about 1 ps long, have wavelengths less than 20 nm, and can be created using a practical, table-top laser.

Rocca and co-workers manage to generate light with a wavelength around 13 nm, a key wavelength used by computer chip manufacturers, and which has implications for the fields of imaging and computing.

Author contact:

Jorge Rocca (Colorado State University, Fort Collins, Colorado, USA)

Tel: +1 970 491 8371; E-mail:

Other papers from Nature Photonics to be published online at the same time and with the same embargo:

[8] Space-separated quantum cutting with silicon nanocrystals for photovoltaic applications

DOI: 10.1038/nphoton.2007.279

[9] Dynamic manipulation and separation of individual semiconducting and metallic nanowires

DOI: 10.1038/nphoton.2007.277

*********** NATURE MATERIALS ************************************** (

[10] The dark side of X-ray imaging

DOI: 10.1038/nmat2096

A type of X-ray imaging that shows detail otherwise lost, and which is compatible with conventional radiography instrumentation is now feasible, reports a study published online this week in Nature Materials. This technique offers unprecedented resolution for several applications, including medical imaging, security screening and industrial non-destructive testing.

Dark-field imaging is commonly used in visible light microscopy, and it enables details to be resolved that are otherwise smeared out in the direct reflection mode or bright field. The quality of the dark-field image depends on the intensity of the light scattered by the object. With X-rays, however it has always been difficult to have a high enough signal-to-noise ratio, and therefore the use of X-ray dark-field imaging has usually been restricted to very-high-intensity light sources, such as synchrotrons.

Franz Pfeiffer and colleagues have shown that by using an appropriate arrangement of certain optical components it is possible to obtain a high signal-to-noise ratio even with conventional X-ray tubes, as they demonstrate by revealing the very fine structure of bones in a chicken wing.

Author contact:

Franz Pfeiffer (Ecole Polytechnique Federale de Lausanne, Switzerland)

Tel: +41 56 310 5262; E-mail:

Other papers from Nature Materials to be published online at the same time and with the same embargo:

[11] Morphology evolution via self-organization and lateral and vertical diffusion in polymer:fullerene solar cell blends

DOI: 10.1038/nmat2102

[12] Mechanical gas capture and release in a network solid via multiple single-crystalline transformations

DOI: 10.1038/nmat2101

[13] Silver-nanoparticle-embedded antimicrobial paints based on vegetable oil

DOI: 10.1038/nmat2099

*******************************************Nature MEDICINE********************************************


[14] A stem cell-based therapy to treat muscular dystrophy

DOI: 10.1038/nm1705

A new way to manipulate embryonic stem cells (ESCs) in mice offers hope for an eventual cell-based therapy to treat muscular dystrophies, suggests a paper online this week in Nature Medicine.

Muscular dystrophies, such as Duchenne’s muscular dystrophy (DMD), are caused by genetic mutations that lead to a loss of expression of dystrophin, a key structural protein of muscle cells, which results in cell dysfunction. When this occurs the cells can no longer regenerate after injury, resulting in progressive muscle weakness and eventual death. One hope for therapy has been to replenish these defective cells with ESCs that produce normal dystrophin. However, this approach has been hampered by an inability to get ESCs to form muscle cells at appreciable levels.

Rita Perlingeiro and colleagues have overcome this hurdle and show functional recovery after injection of ESCs into a mouse model of DMD. The key to their success was to take advantage of the facts that almost all skeletal muscles have a similar embryonic origin and that muscle development depends on the transcription factor Pax3. As ESCs grown in a culture dish are not exposed to the embryonic environmental milieu that induces muscle differentiation, it might be possible to bypass this requirement by directly expressing Pax3, which orchestrates muscle development in the embryo, through genetic manipulations. This manipulation allows a muscle progenitor cell population to arise and in sufficient quantities to then use therapeutically in mice. The team was able to deliver these cells through the circulation, targeting many more muscle locations than by intramuscular injection, resulting in significantly improved muscle function. Finally, the use of the isolated muscle progenitor cells, owing to their partially differentiated state, did not result in tumor formation, which has previously hampered the therapeutic use of ESCs.

While the genetic manipulation of the ESCs disallows this technique to be used in the clinic at this point, future studies may point to ways of inducing Pax3 expression in human ESCs without the need of genetically modifying the cells.

