Hybrids might turbocharge speciation with old gene variants, scientists use gene-edited stem cells to treat HIV and Mission Mangal dramatizes India’s journey to Mars.

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T-cell infected with HIV. Coloured scanning electron micrograph (SEM)

For the first time, researchers have used CRISPR gene-editing technology to try to treat a person infected with HIV. Scientists in China engineered human stem cells to mimic a rare form of natural immunity to the virus and transplanted them into a man with HIV and blood cancer. The gene-edited cells survived in the man’s body for more than a year without causing detectable side effects, but the number of cells was not high enough to significantly reduce the amount of HIV in his blood.

Nature | 5 min read

Many cancer drugs fail in clinical trials — and the reason might be because they are targeting the wrong molecules. An analysis used CRISPR–Cas9 gene editing to look at ten drugs, including seven now in clinical trials. It found that the proteins they target are not crucial for the survival of cancer cells. The result doesn’t necessarily mean the drugs don’t work at all, just that we don’t know how.

Nature | 4 min read

Taboos around human inbreeding make its frequency difficult to assess, so researchers turned to the roughly 450,000 human genomes from a British biomedical database. They found that 1 in 3,652 people born in the United Kingdom between 1938 and 1967 have two sets of chromosomes that share more than 10% of their DNA — a sign that their parents were closely related.

Nature Research Highlights | 4 min read

Reference: Nature Communications paper

Get more of Nature’s Research Highlights: short picks from the latest papers.


Hybrid animals — the offspring of different species — might be a surprising resource from which creatures can veer off in new directions to form new species. Hybrids seem to allow old genetic variants that arose long before a particular speciation event to take centre stage again, allowing faster adaptation to lots of different evolutionary niches. Discover more in Quanta, with the added delight of some very lovely cichlid fish photographs.

Quanta | 10 min read

Reference: Cell paper

“As good as the research system is, there is a problem,” says Alan Finkel, Australia’s chief scientist. Looking to the lessons learnt from an inquiry into the failings of bankers, he takes a hard look at the incentives pushing some scientists in the wrong direction. Finkel calls for accredited integrity training for researchers, an end to the focus on publication quantity over quality, and help from granting agencies to tackle “predatory, evil, crooked journals”.

The Conversation | 6 min read

An exclusive analysis by Nature reporter Holly Else suggests that several fields of science are moving away from male-dominated conferences and panels. Else tells the Nature Podcast how she dug into the data and explored some of the issues it raised. “Although people might strive for a 50:50 gender balance [among conference speakers], there’s sort of a big debate over whether that’s appropriate given that some fields aren’t 50:50 overall,” says Else.

Nature Podcast | 26 min listen

Read more: How to banish manels and manferences from scientific meetings (Nature | 11 min read)

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Actress Vidya Balan as project director Tara Shinde - seated at a cluttered desk in front of a solar system model.

A new film about India’s 2013 Mars mission offers successful scientific storytelling performed by a glittering cast, says reviewer Subhra Priyadarshini (who is also chief editor of Nature India). She explores the tale of how the Indian Space Research Organisation tackled an interplanetary challenge with insight, frugality and national pride.

Nature | 4 min read

Five best science books this week

Barbara Kiser’s pick of the top five science books to read this week includes synthetic meat, racism at the poles, and the long road to the opioid crisis.

Nature | 3 min read

Next time I’m thinking about motivation, I’ll remember that neuroscientist Annika Reinhold trained rats to play hide and seek — and prompted them to do “freudensprung (‘joy jumps’)” — by rewarding them with tickles. I’ll feel similarly rewarded if you take the time to let me know what you think of this newsletter at

Flora Graham, senior editor, Nature Briefing

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