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This Week in Nature: Nov 28, 2009

A news article in Nature looks into the problems inherited by the new FDA commissioner Margaret Hamburg: "The FDA, once globally revered as the gold standard in regulation of food and medical-product safety, has lapsed repeatedly in recent years under a string of different leaders and a long stretch without any permanent chief," the article says. As part of re-establishing FDA as that high standard, Hamburg plans to increase the agency's budget and increase its enforcement of fraudulent companies and companies whose manufacturing specs aren't up to snuff.

Another feature explores the work of Jasmin Fischer at Microsoft Research in Cambridge, UK. Fischer is interested in what she calls "executable biology," a new approach to biological modeling that may simulations of cells easier to do, understand, as well as confirm in the lab. "Ultimately, she says, this kind of software should develop to a point at which researchers can draw a hypothetical pathway or interaction on the screen in exactly the way they're already used to doing, and have the computer automatically convert their drawing into a working simulation," the article adds.

Dmitriy Krepkiy and Mihaela Mihailescua are first authors on a paper showing that alpha helices can be quite happy in a hydrophobic lipid bilayer. Using neutron diffraction, solid-state nuclear magnetic resonance spectroscopy and molecular dynamics simulations, they and their colleagues looked at the structure and hydrophobicty of S1-S4 voltage sensing domains and found that the voltage sensors "adopt transmembrane orientations and cause a modest reshaping of the surrounding lipid bilayer." A News and Views article gives a bit more background here.