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This Week in Nature: Aug 21, 2008

Scientists have sequenced and analyzed the 98 million-base pair genome of the placozoan Trichoplax adhaerens, a simple organism belonging to the 'eumetazoan' clade. Whole-genome analysis showed diverse transcription factor and signaling pathway genes that suggest complexity in this primitive life form.

University of Bremen researchers have found that most cells in deep-sea sediment are members of the domain Archaea and not Bacteria. Using modified qPCR and slot-blot hybridization protocols, they found that scientists had previously underestimated archaeal biomass. Says a related News and Views article, "Archaea and Bacteria are fundamentally different from each other in their biochemistry, metabolism and evolutionary history. This in turn profoundly influences their role in Earth's biogeochemical cycles."

Biologists at UCL have looked at the correlated firing of a complete population of macaque parasol retinal ganglion cells. They found that by studying a population of cells, instead of individual neurons, "neural encoding at the population level is less noisy than one would expect from the variability of individual neurons," they write in the abstract, and that they can extract more sensory data from looking at a group of neurons.

Beverley Glover reviews Michael Boulter's Darwin's Garden: Down House and The Origin of Species, which looks at how a place can affect a scientist's thinking and discovery process. The book, in part, covers Darwin's 1842 purchase of the Down House, 23 kilometers from the center of London, where he lived until his death and wrote most of his significant works.


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.