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This Week in Nature: Aug 9, 2007

In news, US Senator Tom Coburn is blocking the passage of the Genetic Information Nondiscrimination Act (GINA), which passed the House in April by a vote of 420 to 3. The bill would make it illegal for employers or insurers to use genetic information in hiring, firing, promotion, or insurance-coverage decisions. President Bush has promised to sign the bill, but Coburn contends that it lacks "precision."

Following the execution of Zheng Xiaoyu, former chief of the State Food and Drug Administration (SFDA), China has declared that it will clamp down on regulating its nearly 4,000 drug companies. Aiming to put the approval process under higher public scrutiny, critics worry that the heft and ingrained corruption of China's drug industry won't allow it.

Two doctors from Johns Hopkins complain in a commentary about the current drug discovery paradigm — how it is too costly and time-consuming to find drugs fast enough to deal with orphan and emerging infectious diseases. They challenge the community to "create a comprehensive clinical drug library and use it to screen every neglected disease by 2011" in order to find new ways to use existing drugs.

Finally, two papers report on histone methylation patterns and their epigenetic effects on transcription and gene regulation. In one, they found that DNMT3L, an enzymatically inactive regulatory factor, recognizes histone H3 tails that are unmethylated at lysine 4 and induces de novo DNA methylation. In another, they found that BHC80, part of the LSD1 complex, recognizes unmethylated histone H3 lysine 4, and its activity is linked to LSD1-mediated gene repression.

The Scan

Tens of Millions Saved

The Associated Press writes that vaccines against COVID-19 saved an estimated 20 million lives in their first year.

Supersized Bacterium

NPR reports that researchers have found and characterized a bacterium that is visible to the naked eye.

Also Subvariants

Moderna says its bivalent SARS-CoV-2 vaccine leads to a strong immune response against Omicron subvariants, the Wall Street Journal reports.

Science Papers Present Gene-Edited Mouse Models of Liver Cancer, Hürthle Cell Carcinoma Analysis

In Science this week: a collection of mouse models of primary liver cancer, and more.