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A brief history of what made biomedical news this year

Nature Medicine Biomedical research in 2013 saw some dramatic developments, with unprecedented government action in the US ranging from the budget sequester in the spring to a dramatic government shutdown in autumn. But throughout the year, bright spots in science around the globe continued to dazzle, including multimillion-dollar partnerships to advance drug discovery and the go-ahead for highly anticipated trials of regenerative medicine. Read the rest of the story in the December issue of Nature Medicine. (Subscription required) Image Credit NIAID CC by 2.0. 

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Lyme bacteria show that evolvability is evolvable

Nature Natural selection favours those with a greater capacity to generate genetic variation. Some gamblers succeed by spiriting cards up their sleeves, giving them a wider range of hands to play. So do some bacteria, whose great capacity for genetic variability helps them evolve and adapt to rapidly changing environments. Now research on Borrelia burgdorferi, the bacterium that causes Lyme disease, shows that the capacity to evolve can itself be the target of natural selection. The results were published today in PLoS Pathogens1. “There are other data that suggest that there could be selection on evolvability, but this is the first example … Read more…

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Ozone-hole treaty slowed global warming

Montreal Protocol helped to curb climate change and so did world wars and the Great Depression. Human actions that were not intended to limit the greenhouse effect have had large effects on slowing climate change. The two world wars, the Great Depression and a 1987 international treaty on ozone-depleting chemicals put a surprising dent in the rate at which the planet warmed, says research published today in Nature Geoscience1. Francisco Estrada, an ecological economist at the Free University in Amsterdam, and his colleagues analysed annual temperature data collected from 1850 to 2010, as well as trends in emissions of greenhouse gases … Read more…

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Lady of the Lakes

Nature Diane Orihel set her PhD aside to lead a massive protest when Canada tried to shut down its unique Experimental Lakes Area. It was an ominous way to start the day. When she arrived at work on the morning of 17 May 2012, Diane Orihel ran into distraught colleagues. Staff from Canada’s Experimental Lakes Area had just been called to an emergency meeting at the Freshwater Institute in Winnipeg. “It can’t be good,” said one.

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Ozone loss warmed southern Africa

Nature Antarctic ozone hole’s effects may have spread much wider than thought. Ozone loss over the South Pole might be the reason for a two-decade rise in early summer temperatures across southern Africa, according to research published today in Nature Geoscience1. Desmond Manatsa, a climate scientist at Bindura University of Science in Zimbabwe, and colleagues analysed data sets of southern African climate from 1979 to 2010, covering the years before and after the development of the ozone hole over the Antarctic. They found that the size of the ozone hole seemed to influence wind patterns and triggered an upward shift in … Read more…