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This Week in Nature: Jun 28, 2007

Academic departments at medium-sized universities have particular challenges, says this Nature editorial. They compete with larger institutions for funds (and often lose), leaving them the options of closing the department or lowering school standards to admit more students. In Scotland, though, departments from St. Andrew's, Edinburgh, Glasgow, Heriot-Watt, Paisley, and Strathclyde have banded together as the Scottish Universities Physics Alliance to share their resources.

Of all the scientific disciplines, synthetic biology is accused the most of "playing God," says this next editorial. Soon, the article says, researchers will create artificial cells, but discussing whether those scientists created life is pointless. The authors argue that "life" is imprecise as a scientific description and that "synthetic biology's view of life as a molecular process lacking moral thresholds at the level of the cell is a powerful one."

Genome-wide association studies are quite hot, and this week Nature brings you a report led by Douglas Easton that uncovered five new breast cancer susceptibility loci located within these genes: FGFR2, TNRC9/LOC643714, MAP3K1, 8q, and LSP1. Only FGFR2 had previously been linked to breast cancer.

Over at the advance online section, researchers led by Gabrielle Brons report that they derived pluripotent stem cells from mouse and rat embryos that are similar to human stem cells. These mouse and rat cells were gathered from the implanted embryos' late epiblast layer.

The Scan

Fertility Fraud Found

Consumer genetic testing has uncovered cases of fertility fraud that are leading to lawsuits, according to USA Today.

Ties Between Vigorous Exercise, ALS in Genetically At-Risk People

Regular strenuous exercise could contribute to motor neuron disease development among those already at genetic risk, Sky News reports.

Test Warning

The Guardian writes that the US regulators have warned against using a rapid COVID-19 test that is a key part of mass testing in the UK.

Science Papers Examine Feedback Mechanism Affecting Xist, Continuous Health Monitoring for Precision Medicine

In Science this week: analysis of cis confinement of the X-inactive specific transcript, and more.