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This Week in Nature: Aug 7, 2008

Researchers at the Université de la Méditerranée discovered a tiny virus that acts as a parasite of another, much larger virus. Naming it Sputnik, they found that the small virus is able to rapidly proliferate in the virus factory found in amoebae co-infected with APMV4, an even larger version of Acanthamoeba polyphaga mimivirus. Sputnik is actually harmful to APMV growth, and has been named a "virophage." A news item follows up, as does a blog post. "It's all very meta, and to the researchers, the fact that mamaviruses can 'get sick' themselves is further evidence that viruses are indeed living things," says Ed at Not Exactly Rocket Science.

In other virus news, Yale researchers used an RNAi screen to find genes associated with infection by West Nile virus, reporting on the identification of 305 host proteins that affect WNV infection. Ubiquitin ligase CBLL1, the endoplasmic-reticulum-associated degradation pathway, and the monocarboxylic acid transporter MCT4 all play roles.

A column takes a look at the budget impasse in the wake of the upcoming presidential election, and how it might affect science spending. According to the article, President Bush has decided to break precedent and will not be preparing a budget for fiscal year 2010 before leaving office. As a result, federal agencies will likely see spending frozen at current levels for at least the first four months of the fiscal year.

A feature from the AACR Human Epigenome Task Force and the European Union, Network of Excellence, Scientific Advisory Board lays out a plan for an international Human Epigenome Project. The Alliance for the Human Epigenome and Disease (AHEAD) will provide high-resolution reference epigenome maps to help solve the problems of cancer and other intractable diseases. Several technology features check into the tools for tackling the epigenome, and a paper from Broad researchers uses bisulphite sequencing to create genome-wide DNA methylation maps for mouse embryonic stem cells, embryonic-stem-cell-derived and primary neural cells, and eight other primary tissues.


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.