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Volume 30 Issue 12 | December 2016

Cover Story

Nuclear Pores Come into Sharper Focus

By and | December 1, 2016

Solving a long-standing structural puzzle will open the door to understanding one of the cell’s most enigmatic machines.

Featured Articles

image: The Pangenome: Are Single Reference Genomes Dead?

The Pangenome: Are Single Reference Genomes Dead?

By | December 1, 2016

Researchers are abandoning the concept of a list of genes sequenced from a single individual, instead aiming for a way to describe all the genetic variation within a species.

image: Top 10 Innovations 2016

Top 10 Innovations 2016

By | December 1, 2016

This year’s list of winners celebrates both large leaps and small (but important) steps in life science technology.




Meet some of the people featured in the December 2016 issue of The Scientist.


Doors and Pores

The awesome architecture of the gateways to the nucleus

Speaking of Science

Notable Science Quotes

The importance of science innovation, publishing and gender, and more


Missing Link in Malaria Evolution Discovered in Historical Specimens

A family’s collection of antique microscope slides became a trove of genetic information about the eradicated European malaria pathogen.

Birds Have Skills Previously Described as “Uniquely Human”

Scientists are enlisting the help of pigeons, parrots, crows, jays, and other species to disprove the notion that human cognitive abilities are beyond those of other animals.

Elephant Footprints Create Habitat for Tiny Aquatic Creatures

Researchers discover diverse communities of invertebrates inhabiting the water-filled tracks of elephants in Uganda.

Freshwater Bacteria Might Help Explain the “Methane Paradox”

Certain microbes express genes in a methane-production pathway, offering an explanation for puzzlingly high levels of the gas in some lakes.

Critic at Large

Opinion: Not All Genetic Databases Are Equal

Sorting out which data sets are clinical-grade is key to helping patients.

Modus Operandi

Synthetic Sensors

Engineered circuits detect endogenous transcription factors to drive cellular outputs.

The Literature

Cells Follow Stiffness Gradients by Playing Tug-of-War

Cells with the best traction on a substrate pull their neighbors toward firmer ground.

Distantly Related Conifers Share a Surprising Number of Cold-Tolerance Genes

Spruce and pine and have relied on similar genetic toolkits for climate adaptation despite millions of years of evolution.

Studies Conflict on Spores’ Need for Protein Synthesis

Different assays lead to opposing conclusions on bacterial spores’ requirements during germination.


Pushing Boundaries

Applying physics, chemistry, and cell biology, Satyajit Mayor seeks to understand how cell membranes work.

Scientist to Watch

Vlad Denic on Exploring New Fields and Failing Successfully

The Harvard professor is pursuing fundamental questions about autophagy, protein homeostasis, and other cellular processes, and he’s always on the lookout for his next new topic.

Lab Tools

How to Track Cell Lineages As They Develop

Sequencing and gene-editing advances make tracing a cell’s journey throughout development easier than ever.

Using Raman Spectroscopy to Identify Cell Types

Improvements in instruments and statistical tools allow the capture and analysis of large data sets.

Bio Business

Oligonucleotide Therapeutics Near Approval

Successful late-stage clinical trials could mark the maturation of a new drug development platform, but the path to commercialization is not without hurdles.

Reading Frames

Is Medicine Ready for Clinical CRISPR?

Using precision genome editing to treat or prevent human disease may require several leaps of faith.


Early 3-D Image Analysis Revealed Surprising Symmetry in the Nuclear Pore

In 1992, advancements in microscopy zoomed in on the precise architecture of the complex, including unforeseen structural repetition in two halves of the ring.

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