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Living World

An old problem: How immune responses weaken with age

The body’s defenses lose flexibility and diversity over time, and protective responses to vaccines weaken as well. Scientists are working on ways to boost seniors’ protections against influenza, the novel coronavirus and other pathogens.

Life’s little oscillations

A bevy of intricate biochemical fluctuations inside cells rule the natural world. Scientists are trying to figure out how they all work.

Beat of life: Understanding the cell’s rhythms

VIDEO: Many cellular processes are guided by fluctuations of molecules, from circadian clocks to the feat of precisely dividing into two daughter cells

What do genes do? | Things to Know

VIDEO: Scientists have captured live video of parts of the most fundamental event in biology — cells reading and copying DNA instructions to make proteins

New projects broaden the search for alien signals from space

A longer list of Earth-like planets, eavesdropping on radio waves and looking for laser light shows: All raise the chances of detecting E.T.

How humans shift fish evolution | Things to Know

VIDEO: By targeting larger individuals, intense fishing may lead to a fishery dominated by the small

Animal Weapons | Things to Know

VIDEO: How an evolutionary “arms race” leads to flashy horns, pincers and more across the animal kingdom

Locusts and Grasshoppers | Things to Know

VIDEO: What’s the difference between these two insects? And what triggers a swarm? 

Bent into shape: The rules of tree form

How do trees find their sense of direction as they grow? Researchers are getting to the root — and the branches — of how the grandest of plants develop.

Will we ever fully know how a body gets built?

FIVE BIG QUESTIONS: Research has yielded a parts list of the genes and cell types involved in development. Now it’s time for the computationally intensive task of figuring out how they interact to form a living being. 

How do body parts grow to their right sizes?

FIVE BIG QUESTIONS: Some cells seem to know what to do. Others apparently take their cues from outside. But really, “We don’t get it.”

How do bodies position arms, legs, wings and organs?

FIVE BIG QUESTIONS: Embryos use a ruler, of sorts, so they can create the right structures at the right spots from head to tail.

How does the embryo make all its parts at just the right moments?

FIVE BIG QUESTIONS: If events weren’t properly timed, pandemonium would ensue. Researchers are ferreting out the internal clocks that control developmental sequence and scheduling.

Regeneration: The amphibian’s opus

Certain salamanders can regrow lost body parts. How do they do it? And could people someday do the same?

Plumbing 101: Building the body’s tubes and branches

Lungs, blood vessels, kidneys and more: Our bodies are full of branching pipes. Their development follows a handful of basic principles.

Growing a body, one tiny tug at a time

For decades, genetics and biochemistry have formed the bedrock of developmental biology. But it turns out that physical forces — the way cells push, pull and squeeze each other — play a huge role, too.

Winding the body’s clock

Medicines and other small molecules may play a role in fixing rhythms gone awry

As coral die, protected areas aren’t enough

COMIC: The reef-builders face larger threats, scientists say. Chief among these is warming seas.