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This Week in Nature: Dec 23, 2011

This week, Nature features its 10 people who "mattered" in 2011, including the US Environmental Protection Agency head Lisa Jackson, astronomer Sara Seager, and Large Hadron Collider engineer Mike Lamont. Also on the list are Egyptian engineer Essam Sharaf, who Nature says is "promoting science as a solution to the country's woes"; Rosie Redfield, whose skepticism on a paper published by NASA on arsenic-based life led to "a remarkable experiment in open science," and showed how important social media tools are becoming in science communication; and Danica May Comacho, the world's 7 billionth baby, born on October 31.

Also in Nature this week, a group of researchers from Switzerland write that the mouse methylome is shaped by DNA-binding factors at distal regulatory regions. The researchers generated base-pair-resolution mouse methylomes in stem cells and neuronal progenitors and used advanced quantitative analysis to identify low-methylated regions. "These represent CpG-poor distal regulatory regions as evidenced by location, DNase I hypersensitivity, presence of enhancer chromatin marks and enhancer activity in reporter assays," the authors write. DNA-binding factors are necessary to create low-methylated regions. "This study provides methylome references for the mouse and shows that DNA-binding factors locally influence DNA methylation, enabling the identification of active regulatory regions," they add.

Nature also has a supplement on traditional Asian medicine this week. In it, researchers discuss using a variety of scientific methods to study traditional medicine as practiced in China and Japan to determine whether they're effective for treating disease. Nature says this research could "perhaps give modern medicine a few insights into holistic approaches borne from thousands of years of herbal remedies."

Finally in Nature this week, University of California, Berkeley, postdocs Christopher Tsang and Michael Fisher write that postdoc committees can help researchers gain insight into career paths in industry. The authors developed a program called the Postdoc Industry Exploration Program that organizes visits to biotech companies and allows postdocs to network with employees. Committees like this one can help postdocs "make an informed choice between career paths," the authors write.

The Scan

Transcriptomic, Epigenetic Study Appears to Explain Anti-Viral Effects of TB Vaccine

Researchers report in Science Advances on an interferon signature and long-term shifts in monocyte cell DNA methylation in Bacille Calmette-Guérin-vaccinated infant samples.

DNA Storage Method Taps Into Gene Editing Technology

With a dual-plasmid system informed by gene editing, researchers re-wrote DNA sequences in E. coli to store Charles Dickens prose over hundreds of generations, as they recount in Science Advances.

Researchers Model Microbiome Dynamics in Effort to Understand Chronic Human Conditions

Investigators demonstrate in PLOS Computational Biology a computational method for following microbiome dynamics in the absence of longitudinally collected samples.

New Study Highlights Role of Genetics in ADHD

Researchers report in Nature Genetics on differences in genetic architecture between ADHD affecting children versus ADHD that persists into adulthood or is diagnosed in adults.