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This Week in Nature: Nov 20, 2008

The extinct woolly mammoth genome, Mammuthus primigenius, has been (mostly) sequenced, and it's gotten a lot of buzz from both bloggers and news organizations alike. Sequencing about 70 percent of the 4 billion bases showed that DNA substitution rate seems to be smaller than in humans and identified several protein-coding positions that are unique to the mammoth compared with 50 other vertebrate species. At Dechronization, Susan Perkins thinks the work has created a new 'omics, "'Museomics' where natural history specimens, ancient DNA technology and pyrosequencing combine." The NYT reports on the case, looking at the actual possibility of recreating a live creature from an extinct DNA sequence "for as little as $10 million."

A special section on Darwin celebrates the 150th anniversary of the publication of The Origin of Species and his 200th birthday next year. A slew of articles dig in, including an editorial on what evolutionary theory could allow scientists to create in the future, an article tying evolutionary study and sys bio together, and a slideshow of eyes from different living organisms. Go here to see the site that Nature News has launched to get ready for Darwin's 200th birthday.

Erika Check Hayden checks in on the potential future widespread use of SNP chips to screen embryos in IVF. While they can currently screen for single-gene diseases, chips for screening an embryo's risk for adult-onset diseases like diabetes and obesity is dubious as of now. Says Daniel MacArthur at Genetic Future: "With hundreds of different common variants (and untold numbers of rare variants) underlying common diseases, no embryo will be completely free of genetic risk factors."

In early online publications, scientists looked at conservation of Y-linked genes among the 12 sequenced Drosophila genomes, finding that only a quarter of these genes are Y-linked in all species. They also found that the rate of gene gain in the Drosophila Y chromosomes is 10.9 times higher than the rate of gene loss, "indicating a clear tendency of the Y chromosomes to increase in gene content," the authors write. "In contrast with the mammalian Y chromosome, gene gains have a prominent role in the evolution of the Drosophila Y chromosome."


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.