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This Week in Nature: Jul 30, 2009

An editorial focuses on "petabyte science," as it refers to large-scale scientific studies that result in a glut of data. A report from a committee at the US National Academy of Sciences recommends various principles centered around access, integrity, and stewardship.

Here's a Q&A with Anthony Fauci, director of the US NIAID, about upcoming clinical trials for two H1N1 flu vaccines slated to begin shortly. For more, check out this letter from Ilaria Capua and Giovanni Cattoli calling for fast-tracking human vaccination in certain developing countries to "prevent reassortment between naoH1N1 or other novel pandemic influenza strains and avian influenza viruses."

Chen-Ming Fan from the Carnegie Institution is senior author on a paper demonstrating that Pax7, a transcription factor necessary for muscle growth in young mice, can be inactivated in adult mice without preventing muscle growth. The authors conclude, "Our finding of an age-dependent change in the genetic requirement for muscle stem cells cautions against inferring adult stem-cell biology from embryonic studies, and has direct implications for the use of stem cells from hosts of different ages in transplantation-based therapy." Terry Partridge offers a perspective.

The University of North Carolina's Terry Magnuson is senior author on this paper, which looked at X-chromosome inactivation in mouse embryos to understand the role of noncoding Xist RNA. "Our results show that although silencing of Xp-linked genes can initiate in the absence of Xist, Xp–Xist is clearly required for imprinted XCI; in its absence, after initial silencing Xp-linked genes become expressed in progressively higher numbers of cells and/or at increased levels," the authors write.

Meanwhile, Stanford scientists studied neural development in mice and determined that a key step in the process is mediated by microRNA, specifically miR-9 and miR-124. "Our studies indicate that the mechanism underlying the essential switch in subunit composition of Swi/Snf-like BAF complexes involves miRNA-mediated repression of BAF53a as neural progenitors differentiate into neurons," the authors write.

The Scan

Study Finds Few FDA Post-Market Regulatory Actions Backed by Research, Public Assessments

A Yale University-led team examines in The BMJ safety signals from the US FDA Adverse Event Reporting System and whether they led to regulatory action.

Duke University Team Develops Programmable RNA Tool for Cell Editing

Researchers have developed an RNA-based editing tool that can target specific cells, as they describe in Nature.

Novel Gene Editing Approach for Treating Cystic Fibrosis

Researchers in Science Advances report on their development of a non-nuclease-based gene editing approach they hope to apply to treat cystic fibrosis.

Study Tracks Responses in Patients Pursuing Polygenic Risk Score Profiling

Using interviews, researchers in the European Journal of Human Genetics qualitatively assess individuals' motivations for, and experiences with, direct-to-consumer polygenic risk score testing.