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This Week in Nature: Oct 18, 2007

The cover image of Nature shows clinical geneticist Hugh Rienhoff with his daughter who suffers from a condition similar to Marfan's, Beals, and Loeys–Dietz syndromes, but not quite. Rienhoff has taken the search for the genetic root into his own hands, according to the news feature, purchasing a used PCR machine and setting up a website to chronicle her health and his progress. Keith Robison blogs about this story and "the promise  — and the complications — of cheap DNA sequencing".

Berkeley's Steven Brenner penned an editorial proposing a public database of human genetic variations and their effects. The information contained in the Genome Commons would come from other databases, diagnostic laboratories, and the literature. This, he hopes, would change the interpretation of genomic data, since sequencing someone's genome right now doesn't actually provide much more information than taking a proper medical history. Deepak Singh shares his views on this deceptively simple project .

Nature also reviews both Craig Venter's and James Watson's new books. Reviewer Jan Witkowski calls Venter's A Life Decoded: My Genome: My Life "fittingly well-written, fast-paced and full of interesting data, gossip — and score-settling." Huntington Willard reviewed Watson's Avoid Boring People, and says each chapter ends with a homily that adds up to 108 commandments for young scientists. "Some are silly, some are off the mark after so many decades, and some are painful to acknowledge," writes Willard.

Pardis Sabeti and her colleagues report detecting positive natural selection in the human genome. They used long-range haplotype methods to analyze over 3 million polymorphisms as well as a new method to find fixed alleles. In West Africa, positively selected genes include LARGE and DMD, related to the Lassa virus. The genes SLC24A5 and SLC45A2, involved in skin pigmentation, were positively selected for in European populations. Finally, they also found that the hair follicle development genes EDAR and EDA2R were targets of positive selection in Asian populations.


The Scan

Pig Organ Transplants Considered

The Wall Street Journal reports that the US Food and Drug Administration may soon allow clinical trials that involve transplanting pig organs into humans.

'Poo-Bank' Proposal

Harvard Medical School researchers suggest people should bank stool samples when they are young to transplant when they later develop age-related diseases.

Spurred to Develop Again

New Scientist reports that researchers may have uncovered why about 60 percent of in vitro fertilization embryos stop developing.

Science Papers Examine Breast Milk Cell Populations, Cerebral Cortex Cellular Diversity, Micronesia Population History

In Science this week: unique cell populations found within breast milk, 100 transcriptionally distinct cell populations uncovered in the cerebral cortex, and more.