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This Week in Nature: Sep 10, 2009

In the early online edition of Nature this week, a study led by Columbia University's Michael Shen found that stem cells can cause prostate cancer. The work discovered a new type of stem cell, castration-resistant Nkx3-1-expressing cells, that line the inner cavity of the prostate gland and cause tumors to grow when the scientists deleted the Pten tumor suppressor gene. "While there does appear to be increasing evidence suggesting that normal stem cells may serve as an origin for cancer, the 'cancer stem cell' model remains far from proven, especially in solid tumors such as prostate," Chen says in a BBC story.

Also in early online, a consortium led by Broad Institute scientists has sequenced the genome of the water mold Phytophthora infestans, which caused the infamous Irish potato famine and continues to wreak havoc on potato and tomato crops. The team found that the genome contains at least twice as much DNA as its relatives, contributing to its high adaptability, says a story from the BBC. Keith Robison is "quite excited" and tells why in a blog post, while our sister publication, GenomeWeb Daily News, reports in more detail on the work.

Several articles in the current issue delve into data, particularly sharing it and how this will push large-scale science forward. In a news feature, Bryn Nelson checks in on why many researchers refuse to share, an article from the Toronto International Data Release Workshop shares insight about how to deal with pre-publication data, and another, from the CASIMIR meeting of mouse researchers in Rome, thinks of ways to promote a culture of sharing.

There's a special insight section on how systems biology tools are reshaping how scientists both study and understand gene transcription. The "current excitement in the transcription and genomics fields" encompasses studies mapping the genome-wide distribution of transcription factors and the role of RNA polymerase II, as well as those that take a broad look at chromatin, distant-acting enhancers, and molecular networks, among others.

Finally, a couple of articles in Nature Medicine confront the realities of using stem cells therapeutically. The Burnham Institute's Rahul Jandial and Evan Snyder address the hurdles to making stem cell therapy mainstream, namely "developing air-tight approaches to assure that stem cell transplantation does not give rise to tumors," they write. In another piece, Laura Clarke and Derek van der Kooy examine safer ways to induce pluripotency in adult stem cells, which can then be used for transplantation.

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.