Author contact:

Rita Perlingeiro (University of Texas Southwestern, TX, USA)

Tel: +1 214 645 5913; E-mail:

Other papers from Nature Medicine to be published online at the same time and with the same embargo:

[15] Dok1 mediates high-fat diet–induced adipocyte hypertrophy and obesity through modulation of PPAR-g phosphorylation

DOI: 10.1038/nm1706

[16] Dcir deficiency causes development of autoimmune diseases in mice due to excess expansion of dendritic cells

DOI: 10.1038/nm1697

***********************************************NATURE GENETICS **************************************


[17], [18] & [19] Genetic variants associated with susceptibility to lupus

DOI: 10.1038/ng.71

DOI: 10.1038/ng.79

DOI: 10.1038/ng.81

Newly discovered genetic variants in at least six different regions of the genome are associated with increased risk of developing lupus, according to three studies to be published online this week in Nature Genetics. Lupus is a complex autoimmune disorder, more common in women than men, that causes inflammation and damage to a wide range of tissues.

An international consortium (SLEGEN) led by John Harley and Carl Langefeld carried out a genome-wide association scan of more than 1,800 women with lupus, and identify variants in or near the genes ITGAM, KIAA1542, PXK, as well in a so-called ‘gene desert’ on chromosome 1, and a possible association with BLK amongst others. They also confirmed the association of several previously identified variants with susceptibility to lupus.

In a separate study, Swapan Nath and colleagues reported association with a variant in ITGAM. In a third study, Marta Alarcón-Riquelme and colleagues demonstrate association with the gene BANK1.

Finally, a study to be published simultaneously in the New England Journal of Medicine by Timothy Behrens and colleagues reports association with variants in ITGAM and BLK. The proteins encoded by ITGAM, BLK, and BANK1 all function in cells of the immune system, and their association with susceptibility to lupus provides new insight into the mechanisms underlying the disease.

Author contacts:

Swapan Nath (Oklahoma Medical Research Foundation, Oklahoma City, OK, USA)

Tel: +1 405 271 7765; E-mail: Author paper [17]

Marta Alarcón-Riquelme (Uppsala University, Sweden)

Tel: +46 18 4714805; E-mail: Author paper [18]

John Harley (Oklahoma Medical Research Foundation, Oklahoma City, OK, USA)

Tel: +1 405 271 7768; E-mail: Author paper [19]

For information on the paper published in The New England Journal of Medicine please contact:

Karen Pedersen (Manager, Media Relation)

Tel: +1 781 434 7847; Email:

Other papers from Nature Genetics to be published online at the same time and with the same embargo:

[20] Mutations in mRNA export mediator GLE1 result in fetal motoneuron disease

DOI: 10.1038/ng.2007.65


Items from other Nature journals to be published online at the same time and with the same embargo:

Nature PHYSICS (

[21] Visualization of the interplay between high-temperature superconductivity, the pseudogap and impurity resonances

DOI: 10.1038/nphys835

[22] X-ray-scattering information obtained from near-field speckle

DOI: 10.1038/nphys837

[23] Memory-built-in quantum teleportation with photonic and atomic qubits

DOI: 10.1038/nphys832


[24] Biosynthesis and processing of endogenous BDNF: CNS neurons store and secrete BDNF, not pro-BDNF
DOI: 10.1038/nn2038

[25] Molecular and electrophysiological evidence for net synaptic potentiation in wake and depression in sleep
DOI: 10.1038/nn2035

[26] Action potential generation requires a high sodium channel density in the axon initial segment
DOI: 10.1038/nn2040

[27] SK2 channel plasticity contributes to LTP at Schaffer collateral–CA1 synapses
DOI: 10.1038/nn2041

[28] Anandamide inhibits metabolism and physiological actions of 2-arachidonoylglycerol in the striatum
DOI: 10.1038/nn2042


[29] T cell sensing of antigen dose governs interactive activity with dendritic cells and sets a threshold for T cell activation

DOI: 10.1038/ni1559


[30] PDK1 regulates cancer cell motility by antagonising inhibition of ROCK1 by RhoE

DOI: 10.1038/ncb1675

[31] ERK promotes tumorigenesis by inhibiting FOXO3a via MDM2-mediated degradation

DOI: 10.1038/ncb1676


[32] Structure of the SAM-II riboswitch bound to S-adenosylmethionine

DOI: 10.1038/nsmb.1371

[33] Bacterial polysaccharide co-polymerases share a common framework for control of polymer length

DOI: 10.1038/nsmb.1374

[34] Structural insights into the dual activity of RNaseJ

DOI: 10.1038/nsmb.1376

[35] Crystal structure of the multifunctional Gbeta5-RGS9 complex

DOI: 10.1038/nsmb.1377


[36] High Speed, Low Photodamage Nonlinear Imaging Using Passive Pulse Splitters

DOI: 10.1038/nmeth1175

[37] Genetic manipulation of adult mouse neurogenic niches by in vivo electroporation

DOI: 10.1038/nmeth1174

[38] Whole genome sequencing and SNP discovery for C. elegans using massively parallel sequencing-by-synthesis

DOI: 10.1038/nmeth1179

[39] Printing protein arrays from DNA arrays

DOI: 10.1038/nmeth1178

[40] A secreted luciferase for ex vivo monitoring of in vivo processes

DOI: 10.1038/nmeth1177



The following list of places refers to the whereabouts of authors on the papers numbered in this release. 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.


Rosario: 18


Adelaide: 33

Canberra: 26
Sydney: 1


Laxenburg: 1

Lunz am See: 5
Vienna: 1, 5, 23


Alberta: 12

Montreal: 6, 31, 33

Ottawa: 12

Toronto: 33

Vancouver: 26


Anhui: 23


Copenhagen : 10

Odense: 18


Helsinki: 20

Oulu: 20

Rovaniemi: 20


Grenoble: 4, 22

La Reunion: 4

Paris: 4, 34


Braunschweig: 24

Hannover: 18

Heidelberg: 23

Martinsried: 24


Ancona: 18
Milan: 11, 22

Novara: 18

Pisa: 25
Rome: 28

Teramo: 28


Ehime: 16

Kanagawa: 15, 16

Kobe: 15

Nagoya: 21

Sapporo: 27

Takarazuka: 15

Tokyo: 15, 16


Amsterdam: 8

Leiden: 37


Wellington: 11


Faro: 8


St Petersburg: 8


Daegu: 11


Albacete: 27

Barcelona: 5

Blanes: 5

Granada: 18

Oviedo: 18

Seville: 18


Lund: 18

Stockholm: 37

Uppsala: 17, 18, 19, 39


Basel: 24

Geneva: 18

Lausanne: 10

Villigen: 10

Zurich: 24, 26


Taichung: 31

Taipai: 31


Cambridge: 3, 26, 39

Glasgow: 39

Hinxton: 20

London: 11, 17, 19, 30

Manchester: 39



Birmingham: 17, 19


Berkeley: 9, 32

Davis: 31

La Jolla: 28

Livermore: 9

Los Angeles: 9, 19

Menlo Park: 22

San Francisco: 19


Boulder: 32

Fort Collins: 7


Newark: 35


Miramar: 29


Atlanta: 17


Evanston: 5


Ames: 2, 21


Gaithersburg: 24


Boston: 20, 29, 40

Cambridge: 21, 29, 37

Charlestown: 40

Chestnut Hill: 38

Woods Hole: 5


Minneapolis: 19


St Louis: 38

New York

Millbrook: 5, 6

New York: 13

Stony Brook: 1

Troy: 13

North Carolina

Chapel Hill: 35

Winston-Salem: 19


Oklahoma City: 17, 19


Portland: 27


Avondale: 5

Philadelphia: 15

South Carolina

Charlestown: 17


Dallas: 14, 17

Houston: 13, 31


Ashburn: 36


Madison: 25


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Tel: +44 20 7843 4502; E-mail:

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Tel: +44 20 7843 4562; E-mail:

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Nature Biotechnology (New York)

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Tel: +1 212 726 9284; E-mail:

Nature Cell Biology (London)

Bernd Pulverer

Tel: +44 20 7843 4892; E-mail:

Nature Chemical Biology (Boston)

Andrea Garvey

Tel: +1 617 475 9241, E-mail:

Nature Genetics (New York)

Orli Bahcall

Tel: +1 212 726 9311; E-mail:

Nature Geoscience (London)

Heike Langenberg

Tel: +44 20 7843 4042; E-mail:

Nature Immunology (New York)

Laurie Dempsey

Tel: +1 212 726 9372; E-mail:

Nature Materials (London)

Alison Stoddart

Tel: +44 20 7843 4593; E-mail:

Nature Medicine (New York)

Juan Carlos Lopez

Tel: +1 212 726 9325; E-mail:

Nature Methods (New York)

Allison Doerr

Tel: +1 212 726 9393; E-mail:

Nature Nanotechnology (London)

Peter Rodgers

Tel: +44 20 7014 4019; Email:

Nature Neuroscience (New York)

Sandra Aamodt (based in California)

Tel: +1 530 795 3256; E-mail:

Nature Photonics (Tokyo))

Oliver Graydon

Tel: +81 3 3267 8776; E-mail:

Nature Physics (London)

Alison Wright

Tel: +44 20 7843 4555; E-mail:

Nature Structural & Molecular Biology (New York)

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Keywords associated to this article: Population studies, Ageing, Animals, sex, Volcanoes, ice, laser beams, X-ray imaging, stem cells, muscular dystrophy, Genetics, lupus
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